Sony a200 Review

Sony a200 Review

The Sony a200 is the successor to the Alpha 100 or a100. This Sony a200 or Sony Alpha 200 is an entry-level model is designed to be faster, lighter and more user-friendly.

Innovations include a 2.7-inch larger display, a more compact housing, simplified operation, including a control wheel, and improved noise reduction. In addition, the shutter noise has become quieter and the autofocus speed faster by a factor of 1.7. Improved autofocus tracking, an automatic pop-up flash and an accurate display of remaining battery power complete the picture.

Brief assessment


  • No frame rate limit in JPEG continuous advance mode
  • Complete, well thought-out flash system
  • Good viewfinder comfort, very bright / clear viewfinder image
  • Improved noise behavior (compared to the previous generation)


  • Set lens overstrained in terms of performance
  • No Quick-Navi function (as with the Alpha 700)
  • No dimmer button / option
  • Really good hand position only with optional hand / battery handle

After we have recently subjected the Sony Alpha 350 to an extensive test for a review, it is now the turn of the Alpha 200. Although the Alpha 200 has no LiveView in comparison to its big sister and may have around four million pixels less, we want to find out in this detailed test report whether it can possibly convince with other arguments. And perhaps we can answer other possible reader questions about the Alpha 200 in the same matter.

Like the Alpha 100, its successor comes with a 10.2 megapixel CCD sensor. The SuperSteadyShot as well as Sony’s Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) and the BIONZ processor are also back on board. As with the other Alpha models, the dust is shaken off when switching off, so that the sensor remains free of unsightly dirt. The Alpha 200 manages three frames per second. Sony’s new one is on the market since 2008 for 600 EUR but much cheaper now after more than a decade since its maret launch. The kit for 700 EUR with the designation Alpha 200K will include the 18-70 mm F3.5-5.6 lens. The kit 200W for about 200 EUR more comes additionally with a 75-300 mm with F4.5-5.6. Of course, all Sony lenses, those with Minolta A mount and corresponding Carl Zeiss models fit. In addition, Sony’s full line of accessories including the VG-B30AM battery handle with portrait shutter release are available for this camera. Our readers can find the detailed datasheet for the Alpha 200 in this article, at the bottom.


Ergonomics and Workmanship

The fact that the Sony Alpha 200 (for short: Sony A200) is cut from the same wood or plastic modelled as the other Alpha DSLRs in the entry-level class is particularly noticeable when you run your fingertip over different parts of the housing. The body of the A200 is round but not voluptuous, measuring 131 x 98 x 71 mm, and weighs 871 grams when fully equipped (i.e. with the DT 18-70 mm F3.5-5.6 set lens, memory card and battery). If you take the lens off, the weight is reduced to 612 grams; there is no BMI (Body Mass Index) for digital cameras (yet, LOL), but these are usual values for entry-level DSLRs.

At the front of the handle the A200 carries rubber-like imitation leather. Although this means that Sony’s smallest is non-slip in the hand, the handle was probably designed for small Japanese hands. We Americans or Europeans have somewhat larger “paws”, and that’s where the little finger in particular has its problems in finding its footing. In order to prevent it from slipping over the bottom edge of the camera into the void, you have to equip the A200 with the optionally available battery/portrait handle, VG-B30AM; malicious tongues would claim that Sony wants to do the same and wants to earn more from selling more accessories with it. Unlike the A350 and A300, the A200 is not LiveView enabled. However, the second sensor in the viewfinder dedicated to this discipline and the associated deflecting mirror (including tilting mechanism) are no longer required. This explains why the viewfinder view is slightly more comfortable on the A200; the viewfinder image is also generated by mirrored plastic panels in a so-called pentangle mirror system, but the viewfinder image magnification is slightly higher (0.83x vs. 0.74x) at a shorter interpupillary distance of 17.6 mm (13.5 mm without rubber cup) and the same field coverage of 95%. So the viewfinder of the A200 is still not a perfect example of ergonomics, but subjectively it is a little bit better than the one of the A350. The viewfinder brightness is exemplary (thanks to the Spherical Acute Matte viewfinder matte); a dioptre correction wheel allows the viewfinder sharpness to be adjusted to the individual intensity.

In general, the A200 makes a slightly better impression than the A350 in terms of ergonomics. Due to the lack of a mechanism for folding up and tilting the screen down, the vertical row of buttons to the left is easier to reach or operate, and the control button panel doesn’t have such a spongy pressure point. The control elements are largely the same in number and placement (11 knobs / buttons, 3 slide switches, 1 program selector wheel, 1 setting wheel and 1 control panel); it is also important that the control elements are clearly and logically arranged. And so it’s no wonder that there are hardly any differences between the two Alphas in the graphical layout and structure of the camera menus. But we like to repeat it: unlike the compact cameras of the in-house Cybershot series, you don’t have to search for different settings in 1,000 detours, and everything is “neatly” divided into four main categories (shooting settings, advanced settings, playback settings and basic settings) with over 80 different settings in 40 menu items.

