Sony Alpha DSLR-A200

The Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 is a solid entry-level dSLR that doesn't really stand out in its very competitive field.


7.0
CNET Rating
9.0
User Rating

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Sony's entry-level dSLR, the Alpha DSLR-A200, delivers a just-the-facts-ma'am shooting experience. For the most part, it provides the average design, basic feature set, modest performance, and better-than-snapshot photo quality that typifies this market segment: not bad, but not notable in any way, either.

The 10.2-megapixel A200 is currently only available in Australia as a twin lens kit with the SAL-1870 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 and SAL-75300 75-300mm f4.5-5.6 lenses.

Design
At 635 grams with battery and CF card, the A200 weighs more than most of its competitors, despite its plastic-clad body. It feels solid, though, and the rubberised grip has a deep indent for your finger that makes the camera comfortable to hold. If you plan to connect the camera directly to your computer rather than use a card reader (which we don't recommend), then avoid the A200.

For one, the USB connector is located inside the CF card compartment, which means you have to leave the door open while downloading, potentially allowing all sorts of schmutz to get onto the card-slot contacts (and, if you're accident prone, providing a protrusion to hit and hurl the camera to the floor).

More important, Sony uses a proprietary combo USB/AV connector on all its dSLRs, for no reason that we can see other than to force you to buy a cable from them if you lose the bundled one. That just peeves us.



The A200 uses a simple, uncluttered layout for its controls and menu system. Like the A700, the A200 has Eye-Start AF sensors beneath the viewfinder.

Operating the A200 is straightforward. There are direct-access controls for ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, and drive/bracketing/self-timer modes, while flash, AF, white balance, AF area, and D-RangeOptimizer settings are grouped under a screen pulled up by the Fn button.


Unlike the A700, you can't change settings directly via the information display (Quick Navi). Instead, you have to pull up this screen via the Fn button and dive in to change the settings. We slightly prefer the Quick Navi approach.

Features
The A200 supports wireless flash, uncommon but not unique in this price class, and we actually like the bare-bones implementation. Rather than grafting pro multichannel support on the camera, which can be quite confusing to configure, it's basically binary: on or off. The rest of its features -- and their implementations -- are pretty typical for its class, including sensor-shift image stabilisation and a 2.7-inch LCD. (For a complete list of features, download the PDF manual.) Like most, but not all, of the cameras in this class, the A200 lacks Live View shooting.

Performance
CNET Labs' tests indicate it wakes up and shoots very quickly -- in roughly half a second. Under good, high-contrast lighting, it focuses and shoots in just under a third of a second, rising to a moderate 1.2 seconds in dimmer conditions. Typically, it captures consecutive frames in 0.6 second, jumping up to 1.3 seconds with the built-in flash enabled. Its 2.8 frames-per-second continuous shooting speed falls around the class average. Also as is typical for this segment, it has limited non-JPEG burst shooting capabilities: only 3 frames raw+JPEG or 6 frames raw in burst mode. In casual testing, the image-stabilisation system delivered about 3 stops of latitude over what the reciprocal rule dictates -- 1/10 second versus 1/70 second for a 70mm focal length -- which is pretty standard.

Shooting speed
(Seconds -- Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim light)
Shutter lag (typical)
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200
0.5
0.6
1.2
0.3
Nikon D40x
0.2
0.8
0.9
0.4
Olympus E-510
1.3
0.8
1.3
0.4
Pentax K100D
1.2
0.5
1.3
0.4

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Frames per second -- Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200
2.8

We do have a few performance gripes, though. For one, the 2.7-inch LCD is very difficult to view in direct sunlight. Second, the focus indicators for the 9 off-centre focus points are lines (rather than squares), and very dim -- some people may have trouble seeing them. And the shutter, or at least the mirror flip it drives, sounds unusually loud.

Image quality
On the whole, the A200's photos looked okay, if unexceptional. It renders reasonable, if somewhat warm or cool automatic white balance, depending upon the lighting. In standard mode, exposures seem skewed too much toward the midtones -- probably to avoid blown-out highlights -- so images look a bit low contrast. Its noise profile looks good until ISO 800, at which point colour artifacts become obvious, but that's par for the course on low-end SLRs. And the kit lens we tested produced soft photos.

