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Sony Alpha 850 DSLR Review

Sony A850 Review.jpg

In the territory of the DSLR camera we seem to have inherited a duality that continues, model to model.

On one hand we have cameras with an APS-sized sensor, roughly half the area of the 35mm film frame. These benefit from the use of smaller, cheaper lenses, yet still capture well-accepted images.

In the other hand we have high end DSLRs with full size sensors, like this one, able to use ‘normal’ 35mm lenses, with no enlargement factor involved when comparing the field size. Bigger and more expensive lenses is the price we pay for a full frame sensor.

However, there is much going on behind the scenes as makers of high end medium format digital cameras watch with creeping anxiety as full frame DSLRs lift resolution levels, while offering comparable camera product at much lower prices. Watch out for the battle between Hasselblad and kin versus Canon, Nikon — and Sony.

Sony, in particular, is biffing the market with its attractive full frame pricing, as already seen in the A900 and now with the A850.

Sony Alpha 850 DSLR Features

This is a hefty piece of kit, the high-tensile aluminium chassis and magnesium alloy body shell tipping the scales at just under 2kg, with battery, lens, card and strap loaded.

Sony A850 lens.jpg

The lens supplied with the review camera was a Carl Zeiss f2.8/24-79mm optic. All up, substantial, but well-balanced, thanks to the prominent grip.

Busker 2.jpg

I found in general shooting that steadiness was not a problem, only getting a little ‘dangerous, in lowish light on one occasion with the zoom out a bit and an exposure of 1/50 sec. This shot needed a little sharpening as a result.

Central Railway subway 4.jpg

But sometimes a little movement can create a pleasing image.

As I suggested earlier, cameras like the A850 with 24.6 million pixel capture have high ambitions and nowhere is it more evident than its image specs: the maximum size of 6048×4032 pixels will make a 51x34cm print.

Sony a850_front.jpg

No movies, sorry. You’ll have to look at APS-sized cameras from Nikon, Canon and others. Oddly, Sony does not offer a movie capture feature in any of its DSLR cameras.

There is also no Live View as the camera uses a pentaprism (a solid block of optical glass) rather than a pentamirror (a mirrored box constructed to mimic a pentaprism). Live View requires elements of the pentamirror to be physically movable, simply impossible when using a pentaprism.  

There’s also no built-in flash, but the hot shoe and PC flash sync terminal link with external flash.

Sony pursues the principle of an internal stabiliser, no mean feat given the size of the full frame CMOS sensor. The promise is up to 4 f stops of anti-shake performance. A five bar finder indicator shows how well the stabiliser is performing, telling you when the camera is most stable.

The nine point AF system is augmented by 10 focus assist points to assist subject detection, improved out-of-focus detection to reduce focus hunting and a dedicated F2.8 sensor for enhanced AF accuracy with wide aperture lenses.
The A850 can save images as RAW files, cRAW, JPEG and bundles of RAW+JPEG — as well as cRAW+JPEG.

The RAW file format is an image written to memory as pure data; in adding cRAW capture Sony has taken it one step further and applied data compression to the file. Here’s how it works out:

Typical RAW file: 37.4MB. cRAW data compression takes it down to 25.1MB. RAW+JPEG weighs in at 41.7MB. cRAW+JPEG: 29.4MB. An Extra Fine JPEG image on its own: 10.4MB.

The CD supplied with the camera contains a free app — Image Data Converter SR — that can ‘unpack’ the RAW files. Alternatively, you can download a Photoshop plug-in (http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Camera_Raw_5.6).

ISO speeds run from 100 to 6400. Here are some examples:

Sony A850 ISO 100 f3.2 1-80 sec.jpg
The best you can get is at ISO 100.

Sony A850 ISO 800 f3.2 1-640 sec.jpg
At ISO 800 smooth, clean pictures with no noise.

Sony A850 ISO 1600 f3.2 1-1250 sec.jpg
At ISO 1600 noise is slowly creeping in. Still, a useable setting.

Sony A850 ISO 6400 f3.2 1:5000 sec.JPG
Flat out, guns blazing at ISO 6400, we hit noise to such a degree that you would have to be careful in choice of subject.

Finally, continuous shooting is not a red hot spec, as the A850 will only run a burst of 3fps. RAW allows a total of 16 shots, while the Extra Fine JPEG setting delivers 34 shots.

Sony Alpha 850 DSLR Quality

Statue 5.jpg
This is the sort of sharpness you get with the Carl Zeiss lens and full frame capture.

The Sony A850 is simply a magnificent machine to pull stunning pictures from the world around you. It rarely gets much better than this! But to be honest, the camera would be absolutely not ideal for the beginner.

