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

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Sony Alpha 850

AWB Colour:
LCD viewfinder:
Dynamic Range:


Sony Alpha 850 review


Price as reviewed:


Our verdict

I am a little confused by what Sony is doing at the moment. The company started out with such determination to shake up the DSLR market and seemed set to introduce all sorts of new and exciting features, yet it has failed to include technology such as Live View and video recording in its higher-level DSLRs.

We are told that the company is ‘looking at’ including video in its lower-level DSLRs, but that Live View is not something Sony considers important to the high-end user. Given the Alpha 850’s high pixel count and its ability to record a high level of detail, it could be very attractive to studio, still-life and macro photographers, many of whom could benefit from a Live View system.

Apart from the introduction 
of an image-combining auto HDR mode in the Alpha 500 and 550, it’s most recently introduced DSLRs don’t offer a great deal more than earlier models. While this is also true of the Alpha 850, its attractive street price means it offers enthusiast photographers something they 
really want: an affordable full-frame digital camera with a very capable sensor. Its AF system may not be 
quite up to the specification of 
Nikon’s enthusiast-level DSLRs, and it doesn’t have the same level of customisation as some of its competitors, but it is a good all-rounder with high build quality, and it deserves the attention of enthusiasts.

Sony Alpha 850 – Key features

Mirror lock-up

When vibration needs to be avoided, the mirror lock-up facility is useful. It can be accessed via the drive mode control button. Those who choose not to buy the optional remote release will appreciate the fact that the self-timer also lifts and locks the mirror automatically when the shutter release button is pressed to set the timer running.

Wireless flash
Although the Alpha 850 has no built-in flash unit, it can be set to take wireless control over flashguns such as the Sony HVL-F58AM. This makes for much more flattering portraits than using a hotshoe-mounted flash.

Advanced Auto D-RO
In its Advanced Auto mode, the Dynamic Range Optimizer analyses the image and selectively brightens the shadows to a level that it determines automatically. Those wishing to take control over the degree of shadow brightening that is applied should employ the Advanced Levels option. Alternatively, D-RO bracketing is available via the drive mode control. This records three images each time the shutter release is pressed and can be set to apply a large or small shift in the effect.


White Balance:Auto, 6 presets, plus 3 custom settings and Kelvin adjustment
Dioptre Adjustment:-3 to +1 dioptre
Built-in Flash:No
Shutter Type:Electronically controlled focal-plane
Viewfinder Type:Pentaprism
Memory Card:CompactFlash (inc UDMA)/MemoryStick Duo
Output Size:6048x4032 pixels
Field of View:Approx 100%
LCD:3in TFT with 921,600 dots and 160° viewing angle
Sensor:Sony CMOS with 24.6 million effective pixels
White Balance Bracket:3 exposures, Hi/Lo level selectable
AF Points:9 points selectable individually or automatically (in wide area mode)
Focal Length Mag:1x (full frame)
Max Flash Sync:1/200 (with SteadyShot Inside) 1/250sec (without SteadyShot Inside)
Exposure Modes:PASM, plus 3 custom modes
Weight:850g (without battery or card/s)
Power:Rechargeable Li-Ion battery NP-FM500H (supplied)
DoF Preview:Yes
Colour Space:Adobe RGB, sRGB
Drive Mode:Single, continuous (Hi/Lo selectable, 5fps/3fps), self-timer (10/2secs selectable) mirror lock-up
Shutter Speeds:30-1/8000sec in 1⁄3,1⁄2 or 1EV steps plus B
File Format:14-bit raw, JPEG (3 levels of compression available) JPEG + raw simultaneously
Metering System:40-zone evaluated, centreweighted, spot (approx 1.5%)
Exposure Comp:±3EV in 1⁄3 or 1/2EV steps
Connectivity / Interface:USB 2.0 Hi-Speed/HDMI
Compression:3-stage JPEG
Lens Mount:Sony Alpha (+Konica Minolta Dynax)
ISO:100-6400 in 1EV steps
Focusing Modes:Manual, single shot, automatic AF, continuous AF, direct manual focus
Tested as:Semi-professional DSLR
  1. 1. Sony Alpha 850 at a glance:
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Build and handling
  4. 4. White balance and colour
  5. 5. Metering
  6. 6. Autofocus
  7. 7. Resolution, noise and sensitivity
  8. 8. Dynamic range
  9. 9. LCD and viewfinder
  10. 10. The competition
  11. 11. Our verdict
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