A DSLR camera such as the Sony Alpha 900 offers a lot, a heck of a lot, in fact. Yet this high quality DSLR still carries the familiar green button. The button that sets the camera in the auto pilot as it were. We don't want to know how many 'professional photographers' shoot in Auto mode, however, the amount would surprise you. Nevertheless, there is so much more you can get out of the A900. In addition to the impressive high resolution of 24.6 megapixels, the frame speed of 5 fps stands strongly. This figure suffices for average use, however, the action photographer will preferably use a DSLR with a minimum speed of 8fps. Other than that, the Sony Alpha 900 offers all the possibilities, providing the camera gets combined with the right lenses, of course.
Auto ISO mode on the Sony DSLR A900
Whilst shooting you come across issues that you would like to see changed. The way Sony handles the auto ISO mode is not the way to do it. An auto ISO mode is convenient, no doubt about it, and even more so when the sensitivity can be limited to and from a certain value. However, when shooting in Auto mode and setting the ISO Range, you don't receive any feedback as to which ISO is selected in the end. And that truly is something you'd like to know. Perhaps a future firmware update can make this addition become available.
Sony A900 features a dual card slot
One more feature that should undergo a firmware update as far as we’re concerned is the card slot of the Sony A900. During the introduction of the Alpha 700 we soon discovered that the dual card slot did not have any other functionality than simply serving as a dual card slot. You'd think that this would have been altered in the next model. Therefore, we are highly surprised to see that the Alpha 900 has its dual card slot (CompactFlash and Memory Stick Duo) yet still no extra functionality added whatsoever. Changing from one card to the other when the first one is full is not carried out automatically. The second card has to be activated via the menu or the Fn buttons. Nor is it possible to use the first card for JPEG pictures and the second for RAW. Something that ought to be common on a camera in this segment.
Intelligent Preview function
I've already mentioned it earlier in this review: the Sony DSLR-A900 does not offer Live View mode. Instead, it offers the so-called Intelligent Preview function. Depressing the button next to the mount makes a low resolution RAW image appear on the 3 inch monitor. Next, some settings can be changed, depending on the program mode, such as aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation and white balance. After that, you can see a reproduction of the picture on the monitor with the adjusted settings, which is very convenient. However, this 'smart' preview is not perfect. It is not possible to display the change of the shutter speed or the change of the depth of field through the adjusted aperture value. Maybe not such a smart intelligent preview after all?
The use of a DT lens
The menu structure of the Sony Alpha 900 on the other hand, is very clear and features a number of tab pages per mode. The small joystick on the side of the monitor lets you navigate quickly and confirm the selected setting. There is a vast choice of file formats from 6048x4032 pixels to 1984x1320 pixels. Additionally, you can take your pick from RAW, cRAW, RAW & JPEG, cRAW & JPEG and three JPEG compression formats (Extra fine, Fine and Standard). If you make the mistake of using DT lenses, you will not be pleased. These lenses are supported alright, but not fully. This comes with changes of vignetting due to the fact that these lenses are meant for the APS-C format, covering a smaller image circle.
The Sony A900 will automatically recognize a DT lens and capture in APS-C format, and in additon select a lower resolution (maximum of 11 megapixels). Unlike the Nikon D3 for example, the APS-C crop is not clearly displayed in the viewfinder.
Speediness of the Sony Alpha A900
As for speed, the Sony Alpha 900 responses averagely for a professional DSLR camera. The speed of activating and deactivating the camera is fast and leaves nothing to be desired. Also switching from play to capture is speedy and fast enough for the demanding photographer at around 0.25 seconds. If you switch from capture to play, however, the interval is rather surprising. Certainly when you quickly want to check the picture, an interval of more than a second before the high resolution picture is rendered becomes annoying after a while. Compared to the Nikon D3 with 0.5 seconds of delay, this certainly is something to be aware of.
Focussing with the Sony DSLR camera
Focussing with the Sony DSLR-A900 is carried out at a reasonable speed compared to the rivals in this high, professional segment. A full AF focus takes over 1/10 second. Fast indeed, although again comparable to the Alpha 700 which is a camera belonging to the middle segment (Semipro). If we compare it to a Nikon D3 or the Canon EOS 1D Mark III, we find both models needing only half the time. These are details that you probably won't even notice in daily use, however, it are the details that are emphasized by the demanding user.
Sony A900 includes a huge buffer
The huge buffer of the Sony Alpha 900 is striking. 20 JPEG high resolution or 15 RAW pictures fit easily. You can't but admit that the Sony A900 has a powerful image processing system when you look at the frame speed of a maximum of 5 fps, realizing we're talking about files of 24MB (JPEG) and 37MB (RAW). It's for a reason the camera has been equipped with two BIONZ processors. The speed of the memory card therefore remains important.
Practice makes perfect
Working with the Sony Alpha 900 in practice does need some time to get used to, but the camera soon shows it’s up for the job. The ergonomics look good, although I can imagine someone who comes from a competing model will have to get used to Sony's way of thinking. Sometimes it is not completely clear as to when you have to use the back or front command dial. Well, as they say: practice makes perfect. The Sony A900 fits and lies solidly in your hand, and in combination with an excellent lens (the high quality Zeiss lenses) it is a high quality tool for the semipro, and even the pro. Although I doubt if the latter would consider the Sony Alpha 900 the answer to what he/she misses on a Canon or Nikon…