Why you would buy the Sony A850: full frame quality; access to superb Carl Zeiss lenses; internal stabiliser; great price.

Why you wouldn’t buy the Sony A850: no pop-up fill flash; LCD screen does not tilt/swing; no Live View; no movie capture.

Sony Alpha 850 DSLR Specifications

Image Sensor: 24.61 million effective pixels.
Metering: Evaluative and partial metering, centre-weighted; spot.
Effective Sensor Size: 35.9×24.0mm CMOS.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 1:1.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: 30 to 1/8000 second, Bulb. Flash sync: 1/250 or 1/200 (SteadyShot activated/deactivated)
Memory: CompactFlash card Types I/II, Microdrive, Memory Stick Duo.
Image Sizes (pixels): 6048×4032, 6048×3408, 4400×2936, 3984×2656, 2896×1928, 3024×2016, 1984×1320.
Viewfinders: Optical pentaprism, 7.5cm LCD (921,600 pixels).
File Formats: RAW, cRAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG, cRAW+JPEG.
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI, remote, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 156.3×116.9×81.9 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 850 g (body only).
Price: Amazon currently has the Sony A850 DSLR priced at $1999 USD Body Only or $3598.99 USD with a 24-70mm lens.

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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

  • Andy

    Just because it has a pentaprism doesn’t mean it can’t have Live View. The Pentax K-7 has a pentaprism, but is still capable for Live View and movies, for example.

  • http://www.studiotempura.com Chris

    Nice review. Though the A850 has been out for a while now, I think it still represents one of the best values on the market. A 24mp full-frame camera for under $2,000 is a very good deal.

  • Robd

    Quote: “There is also no Live View as the camera uses a pentaprism (a solid block of optical glass) rather than a pentamirror (a mirrored box constructed to mimic a pentaprism). Live View requires elements of the pentamirror to be physically movable, simply impossible when using a pentaprism.”

    Having a pentaprism is not the reason for not having live view as there are numerous cameras with a pentaprism that have live view, such as the Nikon D3X (same sensor as the A900 and A850), D700, D300, along with several from Canon.

  • http://www.stevearnoldphoto.com Steve A

    Why would the reviewer be sharpening an image that was blurry due to slow shutter speed? Isn’t that the kind of softness that can’t be sharpened?

    I would also see no pop-up flash as a pro, not a con.

  • jc

    I feel like the reasons you gave as to why “not to buy the camera” are exactly the reasons I couldn’t care less about. Pop-up flash is incredibly counterproductive, and as for live view and movie capture, you do realize this is a piece of photography equipment, right? If you can’t handle putting your eye up to the viewfinder, maybe you should look into another hobby.

  • http://www.photokandy.com Kerri

    “There is also no Live View as the camera uses a pentaprism (a solid block of optical glass) rather than a pentamirror (a mirrored box constructed to mimic a pentaprism). Live View requires elements of the pentamirror to be physically movable, simply impossible when using a pentaprism.”

    Actually, the pentaprism or pentamirror have no bearing whatsoever on whether or not a camera can do live view. What enables live view on a dSLR camera is some programming, and the ability to lift the mirror in front of the sensor — just as the camera does during an exposure.

    The problem is getting live view right, but Sony has live-view on other models, so it is more likely that Sony eliminated it to justify cost differences in their lineup.

  • http://www.worldinasnap.com Jeff Davis

    The reasons you gave as to why “not to buy this camera” are exactly the reasons I purchased this camera over others. In Sony’s line of camera’s they consider this one of their prefessional models. If you look at Canon’s professional cameras like the Mark IV it does not have a Pop-up flash. A 24mp full-frame camera for under $2,000 is a very good deal. Plus it sets a goal for Canon and Nikon to shoot for.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/adhe55/ Tom

    Sony doesnt use live view with the big sensor, since it slowly ruins the sensor. They use a different sensor next to the optical parts at the viewfinder, but with a pentaprism, that is impossible. This camera is exactly what a camera should be: A great picture making device, no extra gadgets like movie mode (you have camcorders for video), live view (its not a point and shoot, and the viewfinder works way better anyway) and no flash (pop-up flash is only used at party’s, because it ruins pictures anyway).

    I would love to have this one, too bad Im just a poor student:).

