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
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
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.
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.