The Sony A200 has the same viewfinder component as the A100. The eye-level pentamirror optical viewfinder has 0.83x magnification and is 95 percent accurate. This is typical accuracy for DSLR optical viewfinders: the Canon 40D and Olympus E-510 are among a slew of DSLRs with 95 percent accuracy.

The optical viewfinder sits just above the LCD screen on the back of the camera. It is nice and large – at least a half-inch – and is cushioned on the top and sides by a rubber eyecup. It isn’t hard rubber; it’s a soft rubber that gives nicely when squashed by faces.

The Sony A200’s viewfinder has an interesting feature borrowed from its predecessor: a sensor below the finder that detects the photographer’s face and then jumpstarts the autofocus system and turns off the LCD screen below so the view in the finder is easier to see.

One complaint about the older A100’s optical viewfinder was that it is darker and grainier than its competitors, the Canon Rebel XTi and the Nikon D80. The new A200 seems to have fixed that problem, though. The A200’s optical viewfinder is clear as day. It looks a little brighter, although still not as bright as the XTi and D80.

There is a horizontal strip along the bottom of the viewfinder that provides information to photographers. It includes focus, image stabilization levels, exposure compensation, shutter speed, aperture, shake warning, shots remaining, flash charge, high speed sync, manual focus, AE lock, and aspect ratio 16:9.

There is a diopter adjustment dial to the upper right of the viewfinder for users who wear glasses. The dial is tiny and made of cheap plastic, but only needs to be adjusted every once in awhile. It moves in 11 steps from -2.5 to +1.

Overall, the Sony A200’s optical viewfinder is a solid component that improves upon its predecessor with a much smoother and clearer view.

**LCD Screen

**Many newer DLSRs are incorporating some form of live view on the LCD screen. Sony doesn’t seem to be jumping onto this trend with the A200, though. The Sony A200 does upgrade from its predecessor to a Clear Photo LCD Plus. The 2.7-inch LCD has 230,000 pixels. This is the same resolution found on the A100’s screen, but the A100’s LCD is slightly smaller, at 2.5 inches. That seemed to be last year’s standard: the Nikon D80 and Canon XTi have that size, as well. The A100’s LCD was hailed as brighter than its competitors, though.

The A100’s LCD didn’t show very wide angles. The A200 makes strides in this area with wider viewing angles from side to side. It can be seen when the camera is held below, but not when held above the head. The LCD seems to repel fingerprints and wipes clean easily but catches glares in strong lighting, so it isn’t perfect.

The Sony α DSLR-A200’s LCD screen acts as a screen for shooting information when photographers are not reviewing images. The LCD can show the following info: Exposure mode, shutter speed, aperture, Flash mode, exposure compensation, ISO, Drive mode, AF area, metering, Focus mode, Color mode, white balance, D-RO mode, battery power, image compression, image size, and number of remaining images on the memory card. The display button can hide the info or show basic or full info. It also displays the Function, Recording, and Setup menus.

The A200’s LCD screen has a nice feature that rotates the display on the screen when the camera is held vertically or horizontally. This feature is also on the older A100, and is quite useful with the A200’s ability to add a vertical battery grip. The A200’s LCD brightness can be adjusted in five steps in the Setup menu.

The Sony A200’s LCD screen is impressive. The A100’s LCD came out on top of a head-to-head-to-head review with the Nikon D80 and Canon XTi, and the A200’s screen has much better viewing angles and the same great contrast. Despite this, Sony seems to hold its best LCD technology for its higher-end model, the Sony A700. It has a 3-inch LCD with an amazing 922,000 pixels that looks much like a television screen.

Flash

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The built-in flash unit on the Sony A200 is completely different from its predecessor. It doesn’t pop up nearly as high: the old version popped up about two inches and was so high it looked odd. The A200’s flash pops up only about an inch and seems to hover over the lens, rather than tower over it like the one on the A100.

Despite the lower stance, the A200’s flash has the same guide power as the A100. The A200’s light isn’t as bright in the corners, as is common with almost all flashes, but it looks even. It doesn’t work well for shooting close-up subjects, but lit portrait subjects well and didn’t wash out their faces. That was a big complaint on the A100: its harsh light was not flattering in portraits. The Sony A200 has flash exposure compensation with a full +/- 2 scale in steps of a third, so the light from the flash can be adjusted.

The A200 can control multiple flash units wirelessly using a system origionally developer by Minolta for their Dynaxx cameras; with certain flash models (such as the Sony HVL-F36AM or F56AM) the built-in flash sends signals that tell them when to flash. (UPDATE: a previous version of this review stated that the A200 could not control multiple flash devices)

The hot shoe behind the built-in flash accepts Sony HVL-F56AM and F36AM units. The A200 also accepts Konica-Minolta flash units.

The A200’s flash automatically pops up, but has a flash button on its left side to override the auto and manually pop it up. This is different from the A100 - its flash can only be opened manually. The Flash mode can be changed by pushing the function button and entering the Flash mode option at the top of the menu. The mode options are Off, Auto, Fill, Slow Sync, Rear Sync, and External Flash.

The flash has a published recycle time of four seconds, but the camera at the CES show seemed to recycle about every three seconds. The flash can sync at 1/160th of a second (UPDATE: a previous version of this review listed the flash synch as 1/16th), and there is a High-Speed Sync mode that works with certain Sony flash guns (such as the F36AM and F56AM). In the Custom Recording menu, the red-eye reduction can be turned on and off.

Overall, the A200’s flash is an improvement upon the old. It is shorter and better-looking (UPDATE: a previous version of this review listed the A200's flash as being more powerful than the A100; they have the same power), and the light from the flash can be adjusted and it seems to light subjects in portraits without overexposing them.

Zoom Lens

Sony acquired Konica-Minolta’s camera division in 2006 and meshed their technologies together to create Sony’s α DSLRs. They have Minolta A-type bayonet lens mounts that accept most old Konica-Minolta Maxxum lenses, along with newer Sony and Carl Zeiss glass.

The A200 comes with a DT 18-70mm, f/3.5-f/5.6 Sony kit lens. This is equivalent to a 27-105mm lens in the 35mm format. Most DSLR kit lenses measure 18-55mm, so the A200’s inclusion of a slightly longer lens is a nice touch. The 3.9x Sony lens is the same one included with the A100. The kit lens is very lightweight and has a flimsy plastic shell. Its focus mechanism is very loud compared to other lenses. It’s enough to interrupt a ballet or piano recital.

The 18-70mm lens has a 55mm threading for optional filters and attachments. The zoom ring on the lens has a nice rubber grooved ring, and its plastic focus ring is on the edge. The 18-70mm lens can focus as close as 1.3 feet; if you try to photograph anything closer, the lens makes a disturbing clicking noise.

There is also a dual lens kit that includes a 75-300mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 lens in addition to the 18-70mm lens and sells for $899. (UPDATE: the second lens in the dual lens kit is not a Digital Technology (DT) model, as a previous version of this review stated).

The Sony A200, like its predecessor, comes with Super SteadyShot image stabilization built into the camera body. The idea behind this is that consumers will only pay for the stabilization technology once, rather than over and over again when purchasing separate lenses, which is how many manufacturers do it. However, Canon’s IS and Nikon’s VR equivalent lenses haven’t proved much more expensive than the Carl Zeiss lenses marketed for the α DSLRs. To its credit, the image stabilization system allows you to use shutter speeds 2.5 to 3.5 stops faster than would normally be possible, according to the press release. The image stabilization can be turned on in the lower right corner of the A200’s back.

Model Design / Appearance

The Sony A200 looks very similar to its predecessor with only a few changes in the buttons and a few adjustments to curves and contours in the camera body. Nothing drastic, of course. The biggest change is the minimal finger grooves on the back of the camera, as opposed to the deep grooves on the A100.