  • http://www.photoinfo.com.au Rod Pforr

    The Sony range is superior to most other makes and models not because it lacks live view and movies or a built in flash. This 850 is for advanced photographers who don’ t want these knobs and twiddles.
    All Sony models have a vastly better white balance modes that far quicker to use,more info like Kelvin and mired.The Canons don’t even confirm that a custom white balance has been achieved,
    They have the Ziess AF lens line up. It is a little know fact that if you turn up the sharpening in camera on most prime Sony /minolta prime and G series like the 85 f1.4. the results are superior to the Zeiss.
    I do this all the time and shoot raw. It a mis-information that this should not be done or is it is ineffective.
    When you shoot this way low iSO on prime lenses, on triopod with the mirror up and the anti shake turned on.
    Use a couple of raw converters like DXO and the Sony app, You get 1 meter or 40 inch long prints from an A100 { 10 mp } like it was shot on 5×4 film. This means that the A850 would get to 2 meter or 80 inch and look like 10×8 film Their price is about 2/3 price of the canon 5D Mark 11.
    Dont push the Sony in the iSO race. It is a poor third at any thing above 800.
    Now the bad news. Sony are hiding this better system form the market. They have not appointed a series of pro dealers and given them support in the way of decent margins. They need to buy the market leadership like Canon did years ago.
    The sort of ” does it shoot video as well” question is only asked in Hi-fi and electrical stores. Sony are at home in this market with better shelf facings than the other two brands,
    No one drops in a discount hi-fi store and lays down $10000 on a A900 with three Zeiss lenses. No! They go into a pro -camera store and spend $20000 on the the current leading brand.
    However Sony have 3D movies systems just around the corner.
    There you have MHO… It is not just about building a better mouse trap.

  • http://www.os-am.com OsmosisStudios

    Rod Pforr: You lost me as soon as you used a superlative. Fanboys need not apply.
    I just skimmed through the review and, checking the images, I’m not impressed with the lens. Those are some very very soft edges!

  • Richard

    Tom is quite right about Live View. Long-term use will ruin the sensor. I have Live View on my 40D but I will only use this feature sparingly, if at all. For the same reason, then, I don’t particularly care about an articulating LCD screen.

    However, I should mention that a built-in flash can be useful for fill-in lighting, not just in low light situations where, as Tom correctly points out, it can ruin a photo.

  • Richard

    The A850 is a beautiful piece of machinery. I had the pleasure of playing with it (and the 24-70mm lens) at a Sony Store, and I loved it! However, above 800 ISO it is simply too noisy. Sony needs to address this in their next model, else it will never compete with the 5D Mark II.

    I agree, who cares about movie mode? This is an excellent studio camera, not a camcorder.

  • Md Fazle Rehman

    Can anybody suggest i wanna buy a good camera, such as Sony DSC H20 or H50, or Cannon Power shot or any other camera ot that specifications. And i have budget of 400$ to 420$. In this range which camera will be th best one. please suggest. please write in to mdfazlerahman@ocl.in, fazal_love@fastmail.fm, fazal4love@live.com.

  • http://www.paulrowlandphotography.com Paul

    I have the zeiss 85 f/1.4, and it is simply the sharpest piece of glass I’ve ever seen. SOOC files often need no sharpening at all.

  • http://www.photoinfo.com.au Rod

    Thanks Paul, I use the 85 f/1.4 minolta about 20 years old. There is nothing wrong with superlatives when glass has this sort of quality. Give credit when and where is due. With fast glass like this you don’t need to use 800 iso. When speed is compared with a 2.8 lens you get 200iso . The old Minolta 24mm 2.8 is great :as is the 135 mm 2.8. The 35mm f/2 is prone to flare however the RAW converter ” clarity ” drops this out.
    All these lenses are available second hand. This makes the A850 super value.

  • Robb Mac

    Re: the pictures you took comparing ISO’s, what were the other specs you used? (f stop and speed)
    I’m currently at a crossroads of either buying the 850 to add to my gear, or dump it all and buy the Canon 50D mII. I went to two camera stores of the same name, and one salesman liked it enough, but also admitted to being a Nikon guy, the other store rep LOVED the camera. So I’m on the fence…. thanks

  • http://www.photoinfo.com.au Rod

    Hi
    Re iso and cameras. The nikon 700d in my view outclasses the Sony and Canon 5D 11.
    The Canon is second of the mark with the Sony coming at number 3. If you already have Sony gear stick with it.
    You don’t say what sort of images you take and what iso do you use you prefer to use. I have taken close ups of faces at 800 iso at 1/25 sec on a zoom 2.8 lens and they are super sharp at 60 ” long. Almost every one forgets that Sony have body anti shake , which can decrease the amount of movement you get at all iso.