In the absence of a live image mode, the camera screen on the A200 is used solely for displaying menus and playing back images. The fixed ClearPhoto LCD has a screen diagonal of 6.9 cm (equivalent to 2.7″) and a screen resolution of 230,400 pixels. Also here, the small monitor lacks a little brilliance and sharpness, but this does not disturb when viewing the images after the shooting until one falls back on the image magnifier function with its up to 12x magnification for a precise focus control. Speaking of focus control: The A200 is missing a dimmer switch. This is all the more missed as there is no LiveView mode à la A350 as a makeshift replacement for it.


It takes a little getting used to the spontaneous switching on of the screen as soon as you no longer look through the eyepiece. Then the LCD serves as a status display on which – thanks to automatic up/down switching – the most important camera and recording settings can be read even when the camera is held upright. If you put your eye back to the eyepiece, the screen goes out again just as spontaneously, so that the screen is only switched on when it is really needed and you are looking at it. This should help to save electricity and is the merit of the eye sensor. This can be even more useful as part of the so-called EyeStart system (which we’ll come back to in the “Equiment And Features” section), but an additional grip sensor (as originally provided with the EyeStart system) would be appropriate if you don’t want the screen to constantly turn on and off when the camera is dangling on the strap. You can counter this by carrying the camera around with you when it is not switched on, but in practice this happens sometimes.

If the Auto LCD function of the eye sensor can still be switched off in the menu, there is no possibility to directly select and change the summarized settings displayed on the screen. Such a form of ” access” is offered by the Alpha 700 under the name “Quick Navi”, so that one must assume that the A200 was deliberately trimmed here. While you can only shake your head over something like this, it’s more understandable that the A200 doesn’t have an HDMI interface like its big sister and its normal video output doesn’t have its own plug. By the way, you have to look for the Video-Out/USB2.0 combo-plug behind the flap for the memory card compartment (with a slot for CompactFlash cards); where you would expect the two connections (namely on the other camera side behind the rubber cover), you’ll only find the remote release connection and the mains input. Thanks to separate compartments, memory cards (and all Duo-type memory sticks via the AD-MSCF1 adapter) and lithium-ion batteries can be changed separately. The two compartments are also the only entrances with real hinged access lids/doors. Due to the sufficient distance between the battery compartment and the tripod thread, a battery change is also possible by using a permanently mounted tripod quick-release plate; the tripod thread is made of abrasion- as also break-proof metal and is exactly right in the optical axis.

Equipment And Features

Sony has already thought of the fact that the shift mechanism can also be wonderfully misused to shake off dust deposits on the antistatically coated surface of the sensor by simply increasing the frequency (the sensor is then jerked to the stop). At first, this sounds as simple as it is brilliant, but the online magazine Pixinfo as well as the French photo magazine Chasseur d’Images once came to the sobering conclusion that the A100 couldn’t get rid of the dust that way very effectively, if at all. However, if this second function of the sensor shift mechanism has not been secretly improved on the A200, it must be assumed that the system has been adopted unchanged from the A100. And that means that you have to “clean” the image sensor by hand every now and then with “cleaning accessories” from the specialized trade (sensor swabs or similar).

The eye sensor in the Alpha cameras also fulfils two functions. Thus, in this test, we explained at the beginning how it is used to switch the camera screen on and off. Some of the competitor’s cameras can do this in the meantime. What they cannot do, however, is to use the eye sensor in addition to activating exposure metering and automatic focusing. This is a former (Konica-)Minolta and current Sony specialty, known as the Eye-Start System, which helps to gain a few – sometimes decisive – milliseconds through this “preliminary work”. In the past, the Eye-Start system worked in combination with a grip sensor, so that it was guaranteed that you were holding the camera in your hand, but apart from the fact that the metal for the contact sensor is supposed to be on an EU banned list according to Sony, the A200 itself does without a grip sensor anyway. The eye sensor can at least be switched off at the Eye-Start in the camera menu if you don’t like it.

