Abstract: Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 Preview

Bob Atkins Photography


Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 Preview


Back in mid-2005 Sony and Konica-Minolta agreed to collaborate on the development of digital SLR cameras. This made quite a lot of sense since Sony are a major supplier of digital sensors (Nikon use a Sony sensor in the D200 for example) and have extensive experience in electronics, while Konica-Minolta have many decades of experience in the development of SLR cameras (both film and digital) and lenses.

It then came of something of a surprise when in January of 2006, Konica-Minolta announced that they were getting out of the photography business altogether and that were transferring many of their camera assets to Sony including their Maxxum/Dynax camera line and lenses.

Now Sony have released their first DSLR. the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100. It's clearly a hybrid using some of the Konica-Minolta technology (and the Konica-Minolta lens mount), but it adds a few new features and shows that Sony is quite serious about getting into the DSLR market. The initial Sony lenses appear to be mostly rebadged Konica-Minolta lenses, but they have announced plans to release a number of lenses later in the year with new designs, including a few made/designed by Zeiss and they seem to be intending to make the Sony Alpha cameras (of which I'm sure this is just the first), part of a complete DSLR system.


Here are a few of the more interesting features of the new Sony Alpha DSLR-A100:

  • Price $899.99/$999.99 (kit) - The Alpha DSLR-A100 is expected to retail for $999.99 for the body only or $999.99 with the SAL 18-70/3.5-5.6 kit lens. Shipping is expected to start by August.
  • A 23.6 x 15.8 mm CCD sensor with 10.2MP  - Notable is that Sony have chosen a CCD rather than a CMOS sensor. Sony supply the sensor which Nikon use in their D200 DSLR and it has exactly the same dimensions and number of pixels as the sensor used in the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100. Coincidence? Maybe. Nobody is saying it's the exact same sensor, but obviously it's pretty similar...The D200 has a maximum image size of 3872 x 2592 and the Alpha DSLR-A100 has a maximum image size of 3872 x 2592...
  • Anti Dust sensor features - The sensor in the DSLR-A100 is coated with an Indium-Tin Oxide antistatic layer to minimize dust collection and also uses and anti-dust vibration mechanism based on the anti-shake sensor (see below) movement. Apparently the sensor "shakes itself" when the camera is powered down to dislodge any dust (or the sensor can be "shaken" at any time via a menu function).
  • Anti-Shake - The Konica-Minolta DSLRs (like the 7D) had an anti-shake system built into the camera body, where the sensor moves in order to counteract the effects of camera shake. Sony claim to have improved the system (and they have renamed it "Super SteadyShot") and they say that it can offer as much as 3.5 stops of extra "handholdability" (though they don't say with which lenses).
  • Continuous shooting at 3fps - With a reasonably fast CF card (thankfully Sony chose to go with CF rather than Memory Sticks), the Alpha DSLR-A100 can shoot at 3fps until the card fills up.
  • 9 AF Zones - One cross type sensor (center) and 8 linear sensors
  • Eye Start AF - a carryover from Konica Minolta, the Alpha DSLR-A100 begins continuous AF as soon as your eye is placed against the viewfinder.
  • Bionz Image Processor - Sony's proprietary image processing hardware, developed for the DSLR-A100. Includes "Dynamic Range Optimization" (see below).
  • Dynamic Range Optimization - To recover details in dark or bright areas of the picture, the Alpha DSLR-A100 camera provides two levels of Dynamic Range Optimization: Normal DRO, to improve shadow detail using standard gamma curves for fast shot-to-shot response time, or Advanced DRO, to adjust dynamic range area-by-area for the greatest precision.
  • 40 Segment Honeycomb Pattern Metering - An expansion of the 14 segment metering found on the Konica-Minolta 5D and 7D.
  • 2.5" diagonal, 230,000 pixel LCD screen - This is also used for setting parameters like ISO, white balance, exposure compensation etc., since there is no top-mounted LCD.
  • Size and Weight - 133 x 95 x 71 mm and 685g (with battery) puts it inbetween the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT and the Canon EOS 30D in terms of size and weight.

