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King of the Hill

September 11, 2008 - Dave Hecei
On Sept. 9th, Sony announce an amazing new DSLR in their Alpha line, the a900. The a900 hits the market with an amazing 24.6 megapixel full-frame sensor, one of the highest resolutions available today. This camera not only looks impressive, its design harkens back to older Nikon and Canon film SLR bodies, it performs impressively.

The a900 is a first for Sony, a DSLR with a full sized CMOS sensor. A full sized sensor means that it is the same size as a frame of 35mm film. Sony bought out Konica/Minolta when they decided to leave the camera market, I guess to concentrate on their copier business. Sony kept the Minolta autofocus lens mount, but has since redesigned their cameras, which surpass anything Minolta had done in the past.

Previous Sony Alpha series DSLRs had the more common APS-C sized sensor. With this sized sensor you needed to multiply the lens focal length by 1.6 to get the effective focal length, and thus magnification. This is great for anyone shooting telephoto, effectively adding extra reach out of your lenses (as an example a 300mm lens becomes a 420mm without any loss of quality that can happen with optical multipliers).

With a full sized sensor you get more pixels, plus you get to use your wide-angle lenses as wide-angle lenses. Landscape photographers have always preferred full sized sensors. This allows you to use an 18mm wide-angle lens and it will give you the field-of-view of an 18mm. With an APS-C sensor you would have to use a 10 or 12mm lens to get the same view, a much more expensive lens that can add certain types of distortion to the photo.

The new a900 puts Sony closer to the professional level market. With a 24.6 megabit sensor, 100% field of view in the finder, in camera anti-shake system, fast dual BIONZ(tm) image processing chips, user interchangeable viewscreens, and a 3-inch high resolution LCD display. Another plus for Sony is the fact that they now have Carl Zeiss lenses, a well known German lens designer.

For anyone experimenting with HDRI, high dynamic range imaging, the new a900 will entice you with its built-in HDRI bracketing mode (Sony calls it DRO - dynamic range optimizer). This allows you to take several shots and combine them into a single image with much higher range of exposures. This allows you to get detail in dark shadow areas while keeping the highlights from blowing out.

The new a900 from Sony is definitely a camera to look at. It's well built with plenty of pro-level features. Sony is making a name for itself and the a900 is the current 'king of the hill' in resolution. If you have not jumped into the DSLR pool yet, I would definitely take a look at the Sony line of cameras. It looks like Canon and Nikon are not alone anymore.


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Prototype of the Sony a900 shown last year.