The rail system of the hot shoe on the top of the camera is unmistakable. While other manufacturers have ISO-518 standards and only the TTL contacts (in number and arrangement) differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, Sony DSLRs feature the manufacturer-specific hot shoe with quick release system once designed by Minolta. This allows a much faster mounting and dismounting of external flashes than with the usual thumbscrew lock, but try to mount a studio flash adapter, an old automatic flash or a level on the flash shoe of the Alphas… Apart from this limitation, you will benefit from a flash system that leaves nothing to be desired. One can choose between two flash exposure metering methods (ADI and TTL pre-flash metering), can flash wirelessly in TTL mode with one or more flash units (also in several groups on different channels and with light intensity distribution), can overcome the technically imposed shutter speed limit of 1/160 s for flash photography in the high-speed sync mode (HSS) with slightly reduced flash power/range, etc. The A200’s built-in miniature flash pops up either automatically (in full-auto program and most subject programs) or at the touch of a button at the express wish of the user (in all other exposure modes). It produces a largely color-neutral and uniform light, exposes in a very balanced way (= harmonious relationship between flash and ambient light) and causes neither red eyes nor drop shadows or mercilessly overflashed parts of the picture when taking close-ups (at least not all to a relevant degree). With wireless TTL flash control, it can even command other flash units. Here the A200 lays a virtually error-free course.

With the A200, a quick recall of the flash settings (including Long-term synchronization and wireless control), the exposure metering mode settings, the autofocus mode settings (single AF, focus tracking, or auto switching between the two), the autofocus-area metering mode settings (autofocus area selection, spot AF, manual measuring field selection), the white balance settings (automatic, 6 presets with the possibility of fine correction, color temperature/color filter value input, manual white balance) as well as the settings for the “dynamic range optimization” (which we will come back to shortly) can be made with the Fn key. The continuous-advance mode (see metering chart/exposure table), the bracketing function (for white balance or exposure), and the self-timer function (lead time: 2 or 10 s) share one button; all other functions relevant to shooting, such as exposure compensation, AEL, and light-sensitivity setting, are even dedicated to individual buttons. The A200 also offers a number of playback functions such as a magnifying glass and image rotation function, although we would like to add a cropping function (also known as a crop function) and a function for automatic red-eye detection and retouching to the wish list for the successor model. The camera menus contain the image parameter sets, a time/date stamp, flash exposure correction, noise reduction settings, a pixel mapping function and much more.


Like most entry-level DSLRs, the A200 is also sold in various kits. Both the small kit (DSLR-A200K) and the so-called double zoom or twin lens kit (DSLR-A200W) come with the DT 18-70 mm F3.5-5.6. This set lens with the product code SAL-1870 is slightly more zoomable than its competitors’ counterparts. Their focal length usually ranges from 18 to 55 millimetres – which corresponds to the 28-80mm zooms from analogue times. The SAL-1870, on the other hand, zooms from 18 to 70 millimetres, and after conversion to 35mm ratios this gives the equivalent of a 28-105mm zoom. And all this with a luminous intensity from F3.5 (WW) to F5.6 (T) that is typical for the class.

For cost reasons, the set lenses of most brands are built almost entirely of plastic, and the SAL-1870 is no exception. From the 55mm filter thread in the front to the lens bayonet in the back, almost everything is made of “plastic”. Due to the low weight (approx. 235 g) and volume of the (Ø 66 x 77 mm) small zoom, you have less to worry about that the bayonet will break off under the weight of the lens at some point than that the plastic used will not withstand the abrasion caused by frequent lens changes or the impact energy when the camera is accidentally dropped.

The generously dimensioned manual zoom ring of the SAL-1870 doesn’t really make up for the fact that the focusing ring is so narrow and so badly positioned (directly on the bayonet for the sun visor) that even with a lot of dexterity you can barely grasp it. So you turn the sun visor or, completely unnerved, do without manual focusing. Fortunately, the A200’s autofocus is quite fast and precise, so manual focusing is rarely necessary. According to Sony, its new Alpha models have been equipped with a higher-torque in-camera focus motor. This means that even when using lenses with conventional drives (also called “rod AF” in forum jargon) like the SAL-1870, the autofocus is “really on its toes”. As hyper-nervous as he is, the autofocus makes the noise of the drive remind you of a cordless screwdriver at speed. The so-called ultrasonic objectives offer more discretion with even faster focusing. Such lenses can be found both at Sony (mainly at the optics of the Zeiss and G series) and at third-party suppliers Sigma (HSM lenses). Sony has been expanding its stock of SSM lenses (stands for “Super-Sonic Motor”) intensively lately. First reasonably priced SSM lenses like the 70-300 mm F4.5-5.6 G SSM indicate that SSM technology is slowly making inroads into the lower price range.

