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A900 AP Review

Discussion in 'Sony Chat' started by TallPaul, Nov 7, 2008.

  1. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the forum.

    I dropped in to my local Jessops this pm, and their display of Sony DSLRs was far better than that afforded to both Nikon and Canon. So somebody loves them and (according to the sales guy) they're selling well. More pixels per £ is roughly what his explanation was.
  2. joe2000

    joe2000 New Member

    I'm sorry, normally I dont comment on reviews, but this one was plainly awful. I'm no Sony fanboy, I just like reviews to be accurate and consistent. This one is so full of glaring inaccuracies and fundamental misunderstandings of both the product and photography in general as to be useless to the consumer. I read AP every week and have done for years and this has to be the worst written review I've seen.

    Ok, examples:

    1. List a bunch of exemplary features e.g resolution, in body image stabilisation, exceptional viewfinder, dynamic range extension, huge vivid LCD etc etc etc many of which are available on no other competing DSLR then knock 30% off the features score because it doesn't fully support one seldom used feature (live view). Does that single feature really constitute 30% of the value of a camera????

    2. Noise reduction on RAWs, it took me about 2 minutes on google to find that this can be switched off completely. Poor fact checking! Also if you're shooting both RAW+jpeg its most likely that the only use of the jpeg is to provide adjustment info post-shoot for the RAW file conversion and PP, so why bother using NR on it.

    3. AF performance criticisms, sorry with no benchmark scene stated this is meaningless. If you try to focus on a plain white wall using the outer focus points of any DSLR it'll hunt.

    4. This one really beggars belief! in the image preview mode (camera apparently takes small image and allows the user to experiment with settings...sounds quite cool to me) the author states that in Av and Tv modes (aperture and shutter priority) the changing the Av value or Tv value doesn't seem to affect the image. Seriously, does this guy even know how Av and Tv modes operate on a camera?????? Of course there wont be any appreciable difference, the EV value for exposure will remain constant, the camera will adjust the shutter speed or aperture value to ensure this is the case. In real life the only differences in a shot would be either depth of field or motion blur and do you really expect a camera to be able to simulate the effect of those in body on a preshot image?

    5. Noise, there is no digital camera in the world that doesn't suffer from sensor noise...fact! The images the user sees may have greater or lesser amounts of evident noise due to a number of factors (sensor design, software NR, shielding, cooling etc etc etc). There are generally two approaches to noise in the camera industry, kill it at source or let the user do it with pros and cons to both. This review completely fails to acknowledge this and its quite possible that the evident noise is merely the manufacturer taking the latter path. Noise is only a factor when even after post processing, it significantly degrades the quality of the printed or otherwise displayed image at typical viewing distances. Certainly upto ISO1600 the test samples from this model look perfectly satisfactory, with suitable PP there should be few problems.

    6. The statement that at higher ISOs resolution of the Sony sensor is compromised is a totally redundant statement, this applies to every DSLR sensor on the market with NO exceptions. Is the author trying to tell me that a Canon EOS 1DS mark3 or Olympus E3 will resolve the same level of detail at ISO100 as it does at ISO3200 and Sony have some perculiar problem?

    7. JPEG quality - not all JPEG algorithms are created equal, this is why there are PP tools for the job. If you're spending this much on a body alone, then you're probably after extreme quality so its hardly likely that you'll use in body JPEG conversion when there are far more capable external tools available. No inbody JPEG algorithm in any camera is exactly optimal, so this should not be used to indicate the limits of image quality. It does appear, from what I have read at least, that this is a weakness of Sony cameras, but hardly worthy of mention unless you've bought the A900 and some Carl Zeiss lenses just to photograph your kids party.

    I could go on as there are many, many more issues with this review. I wish you the best of luck for your brand and I'm sure that the A900 is perfectly capable of meeting anyone normal photographers requirements.


  3. Angela_Nicholson

    Angela_Nicholson Well-Known Member


    Thanks for all your comments. Barney tested the Alpha 900, but he is away for a few days. However, I know he will be eager to respond to this thread when he returns next week.


  4. LargeFormat

    LargeFormat Well-Known Member

    I'd have thought that 82% would have given you enough grief that you wouldn't want to bother with this thread. :D
  5. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    You have to remember that we've changed the way we measure Dynamic Range. In the past, we shot a reflective target, now we shoot a transmissive wedge. This means that the dynamic range figure of any given camera will be bigger now than it would have been in the past. This is explained in the small print besides the dynamic range graphs in the first tests that we wrote in the 'new look'.

    (other responses to other posts to follow)
  6. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    Right... I'm back in the office now, and I can offer a response.

    Live View by itself does not constitute 30% of a score - it is not the only 'missing' feature. How about wireless file transmission, the ability to control the camera remotely from a computer, inbuilt intervalometer, a virtual horizon in the viewfinder? These are only a few examples of added extras that exist in other cameras at this level and would have allowed the A900 to score higher in this section. 7/10 is actually a very good score for features. 8 and 9 represent amongst the best feature sets available at time of testing, and 10/10 is the best feature set imaginable.

