Review based on a production Alpha DSLR-850This is the first camera to be reviewed using our new ' Quick Review ' format. From now on we will be using this format for cameras that are close in terms of operation and in terms of image quality fundamentally identical to either their predecessors table or other models in the line that we already treated to a full review. We first confirm the image quality is identical by running a couple of basic image quality tests (noise testing and shots of our ' compared to ' studio scenes at all ISOs) and then concentrated in the review on the differences between the two cameras. For a fuller view of the camera's qualities we therefore recommend you not only read this Quick Review, but also the full review of the Sony DSLR-A900.When the Sony DSLR-A900 was introduced in September 2008 it looked like an incredibly good deal: a full-frame DSLR with a weather-sealed body and a whopping pro 24.6 million pixels resolution for $ 3000. This was price-wise in a similar ballpark to what were at the time its closest competitors, the Canon EOS 5 d and Nikon D700. However, the only room that (at 21.1 million pixels) came close in terms of resolution, the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III was significantly more expensive ($ 8,000 at launch). The Sony A900 seemed like the obvious choice for resolution-hungry photographers on a smaller budget.The digital camera market moves fast though, and within weeks of its launch the Sony's price advantage had vanished with Canon's announcement of the EOS 5 d Mark II ($ 2,690 at launch). Canon's new ' compact ' full-frame not only had 20 + MP resolution but also came with a maximum ISO of 25,600, live view and a 1080p HD movie mode, making the Sony look a little weak in the features department.Sony's answer came, with a slight delay, in August 2009 in the shape of the DSLR-850. Rather than upping the new model's feature set Sony decided to leave the A850 (compared to the A900) almost unchanged and competes exclusively on price. The new model is available at a RRP of $ 2000, making it the cheapest full-frame DSLR currently on the market. Obviously something had to be done to justify the price difference to the flagship A900 (and not completely annoy existing A900 owners), so Sony decided to differentiate the A850 from its bigger brother by slightly reducing the viewfinder coverage and the buffer size (the latter resulting in a 3.0 fps vs 5.0 fps continuous shooting rate). All other key features remain unchanged and are listed below. 24.6 MP 35 mm format full-frame CMOS sensor (still the highest res in class) SteadyShot INSIDE full frame image sensor shift stabilization (world first) Dual Bionz processorsEye level glass Penta-prism OVF, 98% coverage, 0.74x magnification9 point AF with 10 assists points, dual cross AF center w/2.8 frames per second sensor3 burstIntelligent Preview Function3 User programmable custom memory modes on mode dialAdvanced Dynamic Range Optimizer (5 step selectable) 40 segment honeycomb metering3.0? 921K pixel Photo Quality (270 dpi) LCD display, 100% coverageDirect HDMI outputISO 200-3200 (ISO 100-6400 expanded range) User interchangeable focusing screens (3 options) CF Type I/II and MS slots, Li-ion battery, STAMINA 880 shotsWeight of 850 g (without battery and card, accs) New Image Data Converter SR software (includes vignetting control) Featured vertical GripMagnesium Alloy body and rubber seals for dust and moisture resistanceAF micro adjustment
Conclusion/Recommendation/Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.To navigate the review simply use the next/previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y and Z and ideally A, B and c. This article is Copyright 2010 Dpreview.com and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey
If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).