One cannot speak of a lack of lenses with regard to the Alpha System in general. After all, the Alpha system is based on the cameras of the former competitor (Konica) Minolta, which was taken over by Sony. Thanks to the same bayonet you can connect almost all Minolta autofocus lenses and compatible third party products to the A200 & Co. There are practically no functional restrictions or even incompatibilities – at least not from a connection technology point of view. Sony resells many of these lenses under its own name, including such extraordinary designs as the SAL-500F80 autofocus mirror tele lens and the SAL-135F28 trans/soft focus lens. On the second hand market you can find further “specials” like Minolta’s AF-Macro-Zoom 3x-1x/1,7-2,8, which of course also find connection to the Alphas. Because these “analog” lenses, so to speak, do not always manage to fully maintain their original imaging performance in a digital environment, even Sony cannot avoid renewing the range of lenses inherited from (Konica) Minolta or replacing the old lenses with “digitally optimized” versions. In any case, Sony has diligently released new lenses in the past months and years and regularly shows the prototypes of future Alpha lenses at trade shows.

One more word about autofocus: the number and arrangement of the AF points (eight simple line sensors, some of which are at an angle, plus a central cross sensor) remains unchanged, and autofocus continues to work even in relatively low light (IL 0). This has been the case since the Alpha 100 – and even earlier – and there is no real need to give the Alpha cameras a new autofocus module. Unless, of course, Sony wants to compete with the competition to see who offers the cameras with the most AF points. However, Sony seems to be acting reasonably, and instead of doing so, they preferred to partially rewrite the autofocus system’s control software. This way the focus tracking should work even better now. Sony generally talks about autofocus being up to 1.7 times faster than the last alpha generation, and when focusing on moving subjects, the autofocus actually keeps up loosely with the frame rate of 2.5 frames per second in continuous mode.

The A200’s long list of similarities with the A350 includes the Super SteadyShot system. To compensate for undesired jittering movements, which are noticeable in the images as more or less strong blurring, the image sensor, which is enclosed in a special frame, is moved up and down and sideways to and fro on its movable “chassis” by two piezoceramic “sliders”. And exactly with the same frequency as the tremors – only in the opposite direction. How such a sensor shift system works in detail can be read in our review of the Alpha 100 (follow the links). It should only be said that according to Sony, it should be possible to gain approximately 2.5 to 3.5 f-stops in shake-resistance with the A200 and that the main advantage of camera-side image stabilization is the function with any connected lens. Unlike optical image stabilizers, however, the viewfinder image is not stabilized at the same time – you have to pay attention to the camera-shake warning symbol and the level indicator in the lower LCD bar of the viewfinder.

Image quality

Sony’s new Alphas come in different “flavors”: with 14.2 megapixel CCD and LiveView (A350), with 10.2 megapixel CCD and LiveView (A300) and finally with 10.2 megapixel CCD and without LiveView (the A200 tested here). Having seen that the SAL-1870 was somewhat “overtaxed” by the 14.2 megapixel sensor of the A350, it is now pleased to report that the 10.2 megapixel sensor of the A200 does the lens better. Although the A200 with the SAL-1870 achieves better resolution values than the A350 with the same lens, even at open aperture, and the marginal drop in resolution is not as pronounced at 18mm position, the resolution values remain modest. Also, the lower sensor resolution does not improve the distortion and vignetting values; especially at the wide-angle end, the lens causes a strong barrel curvature of straight lines and a steeply decreasing image brightness towards the edges (which remains visible even after stopping down). However, lower resolution means that for the same sensor area, the individual pixels are larger, and so the A200 is, as expected (thanks in part to the powerful support of the BIONZ processor and its excellent noise reduction algorithms) still a little bit less noisy than the A350. As with this one, the noise behaviour is good to very good from ISO 100 to 800, and if the so-called high-ISO noise reduction is additionally applied at ISO 1.600, it even shows excellent low noise values with even slightly better protection of the fine image details. Similar to the A350, the A200 is also good in terms of input dynamics (9.0 f-stops at ISO 100). By the way, switching on the DRO function doesn’t really improve the input dynamics, but the targeted underexposure (which is then compensated by manipulating the tone curve) quite effectively prevents the highlights from eroding.

The fact that the optical low-pass filter of the A200 is not designed to be as aggressive as on the A350 is explained by the fact that it does not need to be, due to the lower sensor resolution. The poor resolution performance of the SAL-1870 set lens (which partly dampens artifact formation) and the less aggressively tuned electronic processing of fine image details do the rest, and so the A200 deserves a better artifact score than the A350. In general, the A200 in combination with the SAL-1870 is somewhat better suited than its sister for reproduction purposes (including technical documentation with a high level of detail) and for post-production image editing, but on the other hand it remains tuned like an entry-level camera, especially in terms of tonal reproduction, and delivers ready-to-use images with a not absolutely neutral, but pleasing character.