    I use 200 for almost everything. I use a tripod and don’t have to go much higher, I started with colour neg at 80 iso in the late 1960 ‘s. I did some work in London when we shot TRi-X at 1600. We got grain, but it was part of the deal. Take a look at the three camera at http://www.doxmark.com. I use two raw converters in series,
    Different raw converters read the file data in different ways.
    If you have to reequip with another brand the cost may be considerable. The sales people get commission and have brand loyalties that pays the bills. Remember that General D.D Eisenhower said ” the aim is to hit the target, not argue who made the weapon or who pulled the trigger.
    Remember when you sit on the fence, all you get is a pain in the rear end.

  • Robb Mac

    Thanks. I mostly do portrait and actor headshots, but as my life changes, creeping into Wedding photography. A photo friend recently bought her 50D Mark 2 and was bragging how she shot something super dark at about 4.5 with something like 1600 or 3200 ISO and no noise. I know that the Mark 2 is a monster of a camera, but if as a second (or new workhorse) camera, I wasn’t sure if the 850 or the 900 (Sony) would be best. I know I want to go full frame… Feel free to reply if you have time or input. Mucho appreciated.

  • http://www.photoinfo.com.au Rod

    Hi
    Remember your friend is shooting at 4.5 ,poss wide open . If you shot at f 2 not wide open on any of the lenes below you would be at 400 iso wiith the same Shutter speed. the shots would be almost identical., maybe even better with less DOF , anti shake.
    lens investment poss less that you friend. The canon is far slower to to a custom white balance. and is if you dont use this feature to produce accurate , repeatable images in camera.you will waste a huge amount of time.
    The Sony has a mass of features like DRC bracket, that canon don,t even think about. Canon bought their current market share from Nikon, They did not get it on the their merits.
    Remeber also the three cameras mentioned here are aimed at diferent markets
    Canon at an al round market. The nikon squarely at the journalist market and the Sony at the caring enthusiast,
    The only thing i still not convinced about is the Sony flash lights. I use 2 Nikon sB26 on A mode not TTL.
    The work well with any radio set up too. Simple, quick, easy. Second hand ,haft the price or less of the SB 900 or 580 EX2. No confusion about f stops. Set one on camera at F4 and one off camera at 5.6 , set the camera on 1/30 sec at 5.6 .5 and 400 iso and you wedding candids will blow the competition away.

    Lens to buy 50 mm f1.7 @ less than $100 a steal. A 50 mm f1.4 great lens but not better than the canon or Nikon . the 85 f1.4 minolta at $1000 or the Zeiss 85 f 1.4new at $1600.

    All these lenses are as good ,if not better than the Canon or nikon ,they will delivery sharper and better images than any 4.5 zoom on the market.

    If you want iso performance buy the Nikon 700d. …Full frame. but 12 MP.
    YOU CAN NOT Get YET a full frame chip.at 24 mp with no noise at higher iSO .
    Smaller MP .higher ISO it is that simple.
    I use SONY ./ Minolta. I crop most of my images to a 5:3 ratio which is close to 16: 9 shown in the viewfider.
    The A 850 has a Big viewfinder rhat is accurate. the A700 is not in the same class.
    THe Sonu has a 2.8 centre focus point which is more sensitive than the others.
    Hope this gives you something to chew on.

  • Robb Mac

    Goodness yes. Now I will skip dinner!

    Thanks for the insight. Super grateful!

  • Robb Mac

    follow up. just reread as my friend is pitching the 5D again… when you say2.8 centre focus point, what does that mean?

  • http://www.photoinfo.com.au Rod

    The Sony has what they call a 2.8 Auto focus sensor.
    All cameras have trouble focusing in low light . Plus the only point that is sharp on any lens is dead centre.
    Therefor the only point that is accurate is the centre point AF sensor. The 5d 11 has a AF calibration system in the menu that confusers even the optical experts.
    Sony have increased the sensitivity on the centre AF by 200% to aid in low level light with 2.8 and faster lenses.
    A simple solution.
    Ask you friend if she will pay for the conversion of your sony / minolta lenes to canon.
    Minolta invented AF about 1986 [ with help from Honeywell }
    I personally rate Zeiss lenses above any Canon or Nikon optic . You cant buy an AF Zeiss lens in other than a Sony mount,at the current time.
    The Raw converters read the metadata in the file for the lens make,length and speed.
    The DXO converter enhances this data on a range of lenses for almost all camera brands.
    The results that can be seen on the 50 mm 1.4 minolta and the 85 f14 are amazing.
    Most photographers don’t enhance in the camera while shooting. I am a great fan of this.
    Converting RAW data in post production for colour, can lead to unwanted strong colour shifts in some bandwidths. I will load a couple of files onto a site where you can view them.

