Sony's entry-level dSLR, the Alpha DSLR-A200, delivers a just-the-facts-ma'am shooting experience. For the most part, it provides the average design, basic feature set, modest performance, and better-than-snapshot photo quality that typifies this market segment: not bad, but not notable in any way, either.
The 10.2-megapixel A200 comes in two kits: one with the SAL-1870 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 lens, which we tested, and a dual-lens kit that adds the SAL-75300 75-300mm f4.5-5.6 model. Those two lenses, plus the new SAL-55200, currently comprise Sony's complete entry-level lens lineup. For other inexpensive alternatives you'll have to turn to compatible A-mount Konica Minolta, Sigma, or Tamron offerings.
At 22.4 ounces with battery and CF card, the A200 weighs more than most of its competitors, despite its plastic-clad body. It feels solid, though, and the rubberized grip has a deep indent for your finger that makes the camera comfortable to hold. If you plan to connect the camera directly to your computer rather than use a card reader (which we don't recommend), then avoid the A200. For one, the USB connector is located inside the CF card compartment, which means you have to leave the door open while downloading, potentially allowing all sorts of schmutz to get onto the card-slot contacts (and, if you're as accident prone as me, providing a protrusion to hit and hurl the camera to the floor). More important, Sony uses a proprietary combo USB/AV connector on all its dSLRs, for no reason that I can see other than to force you to buy a cable from them if you lose the bundled one. That just peeves me.
Operating the A200 is straightforward. There are direct-access controls for ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, and drive/bracketing/self-timer modes, while flash, AF, white balance, AF area, and D-RangeOptimizer settings are grouped under a screen pulled up by the Fn button.