Sony retains some of the same elements of the Konica-Minolta DSLRs, including the power switch on the back and the USB port in the media slot on the side. This keeps Konica-Minolta loyalists familiar with Sony’s new products.

The A100 has a plastic body, and that has stayed the same for the A200. The plastic body feels low-quality, especially when compared to its relative, the Sony A700, with its aluminum and magnesium body.

The Sony α DSLR-A200 comes with a black shell with hardly any chrome elements. It seems to be mournfully black, with its buttons and controls clothed in black, too. There are a few orange highlights – including the α logo in the upper right corner of the front and a ring around the lens mount.

Overall, the Sony A200 looks bold and sophisticated with its black shell, but feels low-quality, as it is constructed of plastic that feels slightly thicker than a disposable cup.

**Size / Portability

**The Sony A200 is a typical DSLR. It is large enough to require a neck strap for quick shooting and a carrying case for lengthy transport. Sony markets the A200 as being much more compact than its predecessor. It is slightly smaller, but not enough to make it that much easier to use. The A200 measures 5.24 x 3.74 x 2.8 inches, while the A100 measures 5.25 x 3.75 x 2.875 inches. Its most significant reduction in size comes from its height.

On the right and left sides of the camera are chrome neck strap loops. They are positioned like Konica-Minolta DSLRs of old: the right loop is recessed into the camera body and the left loop protrudes outward. The asymmetry just doesn’t look pleasing to the eye. It doesn’t cause too much disturbance in the way it hangs around the neck, though. The A200 comes with a surprisingly sturdy neck strap. It is black and orange reinforced heavy fabric with a big Sony label; there is also a leather patch where the neck rests.

Despite Sony’s claim that the A200 is "lighter" in its press release, it is actually the same weight as the A100 at 1 pound, 3 ounces (545 grams). That measure is without the card and battery. The A100 and A200 use different batteries, but they are the same size.

The A200 is slightly more compact than its predecessor, but not less hefty.

Handling Ability

The Sony α (alpha) A200’s handling is similar to that of the A100. Both have ample space on the bottom so the left hand can support the camera. Both cameras also have a sizable hand grip, although the A100’s is taller. The A200’s grip still provides plenty of room for big hands. It has a curvaceous front with individual dips where the fingers grab the camera. The grip is also coated in textured rubber. The texture looks more like tiny holes in the rubber, rather than the faux leather look most DSLRs go for.

On the back of the camera are a few contours to aid in handling. There is a small bump on the back where the right thumb rests. This is helpful to hold the hefty DSLR securely. Without the lens, the right side is much heavier. With the 18-70mm lens, it is closer to equilibrium and even leans heavier on the lens side.

The overall handling of the Sony A200 is excellent. It has a secure hand grip, a comfortable eyecup around the viewfinder, and plenty of space on the bottom to support it.

Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size

There are a few control button changes on the A200. Unfortunately, they seem to save space rather than make features easier to use. Sony nixes the function dial found on the A100 and replaces it with a function button on the A200. The button opens a menu on the LCD screen, which users can then scroll through with the multi-selector. This isn’t as convenient.

Sony hides functions like white balance and Flash mode in the Function menu, but still keeps an on-camera switch for the image stabilization system. This seems unnecessary, as this is a feature most photographers will either turn on or keep off. It isn’t something most will constantly adjust.

The A200 and A100 access manual controls the same way. There is a jog dial in front of the shutter release button that scrolls through shutter speeds and apertures. In the full Manual mode, though, you must also push the exposure compensation button while rotating the dial.

The Sony A200’s buttons and controls aren’t anything fancy. There isn’t a rotary dial; there is only a traditional thumb-tiring multi-selector. The A200’s buttons are large and spaced far enough apart that it’s hard to push two at once.

All in all, the A200’s controls are not an improvement upon the A100. They are a step down. The function dial is reduced to a menu, and pushing the exposure compensation button along with rotating the jog dial isn’t exactly a comfortable process.

