Sony A500 and A550 Digital SLR Review: Field Test Report


Peter Burian tests this affordable prosumer-grade duo with some digicam-style features for novices



A very prolific manufacturer, Sony markets more DSLR models than any other company. The new A500 (Amazon: Sony Alpha DSLRA500 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera (Body only); B&H: Sony A500) and A550 (Amazon: Sony Alpha DSLR-A550 14.2MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only); B&H: Sony A550) target photo enthusiasts and they’re identical except for a few aspects. The A550 boasts a 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor and an ultra-high resolution LCD while the more affordable A500 is a 12.3 megapixel camera with a more typical LCD. While they will satisfy experienced photographers, with their digicam-style features these cameras should be equally attractive to novices.

Product_Flash_a500

Product_flash_a550

These DSLRs retain the best of the earlier A350 including live view with remarkably fast autofocus. Their most notable new benefits include much faster continuous drive speed, face detection plus Smile Shutter technology-plus a second, new live view mode. They’re also equipped with a larger variable-angle LCD, and the A550 offers a unique function. In Speed Priority drive mode this camera can blast off a long series of shots at a blazing 7 frames per second (fps).

Royalty: While the cameras offer a wide range of overrides for modifying many aspects of an image, they often produced very pleasing photos even at default settings. Thanks to the new CMOS sensor and improved BIONZ processor, image quality was excellent. (a550; Custom WB; Large/fine JPEG; ISO 200; Standard picture style; 16-105mm DT zoom.)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

Royalty: While the cameras offer a wide range of overrides for modifying many aspects of an image, they often produced very pleasing photos even at default settings. Thanks to the new CMOS sensor and improved BIONZ processor, image quality was excellent. (A550; Custom WB; Large/fine JPEG; ISO 200; Standard picture style; 16-105mm DT zoom.) ©2009 Peter K. Burian


Design and Features

Relatively small, the bodies feature a large rubberized handgrip and many well marked external controls. External finish differs but they’re made with a strong metal chassis and feature a 3-inch (7.62 cm) LCD. A hinged mechanism allows the screen to be pulled out and tilted within a 180 degree range. That’s useful when using live view while holding the camera at a high or a low angle. The A550′s LCD is particularly impressive, with incredibly high 921,600 dot resolution vs. the standard 230,000 dots of the A500′s screen.

The LCD screen also displays data in a large font with an on-screen help guide and a graphic format. The latter provides an intuitive indication of how shutter speed and aperture adjustment will affect the final image. External controls are available for some frequently-used features but all essential functions can be set in a sub-menu. Simply press the [Fn] button and navigate through the ten items using the keys on the controller thumb pad. After an initial camera setup, there is rarely a need to access the full menu.

Function Sub Menu: Press the Fn button to reveal a single screen for making settings in the most important functions.

Function Sub Menu: Press the Fn button to reveal a single screen for making settings in the most important functions.

The cameras were designed for ease of use so most of the frequently-used features can be set in the very intuitive function sub-menu. (Shade WB; ISO 400; Vivid Style; +1 contrast, sharpness.)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

The cameras were designed for ease of use so most of the frequently-used features can be set in the very intuitive function sub-menu. (Shade WB; ISO 400; Vivid Style; +1 contrast, sharpness.) ©2009 Peter K. Burian



The autofocus system is versatile, with three AF modes and three options for focus detection: ide area, central point and user-selectable point. When the camera is set for live view, face detection AF can be set; that optimizes focus and exposure for people in the scene. Sony has also added Smile Shutter from its digicams. Preset the level that you expect-from slight to big smile-and the camera will automatically take a photo when a person smiles.

