I haven't had much time to follow the discussion very closely until this morning because I have been out straight working. Over the last hour and a half I have read everything I could find about the new 500 series cameras, looked at all the early photo examples, and I must say that I am very pleasantly surprised.
To start with, these are the only cameras in this price range that shoot 5fps. The A550 even does 7fps with limited focusing ability. This is huge! Someone could legitimately use one of these cameras to shoot action sports. I have seen some complain that the 7fps is of no value due to the fact it doesn't focus track in that mode. I disagree and can see many instances when this feature would work great. For instance, focus on a batter in a baseball game and start shooting when the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, or, when someone is about to take a penalty shot in soccer, etc.
Finally, finally, finally, Sony seems to have made some cameras whose JPEGs at high ISO look to be competitive with Canikon. This one area has probably generated enough text in this forum to fill an encyclopedia. This is the one area all of the reviewers have been hammering Sony on since they started making DSLRs. Now, at long last, Sony appears to have closed the gap.
The 500 series cameras are the first DSLRs, at least to my knowledge, to do in-camera HDR at these price points. What a great feature! I have messed around with HDR using Photoshop and had some fun with it. Now, in challenging lighting situations one can get the HDR benefit with a simple camera setting. Along those lines, we have the good version of DRO in these cameras. These two items, DRO and HDR, will greatly improve the photo possibilities of these cameras.
Also, we now have two live view options. Many complained the Sony's fast focus live view did nothing to help them focus for close up work. Now Sony has the best live view on the market, offering both fast live view and manual focus live view. Everyone who uses live view should be happy now.
Lastly, we have the return of the larger battery. These new cameras with the large battery have the best battery life in this class of camera. Folks who own the A200, 300, and 350 who want to upgrade will have a couple of cameras to chose from and will be able to use their old batteries too.
All and all, a couple of impressive cameras IMHO. Yes I know about all the complaining about no MLU, no DOF, Rebel sized viewfinder, etc, etc, etc. These complaints are not without merit. There are many things Sony could have done to improve these cameras further. Still, these are great cameras that break some new ground, and I think many will be very pleased with them.
2009-09-11 - 12:19:31
I have been using 2 systems for the last year or so, Sony with the A100 and A200 and Nikon with the D90. I like the D90 so much that I was leaning heavily towards selling off all my Sony stuff and using the proceeds to expand my Nikon gear. Now, I'm not so sure. While the D90 is in many ways a more advanced camera than the A5xx series, and has most of the features folks complain that the Sony cameras lack, it doesn't have body based stabilization. It doesn't have a flip out lcd. It doesn't have a 7fps mode. Most importantly, I own more lenses for the Sony system. I may very well sell off my A100 and A200 along with a few odds and ends and put the proceeds towards the A550 at the end of this year once prices drop a few of bucks, and continue to go with two systems. I will wait until the cameras come out, look at the sample images, and see what the reviewers and users think. For me, it will all come down to the IQ. If the IQ is what I'm thinking it is, and with the A550 doing some thing the D90 doesn't, I'll likely get the A550.
2009-10-05 - 23:17:35
Depth of field button in a550
People are complaining about the lack of the depth of field button in the a550. If you think about that for an instant - just take the photo and check on that on the viewfinder after shooting. That will take a lot less time and because it is a non-moving image faster to evaluate the depth of field function if the camera had it. Shoot again at a different setting if you are not happy. But standing there and checking the depth of field without moving the camera from its focused position would be awkard and time consuming whilst you positioned yourself in such a way to look at all of the image.
So just take the shot and comfortably hold the LCD up and move around the Photo. Having that function with such a good live view is redundant and likely cumbersome.
2009-12-15 - 12:36:44
After one month of operation, I have only good things to say about the A550: picture quality is excellent (specially when watched on HD TV screens!), menue operation is very efficient and user friendly. High resolution LCD screen is exceptional. Auto focus is fast. Body is plastic but very solid, much better than the A350 - no more "squeaks" - with a solid grip to hang on to. New features on top of the A350 /380 are essential to me, and all work well. High ISO performance is exceptional.