Menu

The Sony α DSLR-A200 has a new menu system that is very different from the A100. The A100 has decent organization and is legible, but has an ugly font.

The Sony A200’s menu uses better organization with more tabs and labeling features. The font looks OK, but there is a lot crammed onto the 2.7-inch LCD screen. The menu fits six options on the screen at once. When an option is selected, it appears with an orange background – here’s that bold orange Sony branding again.

Navigation is mostly intuitive, but can be an adjustment for newbies. When you scroll through the list of items, you must push the set button to select something before scrolling right into a sub-menu. Scrolling right first moves into the next tab over; for example, you move from the Shooting menu into the Custom Shooting menu.

This is the Recording menu, accessible from the menu button.

 

The Custom Shooting menu is marked with a flower icon. It is located to the right of the Shooting menu in a horizontal line of tabbed menu icons.

  

The Setup menu is the longest with its three screens of menus.

 

The "Audio Signals" menu item is a bit confusing. Audio? There isn’t even a microphone or speaker. The title is confusing; this only turns the autofocus confirmation beep on and off. The Function menu is available while shooting. The function button must be pushed and then it appears. 

The Sony DSLR-A200’s menus have great organization, but it takes a little while to get used to the selection process. Once you’re used to it, it’s simple and almost faster to use. Navigation is done with the multi-selector; unfortunately there isn’t a rotary dial to slide through menus even faster.

**Ease of Use

**As the lowest-priced Sony DSLR, the A200 needs to be easy to use to attract compact digital camera users moving to the DSLR realm. The A200 retains few elements from its Cyber-shot line of digital cameras; it looks much more like Konica-Minolta DSLRs. It has an Auto mode along with seven Scene modes located directly on the mode dial, making them easy to access.

Sony redesigned its menu system to be easier to use. It takes a little while to adjust to, but is faster in the end. Sony redesigned its controls on the top of the camera and eliminated the function dial. It put a function button on the A200 that calls up a menu. This isn’t as fast and easy-to-use as the dial on the A100, but conserves space on the camera body.

The A200 is easy to handle and fairly intuitive, but isn’t built for speedy use. This was a problem with the old model. As DigitalCameraInfo.com reviewer Patrick Singleton put it, "the A100 is relatively simple to use, but hard to use quickly." The same goes for the A200.

Auto Mode

The Auto mode is very easy to find and use. It is the only colored mode on the dial with its green background and text "AUTO" label. The Auto mode provides access to the Function menu, ISO, drive, and everything the Program mode offers. The difference between those modes is the Program mode remembers its settings, and the Auto mode always returns to its automated defaults. If you turn on the camera in Program mode, it will remember the +0.7 EV that you set last time you were shooting. If you turn the camera on in the Auto mode, it will always start with automatic white balance, automatic ISO, etc.

Drive / Burst Mode

The A200’s press release states it is "faster," but it isn’t referring to the Burst mode; it’s referring to the autofocus system. The 3 fps Burst mode on the A100 is still intact on the A200. The A200’s Burst mode is available by pushing the drive button on top of the camera body. It shows the following: Single, Continuous, Bracketing Single, Bracketing Continuous, White Balance Bracketing, and Self-Timer. The 3 fps Continuous drive snaps JPEG files up to the capacity of the memory card. It snaps up to six RAW files in a row.

The Sony A200 snaps images off at an even clip and only stutters when subjects move erratically; apparently the autofocus system still functions. The Bracketing modes snap three images at 0.3 or 0.7 intervals. The self-timer can be set to 10 or 2 seconds.

Playback Mode

The Playback mode is activated by a playback button to the lower left corner of the LCD screen. Moving through images is done by pushing the left and right sides of the multi-selector. Holding down one side of the selector quickly scrolls through images.