While they're enthusiast-level cameras, the a550 and the a500 would be fine for someone just trading up to a digicam, thanks to features such as quick AF live view with face detection and Smile Shutter, auto pop-up flash (in some modes) and seven scene modes for common types of subjects. (Portrait mode; Fill Flash mode; Live View with Face Detection.)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

While they're enthusiast-level cameras, the A550 and the A500 would be fine for someone just trading up to a digicam, thanks to features such as quick AF live view with face detection and Smile Shutter, auto pop-up flash (in some modes) and seven scene modes for common types of subjects. (Portrait mode; Fill Flash mode; Live View with Face Detection.) ©2009 Peter K. Burian



Scroll to select one of the six creative styles (such as Portrait, Vivid or Landscape) in the function screen and the BIONZ processor will provide a different look to the images. You can also set a desired level for contrast, saturation and sharpening. A B&W picture style is also available for shooting monochrome photos (without a saturation control) but does not include any filter effects or toning features.

The standard picture style mode-at default contrast, saturation and sharpness levels-was often suitable. For some subjects however, I used one of the other five styles such as Vivid or B&W for entirely different effects. (ISO 200)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

The standard picture style mode-at default contrast, saturation and sharpness levels-was often suitable. For some subjects however, I used one of the other five styles such as Vivid or B&W for entirely different effects. (ISO 200) ©2009 Peter K. Burian

cars_VIVID

CARS B&W


The Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) is very versatile, with an automatic mode and five user-selectable levels for increased shadow detail. Sony has added a really cool new feature, Auto HDR (High Dynamic Range). When set, this allows for shooting two photos-while hand-holding the camera, if desired-at different exposure levels. Afterwards, the BIONZ processor quickly combines the two shots into a single image with maximum highlight and shadow detail.

The Dynamic Range Optimizer can increase the amount of shadow detail but the effect is not dramatic in auto mode. Levels control offers full versatility however, with intensity options ranging from 1 to 5. (Vivid picture style)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

The Dynamic Range Optimizer can increase the amount of shadow detail but the effect is not dramatic in auto mode. Levels control offers full versatility however, with intensity options ranging from 1 to 5. (Vivid picture style) ©2009 Peter K. Burian

MUSTANG_DRO_5

MUSTANG_DRO_AUTO

MUSTANG_DRO_OFF


Evaluation: Although the menu does not include nearly as many items as you’ll find in some competing DSLRs, the A500 and A550 are well-equipped, missing only reflex mirror pre-lock and depth of field preview. They provide many other advanced features including Wireless Off-Camera TTL flash capability. Both are also suitable for sports photography at 5 fps-or 4 fps in Live View-with reliable tracking focus and fast processing. In the 7 fps Speed Priority mode (A550), focus and exposure are locked for the first frame. This mode is not ideal for sports photography but it is fine for motion study sequences of a golf or tennis swing, for example.

The 7 frame per second Speed Priority mode (a550 only) worked well in this location where the camera-to-subject distance was often constant. I was usually able to get seven sharply focused shots in a series. (ISO 400; 1/640 sec.; Vivid mode.)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

The 7 frame per second Speed Priority mode (A550 only) worked well in this location where the camera-to-subject distance was often constant. I was usually able to get seven sharply focused shots in a series. (ISO 400; 1/640 sec.; Vivid mode.) ©2009 Peter K. Burian



Startup was very quick and the Eye-Start system instantly activated autofocus when it detected my eye at the viewfinder. The camera responded quickly to a touch of the shutter release button, so I never missed a fleeting gesture in candid picture-taking. Autofocus was quick in daylight and better than average in the low light of a cathedral. For the fastest AF it’s worth using one of the SSM lenses (with Supersonic AF) or the more affordable SAM (Smooth AF Motor) lenses.

Both cameras start up very quickly and the Eye-Start feature activates metering and autofocus. There's no obvious shutter lag and AF is very responsive making it easy to capture just the right instant. (P mode; ISO 400)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

Both cameras start up very quickly and the Eye-Start feature activates metering and autofocus. There's no obvious shutter lag and AF is very responsive making it easy to capture just the right instant. (P mode; ISO 400) ©2009 Peter K. Burian



The in-camera Steady Shot stabilizer was very effective. In low light, I consistently got sharp photos at 50mm (75mm equivalent) using a shutter speed of 1/15 sec. At a longer 1/8 sec., at least half my photos of New York night scenes were sharp. When bracing the camera against some solid object, I was able to make some technically good images even at 1/4 sec.

