Sony's entry-level dSLR, the Alpha DSLR-A200, delivers a just-the-facts-ma'am shooting experience. For the most part, it provides the average design, basic feature set, modest performance and better-than-snapshot photo quality that typifies this market segment, and it's available for around £520.
The 10.2-megapixel A200 comes with a standard DT
At 532g, the A200 weighs more than most of its competitors, despite its plastic-clad body. It feels solid, though, and the rubberised grip has a deep indent for your finger that makes the camera comfortable to hold. If you plan to connect the camera directly to your computer rather than use a card reader -- which we don't recommend -- then avoid the A200.
For one, the USB connector is located inside the CF card compartment, which means you have to leave the door open while downloading, potentially allowing all sorts of schmutz to get on to the card-slot contacts, or providing a protrusion to hit and hurl the camera to the floor, if you're accident prone. More importantly, Sony uses a proprietary combo USB/AV connector on all its dSLRs, for no reason that we can see other than to force you to buy a cable from them if you lose the bundled one. Annoying.
Operating the A200 is straightforward. There are direct-access controls for ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation and drive/bracketing/self-timer modes, while flash, AF, white balance, AF area and D-RangeOptimiser settings are grouped under a screen pulled up by the Fn button. Unfortunately, unlike the previous DSLR-A700 model, you can't change setting options directly via the information display.
The A200 supports wireless flash, uncommon but not unique in this price class, and we actually like the bare-bones implementation. Rather than grafting pro multichannel support on the camera, which can be quite confusing to configure, it's basically binary: on or off.
The other features -- and their implementations -- are pretty typical for the camera's class, including sensor-shift image stabilisation and a 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD. Like most, but not all, of the cameras in this class, the A200 lacks live view shooting.