Sony Alpha DSLR-A300

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SONY ALPHA DSLR-A300 IN NEW MODELS
Perhaps it was a feint, perhaps it was just a matter of introducing the right camera to the right audience, but Sony's Alpha A200 introduced early this year was a very minor upgrade to the A100. The real news came with Sony's announcement of the Alpha A300 and A350. Both incorporate a new Live View mode, with a unique mechanism that no one has yet tried: moving a mirror inside the pentamirror arrangement to point the image at a secondary sensor above the optical viewfinder.

While the A300 is essentially an A200 with an articulating screen and Live View mode, the A350 also raises the resolution from 10 megapixels to 14.2 megapixels.

Like the A200, Sony says that improvements to the A300 and 350's AF will make focus acquisition 1.7 times faster, thanks to the high-torque AF motor and improved AF sequence borrowed from the A700. Autofocus in Live View is also as fast as it is in optical viewfinder mode, thanks to the new system.

Shaped to better match the sensor's 3:2 aspect ratio, the Sony A200's 2.7-inch "Clear Photo" LCD has an anti-reflective coating for easy viewing in the sun, and 230,000 pixels, but the version on the A300 and A350 tilts up and down for easier viewing while shooting low or overhead.

The same LCD-based function menu that appeared on the A200 earlier this month replaces the old dial-based function menu on the A100, and many of the menu functions and systems from the Sony A700 have made their way into the Sony A300 and A350.

The Sony A300 and A350 also have a new pop-up flash, rather than the old "pull-up" type. Now these consumer cameras can deploy the flash in auto modes when necessary. Like most other digital SLRs, the user deploys the flash with a button on the left side of the lens mount housing, by the big orange Alpha logo.

The old battery icon has been augmented with a "percent remaining" indicator on the Sony A300 and A350, which would read "100%," in addition to displaying four bars to indicate battery status. Sony's new vertical battery grip (VG-B30AM) already announced for the Sony A200 also works with the new digital SLR cameras, duplicating many of the controls necessary for vertical shooting, and holds two InfoLITHIUM batteries, making all three cameras capable of shooting up to 1,500 shots.

Eye-start Autofocus, also from the A100, starts up the autofocus system so the camera's ready before you even match your eye up to the frame in most cases. Super SteadyShot stabilizes images with any lens mounted. Sony claims up to 3.5 stops of extra exposure with their body-based image stabilization system. Anti-dust is also built in, with a static-free coating on the CCD's filter that is shaken each time the camera is powered off.

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