The built-in stabilizer is very effective. As these small portions of images confirm, I was able to make some sharp images even at 1/8 sec., minimizing the need to use very high ISO levels. (70mm focal length; ISO 400)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

The built-in stabilizer is very effective. As these small portions of images confirm, I was able to make some sharp images even at 1/8 sec., minimizing the need to use very high ISO levels. (70mm focal length; ISO 400) ©2009 Peter K. Burian

Stabilizer_ON

Unique Live View Technology

Sony was the last of the major camera companies to implement live view but it was worth the wait. In Quick AF mode, a small mirror inside the pentamirror finder tilts, directing light to a secondary imaging sensor which provides a live preview of a scene. A secondary mirror directs light to the AF sensor for remarkably fast autofocus, with phase detection technology. The large reflex mirror does not flip-flop up/down so the LCD screen never blacks out during autofocus operation.

The Quick AF Live View feature provides fast and reliable autofocus and there's no interruption of the image preview during focusing. This system is very well-implemented, so it's almost as convenient as with a digicam. (P mode, ISO 400, flash.)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

The Quick AF Live View feature provides fast and reliable autofocus and there's no interruption of the image preview during focusing. This system is very well-implemented, so it's almost as convenient as with a digicam. (P mode, ISO 400, flash.) ©2009 Peter K. Burian



The A500 and A550 are the first Alpha cameras with a second distinct option. In Manual Focus Check Live View, the reflex mirror is locked in the up position and the preview display is provided by the large, ultra-high resolution CMOS sensor. Only manual focus is available but the preview image is crisper, brighter and less “grainy” in low light. It’s also more accurate in depicting the actual results that any change in ISO, white balance and creative style setting produces. A 7x or a 14x magnification level can be set in order to check for critical focus.

For the Quick AF Live View system, Sony employs unique technology not available with any other brand of DSLR for unusually fast autofocus with uninterrupted live view. The new Manual Focus Check LV mode is more typical and offers its own set of benefits as discussed in the text.

For the Quick AF Live View system, Sony employs unique technology not available with any other brand of DSLR for unusually fast autofocus with uninterrupted live view. The new Manual Focus Check LV mode is more typical and offers its own set of benefits as discussed in the text.

LiveView_Manual_Focus


Evaluation: In the conventional live view mode, the A500 and A550 provide faster autofocus than most DSLRs of other brands. Granted, the LCD shows only 90% of the actual image area and the display is not fully accurate. That’s why Manual Focus Check is preferable for 100% picture coverage plus a truer preview with much better clarity. Overall, no other DSLR that I have tested provided a better live view experience.

Image Quality

These DSLRs employ new Exmor CMOS sensors with on-chip noise reduction and a very fast BIONZ engine. This processor was designed to generate images with a wide tonal range, accurate colors and minimal digital noise. That’s why the cameras’ now have maximum sensitivity levels at a remarkable ISO 12,800.

Except for resolution, JPEGs made by the 12.3 and the 14.2 megapixel cameras are nearly identical. In the early test samples, where I used Auto WB it provided a cool (blue) balance in daylight; however, the Cloudy Day WB preset produced a more pleasing effect. After white balance tweaking, the standard picture style mode provided attractive skin tones, snappy contrast and moderately high saturation. Sharpness was a tad low, easily solved with a +1 in-camera setting.

The multi-segment metering system often underexposed light-toned scenes; that was easy to prevent with +2/3 exposure compensation. The DRO Auto mode provided a slight improvement in shadow detail. I preferred to use Level 2 for greater dynamic range without making the image appear unnatural. The new Auto HDR function can be useful too. It’s not, however, intended for routine use because the dramatic increase in highlight and shadow detail can make the photos appear over-processed.

