Sunday, December 28

Sony Alpha A200 Click for more info

I used to hate both taking and being in pictures. The former was due to laziness and an irrational hatred of collecting things, in this case photos and albums. Where would you put them all? The latter was partly due to what I considered religious reasons but also due to a mixture of modesty and immodesty: why would anyone want to take a picture of me, and how dare they even think about owning my image? Besides, what's the point of taking pictures if you can remember the moments?

I'm not sure when exactly things changed. The digital age of photography allowed us all to now store and view a massive number of pictures on a home computer, with no space taking albums in sight, and you could keep taking pictures without worrying about wasting film. I also began to appreciate the memories stored in pictures - the evidence (for yourself and other, possibly new, people in your life) of who you've been, who you are and who you will be.

Regardless of this epiphany I never actually bought a camera. Most of my impromptu pictures had been taken by my various phones once they had reached a certain technical standard, while more planned shots (holidays and weddings) were taken with borrowed gear. I never really saw a need to change this situation, until now.

I've always appreciated DSLRs. Even my untrained eye could tell the difference between the shots taken with them (on "auto" by an amateur like me) and the more compact cameras currently funding the popularity of photo sharing nowadays. But still there was no way I could justify the cost of something that would probably spend most of its life gathering dust in a drawer. I had set myself a pretty impossible budget of £200.

A combination of discounts and offers allowed me to nab a Sony A200, already the cheapest of DSLRs from any manufacturer for the handsome price of £190 - a terrific bargain by any measure. The price betrays the quality of the camera though: although the kit lens it comes with was said to be a bit iffy, the body of the camera was well specified compared to others in its class (and sometimes above). Things like in-body steadyshot (as opposed to in-lens, which also has its benefits), anti-dust measures, a large generous LCD screen and image sensor and multipoint autofocussing are all unique on a camera at this price (even before the discounts).

In hand though there are some drawbacks. It's a bit bigger and heavier than the others I've played with, and I'll also be the first to admit that the pictures don't look as good as those taken with other cameras (albeit ones which cost three times as much). On the other hand it's pretty quick to turn on and focus and can take pictures at up to 3 frames per second. For someone new to advanced photography it's also extremely easy to use, with everything laid out in a way that makes sense to me.

The picture quality issues could just be me using it incorrectly of course, and hopefully as I get to grips with the camera they'll get better. In the meantime, I'll be posting any particularly interesting pictures into a single public Picasa album; feel free to comment and feedback on them as I'd love to know what you think and how I could improve.