But there are still a few (small) points of criticism. When adjusting the image quality, JPEG compression in fine mode may be a little less strong in some cases (especially at 10 and 5.6 megapixels). And like so many digital cameras from different manufacturers (and this is also true for sinfully expensive professional models in some cases), it does not really succeed in producing largely color cast free images under incandescent light during automatic white balance. You can get rid of a good portion of the red-orange stitch by selecting the appropriate preset, but the best results are obtained with a manual white balance. Otherwise, the A200 measures very precisely. This is also the case, for example, with exposure metering. The exposure is very rarely off, and only the exposure metering systems from Canon and Nikon (3D color matrix metering, iTTL or E-TTL flash metering, etc.) can beat that from Sony (and by no means normally). Whether the distance-related ADI (Advanced Distance Integration) measurement or the TTL pre-flash measurement is to be preferred when using flash cannot be answered categorically; the different opinions on this are as controversial as they are subjective. When shooting without flash, the decision is easier: The honeycomb metering (with 40 honeycomb metering fields on the A200 and its sisters) has long since proven its worth and thus perfectly complements the center-weighted integral metering and spot metering.


Those who can do without a picture preview based on the compact camera model and are satisfied with “only” 10.2 megapixels will get with the Sony Alpha 200 an inexpensive entry-level model with a processing quality that is usual in the class, quite good picture quality as well as all the trimmings that are needed for the first steps in the world of digital SLR photography. Compared to its live-image-capable sisters, the Alpha 200 even offers a slightly higher viewfinder comfort; furthermore, at least in the Alpha 200 model we tested, the pressure point of the control keypad or the navigation keys was not as “spongy” as in the more expensive Alpha 350. The Alpha 200 can be bought cheaply in a set with matching Sony lenses, but a more individual composition may be the better choice not only in terms of the focal length range you’re looking for but also possibly in terms of the imaging performance offered.

Brief assessment


  • No frame rate limit in JPEG continuous advance mode
  • Complete, well thought-out flash system
  • Good viewfinder comfort, very bright / clear viewfinder image
  • Improved noise behavior (compared to the previous generation)


  • Set lens overstrained in terms of performance
  • No Quick-Navi function (as with the Alpha 700)
  • No dimmer button / option
  • Really good hand position only with optional hand / battery handle

Sony Alpha 200 Datasheet


Sensor CCD sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)10.8 megapixels (physical) and 10.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 6,0 µm
Photo resolution
3.872 x 2.592 pixels (3:2)
2.896 x 1.936 pixels (3:2)
1.920 x 1.280 pixels (3:2)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth
Metadata Exif (version 2.2), DCF standard


Lens mount
Sony AF


Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 9 sensors
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder Mirror reflex viewfinder (prism viewfinder) (95 % image coverage), dioptre compensation (-2.5 to +1.0 dpt), replaceable focusing screens
Monitor 2.7″ TFT LCD monitor with 230,000 pixels


Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (Automatic
) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, step size from 0.3 to 0.7 EV
Exposure Compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 3,200 (manual)
Scene modes Landscape, Macro, Night Portrait, Portrait, Sunset, and Sports/Action
White balance Clouds, sun, shade, fluorescent lamp, incandescent lamp, manual
Color space Adobe RGB
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 3.0 fps at highest resolution and max. 6 stored photos
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)


Flash built-in flash (flip-up
) Hot shoe: Sony Alpha (also Minolta)
Flash code Guide number 12 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-in flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, red-eye reduction

Equipment And Features

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
CF (Type II)
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Sony NP-FM500H (Lithium Ion (Li-Ion), 1,650 mAh
)750 images according to CIPA standard
Playback functions Image index
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast, noise reduction
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous optical image stabilizer (CCD shift) with 2.3-3.5 light values CorrectionSensor
Cleaning function and antistatic coatingFlash sync speed
1/160sWhite balance bracketing
Hi or Lo stepsContrast
, saturation, sharpness and brightness can be changed (-3 to 3)
Zone matching (-1 to 2)
Dynamic Range OptimizerNoise reduction
from ISO 1600AF
Sensitivity -1 to 18 EV

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 131 x 98 x 71 mm
Weight 592 g (ready for operation)


standard accessory Sony NP-FM500H Special Battery ChargerVideo Connection CableUSB Connection CableStrapBeltImage Editing Software

Sony Software Package for Windows (XP/or higher) and for Macintosh (System X/or higher)

additional accessories Sony HVL-MT24AM Macro FlashSony
NP-FM500H Special Battery Power Supply


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