The new Auto HDR function works by taking two photos, at varying exposure levels, and combining them into a single image. When the exposure difference is set the the maximum (as in this case) the effect can seem artificial; lower levels produce a more natural-looking effect.  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

The new Auto HDR function works by taking two photos, at varying exposure levels, and combining them into a single image. When the exposure difference is set the the maximum (as in this case) the effect can seem artificial; lower levels produce a more natural-looking effect. ©2009 Peter K. Burian

Cows_HDR_ON


Evaluation: Low ISO quality is excellent; after a bit of sharpening, I made 13×19-inch (33x48cm) prints suitable for framing. Some digital noise is visible at ISO 400, but this level is still fine for all-purpose use. At high ISO levels, it is important to avoid underexposure. My best ISO 800 images are suitable for making nice letter size prints while my ISO 3200 photos made for decent 5×7-inch (13x18cm) glossies. The other ISO levels are strictly for problem-solving in very dark locations.

Thanks to the new CMOS sensor and improved BIONZ processor, both cameras generated decent image quality at ISO 1600 as indicated in this photo, a very small portion of a large/fine JPEG.  ©2009 Peter K. Burian

Thanks to the new CMOS sensor and improved BIONZ processor, both cameras generated decent image quality at ISO 1600 as indicated in this photo, a very small portion of a large/fine JPEG. ©2009 Peter K. Burian


The Bottom Line

The A500 or the A550 would be a fine choice for DSLR novices thanks to the many digicam-style features, but the great versatility and advanced functions make it just as suitable for photo enthusiasts. The A550 would be my first choice because of its superior LCD screen. A few years ago, the early Alpha cameras appealed primarily to those who already owned some compatible Minolta Maxxum/Dynax lenses. Today, the system is succeeding on its own merits. Regardless of budget or needs, you should be able to find at least one Sony Alpha camera that’s just right in terms of feature set, performance and value.

Specifications

For full spec’s on these cameras: Visit Sony A500; Sony A550



Comments

  1. Sarah Joyce says:

    Thanks for an excellent review. When I began reading I was more focused on the A-500. When I completed reading the review, I found myself appreciating the A-550 thanks to your concise and detailed review.

    Have a great day.

    Sarah Joyce

  2. Thanks, I think its a great review and I´ve found it very helpful since I have an Alpha 550 bought in Japan (Japanese user´s guide, my god).

    My main problem is that the Alpha 550`s RAW is not supported by Adobe Lightroom, CS4, Photomatix…. The DNG converter does not work either… SO I have to work with JPG files….

    ¿Any idea? If yes …. please, email me… flcasar@yahoo.es

    THANKS.

  3. Adobe does not yet support the RAW files generated by these cameras, but one day, they will issue an update for Adobe Camera Raw. In the meantime, why not use the RAW software that came with the camera?

    It’s entirely different than Adobe, and not as convenient but has lots of features and produces excellent image quality. That’s what I am doing.

    Peter

  4. Yes, for $200 more the a550 is definitely worth it.

    Peter

  5. Pedro Duarte says:

    So, for someone looking at Nikon D5000, Pentax K-x and Sony A-550 … do you think the A-550 takes the prize Peter? ( talking only about picture quality in JPG and RAW )

    Pedro, Portugal

  6. Chris Repiso says:

    I just got one a550 today with a 18-250mm lens. Boy let me tell you this camera is great. It is well designed, feel extremely comfy and is indeed very good at focusing even in dark situation. I had a R1 and despite the extremely good results I was getting with this camera, it is simply not the same technology. I would give my arm to get the engine of this 550 with the R1 lens. And that is in part the reason I stick to Sony. CZ is always around making nice lenses. But the 18-250mm is good as well and works like a charm with the a550. I was also looking at the D90 and K7, but fell in love again with Sony’s. I’ll play with it tomorrow ;)

  7. Pedro Duarte says:

    Tell us about image quality once you tried it … i’m deciding whatever to get a Pentax K-x, A-550 or D90

  8. Michael Redd says:

    Chris:
    Where did you get yours? I’ve been trying to buy the a550, but no one seems to have them in stock, and that includes Sony!! I pre-ordered at Sony and they indicated October 28 shipping, but according to tracking information, camera was not shipped.