File information can be viewed or hidden, and a host of histograms can be added to check lighting and red, green, and blue color channels. The file information can be changed with a push to the display button, which also brings up a cool Preview mode that has a large image on the bottom of the LCD and a filmstrip of five thumbnails along the top.

You can view nine images on the screen at once if you push the exposure compensation button. You can magnify images up to 12x by pushing the AEL button, then scroll around the close-up image with the multi-selector.

Many of the A200’s playback features are located in the menu.

  

There is a quick delete function available just above the playback button to the left of the LCD screen. You can also rotate images by pushing the function button. As you can see from the menu and control options, there aren’t fancy editing features in the A200’s Playback mode. It is quite bare.

Custom Image Presets

The Sony α DSLR-A200 has seven Scene modes on its mode dial. The A100 also has seven Scene modes, and they are nearly the same. Both DSLRs have Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, and Night Portrait modes. The A200 takes out the A100’s Night Scene, though, replacing it with a more general-use No Flash mode. These are tailored for photographers who need great images on the fly. Exposure compensation and ISO are available in many of the modes, along with a few other options. These Scene modes aren’t incredibly extensive; the Olympus EVOLT E-510 comes with 18 of them. The Sony A200 has the basics, though.

Manual Control Options

The Sony DSLR-A200 has a full plate of manual controls, but they aren’t as easy to access as on some other DSLRs. The A200 takes off the function dial that was on the A100, and shifts all of those functions into a menu. The functionality is there, but it isn’t easy to find and isn’t as speedy to use.

Focus

Autofocus – The Sony A200 has a focus switch on the left side of the lens barrel that moves from manual to autofocus. Once in the Autofocus mode, there are plenty of control options for the through-the-lens phase detection autofocus system.

It can be set to function continuously or only when the shutter release is pressed halfway. It can also be set to jumpstart when you put your face in front of the optical viewfinder. There is a tiny sensor beneath the viewfinder that makes this possible. This feature is also on the A100, and is very helpful in speeding up the autofocusing process.

Sony’s press release states that the A200’s autofocus system is 1.7x faster than the A100’s. The A100 has a shutter-to-shot lag of 0.27 seconds in our testing lab, so this move was definitely necessary to help it compete with similar DSLRs on the market. We can’t scientifically test this on the show floor, but the A200 seems faster than the A100 at first look. We can’t wait to get this camera in our imaging lab to really put it to the test. Check back in a few weeks.

The A200 has a 9-point autofocus system with eight lines and a central crosshair sensor. This is the same setup as on the A100, but is a step down from the A700’s 11-point autofocus system. The AF area can be set to wide, spot, or local (the Multi 9-point mode).

The Sony alpha A200 has an autofocus assist lamp on its front that is quite powerful. It reaches from 3.3 to 16 feet. One complaint of the A100’s autofocus is that it isn’t very fast or effective in low light. This may still be an issue; the A200 seems slower when shooting in dim indoor lighting. Sometimes it breathes in and out while searching for the subject. But when it finds it, it appears crisp in the images.

The autofocus mechanism in the 18-70mm kit lens is loud (for a lens). It is perhaps the loudest lens I’ve ever heard. It is much more than the typical electronic hum, but slightly less annoying than a cell phone rap ringtone.

All in all, the Sony A200’s autofocus system seems to be much improved over the A100 in terms of speed. It renders crisp subjects and does so quickly.

Manual Focus – The Sony A200’s focus switch is on the side of the kit lens barrel. It moves from auto to manual focus. The focus ring is on the outer edge of the lens. It is thin plastic that is completely smooth – no grooves or nice handling features on this inexpensive lens (UPDATE: a previous version of this review said there were no grooves on the focus ring). If your hands aren’t dipped in motor oil and you haven’t just eaten potato chips, you should be just fine. Otherwise, this focus ring could prove slippery.

