Thanks to the arrival of the Sony Alpha 850, the aspiring full-frame digital photographer now has another reasonably priced DSLR to consider, and only a few features separate it from the Alpha 900
White balance and colour
Image: While both these images are attractive in their own way, this early morning frosty scene actually looked somewhere between the two almost opposite versions
While images from the Sony Alpha 850 are quite pleasant, when the automatic white balance setting is used they tend to have a colour cast that reflects the lighting conditions at the time. This isn’t entirely desirable: even though it retains the atmosphere of the moment, the images have a little more atmosphere than was actually there at the time.
For instance, shots taken towards either end of a sunny day, when the light starts to take on a warmer colour, are quite yellow. Conversely, images taken in very overcast conditions have a distinct blue tone. While this isn’t especially surprising, as cameras are traditionally more sensitive to the different light colours than our eyes (or rather our brains), other manufacturers’ white balance systems often produce more neutral images in these types of situations.
When the light-specific white balance settings are used, the Alpha 850 does a better job of getting colours right. While shooting under thick cloud, for instance, the daylight white balance does a better job than the automatic setting, but the most accurate results are produced using the cloudy setting. Thankfully, Sony hasn’t chosen to give images taken in these conditions a warm brown cast as some manufacturers seem to. Early on a frosty, sunny morning, however, the daylight setting produced blue images, while the automatic setting gave them a warm, golden look. The true picture is somewhere in between, but both sets of images have their own appeal.
As usual, there are a number of looks that can be applied to JPEG images on the Alpha 850. The Standard setting is a good starting point, and is suitable for most occasions, but the B/W (monochrome) is also useful, especially when shooting raw and JPEG files simultaneously. In addition, there are Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night View and Autumn Leaves options. The last three are sub-settings of the Landscape setting. The Vivid and Landscape settings are useful for creating punchy landscapes, but in most situations I would be more inclined to shoot raw images and process them to get the look I want.