    Keep up the conversation.

  • Robb Mac

    Again, I thank you and will love to continue this discussion and would love to see your examples. I will say that last week as I was interviewing the 850, the salesman had the same praises over the Zeiss lenses. And maybe this was just a sign, but while catching some late night Olympic coverage, during the women’s biath., whether they are for judges, photogs or coaches, I saw Carl Zeiss all over lenses. I’m guessing these were scopes, but none the less.

    I am quite happy with my 50mm (which will convert to the 850) and even the kit 18-70 (I’ve used for real estate listings) and the 70-300 are good lenses. I’m disappointed with a Tamron 2.8 that I had to quickly replace as the earlier 2.8 28-105 (I loved) snapped an unrepairable ap. spring. I’m told this lens will only vignette anyway, so a new 2.8 will be next on the wish list.

    I am quite fascinated with the use of high ISO used by photographer Neilvan Neikerk http://www.planetneil.com. And upon experimenting using similar settings, I have found that in post production, upping the black level takes out noise and produces the images I like. But even at 1600, I must be careful. This is why your review is so helpful. Between the full frame and the 2.8 sensor capability, I grow more confident that sticking with this camera is the right choice.

    I have another photog friend that works quite a bit recently considering his move to the mark2 from Nikon. He mentioned that all his assistant’s now own it and he thinks it’s a better camera (from the Nikon, but duh?!?).

    I don’t need or care about video. I have one for that. If I’m shooting weddings, then I’m hired as a photographer, not vid guy, right?

    Look forward to your reply. Again, thanks tons.

  • http://web.me.com/imageman4/iMAGEMAN/ImageMan.html Rod

    I have had a quick look a planitneil and am pleased that someone is into flash.
    It is a very misunderstood subject and most photographers do not use it well.
    with glamour you need to keep the subject flat so dont get too carried away with deep shadows.
    Customers dont like them. Remember they pay the bills and when money talks …I listen.

    Take a look at a new site I ma building above
    plenty of images …expanding site every day

  • Robb Mac

    Sorry, but if you are referring to the doxmark.com site, it’s not taking me to the correct page. Is this the site you mean?

  • http://web.me.com/imageman4/iMAGEMAN/ImageMan.html Rod

    Hi
    NO! It is DXO.com. The DXOmark is a research site. It is a beta site.
    Like my new site at ME..have you had a look?

  • http://www.shadesofgray.us Lois Bernard

    Have had my 850 couple of months. Love it. ISO above 800 very grainy but even the supplied Image Converter Software has excellent noise reduction. Photoshop with Topaz Denoise does fine job too. Wish I could afford Ziess lens but Minolta 1.7 does well and I already had it. Very happy with in camera anti shake also.

Some older comments

  • Lois Bernard

    June 3, 2011 11:01 pm

    Have had my 850 couple of months. Love it. ISO above 800 very grainy but even the supplied Image Converter Software has excellent noise reduction. Photoshop with Topaz Denoise does fine job too. Wish I could afford Ziess lens but Minolta 1.7 does well and I already had it. Very happy with in camera anti shake also.

  • Rod

    February 23, 2010 01:30 pm

    Hi
    NO! It is DXO.com. The DXOmark is a research site. It is a beta site.
    Like my new site at ME..have you had a look?

  • Robb Mac

    February 23, 2010 07:50 am

    Sorry, but if you are referring to the doxmark.com site, it's not taking me to the correct page. Is this the site you mean?

  • Rod

    February 23, 2010 07:45 am

    I have had a quick look a planitneil and am pleased that someone is into flash.
    It is a very misunderstood subject and most photographers do not use it well.
    with glamour you need to keep the subject flat so dont get too carried away with deep shadows.
    Customers dont like them. Remember they pay the bills and when money talks ...I listen.

    Take a look at a new site I ma building above
    plenty of images ...expanding site every day

  • Robb Mac

    February 23, 2010 04:34 am

    Again, I thank you and will love to continue this discussion and would love to see your examples. I will say that last week as I was interviewing the 850, the salesman had the same praises over the Zeiss lenses. And maybe this was just a sign, but while catching some late night Olympic coverage, during the women's biath., whether they are for judges, photogs or coaches, I saw Carl Zeiss all over lenses. I'm guessing these were scopes, but none the less.

    I am quite happy with my 50mm (which will convert to the 850) and even the kit 18-70 (I've used for real estate listings) and the 70-300 are good lenses. I'm disappointed with a Tamron 2.8 that I had to quickly replace as the earlier 2.8 28-105 (I loved) snapped an unrepairable ap. spring. I'm told this lens will only vignette anyway, so a new 2.8 will be next on the wish list.

