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Sony Debuts with Feature-Packed SLR
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Picture quality remains high until the sensor's sensitivity is pushed to IS0 800, at which point grainy noise - quite clearly beyond that produced by competitors - begins to appear.

I had thought that Sony would go overboard with processing images to make them 'vibrant'. Some people like bluer than blue skies, and greener than green grass and camera makers sometimes oblige by enhancing reality a little. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the A100 did not try to boost the colour of reality too much. Just a tad.

Two more A100 features are special. One of them is called 'eye-start focusing' in which the camera starts to focus when you bring your eye to the viewfinder. This means the camera is more or less already focused on the subject when you want to take a photo. While this is probably a good-to-have feature, I turned it off during my time with the camera, as I found it unnecessary.

Yet another special in the A100 is the anti-dust feature, in which a special coating has been applied to the sensor to repel dust. The sensor also vibrates when turned on and off to shake off dust. I did not put the feature to the test by deliberately allowing dust into the camera. However, some Internet sites have reported that the feature does not work very well.

As a big boy in the industry, Sony had to come in with a good offering if it wanted to be taken seriously as a DSLR player. With its first offering, it has pretty much delivered a feature-packed camera, worthy of the attention of competitors.

Static view

There's some opinion now that the A100 will 'topple' a current leader, Canon's 8-megapixel 350D, because of better features.

However, this takes a static view. The trend so far has been for the big boys - such as Canon and Nikon, for example - to outdo one another with successive model releases. There is no doubt that competitors will fight back with better-featured cameras.

In fact, things in the digital SLR segment are likely to hot up even further when Panasonic, which has worked with Olympus to create the L1, introduces the camera here. This too, will have a built-in anti-dust system, as well as Panasonic's own optical image stabilisation system.

For photography enthusiasts, the wider choice and competition can only be good, as there will be pressure to keep prices down while including more features in the cameras.

Meanwhile the latest entry, the A100, which can be fitted with existing Konica-Minolta lenses, can be had for $1,499 (body alone) or $1,799 (with the 18-70mm lens).

For $2,099, you can have an additional 70-300mm lens which would then cover most shooting needs.

The writer heads an IT support department at SPH. He can be contacted at .

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