Exceptional value for the money.
It is easy to work around the missing MLU. The missing video does not bother me.
The optical view finder is still a bit small, but functional. Hardly use it now since the LCD screen is so much better.
2009-12-22 - 09:49:27
OVF is very good, slightly small but bright. Response of camera is generally fast, with some lag ocassionally when using the menu system - buttons not very good. Body is well-built, and the articulated LCD screen does not feel flimsy, so it inspires confidence in use. Colours are generally accurate, AWB still tends toward warm when used under artifical light but not as bad as previous models. The SSS function is much better now, and settles an image down faster than previous models - really earning its keep this time. LV AF speed is very fast as usual, a welcome change from all the other systems which seem to lag behind - except Panasonic. The high ISO performance has been much improved, with better control over chroma/colour noise, resulting in detailed images even at high to extreme ISOs. Noise is still visible but acceptable now. Coupled with the Carl Zeiss 16-80mm f3.5-4.5 lens, this camera really shines.
2010-04-16 - 07:36:15
A very responsive DSLR
Sony has been trying really hard to compete with Canon, Nikon, Olympus and other major DSLR players since the release of the alpha 100. The 550 along with 500 are the latest additions to Sony's already very crowded DSLR line-up.
On the outside, the 550 looks just like the recently released 380 and 330, and some might even mistaken it for the entry level 230 at first glance. However, everyone knows that appearance can be deceiving.
Unlike its other live-view siblings, the 550 is a very fast live-view enabled DSLR. Clocking at 4 frames per second under live-view, the frame rate surpasses many of the earlier Sony DSLRs, trailing behind only the alpha 700 and 900. None of these models are live-view enabled. There are a few options for continuous shooting for the 550 here: Hi, Lo, and speed priority. At "Hi" mode, the DSLR blasts away at 4 fps while it tracks the subject's movements. There are few instances of hesitation here, where the camera slows down a little, but the bottom line is, Sony did not lie about the 4 fps capability. Switching to speed priority, however, was a bit of a let down for me. Although the continuous rate immediately went up to an amazing 7 fps (you can literally hear the shuttle slamming away like mad at 7fps), the live view was disabled and the screen went dark. Therefore, you can't track the subject while you're firing at 7fps with the live view mode turned on.
The maximum number of continuous shots according to the manual is as follows: Fine (JPEG) = 32 shots, Standard (JPEG) 116 shots, RAW & JPEG = 7 shots and RAW = 14 shots. One good thing about the camera is that it does not slow down as you're reaching toward the limit of these figures, so far I've tested Fine and Standard mode, and the camera does not disappoint.
The Exmor sensor is impressive, although it won't impress Canon DSLR owners (Do refer to the sample images on top, and observe how the noise level of this new sensor increases with the increase in sensitivity). Maintaining details and color all the way up to ISO 1600 is no easy feat, but the 550 does it well with the new APS-C CMOS Exmor sensor. There is unfortunately still enough chroma noise visible at full zoom, probably due to the fact that Sony's noise reduction engine has never been great to begin with (all their earlier alpha models had alot of chroma noise at high ISOs), but the Exmor sensor helped alot in bringing the 550's sensitivity up to 12,800. Granted, chroma noise is really high at that ISO and details are being sacrificed with the noise reduction engine aggressively filtering out those stray signals, but when you really need to shoot at that sensitivity, you'd be glad that the 550 actually gives you the option to do so. Earlier alpha models maxed out at ISO 3200, with heavy noise reduction that had no effect whatsover on chroma noise.
