So, here is a 2007 DSLR from Sony, strongly inspired by the last Minolta DSLR: the 7D. When I opened the box and grabbed it, I didn't really notice the cute Sony alpha logo: I was just grabbing a Minolta. And that was a good feeling because the 7D is still my favorite camera ever.
It looks like a Minolta, feels like a Minolta, handles like a Minolta, but doesn't really quite shoot like a Minolta and the RAWs are very different.
I will spare you all the specs: it's basically an improved 7D with kinda "doubled" specs:
- 12MP CMOS sensor upgrade from 6MP CCD,
- 2 more AF point (11) but basically only the center is useful,
- 5FPS instead of from 3,
- 1/8000 max shutter speed instead of 1\/4000,
- 6400 max ISo instead of 3200,
- bigger LCD screen with more pixels,
- weather sealing,
- new battery,
- better stabilisation.
The A700 lacks the super practical exposure and flash compensation knob and adds some useless crappy modes like portraits and landscapes. It also gives up on the magnesium body in favor of some plastic. Anything else is or feels quite the same and they can use the same lenses.
It's just a pretty standard camera with the specs of the time. To me, the only special thing about it is the Minolta DNA.
There have been (lots) of reports of wheel issues with speed/aperture values jumping all over the place. Seems that could be fixed with some cleaning. I don't have that problem (yet?). There were also some reports of exposure inconsistencies that I already actually experienced. More on that later.
There were people complaining of hi ISO noise. Honestly ISO noise is not an issue anymore on ANY camera that shoots RAW, thanks to Topaz denoise and DXO deep prime. And there were also people complaining of back/front focus. My A700 is tack sharp with all of my compatible lenses.
Controls, handling, AF: it's working pretty well. It really handles like my beloved 7D except for exposure compensation as stated before.
The viewfinder feels the same when it comes to brightness and size, but I don't like the way Sony displays the shooting information with green letters over some greyish background. It is less contrasted and less sharp than the bright green over black background of the 7D. Same with the AF points illumination, it's not bright enough for me.
The images are sharp, the noise is definitely not an issue, DR is good enough if it wasn't for that weird overexposure thing.
Color rendering and contrast are not on par with the 7D (when the photo is actually correctly exposed).
The RAWS from the alpha 700 needed more work than any of the raws from my 7D. Still, the color rendering is clearly different. It's a matter of taste, but I definitely prefer the 7D colors.
Overexposure in Lightroom
For some reason, LR tends to display a massively overexposed image. Photolab doesn't.
Some think it could be linked to the Sony firmware update 4. I don't know. It just sucks. On average, Lightroom default processing shows a 2 Fstops overexposure. It's very inconsistent, sometimes it's quite OK, sometimes it's 3 Fstops, sometimes 1. Quite weird but not complicated to fix.
My first impression is good: I really like the Minolta DNA, but I'm -for now- not a big fan of the colors rendering. Overall, considering the 80 bucks I paid for this, I'd say it could be one of the best DSLR you can buy in that price range if you have some A-mount glass.