As for the anti-dust system, I changed lenses several times while shooting in a very dusty environment, but I haven’t seen any dust spots on any of the shots that I took, so I’d have to say that it appears to work.
As you will hopefully see from the attached sample shots, in the crucial area of image quality the α100 produces first class results. These shots were taken using the RAW+JPEG mode, and what I’ve posted here are the JPEG files from those pairs. At the time of writing I haven’t yet received the RAW converter software, so I can’t say yet what the converted files are like, but the JPEGs produced by the Bionz processor are simply stunning, with rich vibrant colours and plenty of pin-sharp detail, without the over-processed look that I had expected from the DRO system. The JPEG files are around 3MB each, which is quite heavily compressed, however I wasn’t able to detect any compression artefacts. RAW files are around 8-10MB each.
Image noise is very well controlled at 100-400 ISO, although it does become something of a problem at 800 and 1600. However this is fairly standard performance for a camera in this class and certainly not a real problem.
The main rival for this camera is going to be the Canon EOS 30D, and in my opinion (and that of other reviewers that I spoke with) the α100 produced consistently better results despite the very challenging conditions. I’ve got a Nikon D200 coming in for review next week, so it’ll be interesting to see how that stacks up, since the two cameras use the same CCD, but I’d say that the Nikon is going to have to go some to beat it.
The big news however is the price. Sony is launching the Alpha α100 at an RRP of just £599 body only, £699 with an 18-70mm zoom lens, or £849 in a two-lens kit. Since these are launch prices you can guarantee that the actual retail price will be a good deal cheaper within a matter of weeks.
Sony has stated that within two years it wants to be challenging Nikon for the number two slot in the digital SLR market, and to be making inroads into Canon’s dominating 50 per cent share. If the company can maintain the commitment to quality and innovation that the α100 demonstrates, and to do it at those kind of prices, then it just might succeed. If I were Nikon, I’d be having an urgent board meeting right about now.
An extremely impressive debut from a new player in the digital SLR market, the Sony Alpha α100 is pitched at the consumer end of the market, but is actually a better camera than most of its mid-range rivals too. It bristles with clever technology, but is very easy to use and produces consistently excellent results. It would be a good camera for a newcomer to SLRs, but more experienced users will also find it very satisfying to use.