This is one of the first entry-level digital SLR cameras we've seen in 2008, so it's quite possible that we'll be back to reevaluate the Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 more favorably in the context of its competition. But for now, there are better, more interesting models from earlier years whose prices are dropping into its territory; the Nikon D40x or Canon EOS 400D if you're willing to forgo the image stabilisation, or the slightly more expensive Pentax K10D if you're not. You can even opt for the similar and still-available two-year-old Alpha DSLR-A100, if you don't shoot a lot at high ISO settings, and put the money you save toward a better lens.



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Pepi
8
Rating
 

Pepi posted a review   

The Good:night shooting

The Bad:sport mode

I use the a200 for night club photography with an attached HVL-F42AM flash. very comfy grip and quite light making it great when shooting for extended hrs.
Takes great photos in low light!

 

kpee posted a comment   

The Good:good features and quick to start up. Quality of build and ease of use makes it great for everyday quality photos with the potential to mix manual settings for a variety of focal effects

The Bad:cost of lenses

This camera does not let you down on quality build and robustness for everyday use. A good choice for entering the qulaity photo world of SLRs

Suhail
10
Rating
 

Suhail posted a review   

The Good:User Friendly
Image Stabelizer
Value for money

The Bad:usb

Good Camera for entry Level

Bobzy
10
Rating
 

Bobzy posted a review   

The Good:Easy to use and cheap

The Bad:none

Fantastic camera

Nerq
10
Rating
 

Nerq posted a review   

The Good:Quiet simple to use, auto on, shooooot - done. Then you can start tweaking. Cheap. Quality. Able to use Konica-Minolta Lenses. In body stabiliser. And I could keeeeep going.

The Bad:Hmm, hard to find one for me? Considered buying the EOS1000 which was still 100pounds more here in Denmark - with less features.

Must say that I like mine rather much, great for new photographers that dont want to spend to much on their first time camera.

matthew.russo
9
Rating
 

matthew.russo posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Built in Body Image Stability
Excellent Value for money
User Friendly

The Bad:Lenses could be of better quality (less plastic)

For anyone who wants a good entry level DSLR and probably the best value for money DSLR on the Market it makes perfect sense to get a Sony Alpha 200. The simplified menu and simple point and shoot use of this camera is great, but getting out of the auto mode and using the more advanced features of this camera shows how well this entry level camera is. Even on a professional level this camera is acceptable for a good range of outdoor and indoor shooting. Purchase with a twin lense kit and you will not look back on this little beauty.

Graphics001
8
Rating
 

Graphics001 posted a review   

The Good:Supersteady shot
twin lense kit

The Bad:weight
usb port

so far, found to be a great camera for the money spent especially with the twin lense kit. With the use of addition acessories will prove to make this a desirable camera for entry level photographers

andrew
9
Rating
 

andrew posted a review   

The Good:Minolta lens compatibility
price

The Bad:the article's subjectiveness

I'm confused...I have an old Minolta SLR with multiple lens, so I'm thinking lens cost is a pro - particularly with the image stablisation on the body. Everything else mentioned seemed to be rather subjective (i.e. "couldn't fault it, I just don't like it" sort of responses don't really cut it for me). So based on the facts in the article, it seems like a perfect camera, but the subjective review sours an otherwise positive view I have about CNet reviews.

Peter Richardson
7
Rating
 

Peter Richardson posted a review   

Using the 11-18mm wide angle Sony lens for indoor flash (inbuilt flash) shots the lens (with hood removed) produces a shadow in the centre bottom of the picture.

Steve
10
Rating
 

Steve posted a review   

The Good:In-camera stabilisation
User Friendly
Very comfy to hold

The Bad:Nothing really

Excellent camera. Bought it with the additional Sony 18-250 lens. Amazing results so far. Love it.


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User Reviews / Comments  Sony Alpha DSLR-A200

  • Pepi

    Pepi

    Rating8

    "I use the a200 for night club photography with an attached HVL-F42AM flash. very comfy grip and quite light making it great when shooting for extended hrs.
    Takes great photos in low light!"

  • kpee

    kpee

    "This camera does not let you down on quality build and robustness for everyday use. A good choice for entering the qulaity photo world of SLRs"

  • Suhail

    Suhail

    Rating10

    "Good Camera for entry Level"

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