The operation of the Sony Alpha 850 is similar to that of the Sony A900. This means that the points of improvement we put forward in the Sony Alpha 900 review, will actually remain the same. When it came to the dual card slot, we made some criticism heard. Sony simply doesn't succeed in making this type of card slot work with optimal functionality. It is not possible, for example, to program the slot to write RAW files to the CF card and JPEG to the MS Pro Duo card. Nor is it possible to write data to card 1 and card 2 simultaneously (backup), or tell the camera to use card 2 to write to, in case card 1 is full. Either by using the Fn button or through the menu, you can select which card must be used at a certain time, but that is as far as it goes. A missed opportunity for Sony with the Sony Alpha 850.
Auto ISO function on the Sony Alpha 850 SLR
Another small comment is the lack of a clear answer on which ISO is applied when the Sony A850 shoots in Auto ISO mode. Yes, it is ever so convenient that the camera automatically adjusts ISO to the lighting conditions, but you as a photographer naturally also want to be informed as to which ISO is actually being selected, so that you can intervene if necessary when a too high / low ISO is selected. Then again, the Sony A900 also failed at Auto ISO, so this could be genetically determined…
Sony Alpha 850 equipped with Intelligent Preview function
I've already mentioned it earlier in this review: the Sony DSLR-A850 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?
Sony A850 offers a bigger buffer than the A900
While testing the camera in practice, differences in the amount of pictures (RAW/JPEG) that can be taken in continuous shooting mode, cropped up too, in addition to the differences noted in the specification list. The frame speed of the A850 did decrease compared to the A900 with 3fps against 5fps for the latter; although the amount of pictures fitting the buffer did increase. The Sony A850 features two BIONZ processors.
• RAW : 16 pictures
• cRAW : 18 pictures
• RAW & JPEG : 12 pictures
• cRAW & JPEG : 12 pictures
• Extra fine : 34 pictures
• Fine : 384 pictures
• Standard : 593 pictures
Focussing speed of the Sony Alpha 850
Focussing with the Sony DSLR-A850 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 Alpha DSLR-A850 menu structure
The menu structure of the Sony Alpha 850 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).
Response time of the Sony A850 dSLR
As for speed, the Sony Alpha 850 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.
• RAW : 12 pictures
• cRAW : 12 pictures
• RAW & JPEG : 10 pictures
• cRAW & JPEG : 10 pictures
• Extra fine : 11 pictures
• Fine : 105 pictures
• Standard : 285 pictures