    Definitely interested in knowing where I could put my hands on it — sooner (as always) the better.

  9. Rob Brydon says:

    Have had my A550 3 days and it’s a brilliantly fast camera. Both AF and iso range giving me shutter speeds I have always wanted. I have been shooting in iso800 most of the time and noise isn’t a problem. Battery life lasts ages. Very intuitive menu and a shutter sounds more like a bullet going off that the “kerslap” of my old A100. A quite but precise bullet that is too. I have sharp images all over the place and I am dying to try my 500mm lense.
    Only complaint is the grip. A couple of hours holding the camera gave me a sore wrist. I don’t know whether it’s made for smaller hands or what the story is but my grip on the A100 was solid and very reassuring. There won’t be much single handed shooting happening with this baby.
    Good review Peter and I agree completely with you on this fine machine.
    I can hear the Canonites and Nikonians booing from here. If you don’t already have one..go get one, you’ll love it..cheers..R

  10. Rob Brydon says:

    Forgot to mention. I’m using a 50mm SAM, Sony 18-250 and SP90. Also have just bought a Opteka 500mm tele f8 to see what it’s like..Should be a good test for this camera. The 18-250 is fantastic on the A550…speed to burn.

  11. Chris Repiso says:

    Hi Michael,

    I bought mine from L.L.Lozeau in Montreal, Canada. They had few a550 in stock. I use the camera mostly to shoot in low light situation (theater). This camera gives you very good and usable pictures even at ISO 1600.

  12. Chris Repiso says:

    Here are some sample pictures taken from ISO 800 up to ISO 1600: http://www.flickr.com/photos/44235838@N07/

  13. I used to work with Nikon but i switched to Sony (A700) because of the in body ‘steady shot’ and the excellent Sony 16-105 zoom (then the most versatile zoom on the market) a few years ago. Last year an Alpha 350 was added and last week the Alpha 550. I use the camera’s professionally for classic car and event photography (A700 for events and action, A350 for static car photography with live view – approx 10.000 photo’s per year). What strikes me most about the Sony bodies is that they provide everything a photographer needs without any fuzz, clear menu’s and very rugged bodies which can be used with (not to thick) gloves on!!

    After shooting about 300 photo’s using all functions I am very impressed with the A550, it outclasses both the A700 and the A350! The 550 is surely a big step up from the A350! Everything about the camera fulfills my needs and I have to say your review is spot on!

  14. I have not been impressed with a A350 I have been using taking indoor figure skating pictures normally about iso 800 and a beer can fixed F4 lens. I have been thinking of going to Nikon or Canon thinking they may be better suited for my use but a lot of money in lens when I have a few choices for a Sony. From the reviews it seems the processer is very much upgraded in the 500 and 550 would this be true or does most of the Sony camera’s on the low end still struggle above 400 iso?

  15. @John F: The A350 should be used with ISO setting at max 400 for best results. From ISO 400 noise is too severe. The A550 is a HUGE step ahead (I think currently best in class) and can be used up to 1600 ISO with beautiful results and 3200 is still acceptable. ISO 3200 works fine for tele (details shots and action), with a wide angle lens (large coverage and fine details) I would nog go beyond ISO 1600 on the A550. With your figure skating photography you will be surprised of the speed the A550 has to offer in ‘sport’ mode, 5 bps. with full AF and AE and 7 bps. with fixed AF and AE at the first frame.

  16. Thank you very helpful with that and other research I think I am confident that staying with sony is the best way since for the money I have I would probably get a much lower grade camera if I have to buy a big zoom lens also. Just one other thing if anyone has used the 500 as much? From what I am finding the processor is the same and just would lose some display quality and 2fps but 5 is quite a bit faster than I have now. I don’t think I care about the smaller mp I normally lower it to around 6 anyway it makes it much easier storing and sharing pictures.