    I am quite fascinated with the use of high ISO used by photographer Neilvan Neikerk http://www.planetneil.com. And upon experimenting using similar settings, I have found that in post production, upping the black level takes out noise and produces the images I like. But even at 1600, I must be careful. This is why your review is so helpful. Between the full frame and the 2.8 sensor capability, I grow more confident that sticking with this camera is the right choice.

    I have another photog friend that works quite a bit recently considering his move to the mark2 from Nikon. He mentioned that all his assistant's now own it and he thinks it's a better camera (from the Nikon, but duh?!?).

    I don't need or care about video. I have one for that. If I'm shooting weddings, then I'm hired as a photographer, not vid guy, right?

    Look forward to your reply. Again, thanks tons.

  • Rod

    February 22, 2010 12:13 pm

    The Sony has what they call a 2.8 Auto focus sensor.
    All cameras have trouble focusing in low light . Plus the only point that is sharp on any lens is dead centre.
    Therefor the only point that is accurate is the centre point AF sensor. The 5d 11 has a AF calibration system in the menu that confusers even the optical experts.
    Sony have increased the sensitivity on the centre AF by 200% to aid in low level light with 2.8 and faster lenses.
    A simple solution.
    Ask you friend if she will pay for the conversion of your sony / minolta lenes to canon.
    Minolta invented AF about 1986 [ with help from Honeywell }
    I personally rate Zeiss lenses above any Canon or Nikon optic . You cant buy an AF Zeiss lens in other than a Sony mount,at the current time.
    The Raw converters read the metadata in the file for the lens make,length and speed.
    The DXO converter enhances this data on a range of lenses for almost all camera brands.
    The results that can be seen on the 50 mm 1.4 minolta and the 85 f14 are amazing.
    Most photographers don't enhance in the camera while shooting. I am a great fan of this.
    Converting RAW data in post production for colour, can lead to unwanted strong colour shifts in some bandwidths. I will load a couple of files onto a site where you can view them.

    Keep up the conversation.

  • Robb Mac

    February 20, 2010 04:05 am

    follow up. just reread as my friend is pitching the 5D again... when you say2.8 centre focus point, what does that mean?

  • Robb Mac

    February 16, 2010 07:36 am

    Goodness yes. Now I will skip dinner!

    Thanks for the insight. Super grateful!

  • Rod

    February 16, 2010 03:15 am

    Hi
    Remember your friend is shooting at 4.5 ,poss wide open . If you shot at f 2 not wide open on any of the lenes below you would be at 400 iso wiith the same Shutter speed. the shots would be almost identical., maybe even better with less DOF , anti shake.
    lens investment poss less that you friend. The canon is far slower to to a custom white balance. and is if you dont use this feature to produce accurate , repeatable images in camera.you will waste a huge amount of time.
    The Sony has a mass of features like DRC bracket, that canon don,t even think about. Canon bought their current market share from Nikon, They did not get it on the their merits.
    Remeber also the three cameras mentioned here are aimed at diferent markets
    Canon at an al round market. The nikon squarely at the journalist market and the Sony at the caring enthusiast,
    The only thing i still not convinced about is the Sony flash lights. I use 2 Nikon sB26 on A mode not TTL.
    The work well with any radio set up too. Simple, quick, easy. Second hand ,haft the price or less of the SB 900 or 580 EX2. No confusion about f stops. Set one on camera at F4 and one off camera at 5.6 , set the camera on 1/30 sec at 5.6 .5 and 400 iso and you wedding candids will blow the competition away.

    Lens to buy 50 mm f1.7 @ less than $100 a steal. A 50 mm f1.4 great lens but not better than the canon or Nikon . the 85 f1.4 minolta at $1000 or the Zeiss 85 f 1.4new at $1600.

    All these lenses are as good ,if not better than the Canon or nikon ,they will delivery sharper and better images than any 4.5 zoom on the market.

    If you want iso performance buy the Nikon 700d. ...Full frame. but 12 MP.
    YOU CAN NOT Get YET a full frame chip.at 24 mp with no noise at higher iSO .
    Smaller MP .higher ISO it is that simple.
    I use SONY ./ Minolta. I crop most of my images to a 5:3 ratio which is close to 16: 9 shown in the viewfider.
    The A 850 has a Big viewfinder rhat is accurate. the A700 is not in the same class.
    THe Sonu has a 2.8 centre focus point which is more sensitive than the others.
    Hope this gives you something to chew on.