ISO

The A200 may have eliminated the function dial with the ISO on it, but it did add a designated ISO button near the shutter release button. It provides the auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200 options. The A100 has ISO 100-1600 options and proved to have great noise control in testing, so the ISO 3200 is new. Sony claims it has improved the image processing to accommodate noise control for the higher ISO speed. Now the camera applies noise reduction to the RAW image before converting it to JPEG, rather than waiting until after its conversion. The high ISO noise reduction system can be turned on and off in the Shooting menu. The range of the ISO options is comparable to similar DSLRs, but some models offer more steps in between.

White Balance

The Sony A200 has an elaborate white balance system that is also present on its predecessor. It includes an Auto mode along with Daylight, Shade, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Flash presets. Each of the presets can be adjusted in seven steps to lean closer to magenta or green. The Kelvin color temperature can also be adjusted from 2500-9900K. And if that’s not enough, there is a color filter that can be adjusted in nine steps for green and nine for magenta. Manual white balance is available, and provides instructions to set it. Once it is set, it provides the color error in terms of Kelvin temperature for reference for the photographer. In the Burst modes, there is a White Balance Bracketing mode that can be set to low and high. It shoots one image and saves it three times, each with different tints of color. The high bracketing leans more toward the green and magenta edges than the low mode.

Exposure

The exposure mode dial shows off what’s available: Manual, Shutter Speed Priority, Aperture Priority, Program, Auto, Night Portrait, Sunset, Sport, Macro, Landscape, Portrait, and Without Flash. There is an exposure mode for everyone: a novice can use the Auto mode and the shutterbug can use the Manual mode. There’s something in between for everyone else.

Exposure compensation is available from its own button on the back of the camera. This camera has the typical +/- 2 EV range in steps of a third. This same button is used to access the shutter speed and aperture in the Manual mode. It must be held down while scrolling with the jog dial. This isn’t very comfortable, but gets the job done.

There are exposure histograms available in the Playback mode, but there isn’t a live histogram because there is no live view on the Sony A200.

Metering

The A200 has the same 40-segment metering system found on the A100. Located in the Function menu, the options are very typical: Spot, Center-Weighted, and Multi. These worked well; the spot meter must work from a very small point, because it still leaves subjects illuminated, even when there is strong light coming from behind.

Shutter Speed

There aren’t any changes in the shutter speed range from the A100 to the A200. Both cameras have the 30-1/4000 of a second range, along with a bulb option. There are 52 steps in this range.

The shutter speed can be manually adjusted in the Shutter Speed Priority and Manual exposure modes. The jog dial near the shutter release button can adjust this.

Sony claims it quieted the sound of the shutter in the A200 compared to the A100. I don’t remember the A100’s sound, so perhaps this is quieter. But it sure isn’t quiet. It is definitely louder than competing DSLRs. It lets out a big slap with every captured image, and makes the Burst mode a noisy function.

There is a long exposure noise reduction system that can be turned on and off in the Shooting menu.

Aperture

The aperture range depends on the lens attached to the camera’s A-mount. The aperture can be controlled with the jog dial and the exposure compensation button. The button must be pushed while the dial is rotated to access the options in the Manual mode. The 18-70mm kit lens comes with these options when zoomed wide: f/3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.6, 6.3, 7.1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22.

Picture Quality / Size Options

The Sony α (alpha) DSLR-A200 doesn’t get very creative in this area. It has the same 10.2-megapixel APS CCD that is in the A100. The A200 has the capability to shoot RAW images, RAW + JPEG, and JPEG images only. It can record JPEGs in fine and standard compression, selectable from the Shooting menu. Image sizes include Large (10-megapixel – 3872 x 2592), Medium (5.6-megapixel – 2896 x 1936), and Small (2.5-megapixel – 1920 x 1280). The format can be switched from the default 3:2 to 16:9. The 16:9 image sizes include 3872 x 2176, 2896 x 1632, and 1920 x 1088. Most digital cameras use a native 4:3 format, but the Sony A200 doesn’t have that at all.

We look forward to evaluating the resolution in our imaging lab. The Sony A100 tested well, and we expect good things from the A200. The 10.2-megapixel resolution is typical of low-end DSLRs. It is a step down from the A700’s 12.2 megapixels.