  17. Thank you very much for this review Peter!

  18. @ John don’t think you lose ‘some’ display quality… It’ is a HUGE difference between the A500 and the A550! The A 500 has the same poor display (around 230.000 pixels) as the A350 has with bad visibility under a bright sky and you can not check photo’s in fine detail. On the A550 you have >900.000 pixels and beautiful luminance at bright daylight! The poor A350 LV display was one of the reasons I upgraded to the A550…

  19. I posted some A550 photo’s on Twitpic. Difficult high contrast photo’s of light cars against dark backgrounds using 200 ISO and the new HDR mode (handheld). Colour reproduction of the A550 is very, very good, see the pale yellow car. Dynamic range is very, very impressive!
    Then a bunch of photo’s at NIGHT with high ISO, in a dark bar and in the late afternoon just before sundown. See the descritions under the photo’s. The night photo’s were taken on purpose with a standard zoom lens (Sony 16-105/F2.3-5.6) to stress the steadyshot (anti shake) and the camera’s capabilities to the max, hand held up to 1/4 sec! The photo’s come directly from the camera, only scaled to around 3000 pix (without sharpening) and compressed. (The original JPG -fine- files are between 4.5 and 7 MB and contain even more detail).

    http://www.twitpic.com/photos/marcvorgers

  20. Thank you for your thorough review. I am looking to upgrade from my A100 and want something that will satisfy my progression as a photographer in the future. I was wondering if the price difference between the A500 and A550 was worth it, and from your article I am thinking it would be.

    While asking for opinions on some other sites of Sony Alpha users, some seem to think the A700 would be a good choice (even though it will be out of production). What is your opinion?

  21. A700 doesn’t have live view. It’s large & heavy. The white balance is inferior than A550. No HDR, face detection. Don’t buy A700 just because some A700 owners (fanboys) tell you that you should.

  22. @ Cathy: Forget the (little) price difference between the A500 and the A550, the A550 has better specs. and other bonusses like the fantastic high res live view screen! The A550 is a HUGE step up from the A100 and it is also better and more versatile than the A700 which I also own.

  23. I’ve had the 550 for only one dark novemberday :-)
    Therefore I’ve only got experience with the high iso performance.
    And so far it’s much better than my A700 – not the mention the recently sold A350!

  24. well just wondering (a bit of an autofocus junkie here ;P ) how fast the af really is? i had a few chances and a few minutes to play with the camera in a shop, but it was “creepily” bright there :P and night stalkers and night creatures such as me had problems watching the world even through shades :P i know that in such a situation most af systems seem to work great, the problems start at slightly dimmer places, exactly where a550 should excel a bit (high iso seems to be well used, hdr modes give additional bonuses, steadyshotinside or whatever it’s called adds to abilities) – but is af just as good? i mean compared to nikon d90 (had one that died on me) similar af-specced to the “d5000″ and canon 500d (the roughly similar counteroffer from other manufacturers) or even 50d (a friend uses it, my short time with the camera lead me to a belief that it’s reaaaally fast in terms of af)… i’m asking this question as much due to having quite an interest in using minolta maxxum af reflex f/8 500mm or its sony-branded version… and those fine jack-of-all-trades lenses (16-105mm, 18-250 – or tamron’s 18-270, sigma’s 120-400/150-500/50-500) are quite dim/slow so i wonder if it hamper’s a550 focusing or slows it down to impossible levels… cheers, hope you could throw some light on these questions of mine :P

  25. Has anyone here had extensive experience with the NIkon D90 and how would you compare it to the Alpha 550? I’m pretty much set on buying a Nikon D90 but I stopped bye the SonyStore the other day and held a 550. It has a nice ‘chunky’ body and felt good to hold and shoot. So far, I found the Alpha 550 to be the only close contender to the Nikon D90 in terms of holding and getting to controls with my right hand. I haven’t really liked any of the Canon offerings (personal opinion even though I believe Canon makes a great product and takes fine pictures).

    Please let me know what your (experienced) thoughts are between the D90 and the 550

    Thank you.