  • Robb Mac

    February 15, 2010 01:14 am

    Thanks. I mostly do portrait and actor headshots, but as my life changes, creeping into Wedding photography. A photo friend recently bought her 50D Mark 2 and was bragging how she shot something super dark at about 4.5 with something like 1600 or 3200 ISO and no noise. I know that the Mark 2 is a monster of a camera, but if as a second (or new workhorse) camera, I wasn't sure if the 850 or the 900 (Sony) would be best. I know I want to go full frame... Feel free to reply if you have time or input. Mucho appreciated.

  • Rod

    February 14, 2010 11:23 pm

    Hi
    Re iso and cameras. The nikon 700d in my view outclasses the Sony and Canon 5D 11.
    The Canon is second of the mark with the Sony coming at number 3. If you already have Sony gear stick with it.
    You don't say what sort of images you take and what iso do you use you prefer to use. I have taken close ups of faces at 800 iso at 1/25 sec on a zoom 2.8 lens and they are super sharp at 60 " long. Almost every one forgets that Sony have body anti shake , which can decrease the amount of movement you get at all iso.

    I use 200 for almost everything. I use a tripod and don't have to go much higher, I started with colour neg at 80 iso in the late 1960 's. I did some work in London when we shot TRi-X at 1600. We got grain, but it was part of the deal. Take a look at the three camera at www.doxmark.com. I use two raw converters in series,
    Different raw converters read the file data in different ways.
    If you have to reequip with another brand the cost may be considerable. The sales people get commission and have brand loyalties that pays the bills. Remember that General D.D Eisenhower said " the aim is to hit the target, not argue who made the weapon or who pulled the trigger.
    Remember when you sit on the fence, all you get is a pain in the rear end.

  • Robb Mac

    February 13, 2010 03:47 pm

    Re: the pictures you took comparing ISO's, what were the other specs you used? (f stop and speed)
    I'm currently at a crossroads of either buying the 850 to add to my gear, or dump it all and buy the Canon 50D mII. I went to two camera stores of the same name, and one salesman liked it enough, but also admitted to being a Nikon guy, the other store rep LOVED the camera. So I'm on the fence.... thanks

  • Rod

    February 1, 2010 01:10 pm

    Thanks Paul, I use the 85 f/1.4 minolta about 20 years old. There is nothing wrong with superlatives when glass has this sort of quality. Give credit when and where is due. With fast glass like this you don't need to use 800 iso. When speed is compared with a 2.8 lens you get 200iso . The old Minolta 24mm 2.8 is great :as is the 135 mm 2.8. The 35mm f/2 is prone to flare however the RAW converter " clarity " drops this out.
    All these lenses are available second hand. This makes the A850 super value.

  • Paul

    January 31, 2010 06:30 am

    I have the zeiss 85 f/1.4, and it is simply the sharpest piece of glass I've ever seen. SOOC files often need no sharpening at all.

  • Md Fazle Rehman

    January 29, 2010 02:18 pm

    Can anybody suggest i wanna buy a good camera, such as Sony DSC H20 or H50, or Cannon Power shot or any other camera ot that specifications. And i have budget of 400$ to 420$. In this range which camera will be th best one. please suggest. please write in to mdfazlerahman@ocl.in, fazal_love@fastmail.fm, fazal4love@live.com.

  • Richard

    January 29, 2010 11:32 am

    The A850 is a beautiful piece of machinery. I had the pleasure of playing with it (and the 24-70mm lens) at a Sony Store, and I loved it! However, above 800 ISO it is simply too noisy. Sony needs to address this in their next model, else it will never compete with the 5D Mark II.

    I agree, who cares about movie mode? This is an excellent studio camera, not a camcorder.

  • Richard

    January 29, 2010 11:24 am

    Tom is quite right about Live View. Long-term use will ruin the sensor. I have Live View on my 40D but I will only use this feature sparingly, if at all. For the same reason, then, I don't particularly care about an articulating LCD screen.

    However, I should mention that a built-in flash can be useful for fill-in lighting, not just in low light situations where, as Tom correctly points out, it can ruin a photo.

  • OsmosisStudios

    January 26, 2010 01:14 pm

    Rod Pforr: You lost me as soon as you used a superlative. Fanboys need not apply.
    I just skimmed through the review and, checking the images, I'm not impressed with the lens. Those are some very very soft edges!

