As for photo quality, the A700 fares quite well. Metering, exposure, contrast and saturation look excellent under a variety of lighting conditions, and the photos exhibit a broad tonal range. Automatic white balance generally works well, though photos render a bit too warm under strong incandescent or fluorescent lights, and like many cameras, the A700's auto white balance doesn't deal well with mixed light sources such as shots taken under fluorescents near a window.
Under daylight, balance is extremely good, however. Image sharpness depends upon the lens, and the 18mm-to-70mm kit lens we tested with proved decent, though not outstanding.
The A700 incorporates Sony's latest 12-megapixel CMOS chip. Unlike most other sensors, this new model performs its analog-to-digital conversion on-chip, rather than in the imaging pipeline, a practice which Sony claims delivers better control over image noise. Though we can't confirm or deny that this is a better technology, the A700's noise profile is quite good.
It does an excellent job maintaining colour and exposure consistency across all the ISO sensitivity settings, and photos are quite usable up to and including ISO 3,200. Beyond that, as with similar cameras in this class, colour speckles and smeary details begin to crop up.
All in all, we're very impressed by the Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 as an all-around midrange digital SLR. Though more expensive than the Canon EOS 40D, the built-in image stabiliser and higher resolution are worth the extra money, unless you really need the little extra oomph in continuous-shooting performance that the 40D delivers.
Of course, it remains to be seen how the forthcoming yet pricier Nikon D300 will stack up relative to the A700. If you want to buy now, however, the A700 is a great choice.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday