*All images in this post link to larger more fun ones
Around November last year, I had been on the lookout for a new camera for quite some time. I used to go to the local stores and keep drooling over the really nice DSLRs and carefully examine the point and shoots to see how closely they matched my expectations. I was the owner and user of a Sony DSC S80. A point and shoot that had served me very well since July 2005. I had gotten that one from Dubai for INR 13500 (about USD 385 then). I was really comfortable with it and since it had done its job admirably for so many years, I was also very fond of it. However towards November 2008 it had started to show its age by using up too much of the battery too soon and not releasing the shutter until I whispered sweet nothings to it.
We had planned a Canada trip in December 2008 and wanted to get a new camera before we went there. We didn’t end up buying one because me and my wife couldn’t come to an agreement on the kind of camera that we needed. So the DSC S80 accompanied us to Canada. Halfway through the trip, one of the plastic clamps of the battery compartment broke off and got stuck in the memory card slot, messing up the contacts. This meant that I could not use a card in it. This prompted us to consider buying a camera in Canada. As luck would have it, I bought the Sony A300K from Best Buy Toronto on Boxing Day at the sale. The body with standard lens cost me CAD 429 + taxes (that’s about INR 20000). This was a steal. The previous day the camera was selling for CAD 549 + taxes. Having saved a ton of cash I felt good.
Enough if the history of the whole process. A lot of you might be wondering why I didn’t buy a Nikon or a Canon. There was a simple reason… value for money. Neither Canon nor NIkon had the same or better feature set that was being offered by Sony with the A300. Personally I could have even gone in for the A200 but my wife wanted Live View which was available from the A300 onwards. For Live View in the Nikon or the Canon, I would have had to shell out another 100 dollars. Which is really not worth it. Sony was very aggressive on price and rich in features. I did a lot of research and when I think back on it, I feel so good that I didn’t spend more just for snob value of the Nikons and the Canons. I personally feel that if you are not a professional photographer you really have no reason to insist on buying a Nikon/Canon, and even in that range (3000 dollars and above) Sony is making deep inroads.
The design of the A300 is very well though out. All control fall easily to the fingers and if you have used any Sony digital camera before, they will be very familiar too. The top of the camera has the controls for shutter release, a typical Sony mode dial, a control dial that can be used to adjust the aperture or the shutter, a switch to switch between Live View and the Optical View Finder, the drive mode and timer button, and the ISO setting button. There is also the pop-up flash and an accessory shoe to accept an external flash or other accessories.
The back of the body is just as full of controls as the top. You have the on/off switch, the menu button, the screen display options button, the delete button, the review button, a function button lets you access 6 frequently used settings quickly, buttons to adjust the aperture and exposure while shooting, the switch to turn on Super Steady Shot and a large 8 way dial for navigation.
The back is of course dominated by the 6.7 cm (2.7 in) LCD screen. Apart from the usual use of displaying shooting statistics and for Live View, the screen also allows you to take shots at weird angles on account of the fact that it can tilt up and down to a certain extent. So taking shots with the camera above your head and also closer to the ground becomes easier.
This camera also features a unique way of implementing Live View by using 2 CMOS sensors instead of one. I wont go into the details but the Live View auto focus in this camera is faster than those of its competitors. Live View can also be switched on or off even if the camera is not on. So when you put the camera on you have the mode ready and there is no waiting time.
Connectivity wise the camera has the usual ports. Under a flap on the right side you have a video out/USB port and a compact flash card slot. This is a major deviation for Sony as they have not insisted on you using a Memory Card and are allowing you to use a Compact Flash card instead. On the left side, under another flap are the connectors for the optional remote and the DC adaptor or charger.
Under the camera you have the usual tripod receptacle and the battery pack . The A300 uses Sony’s info Lithium batteries which give the most accurate battery remaining indication in the industry.
The auto focus also has a feature that it will start focusing as soon as you start looking through the OVF, even before you half press the shutter. Also if you are using Live View, a flap closed over the OVF to not allow any light through there as the second CMOS sensor is near there.
Due to the implementation of the Live View, the flash does not open as high as in other models and this cause a shadow in case you are using the flash while shooting macro. This can be avoided by zooming in a little however.
I have taken about a 1000 shots since I bought this camera in December and I am extremely pleased with it. Oh yeah, the burst mode allows you to take 3 fps till your card is full (in jpeg mode). You can also record in RAW if you want to play around during post production.
The images in this post have been taken with my Sony DSC S80. It can accommodate about 18 images in the internal 32 mb memory. The A300 does not have any internal memory. To see some sample pictures that I have taken with this camera you can see my other posts in which I am basically playing around with the shutter and aperture settings.