    I obviously need to check this again, because if NR can be completely turned off for raw files, then I made an honest mistake and for that I apologise. I puzzled over that one for some time, and could not find a way of producing what I consider truly 'raw' results. I'll look into it.

    My comments about AF hunting were based on experience shooting with the camera in a range of environments. Put simply, the off-centre points hunt more than I would expect of a camera at this level without a lot of contrast to 'bite' on. In the studio, we use AF test targets that show a black cross on a background that goes from white to almost complete black (26 targets in all, with the darkest representing almost uniform black). These targets allow us to compare how well cameras cope with low-contrast subjects, and the A900 didn't do as well in this test as the Nikon D300 and Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. We don't discuss this test in detail in the reviews because it is only intended to give us an idea of how well a camera compares to others.

    Exactly. So the intelligent preview function actually only allows you to do two things - simulate the effect of exposure and white balance adjustments. That's why I think you're better off taking a test shot, because that way you could also preview the effects of TV/AV adjustments.

    Agreed. There is no 'right' and 'wrong' when it comes to noise, and to an extent, there is no 'good' or 'bad' either. However, as a reviewer I have to make comparisons. The A900 is a noisy camera for late 2008 when images are viewed at pixel level against, say, those from the Nikon D700, but at the end of the day the A900 compares well to the EOS 1Ds Mark III, (the previous benchmark for resolution in a camera of this type) and I'd be happy to shoot with the A900 up to ISO 1600 with DR-O turned off.

    Again, I agree. I think you're confusing a statement of fact (the A900's ability to resolve detail is reduced at high ISO settings) with a specific criticism unique to this camera.

    The question of the proportion of JPEG and raw files that we show in tests is under review. At some point we hope to be able to host high-resolution files online. I based my conclusions in this test on both JPEG and raw files (with comparisons against other competitors) and I hope that is made clear in the copy.

    I'd be interested in addressing the (many) more issues that you had with this review either by email (barney_britton@ipcmedia.com) or on this thread. And for the record, the A900 will meet the requirements of normal photographers. As I wrote in my test:

    "I am determined not to damn the A900 for what it cannot do, because the bottom line is that it's a good, well-designed camera and I like shooting with it."

    Cheerio for now. b
  7. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    To be fair, we try to know all of the brands 'inside out' and I think I can speak for all of the technical team - and Damien - in saying that the cameras that we own and use personally really don't get taken out that much anymore because we've always got something to shoot with for work purposes.

    To take the A700 as an example, I have tested it in detail, and Damien shoots with one very regularly, so when I wrote the A900 test I used the A700 too, and consulted Damien at some length about his experiences with it. Fundamentally though they are different cameras, which is why it wasn't cited as a direct competitor in my test.
  8. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    Exactly. We're looking at ways of clarifying what scores mean within the camera categories that we've decided upon, but it is important to remember two things: Firstly, the scoring methodology has changed, and scores will typically be lower now than they were. Secondly, cameras are scored according to their class, so 80% in one class doesn't mean the same thing as 80% in another. All will become clear(er) as we complete more tests using the new system.
  9. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    Yes we did! (finally...) and it's great. Very heavy though, but in a good way. Unless you're at the end of a long day's shooting in which case it's heavy in a very, very bad way...
  10. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    (in response to the custom menu versus custom settings on exposure mode dial)

    Indeed. The 'my menu' type function that I wanted on the A900 is a Canon/Nikon function that allows you to group certain menu options on a single tab of the menu. It's not the same thing as the custom settings groups available via the exposure mode dial.

    On a more general point, when I say that the A900 lacks some of the customisation options of other pro cameras I'm thinking more about adjusting AF tracking speed, customising the camera's control layout, setting a universal exposure bias etc., etc.
  11. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    Getting to be a mammoth thread :)

    Barney, as I said before earlier in this thread I thought your test was very well done but thanks for clarifying that point for me.

    What of the above it can or can't do I don't know yet but I do know, that on paper at least, the a900 is very attractive to me. I wouldn't use many of the "extras" camera are coming with now ... certainly not video or live-view (unless at least as good as the a350 version) ... and much of the other stuff, tracking speeds, built in level, custom layout and a whole heap of other tweaks I find irrelevant.