The Auto HDR should only be turned on during really severe back-lit conditions. When applied, it brings the shadows out of the dark and produces a well balanced image without the use of fill-in flash. However, when used under normal conditions, the Auto HDR will over-compensate the shadows and produces a dull and "flat" image. The Auto HDR should also not be used for capturing moving objects, as two consecutive frames will be captured and overlapped against each other to produce the final image. A football flying across the football field will turn into two footballs in the final image. Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO, 5 different selectable levels) should be used under normal shooting conditions and when shooting fast moving subjects. However, do note that as the DRO function pushes the shadow areas out of the dark electronically, the noise level in those dark areas will increase along with the DRO setting. DRO Lv4 and Lv5 produce very noticable noise, so should be used sparingly.
The new DT 18-55mm lens has less zooming power than the DT 18-70mm model that comes with older alphas, but the resolving power of this new lens is somewhat impressive. The DT 18-70 could barely make it past the 10MP mark, whereas the DT 18-55 seems to be able to capture details beyond what the alpha 550's 14.2MP sensor could see. The focusing mechanism is very quiet and responsive, making it easy for you to get close to pets and creatures that are easily startled by sounds. But if you already have an army of alpha mount lenses waiting for the 550, I would recommend that you skip this camera-lens combo and go straight for the body only package.
I'm still playing with the 550 as I'm typing this review, trying to look for flaws that'll make me regret buying this DSLR to replace my 350, but so far I'm having no luck finding any. Although the screen is a little bit crowded with alot of unnecessary information for the sake of point-and-shoot camera users, the design of the updated graphic user interface is simply sublime. The camera is surprisingly affordable, and yet stands up well next to alot of high-end DSLRs out there.
2012-07-19 - 17:37:06
First, thanks for drwniag additional attention to the NY Times article regarding food photography. As a foodie, photographer, and entrepreneur in the foodie social network space, I really appreciate your support.In building twiddish, the dish-by-dish restaurant review iPhone app and social network, I have spoken to a lot of restaurateurs and chefs and for the most part they have supported diners photographing their food for several reasons. First, user-generated dish reviews are very different than restaurant reviews as they force the diner to focus on the dish and only the dish. Restaurateurs and chefs appreciate this because the specificity lets them know exactly what they are doing right and what can be corrected. Further, the recognize that most diners are not as adventurous as foodies and photo-based dish reviews enable the average diner to feel more comfortable in trying a new dish, restaurant, or cuisines, which in turn helps to fill seats and create buzz at restaurants.Jonny
First, thanks for drawing additional attention to the NY Times article regarding food photography. As a foodie, photographer, and entrepreneur in the foodie social network space, I really appreciate your support.In building twiddish, the dish-by-dish restaurant review iPhone app and social network, I have spoken to a lot of restaurateurs and chefs and for the most part they have supported diners photographing their food for several reasons. First, user-generated dish reviews are very different than restaurant reviews as they force the diner to focus on the dish and only the dish. Restaurateurs and chefs appreciate this because the specificity lets them know exactly what they are doing right and what can be corrected. Further, the recognize that most diners are not as adventurous as foodies and photo-based dish reviews enable the average diner to feel more comfortable in trying a new dish, restaurant, or cuisines, which in turn helps to fill seats and create buzz at restaurants.Jonny
Hi dear Jerry !do you know any free software that can control 400D canon by a computer ?I need something that works like a timer controler…you give the number of shots and exposure time , and it do it everything.thanksKiarash
While the 1st is clearly the best in terms of exposure as well as composition, I have to agree with above that you certainly don’t need a $3000 DSLR – even a base model which is not that much more than a really high-end point & shoot can be really helpful. If nothing else, spending some time fully in manual mode is one of the best ways to really learn the ins and outs of photography – and full manual mode is exactly what a point & shoot can’t do. I spent the past week looking over my pictures on my blog, and there is a marked difference from when I switched to my SLR. Is it just that the camera is better? Sure that plays a part, but also because until I had the SLR I wasn’t able to fully explore and learn the basics. Sure, a good photographer can take great pics with a p&s, but it takes lots of practice becoming intimately familiar with exactly how speed, focal length, and aperture (among other things) work (which I’m still learning even after a year!) – it’s really hard to learn those things well if one is never able to shed all the automatic settings.
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