  26. Judi Taylor says:

    Peter,
    Thanks for the great review. I’m looking to go with the Sony line. I’m a returning college student majoring in media technology, focus in photography. I have used Olympus and Canon and enjoyed both, but there is just something about the Sony line that keeps pulling me in that direction. They feel good in the hand and just have great features.
    I’ve been looking at the A700. My question to you Peter, is should I go with the A700 or the A550?
    Also is Sony planning to replace the A700 with another model as they have with others? Any advice or comments would be great, even from others who have posted. Thanks.
    Have a great day!
    Judi

  27. Sony A550 DSLR Camera is a very good camera it has Quick Auto Focus Live View has been developed with Face Detection technology to help you get the best shot by recognizing and adjusting for faces. It establishes the priority of the auto focus on faces and provides fine adjustments of exposure for portraits net, with tones natural skin. It also supports Up to 7 frames per second (with optical viewfinder in Speed Priority mode) can capture the decisive moment in sports or get the ideal baby photo. You can also shoot at up to 4 fps with Quick Auto Focus Live View. For more information check here http://www.techarena.in/review/16688-sony-a550-dslr-camera.htm

  28. Judi: I have no idea if the a700 will be replaced soon. There are always rumors on photographybay about stuff like that.

    The a550 has a lot of new features not available with the D700, so sure, this would make sense as the camera for you.

    Cheers! Peter
    http://www.peterkburian.com

  29. Hi everybody,
    I need some help. I’ve got a Cyber-shot DSC-R1 and am interested in getting an Alpha 900 as I have the possibility of getting one for the same price as the Alpha 850 (makes it even more tempting). Been reading everything everywhere and the Alpha 55O seems so “perfect” that it just about seems “better” than the 900 at least above 800 iso or with the HDR and Live View options which the Alpha 900 does not have even if it has Intelligent preview.
    Seeing the price difference and the budget I will have to develop for top CZ lenses to get the best out of the beast, I would appreciate some professional advice.

    By the way Peter, I’ve read something about an a750 early 2010 on a french site . . . perhaps just gossip. ..

    Thanks all for any advice or experience

    Philippe (Belgium)

  30. Take a look at this review and comparison between the A550, Canon T1i, Nikon D5000, Oly E-30 and Pano GF-1. Forget all the bells and whistle. And even if you took Smile Shutter and Face Detection away, which is something I may never use, the A550 is in another league for sharp, naturally high dynamic range images. Those moving up from P&S and want video, look at Canon, Nikon, Oly and Pano. If you want to capture great images from the camera, buy the A550. I’ve been using it for 2 months and it matters not whether I shoot with my Sony 50mm 1.8, 18-250 or Tamron SP90..images are “very sharp” nearly all the time. Seems the other big 2 missed that feature on their comparitive models. The HDR has to be used to be believed and just that 921k dor LCD is worth the extra money let alone having the cropping power. I’m stoked with my A550.

    http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Sony-A550-Digital-Camera-Review-21295.htm

  31. Hello again everybody,
    Thanks for “trying”. Too late now. Have invested in the 900. Sure its a good buy.Pitty that there was no reply though. Really needed advice. Got all info from french sites (very active) in the meantime.
    Philippe

  32. @Philippe: Congratulations with your new A900! To be frank no advice was needed… If I could buy an A900 for the price of a A850 I would not hesitate if I wanted one. The A900 and the A550 cannot be compared (apples and pears) The A900 is a full blown and heavy FF camera to be used with big and heavy FF lenses and the best (Sony) choice for photographers who just want to settle for the best possible 24MP image for A2+ poster printing. The A550 is a rather compact and relatively light DT 1.5 crop DSLR especially when smaller and lighter DT lenses are used. Suitable for photographers who are satisfied whith excellent A3+ results. It is just what you want and need.

    The A900 is a very nice piece of machinery with matching CZ lenses, but for my line of work too big and heavy… as are the files it produces…

  33. I’m sorry I did not notice these new Comments sooner.

    The a850 and a900 obviously have benefits over the a550. Because of the oversized sensor.