Control Layout

The control layout is pretty clear. On the top are two control dials, one for exposure mode and one for selecting  ISO, white balance, metering mode etc. Note there is no LCD panel on top of the camera. All setting are changed via menus on the rear LCD screen (see below)

Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 with 18-70/3/5-5.6 Kit Lens:  Top View

Most of the controls are on the rear of the camera as shown below. There are the usual buttons down the left side the menu selections, display selection, image deletion and image replay. To the left of the LCD is a multiway controller for focus point and menu selection or scrolling around a replayed image. There are also buttons for exposure compensations, auto bracketing and zooming in and out on the image during replay. "Super SteadyShot is activated via a switch at the lower right.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A100: Rear View


Sony intend to make available a full line of lenses for the Alpha DSLR-A100. While some are clearly strongly based on existing Konica-Minolta lenses, some are new designs.

Here's a list of announced lenses with estimated release dates and MSRP pricing. By the end of the year Sony should have a fairly good lens line. There are no fast telephotos other then the 300/2.8 in the lineup yet, but Konica-Minolta have a 400/4.5 APO and a 600/4 APO which are of course compatible with the Sony Alpha. The actual selling price is likely to be lower than the MSRP of course:

Lens MSRP* Estimated Availability**
SAL 11-18/4.5-5.6


Jul 06 (PO)
SAL 18-70/3.5-5.6 [Kit Lens] $199.95 Jul 06
SAL 18-200/3.5-6.3 $499.95 Jul 06
SAL 24-105/3.5-4.5 $469.95 Nov 06 (PO)
SAL 75-300/4.5-5.6 $229.95 Jul 06
SAL 16/2.8 $999.95 Sept 06 (PO)
SAL 20/2.8 $679.95 Sept 06 (PO)
SAL 28/2.8 $249.95 Sept 06 (PO)
SAL 50/1.4 $349.95 Jul 06
SAL 50/2.8 Macro $479.95 Jul 06
SAL 100/2.8 Macro $679.95 Jul 06
SAL 135/2.8 (T4.5) Smooth Transition Focus $1199.95 Sept 06 (PO)
SAL 500/8 Reflex Mirror $699.95 Sept 06 (PO)
SAL 70-200/2.8 G [New Sony design] $2399.95 Sept 06 (PO)
SAL 300/2.8 G [New Sony design] $5999.95 Nov 06 (PO)
SAL 35/1.4 G [New Sony design] $1399.95 Sept 06 (PO)
SAL 16-80/3.5-4.5 [Zeiss] $699.95 Oct  06 (PO)
SAL 85/1.4 [Zeiss] $1299.95 Sept  06 (PO)
SAL 135/1.8 [Zeiss] $1399.95 Sept 06 (PO)
SAL 14 TC $599.95 Aug 06 (PO)
SAL 20 TC $649.95 Aug 06 (PO)

* Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price [="List Price"]. Lenses normally sell for less than this.
** Expected shipping date or date on which Sony will be accepting pre-orders (PO)


Sony's first entry into the world of DSLRs is quite impressive, at least on paper. A 10MP APS-C sensor "outpixels" most of the competition, including the Canon EOS 30D and matches the significantly more expensive Nikon D200. At $899.99 for the body it's around $400 cheaper than the 8.2MP EOS D30 and $800 cheaper than the 10MP Nikon D200. Not only that, but it has anti-shake built into the body, so all lenses become "image stabilized", it has an anti-dust mechanism to prevent dust settling on the sensor and remove it if it does, plus it can fire away at 3fps until the memory card fills. A number of new and interesting lenses are planned and, of course, it can fully utilize any of the existing Konica-Minolta autofocus lenses.

Not much of significance is lacking, but here are some minor issues: ISO is limited to 1600, but so are quite a few entry level DSLRs (the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT for example). Perhaps the small pixels required for a 10MP sensor makes noise at higher ISO settings unacceptable. We'll have to wait for image from a production camera before we'll know how the noise performance is. There's no top LCD screen for camera settings, which can be useful at times, especially when the camera is being used at low levels. 3fps is probably enough for most users, though some of it's potential competitors provide 5fps (EOS 20D for example). There's no vertical accessory grip offered for the DSLR A-100, which might be a problem for some. Flash sync is 1/160s (1/125 with Super SteadyShot on) - The Digital Rebel XT has 1/200 and the EOS 20D/30D have 1/250s

However I don't think any of these factors will be of major importance to most amateurs, especially those moving up from a digital P&S camera.

We'll have to wait for a production camera to be available for testing before making any comments on image quality, but there's no real reason to expect any problems there. All in all it looks like a winner for Sony and it might even give Canon, Nikon and Pentax a few sleepless nights!

The full specifications of the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 can be found on the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 Specifications Page

Sony Alpha DSLR-A100
With 18-70/3.5-5.6 Kit Lens
Sony Alpha DSLR-A100
Body Only

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