Peering at the Sony A700 SLR

A look at some of the hardware components in Sony's $1,400 A700 SLR.

I've offered detailed views of Canon's EOS 40D and 1Ds Mark III and of Nikon's D300 and D3, so it's time to follow suit with Sony's new SLR, the A700.

The A700, the second in Sony's Alpha line of SLRs that stem from its acquisition of the Konica Minolta's camera assets, is a higher-end sequel to the A100. It will be available in October for about $1,400 with no lens, $1,500 with a 18-70mm lens and in November for about $1,900 with a 16-105mm lens.

Magnesium body


The A700 has a magnesium body, and the exterior is sealed against dust and moisture. Many components are bolted to an aluminum alloy chassis, the company said.

New sensor


Sony not only builds its own sensors, but it's taken the unusual step of branding them as well. The A700's 12.2-megapixel Exmor sensor is built with a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chip manufacturing method, like all Canon's SLRs and Nikon's two new models. Building CMOS sensors means some computing can take place directly on the chip, and Sony does just that. The sensor first performs a first stage of noise reduction on the analog signals the sensor produces, then converts those analog signals into digital ones, then reduces noise a second time.

Sensor shifter


Unlike the top two SLR makers, Canon and Nikon, Sony corrects for camera shake by shifting the sensor within the camera, which means any lens can take advantage of the feature. Nikon and Canon shift lens elements, so image stabilization is a feature only some lenses possess, but the companies argue it works better. Sony said the A700's system can give four F-stops' worth of compensation, meaning that a person who could ordinarily take a steady shot at 1/250 second could shoot at 1/15 second.

Viewfinder view


The view through the viewfinder shows the 11 autofocus sensors used by the camera. The center cross point uses two horizontal and two vertical line sensors to improve precision, the company said.

From the front


A view of the A700's front laid bare.

Rear view


The back of the camera is shown here without its 3-inch, 307,000-pixel screen.

Shutter shot


The vertical-travel shutter is rated to 100,000 cycles, Sony said..



The pentaprism, which directs light from the lens into the viewfinder, covers 95 percent of the sensor's field of view at a magnification of 0.9.

Bionz processor


The Bionz image processor can churn through as many as five images per second. It also performs noise reduction while the image is still in its original raw format rather than after it's been processed into JPEG.

Vertical grip


The A700's optional vertical grip costs $350, not including the two batteries it can house. The grip makes taking vertically oriented pictures less of a wrist contortion exercise.