    Check out my Review of Full Frame DSLRs http://www.photocrati.com/comparison-review-of-full-frame-digital-slrs-canon-eos-5d-mk-ii-vs-nikon-d700-vs-sony-a900/

    AND my a850 Review http://www.photocrati.com/sony-alpha-a850-digital-slr-review-field-test-report/

    AND my Large vs. Small Sensors — Pro’s and Con’s http://www.photocrati.com/large-vs-small-sensors-pros-and-cons/

    I would have suggested the a850 due to its lower price, but if you were able to get the a900 for the same price, great!!!

    Peter http://www.peterkburian.com

  34. Thanks Marc & Peter. Always good to have complementary professional advice. Just bought the SAL50F14 & Zeiss SAL2470Z. “Fantastic” is not superlative but its total weight, as you say Marc, is proportionnaly equivalent to the new lightness of my wallet. I will just have to wait a while for the G 70-200 f/2,8. One last question, have you any advice on the DxO programe? Heard it’s the best for correcting RAW files obtained from the A900.
    Philippe

  35. Good morning, Philippe: No, I have never tried the DXO programme; it’s perhaps more popular in Europe than in North America.

    I think you should also try the Trial version of the Phase One Capture One Pro 5 software. See my review also here at Photocrati.

    http://www.photocrati.com/phase-one-capture-one-5-pro-review/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+photocrati+%28Photocrati+RSS+Feed%29

    Peter

  36. In Octobre 2005 I bought a Konica Minolta 5D with the following :
    Sigma 18/50 F2.8 DC EX Minolta D
    Konica Minolta Flash 5600 HSD
    ( I had still from my Minolta 7000i a Sigma 100/300 Apo Macro )

    My 5D is now broken ( Stabiliser is dead )

    Now I’ve got 2 solutions :

    buy a Sony Alpha

    buy another brand and sell all my equipment

    What would you do ?

    I had a look at the Sony Alpha 550 … can you recommend it ?

    thanks for your help …….

  37. Well I don’t know why you would want to switch to an entirely different brand, Xenakis.

    Granted, you don’t have really expensive lenses (or many of them) but your flash unit was not cheap.

    It would cost a lot to replace the lenses and flash. Why not spend the money on an a550 and an extra lens, such as an ultra wide angle 11-18mm?

    Peter

  38. Brian Ireland says:

    Well I was shopping around and in the process of getting a new camera . Been of the old school of dark room and red light and chemicals. I have opted for the Sony A550. Its on its way to me as I write this.
    So one may wonder what has guided my choice. Well the reviews I have looked at for a few weeks before
    Deciding. Some may say.
    Well it dose not have video capability . Well if I want to shoot Video I would have a camera just for that.
    The lack of a depth of field preview I don’t believe its an issue it would be an issue if it was a film camera. But I would ask you to consider that any and all results are instantly available for viewing. Unlike film where the processing was when you found out. So for me its not a worry. But using the right f stops and a little faith in the available technology I believe will give the required results and with practice one should be able to judge without even having to think about it.
    The mirror lock up there may be a slight issue but not a biggie.
    But the stabilization built into the body is a big plus. It means you can get away with lenses that don’t have it built into them. So it’s a saving when one comes to adding lenses.
    For me it seemed the logical choice when one considers the rest of the specifications this camera offers.
    So that’s the reason I went for it and reading what the people here say about the A550 it seems I have made a good choice.
    So I am eagerly awaiting that knock on the door and then getting to grips with the A550
    But I shall be keeping a hand in the old world of film and chemicals dark room and all that goes with it.
    My old Mamiya 645 still has a part to play in the art form we call photography
    I shall return when I have used the camera myself to let you know if it is as worth waiting on as I believe it is.

    Kind regards to all
    Brian Ireland

  39. Very nice, i have seen people position the monitor closer to the camera on top. you might want to look into this. its alot easier for you to see. or you can place it on the hotshoe on top.
    Very good idea! Congratulation!
    Thanks for camera quick release wrist support brace.
    easy to handle.

  40. Just one year later and the A580 has replaced the A550. Bummer, the value of my A550 just halved. On the one hand I’m glad with progress, but this is a bit fast, isn’t it. I’ll just have to sit this one out and enjoy what I have.

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