DSLR

Sony A900 Review

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by Theano Nikitas

Published Winter ’09

Sony Goes For The Gold With A 24 Megapixel Full-Frame Digital SLR

“Thin is in” for compact cameras, but not for digital SLRs—especially the new Sony A900— a full-frame camera that features a record-breaking 24.6 megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor. In the same vein, the megapixel war may be over for most digital cameras, but it appears to be alive and well in the full-frame D-SLR arena, and once you see the detail captured by the A900, you’ll understand why.

But the A900 is not just about megapixels. The camera is equipped with a solid feature set and a lot of tweaking ability— more than enough to satisfy serious photographers, but with a low learning curve. Sony’s SteadyShot technology is in the camera body and provides built-in image stabilization. Also, an on-board sensor cleaning mechanism helps keep the sensor dust-free. The A900 doesn’t have Live View technology (the ability to see your image in the LCD right up through capture), which may or may not make a difference to you. I certainly didn’t miss it.

Compared to other full-frame D-SLRs recently introduced, the A900 is competitively priced with the Nikon D700, but about $300 more than the Canon 5D Mark II. However the A900 is less than half the price of the new Nikon D3X. The A900 is available in a body-only package. Bundled with the camera is a Lithium-Ion battery and charger, video and USB cables, a remote commander and software, a shoulder strap with eyepiece cap, and a remote commander clip so you don’t lose them. The bundle also includes a body cap, accessory shoe and a printed manual. Additional software includes an Image Data Converter, Image Data Lightbox, and Picture Motion Browser (PMB is Windows only). You might also want to pick up a MiniHDMI to HDMI cable to connect the camera to your HDTV for playing slideshows.

Sony offers a wide array of lenses, but since the camera is equipped with a Sony/Minolta A-type bayonet mount, anyone with a stash of Minolta glass should take a very serious look at the A900. I tested the camera with Sony’s 24mm-70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens—a pricey $1,750, but a great lens.

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Olympus E-30

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by Tony Gomez

Published Spring ’09

A New Creative And Fun 12MP D-SLR

Olympus’ E-series D-SLRs have a long history, continued with their flagship E-3 D-SLR, but with point-and-shoot digital cameras, there is relentless pressure to introduce ever more affordable D-SLR models, so Olympus has recently introduced the E-30. The E-30 can be thought of as a “scaled down E-3”, with many of the same features— but at a more affordable $1,100, body only price point. The most appropriate word I can use to describe the new E-30 is FUN. It’s got many professional features, inherited from its E-3 big brother, but there are also many cool creative features like Art Filters and Scene Modes.

Art Filters

One of the most interesting creative controls available in the new Olympus E-30 is the Art Filter setting. The Mode Control dial easily puts you into Art Filter/Scene Mode setting, and once you’re there a colorful menu screen offers you six Art Filter types: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, and Pin Hole. Choosing any particular Art Filter is as simple as scanning down the menu list and selecting which Art Filter you wish to apply to an image. My personal favorites are Pop Art, Grainy Film, and Pin Hole because these three particular filter effects are the most dramatic. The creation of these Filter effects occurs within the camera right after you capture the image. There is no further need to download the original image into Photoshop, or some other image processing program, and laboriously alter it until you get the final effect.

With the Pop Art Filter, the image captured is boosted in contrast and made more vivid in color saturation. It’s almost like looking at a painting of what was captured. Grainy Film is akin to applying a high contrast, grainy black-and-white film effect to your captured image. Pin Hole adds an old-school antiquated look to your captured image by adding vignetted edges. This is characteristic of what typical pin-hole cameras of bygone days produced when photography was in its infancy.

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