  • Rod Pforr

    January 25, 2010 12:59 am

    The Sony range is superior to most other makes and models not because it lacks live view and movies or a built in flash. This 850 is for advanced photographers who don' t want these knobs and twiddles.
    All Sony models have a vastly better white balance modes that far quicker to use,more info like Kelvin and mired.The Canons don't even confirm that a custom white balance has been achieved,
    They have the Ziess AF lens line up. It is a little know fact that if you turn up the sharpening in camera on most prime Sony /minolta prime and G series like the 85 f1.4. the results are superior to the Zeiss.
    I do this all the time and shoot raw. It a mis-information that this should not be done or is it is ineffective.
    When you shoot this way low iSO on prime lenses, on triopod with the mirror up and the anti shake turned on.
    Use a couple of raw converters like DXO and the Sony app, You get 1 meter or 40 inch long prints from an A100 { 10 mp } like it was shot on 5x4 film. This means that the A850 would get to 2 meter or 80 inch and look like 10x8 film Their price is about 2/3 price of the canon 5D Mark 11.
    Dont push the Sony in the iSO race. It is a poor third at any thing above 800.
    Now the bad news. Sony are hiding this better system form the market. They have not appointed a series of pro dealers and given them support in the way of decent margins. They need to buy the market leadership like Canon did years ago.
    The sort of " does it shoot video as well" question is only asked in Hi-fi and electrical stores. Sony are at home in this market with better shelf facings than the other two brands,
    No one drops in a discount hi-fi store and lays down $10000 on a A900 with three Zeiss lenses. No! They go into a pro -camera store and spend $20000 on the the current leading brand.
    However Sony have 3D movies systems just around the corner.
    There you have MHO... It is not just about building a better mouse trap.

  • Tom

    January 24, 2010 10:07 pm

    Sony doesnt use live view with the big sensor, since it slowly ruins the sensor. They use a different sensor next to the optical parts at the viewfinder, but with a pentaprism, that is impossible. This camera is exactly what a camera should be: A great picture making device, no extra gadgets like movie mode (you have camcorders for video), live view (its not a point and shoot, and the viewfinder works way better anyway) and no flash (pop-up flash is only used at party's, because it ruins pictures anyway).

    I would love to have this one, too bad Im just a poor student:).

  • Jeff Davis

    January 24, 2010 02:27 pm

    The reasons you gave as to why “not to buy this camera” are exactly the reasons I purchased this camera over others. In Sony's line of camera's they consider this one of their prefessional models. If you look at Canon's professional cameras like the Mark IV it does not have a Pop-up flash. A 24mp full-frame camera for under $2,000 is a very good deal. Plus it sets a goal for Canon and Nikon to shoot for.

  • Kerri

    January 24, 2010 12:02 pm

    "There is also no Live View as the camera uses a pentaprism (a solid block of optical glass) rather than a pentamirror (a mirrored box constructed to mimic a pentaprism). Live View requires elements of the pentamirror to be physically movable, simply impossible when using a pentaprism."

    Actually, the pentaprism or pentamirror have no bearing whatsoever on whether or not a camera can do live view. What enables live view on a dSLR camera is some programming, and the ability to lift the mirror in front of the sensor -- just as the camera does during an exposure.

    The problem is getting live view right, but Sony has live-view on other models, so it is more likely that Sony eliminated it to justify cost differences in their lineup.

  • jc

    January 24, 2010 11:10 am

    I feel like the reasons you gave as to why "not to buy the camera" are exactly the reasons I couldn't care less about. Pop-up flash is incredibly counterproductive, and as for live view and movie capture, you do realize this is a piece of photography equipment, right? If you can't handle putting your eye up to the viewfinder, maybe you should look into another hobby.

  • Steve A

    January 24, 2010 09:44 am

    Why would the reviewer be sharpening an image that was blurry due to slow shutter speed? Isn't that the kind of softness that can't be sharpened?

    I would also see no pop-up flash as a pro, not a con.

  • Robd

    January 24, 2010 09:03 am

    Quote: "There is also no Live View as the camera uses a pentaprism (a solid block of optical glass) rather than a pentamirror (a mirrored box constructed to mimic a pentaprism). Live View requires elements of the pentamirror to be physically movable, simply impossible when using a pentaprism."

    Having a pentaprism is not the reason for not having live view as there are numerous cameras with a pentaprism that have live view, such as the Nikon D3X (same sensor as the A900 and A850), D700, D300, along with several from Canon.

  • Chris

    January 24, 2010 08:46 am

    Nice review. Though the A850 has been out for a while now, I think it still represents one of the best values on the market. A 24mp full-frame camera for under $2,000 is a very good deal.

  • Andy

    January 24, 2010 08:43 am

    Just because it has a pentaprism doesn't mean it can't have Live View. The Pentax K-7 has a pentaprism, but is still capable for Live View and movies, for example.

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