Lee Sacrey Photography – Lee's Chatter

Mainly Photography but a little of everything at times

The new Sony a500 DSLR, What do I think?

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Last weekend was the Field workshop with Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou. It was a great event. Over this past week we have been getting 6 of our photos critiqued. It is a new and interesting experience. It will make me a much better photographer. It did hurt the ego a little though, lol. You can check it out on Darwin’s Blog (see the link on the links page).

The new Sony a500 DSLR, What do I think?

To those who know me well, it will come as no secret that I am always looking for new gear. Lately, I have been trying to decide what my next camera will be. I have seen more fake rumors on what will replace my Sony a700 than I care to remember. I know I want live view for sure but, I want all the things my current camera has with it. Sony doesn’t make it yet. I don’t need video and I don’t need some crazy number of mega pixels. If they would only add live view to my a700 I would be happy. I have even toyed with the idea of a less pro type model. On top of that I also have trouble looking at a new camera because I want to get out and try things with it before I just drop some cash on the counter. So what am I to do, continue to want or take the plunge now. Well, I am getting some help. I had a look at the Sony a500 at Roy’s Audiotronic here in Yellowknife. Robin Williams and Ian Vaydik at Roy’s discussed letting me try the a500. They allowed me to pick it up at close on Saturday (6:00 p.m.) and return it some time on Monday. I was very surprised – happily surprised maybe a better way to put it. So it is late Sunday night and I have done nothing but play with cameras since about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Here are my first thoughts.

Ok, lets start with the camera size. The a500 is very close to the a700 in size. So close in fact that at first glance you would think it is not worth mentioning but, once I handled them side by side there are some important differences. The first being the grip. The a700 grip is slightly larger than the a500 grip. On my a700 I can fit three fingers nicely on the front with my thumb perfectly placed behind, leaving my index finger in perfect position for both the front dial and the shutter button. The defined area for my fingers is done very well. On the a500 the grip is also done well but, due to it’s smaller size there is a little less room and I have small hands so, for others it may be a bigger deal. Finger placement detail is not quite as good either. The biggest issue for me is the dial location. On my a700 the front dial is on top of the grip just in front of the shutter making easy access to both (my a100 is very similar to this as well). On the a500 the front dial is on the front of the grip just above where my three fingers were located. I found I had to change my grip in order to access it.  The location isn’t bad just not as nice as my a700 (or a100 for that matter). The power button is located around the shutter and I actually shut the camera off twice while trying to turn the front dial. With that said, it still felt very nice, the best of the new Sony cameras that I have looked at.

Button placement is good but again, not on the same level as my a700 (it is not supposed to be at the a500 price point). Of course, I have to say I learned some new things about my a700 at last weeks workshop so, a week ago I might not have noticed this as much. The program or mode dial feels very good and is surprisingly quiet, it seems I have gotten use to the audible click of the dial on my a700. There is a no flash mode on the dial which I haven’t seen before. It prevents the flash from popping up in low light situations as it would in auto mode (although I never shoot in auto mode, or almost never). Exposure compensation is in a different location but, is accessed just as easily (just with your thumb instead if your index finger). The auto focus / manual focus button is on the front below the button to remove the lens (a fairly normal location) but, is right a your thumb location on the a700. There is no white balance button on the a500 like the a700 has but, I shoot in RAW so white balance is done during processing  so for me it is not really an issue. If you shoot in JPEG the button would make white balance adjustments easier. Anti-shake doesn’t have an on/off button either. Why would you want to turn that off you ask. Well, when the camera is tripod mounted anti-shake isn’t really required, in fact it may create some shake of its own. So when I shoot landscapes I usually have it turned off. It still can be turned off, just not as easily. There is no rear dial on the a500 but, again that is not unusual at this price point. Another thing I found was there didn’t appear to be an ISO 100 setting anywhere (maybe I just couldn’t find it, although I did use the ISO settings and didn’t see it there). I really thought that not having ISO 100 was unusual. Other than those things, the only thing needed would be to get use to where everything is located.

Now for the reason I wanted to try the a500 – Live View. When I first turned the camera on and looked at the LCD I was a little disappointed. The picture didn’t look crisp and clean (maybe I was expecting too much) but, once I was out shooting with live view on it worked great. It made my shooting much easier. I loved the live histogram. The tilt feature is great, although a screen like Canon’s G11 or Olympus’s E-620 would be the ideal for me. The screen would then work better if shooting vertical. I still loved the live view, it is a must have for me. I didn’t quite figure out the MF Check LV feature. It didn’t do what I thought and I would need more time to play with it. However, I don’t see how it could possibly be as good as depth of field preview (which the a500 doesn’t have). Again, I now love live view and I need it. Darwin, you were right. Once I used it there will be no going back. I like the LCD layout when live view was off,  it was very pleasing. Everything I needed was visible.

As for using the camera, it worked great. It worked without issues at -10 degrees and the files are very good (they can be seen on the new stuff page). Even at ISO 12800 this camera surprised me. I liked the function control, the auto-focus worked well and seemed to be very fast. I also liked how it displayed the focal points in the scene and the face detection was nice and functioned as expected. It also has a feature called smile shutter. This could be a fun option. You turn it on and if someone is looking at the camera and smiles it will automatically take a picture. It would be great for some candid shots. It even detects how big the smile is (or they make it look that way). I like it a lot and I like the camera a lot as well.

So there it is, my quick review (and first review of any camera) of the a500. What’s that? I didn’t mention the in camera HDR. I know, I didn’t use it and I think my skills need to improve before I can figure it out. It is a very cool feature on any camera and an exceptional one on a camera that is around $ 900.00. Again, my little brain could only handle so much on this my first review, it hurts already, so I will leave HDR for those more capable.

To conclude, I really like this a500. If it had DOF preview to go along with the live view I would be tempted to drop some more cash at Roy’s Audiotronic. Add a rotating screen and I’d be truly sold. Add those features to my a700 and I would have to take time off work to deal with it. So my next camera hunt is on (sorry Dale). If you are looking for your first DSLR or are moving up from a point and shoot I think you need to look at the Sony a500. Go over to Roy’s where Ian and Robin will be glad to help.

The pictures taken with the a500 and the comparison pictures to the a700 are on the new stuff page. Thanks for your time. Until next week.

Written by leesacrey

November 8, 2009 at 12:00 PM

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  1. […] The new Sony a500 DSLR, What do I think? November 2009 Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)WOWW.Allmost at the magic 50,000 thanks for looking inBusy day today no idea why? 62.446017 -114.426208 […]

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