Picture Effects Mode

One of the latest trends in digital photography is adding Color modes that simulate different types of film. Most digital cameras have Black and White and Sepia modes, but more and more DSLRs are adding options such as Vivid and Portrait. Indeed, the Sony A100 has this, and so does the A200. It places them as a "creative style" option in the Shooting menu. The options are Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Night View, Sunset, Black & White, and Adobe RGB. These Color modes look good, but are only presets. I used the Sunset mode at dawn and it produced gorgeous images of the sunrise, but the images were much more orange than reality. Do you want reality or pictures that are better than reality? That’s the beauty of "creative styles" – and Photoshop.

Photographers who love to spend hours playing in Photoshop will prefer the Adobe Systems-recommended Adobe RGB mode. It saves images in its own color space, which is wider than the standard sRGB. In this same sub-menu there are contrast, sharpness, and saturation controls that can be adjusted on a +/- 3 scale.

Connectivity

Software

The Sony DSLR-A200 comes with a CD-ROM that includes a few browsing and editing programs. Picture Motion Browser Ver. 2.1.02 for Windows is included, along with Image Data Lightbox SR Ver. 1.0 and Image Data Converter SR Ver. 2.0 for Windows and Mac.

*Jacks, ports, plugs

*Sony includes the basic port options on its DSLR. The remote and DC-in ports are on the left side under a rubber cover. The USB/AV jack is located under a plastic door on the right side in the same space as the memory card compartment. This is a throwback to the Konica-Minolta cameras that hid their ports in the same places. The USB function can be set to mass storage or PTP, and the AV-out can be set to NTSC and PAL formats. There is a hot shoe on top of the A200 that can accept Sony and Konica-Minolta flashes.

Direct Print Options

The Sony α (alpha) DSLR-A200 is PictBridge and Print Image Matching III compatible. You can create DPOF orders in the Playback menu. The camera allows you to scroll through the images and mark them for printing. You can choose to print 0-9 of each image and add a date imprint if you want. Index prints can also be added to the order in the Playback menu. There is a running total of the DPOF order in the lower left corner of the LCD screen.

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Battery

The A200 has a slightly different battery than its predecessor. The A100 has an NP-FM55H battery and the A200 has a new InfoLithium NP-FM500H battery. They are the same size and shape and even provide the same amount of power: 7.2v, 1600 mAh. Both snap 750 shots per charge.

The difference between the batteries lies in the indicator. The new InfoLithium battery relays more precise information to the camera about how much of its power remains. It shows up in exact percentages (eg. 96 percent) rather than the three or four-bar indicator on most digital cameras, which isn’t as reliable or accurate.

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery fits into a charger that comes in the box with the camera. The charger comes with a cable that connects it to an outlet; it isn’t as convenient as a straight wall-mount type of charger.

The A200, like the A100, is compatible with an optional battery grip that allows you to use two batteries instead of one. However, you can't use the same battery grip with the A200 and A100; the new VG-B30AM grip works with the A200 only.

Memory

The Sony A200 has a large plastic memory card door on the right side, which opens to reveal the large slot that fits CF I and II and Microdrive media. A 1GB CF card can fit 241 full-resolution JPEGs on it. Sony sells an optional adapter for its Memory Stick Duo media so they can fit in the slot, too.

Other features

Dynamic Range Optimizer – This is another feature included on the older Sony A100. The A200’s DRO, or dynamic range optimizer, is available in the Function menu. It can be turned off or set to DRO standard or DRO advanced. These settings are meant to expand the dynamic range of images and bring out details in shadows when subjects are starkly lit. The results aren’t astounding just from looking at the images in the camera, but this feature’s subtle results produced big performance numbers in the A100’s lab tests.

