Garden photos slideshow: Minolta DiMAGE A1

I ran across this group of garden photos taken with my Minolta DiMAGE A1. That camera had quite the story behind it, a testimony to good customer service.

Sometimes I miss that camera. My Sony Alpha A300 is wonderful, but I don’t have the lenses yet which would allow me to get some of the shots I used to get with my Minolta or my subsequent Fuji. Still, I love my Sony! They’re a terrific line of DSLR cameras.

The music is courtesy of the generous Kevin MacLeod. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your offering this caliber of music, free. You bring life to any project I do. I want to give you props! Thanks!

Kevin also has music for sale. Amazon has a nice selection of Kevin’s music available for instant download.

The Sony DSLR-A300 is sweet!

Well, I got the camera!

I may not get around to writing a truly in-depth review of it soon, not because I don’t have anything to say, but because I have so much to say about it. It is an amazing camera. Since it’s a DSLR, I can take pictures at high speeds with no noise. Even shots done at ISO 1600 are usable; coming from eight years of point-and-shoot digital cameras that produced speckled, grainy images at anything shot above ISO 100, this is a huge change for me. What a welcome change! Add to that the Super Steady Shot image stabilization, and it’s pure poetry.

The flash refreshes so quickly, I can shoot in burst mode and take a shot about every 1 1/2 seconds. Its ability to analyze backlit scenes and expose different parts of the frame individually is great. The flash is intelligent, not over-exposing the subject. Skin tones look natural, not bleached out. Its continuous focus works very well, too, letting me shoot multiple shots of moving subjects while keeping the subjects in focus. There are nine areas on the focusing grid, and one mode allows you to choose at which point in the grid you want to assign focus. This allows for great flexibility in composing shots.

The common functions you want to access like flash mode and light metering mode come right up on the screen with the push of the F button (Function). If you want to change the ISO, press the ISO button and the choices come up on the screen. Changing drive from single shot to burst mode is as easy as pushing the drive button on the camera and choosing from the options that come up on the screen. It is really nice to have these functions readily available instead of buried in a series of menu choices.

I recognize Minolta DNA in the Alpha and that makes it feel very familiar to me, intuitive. If you’ve used and liked Konica-Minolta DiMAGE cameras, especially, you will adapt quickly to these latest in the Alpha line. The lens quality is great, too — my images are crisp and bright, even when fully zoomed in. Some that I’ve even further cropped have still looked very sharp.

In a nutshell, it’s the first digital camera I’ve ever used that lets me get the shots I want, the ones I see in my mind. It’s the first time I have ZERO buyers remorse. Those who know me well realize how unusual it is for me to say things like this.

Shopping for a digital SLR

Sarah’s video doing so well in Mutt Madness has provided us with unexpected cash. I have to admit, I really liked Howie’s philosophy when we talked about what to do with the money and he said to me, “money you’ve earned with your camera you should use for cameras”.

For almost ten years I’ve been wanting a digital SLR, but they’ve always been so expensive. Now that they’ve come down in price so much and we suddenly find ourselves able to afford one, we figure it’s time.

Even if Sarah’s video doesn’t make champion, we will still be able to get a DSLR with the earnings plus the proceeds from our Fuji FinePix S9100, which our friend Mark is buying from us today. We’re hanging onto the Minolta DiMAGE A1 because it’s still an excellent camera with image stabilization and many advanced features.

Old DiMAGE-eo had some troubles, but when Sony assumed Konica-Minolta’s camera business, they treated Minolta customers well. Sony graciously repaired the faulty CCD under the recall, so our Minolta is once again a sound camera and good to have for Howie to use. I like using it, too, for many reasons.

Because we had a Canon Rebel G SLR in the past, I am familiar with using SLR cameras. The thing is, my various digital cameras’ image stabilization and LCDI’ve grown to love using an LCD to compose some shots, especially flexible LCD’s which pull out and tilt. With my shoulder issues, it’s not easy to get down on the ground like I used to, so that flexible LCD is something I see using more than ever. This narrowed my choices a lot, but Sony Alpha DSLR line immediately stood out to me.

The DSLR-A100, Sony’s first DSRL combining Sony and Minolta technologies, had issues. From what I’ve been reading, though, Sony’s had time to work on them and it seems the latest offerings are very good.

The DSLR-A700 is the most expensive in their system, with just the body putting you back over $1200 new. That’s too expensive for our budget, especially considering how much lenses will cost. There is the newly introduced DSLR-A200, Sony’s entry level DSLR. It lists for $699 and includes an 18-70mm lens. Though it does have Sony’s Super SteadyShot® image stabilization (say that three times fast!), it doesn’t offer the ability to compose with the LCD.

Sony’s released two more DSLR’s, identical except for the sensor size: The DSLR-A300 and the DSLR-A350. Both have Sony’s Super SteadyShot® and both boast Quick AF LiveView, which enables users to compose using the camera’s LCD. Not only that, the LCD can be pulled out and tilted like the Fuji and Minolta do. Score! The only difference between the two cameras is the A300 has a 10.2-megapixel sensor and the A350 is a 14.2-megapixel model. With one 18-70mm lens included, they list for $699 and $899 respectively.

Considering I do not generally do very big enlargements of my photos, 14.2 megapixels is overkill for me, especially when all other things are equal and I can save $200 on the camera. That’s $200 I can spend on an extra battery and a big CompactFlash card. There’s another advantage to my getting the A300 as opposed to its more expensive counterpart: It shoots more frames per second (3fps) than the A350 (2fps). To me, that’s a big deal as I shoot active dogs and kids, and that extra shot per second increases my chance of getting a great shot.

If we go with a Sony DSLR-A300, my next decision will be whether to stay with the A300K kit with just one lens, or get the two-lens A300X kit and have a 18-70mm standard zoom and a 55-200mm telephoto. The two-lens kit is $899. One of the managers at Cord Camera said the lenses that come with these Sony cameras are very good and I’ll get a better price on them as a kit than later buying them individually.

The only thing I don’t like about the Sony’s is their continued use of CompactFlash. I learned firsthand how easy it is to bend the pins in a CF slot when I accidentally put the card into my Fuji wrong. Thank goodness that camera has dual XD and CF slots, or I would have had a hefty repair bill to pay before I could use the camera! The Sony’s alternative to CF is Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro. What’s up with THAT, other than them wanting to continue in the flash memory business by selling proprietary consumables like that.

There’s a lot to consider, and I’m still reading up on Nikon, Olympus and Canon DSLR’s. The Sony models really stand out among the competition, though.