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Sony announces three new Alpha digital SLRs

Alpha A850, A550 and A500 to launch this autumn

Sony Alpha A550

Sony Alpha A550

Sony has today announced three new digital SLR cameras: the high-end Alpha A850, the Alpha A500 and the Alpha A550. The latter two models are scheduled to become available in October, while the 24.6Mp A850 is expected to launch in November.

High dynamic range imaging without a tripod

The 12.3Mp A500 and the 14.2Mp A550 both feature Sony’s new Auto HDR technology. HDR (High Dynamic Range) images show detail in both shadow and highlights.

Photo editing software is often required to create such an image, by layering two or more shots taken with different exposure settings over the top of each other – a technique that usually requires a tripod.

Sony claims that the newly announced A500 and A550 can take two successive shots and then automatically layer them and correct any misalignment caused due to the camera being handheld.

Ambient light sensor

The A500 and the A550 both feature three-inch tiltable LCD screens, and the A550 also features an ambient light detector, similar to those found on modern TVs, which adjusts the brightness of the screen to best suit the ambient light conditions.

The sharpness of the focus can be checked by using Sony’s new Manual Focus Check Live View mode, and a detail of the shot can be enlarged by a magnitude of seven or 14 times for fine tuning and sharp-focus confirmation.

Both models feature Sony’s Smile Shutter technology, but the two differ slightly in terms of speed. According to Sony, both DSLRs can shoot up to 4fps (frames per second) using Live View, or up to 5fps using the optical viewfinder. The A550, however, also features a Speed Priority mode, that allows images to be captured at a rate of up to 7fps.

Full-frame Sony Alpha A850

At the heavyweight end of the DSLR spectrum is the Sony Alpha A850: a full-frame model aimed at those looking for professional quality photographs and the complete ensemble of manual control. Full-frame digital SLRs have significantly larger image sensors than other digital SLRs and, in crude terms, it’s the size of the sensor that enables them to take superior shots.

Richard Parris, Which? digital camera expert, said: ‘The breadth of Sony’s digital SLR range means that both beginners and experts can find a model designed to help them get the most out of digital photography. We look forward to putting some of the new models through their paces in our expert testing to see if the they can deliver on the promise of their specifications’.

For help choosing the best digital SLR, check out our in-depth, lab-based digital SLR reviews.

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