    Maybe cameras are beginning to diverge? I hope so. One sort for purists - one instrument one job and the other to include the kitchen sink ... a bit like the cell phones I see youngsters playing with ... apparently they also can make phone calls :)
  12. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    Don't get me started on the iPhone ;)
  13. LargeFormat

    LargeFormat Well-Known Member

    With no basis of comparison between pre November and post November tests it is hard to evaluate cameras based on (AP) tests. Taking WDC’s 89%, which is just 1% short of a Gold Award, the a900 sounds like an interesting camera. But 80% and it sounds like absolute rubbish. If we have to wait for future tests to know what 80% means we may have to wait a long time. How often does, for example, a D3 or a 1Ds come out? And what is meant by the class a camera falls into. Are they categorised on type, for example APS-C, (in which case the a200 is in the same class as the EOS50D) or by price (in which case the 1D is in the same class as the a900 which it isn’t) or what? It might help to re-test a few that were previously tested on the old system.
  14. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    With the usual caveat that the scores are only part of a test, and should be understood accordingly, I will say the following:

    The new scoring method has been explained on this forum already, and was clarified by Angela in the 'new look' issue of AP (last issue of October). The classifications that we use have also been explained, and have been mentioned by one of the posters on this thread already.

    As far as comparing the scores of cameras tested using both systems goes, you might take a look at my recent Nikon D300/Canon EOS 50D test and compare the D300's score there with its score when originally tested. (93% when first tested, 84% under the new system). The Nikon D700 is also due to be rescored when we perform a comparison test in the coming weeks.

    All that we've done, really, is to break up different aspects of cameras' performance and allocate the scores accordingly. This allows us to show nuances much more effectively, and frees up the top 20% of the marking band for excellence within the different camera classification categories. If you're unclear about a particular aspect of a camera's performance, for any reason, post a thread or feel free to email/phone/PM one of the technical team. Email addresses follow the format firstname_lastname@ipcmedia.com

  15. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Are you aware just how silly that actually reads? :D

    It's like with the Oly E-3 test. People were happy enough with tests that gave it 4 stars out of 5, but up in arms about 82%.

    In any sane scoring system, 80% is very good indeed.
  16. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    Steady on, no-one said anything about sane...
  17. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Sorry Barney, I never intended to imply such a thing about you for a moment. :D

    [rant] I'm really pleased about the recalibration of the scoring system. It's absurd to see cameras scoring mighty close to 100% in tests - surely only the perfect camera could score that, and there's no such thing. Perhaps it's a little confusing for us in the transitory phase, but it's simply far more logical to give somewhere for scores to increase in comparison with the current situation.[/rant]
  18. TallPaul

    TallPaul Well-Known Member

    Hi Barney,

    Thanks for taking time to reply to all of us crazy folk criticising your hard work ;)

    I just had one point I wanted to make which was regarding to the scoring:

    This is the bit that confused me, of course AP made it quite clear the scoring had changed, but I must honestly say this subtlety of class rating had passed me by, so while I did not expect to compare recent test scores with old test scores I did expect to compare recent test scores with recent test scores. Like the D300 and 50D head to head scores with the A900.

    As I understand it now we should only directly compare cameras in the same class not just in the same scoring system. This is a sound scientific approach, but a one that's a little confusing to Joe Public I must say ;)

    Did I understand this right then that we should only compare the score of the A900 with camera's in its own class at a guess for example the D700 and Canon 5D Mk2?

    The tricky thing here is going to be for the reader to know what is in each class, as manufacturers often promote cameras outside the band I would class them in, unless AP includes some sort of class definition and a marking on the review score.

    I am chuckling now. So I just thought I better check the mag before I post that and you did on the A900, its marked "Semi-professional DSLR". In my confused defence however, the head to head review of the D300 and 50D from a previous week did not include a classification.

    So all we need now is a test of the D700 against the A900 and the 5D Mk2 and everyone will be happy, assuming Canon can get the 5D Mk2 out the door of course but that's another topic. I seem to remember some vague plan to do this when I raised the question of a full frame mega test some time ago?...
  19. barney britton

    barney britton Well-Known Member

    Basically yes.

    We decided to clarify the classifications after the dual test, and from now on all tests will be 'labelled' making it clear in what category the camera fits. Unless it's the last issue of the month, in which case we're labelling everything 'Bananas' just to confuse people.
  20. TallPaul

    TallPaul Well-Known Member

    You can control the camera remotely from a computer by the way, like the A700 the "Remote Camera Control" application that comes on the software disc can be used to operate the camera remotely.

    Of course with no live view you do not get a live image, but it does shoot "tethered" and save the files immediately to a connected machine for review like other brands.

    Its not wireless, but I would argue that a camera in this class (see got the hang of this class thing already) it should not be a negative in the same way it would be with a pro body.

    I completely agree the digital level is a feature that would be very useful, even to purists, especially as you can't get a cheap bubble level in the proprietary Sony (ex-Minolta) flash shoe. (At least I have never found one).

    The intervalometer would also be useful, I understand the remote control PC app does have this feature (but maybe only on windows for some reason no OS X :D) I seem to remember reading somewhere, but not owning either A700 or A900 I can't confirm this.

    In any case, hope you had a nice holiday! ;)

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