Dust Control – The Sony α DSLR-A200 has a dust control system that is exactly the same as the one on the A100. It has a static-free protective coating on the low-pass filter and on the image sensor’s shift mechanisms. In addition to the protective coating, the camera vibrates the image sensor to shake any dust off that may have settled there. The vibration occurs for a quick moment when the camera is turned off. You can also access the sensor for cleaning through the manual cleaning mode – as long as there is enough battery power. (UPDATE: a previous version of this article said that the cleaning system is activated when the camera is turned on and can be manually triggered; it is only activated when the camera is turned off)

Value

The A200 is coming out at an affordable price point. This is a smart move, as more and more manufacturers are releasing DSLRs that bridge the price gap between DSLRs and compact models. The old A100 sells for about $600 now and the price will likely drop now that the A200 has been announced, as long as A100’s last (the A200 will replace the A100). The A200 does not sell with a body only. It sells as a kit with an 18-70mm lens for $699, which is affordable, but annoying for someone who may have a similar lens already. The A200 also comes as a kit with 18-70mm and 75-300mm lenses for $899. This isn’t outrageous, but kit lenses aren’t worth the price hike. The Sony A200 isn’t dramatically different from its predecessor, but its price should make it more competitive with DSLRs such as the $599 Pentax K10D and the $699 Nikon D40x (both include kit lenses).

**Comparison to the Sony α DSLR-A100

**The older A100 has the same 10.2-megapixel resolution and many of the same features. Both DSLRs have Super SteadyShot image stabilization built into the camera. Both cameras also have a dust control system. They have similar viewfinders, but the new A200’s viewfinder isn’t grainy like the A100’s. The controls on the camera body are tweaked a bit, with the biggest different being the function button on the A200, rather than the more easily accessible function dial on the A100. The Sony DSLR-A100 was tested in our imaging lab and came out with decent colors and resolution, great noise control in low light, and impressive dynamic range. It took the A100 a full second to start up and snapped away at the same 3 fps Burst rate. The Sony A100 originally retailed for $999 including the kit lens, but now sells for much less. The A100 also sold as the body only – whereas the A200 comes only as a one or two lens kit – and sells for about $600.

Who It’s For

Point-and-Shooters – In general, DSLRs aren’t made for point-and-shooters. The DSLR-A200 is at the more affordable end of the α lineup, though, so it has features to lure these users: an Auto mode and seven Scene modes directly on the mode dial.

Budget Consumers – The A200 costs $699 for the body and an 18-70mm kit lens. This is among the least expensive digital SLRs, so budget consumers who can’t afford the pricier DSLRs but still want the control may be attracted to the A200.

Gadget Freaks – There isn’t any brand new technology introduced on the A200 that will woo gadget freaks. It has image stabilization and dust removal, but the old A100 has those, too. By now, those features have become standard.

Manual Control Freaks – The manual controls are on the Sony A200, but they aren’t as easy to use as on high-end DSLRs. Manual control freaks will not appreciate having to push the exposure compensation button while rotating the jog dial to adjust the aperture in Manual mode.

Pros/Serious Hobbyists – The Sony α DSLR-A200 could be a backup camera for a pro and would certainly qualify as a good camera for an enthusiast. For photographers who have old Konica-Minolta lenses and accessories, it makes sense.

Conclusion

The Sony A200 makes several improvements upon its predecessor. Its autofocus system is faster, its LCD slightly larger, its viewfinder clearer. It also has an awesome battery level indicator that provides its exact power level in percentage points, rather than the ambiguous three or four bars on typical digital cameras.

The fact that I’m gloating about the battery indicator should throw out a red flag. The A200 is boring. It has a few small improvements but doesn’t introduce any new technology. It seems to be an obligatory release – almost like Sony needed to refresh the low end of its line because the A100 is getting old.

The Sony α DSLR-A200 may be the newest Sony digital camera, but it is still a footnote to the A700 on the company’s website. It didn’t even get a moment of glory on the Sony website; that should say something, too.

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Emily Raymond

Emily Raymond

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Emily Raymond is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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