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A700 in depth FAQ, read first! - Updated Nov. 11th

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Shaocaholica Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: A700 in depth FAQ, read first! - Updated Nov. 11th
    Posted: 01 October 2007 at 02:50

***This post is pinned and I'll try my best to keep it updated. Also, if any mod wants to update it thats fine by me too***

-Oct 29th: ACR Camera Calibration Values
-Nov 11th: Expanded High ISO Noise section


This is a FAQ for current and potential A700 owners compiled from various threads here on Dyxum and on other forums. Hopefully, it will answer many common questions without having to search the forums/web. If you have a correction to any of the content or wish to add something to the FAQ, please post it in this thread and any references and I will integrate it into the FAQ.



A700 General Specs:
Body: Magnesium Alloy chassis, high grade plastic exterior
Weight: 768g/1.7lb With Battery, 690g/1.5lb No Battery
Sensor: APS-C (1.5x Crop) CMOS 'Sony Exmor' bayer RGB type 4288x2856(12MP)
Image Stabilization: In body sensor shift 'Super Steady Shot' claimed 2.54 stops
Anti-Dust: Anti-Static coatings & Sensor shake (on power-off and manual cleaning mode)
LCD: 3" 640x480 VGA type (920,000 pixels)
Autofocus: 11 points, 10 lines with dual cross center
AF Assist: Dedicated red lamp
Shutter Speed: 30 - 1/8000 + BULB
Viewfinder: 95% Coverage, 0.9x Magnification, glass pentaprism

FAQ:

Q: Why are my jpegs so soft?
A: There is a known issue with the current A700 firmware jpeg engine that produces soft jpegs at the "standard" level.

Workaround A: Many have found that adding +2 to to shaprness and sometimes +1 to contrast produces ready to print jpgs. This is true for both Fine and X.Fine jpegs. This will produce sharp jpegs but at a cost of sizes very close to cRAW (~12mb).
Workaround B: Shoot in either cRAW or RAW. You will need to use a RAW converter such as Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop CS3, or Sony's Data Converter.

To read more about this issue, please read this Imaging-Resource A700 Article(section: RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs)



Q: Why are high ISO (1600-6400) look so bad in Photoshop CS3/Lightroom 1.2? ("watercolors")
A: There is a known issue Adobe's RAW converter used in both CS3 and LR1.2 that is either reading the RAW image data wrong or applying noise reduction inappropriately at these high ISO levels.

Solution 1: Use the Sony Image Data Converter(IDC) for these high ISO shots.

Solution 2: Overwrite the EXIF data on your RAW files to read ISO-100 instead of whatever high ISO is already there tricking ACR to not apply its heavy handed smoothing.

ACR 4.3 Should have this fixed as per some rumors but its not confirmed

In addition, Sony is also employing NR to RAW/JPEG files that cannot be turned off. This NR isn't as bad as the problem in Adobe ACR but it compounds it. Viewing at 1:1 magnification, the Sony NR can appears as "blotchiness" which, although doesn't kill fine detail, does create a noise pattern that is less appealing compared to the D300 which has a very similar sensor but also has the option to turn off all additional in-camera NR.



Q: I don't like the colors my A700 is producing/Can I get my A700 colors to look more natural/Can I get my A700 colors to look more like my 7D?
A: All cameras have their own color response which deviates from "true" color rendition. Some cameras are better than others without any compensation in post. One way to compensate for your camera's colors is to create a camera profile for Adobe ACR/LR (RAW only). To do this, you will need a color checker card and a utility called ACR Calibrator. Fortunately, I've already done this and others have reported good results with my values even though they are specific to my A700, they should also work for yours assuming the differences are minor.

Solution:
Plug these values into Adobe ACR or Adobe Lightroom Camera Calibration Section. Use for white balance settings of 5000-5500 only. Definitely not for tungsten lighting.
Shadow Tint: 0
Red Hue: -25
Red Saturation: +40
Green Hue: -30
Green Saturation: -20
Blue Hue: +11
Blue Saturation: -4

For more information about this topic, please see this thread.



Q: Whats the difference between cRAW and RAW on the A700?
A: cRAW stands for "compressed RAW", however, it is not known as of yet whether the compression is lossy or lossless. Sony states that cRAW files are 30% smaller than RAW files which is correct according to tests showing cRAW files at ~12mb and RAW files at ~18mb.

Interesting Note: Exporting a A700 RAW file(~18mb) into lossless DNG format yields a file 30% smaller at ~12mb.



Q: The top plate buttons for WB, ISO, Drive, Exposure comp. all go to some stupid dedicated selection screen! Is there anyway I can get them to function as a hold-down and adjust via the front/rear dials which would be much faster?
A: Yes you can! By default the A700 is set so that those buttons go to dedicated screens requiring an additional button press to complete a setting change and is somewhat a watered down user interaction for a seasoned photog.

To change this from the default, go into the 2nd page of the "custom" menu and change "Button ops." to "Quick Navi"




Q: Why do all my photos look soft when previewing at 7.4-13x magnification on the camera's LCD?
A: Because the A700's LCD has such a high resolution(640x480), viewing a photo at 1:1 pixel ratio is equivalent to a magnification of 6.7x. Anything above 6.7x and you will be magnifying the pixels beyond 1:1 thus always creating a softer image regardless of how sharp the image is.

*6.7x is 1:1 because 4288(sensor horizontal resolution) / 640(LCD horizontal resolution) = 6.7



Q: How fast of a Compact Flash card will I need for the A700? Does the A700 support UDMA CF cards?
A: The A700 does support UDMA as confirmed by fellow member alex904. To find out what speed CF card will work best for your needs, follow these formulas:

(file size) x (fps) = Write speed

For example:
-RAW at 5fps: 18mb x 5fps = 90mb/s (No CF card can handle this speed, get the fastest with UDMA)
-cRAW at 5fps: 12mb x 5fps = 60mb/s (No CF card can handle this speed, get the fastest with UDMA)
-cRAW at 3fps: 12mb x 3fps = 36mb/s (You will need either a 233x or 266x CF card preferably with UDMA)




Q: How do I perform a manual "deep" cleaning of my A700 sensor?
A: Like the A100, the A700 will "shake" its sensor every time you turn the power off, however, there is another sensor cleaning feature that will "deep" clean the sensor but you can only activate this manually in the menu. In addition to performing an extended and more vigorous "shaking" of the sensor, it will also leave the mirror up and shutter open so you can use other tools such as a blower to remove stubborn dust.

To do this, simply go to the 3rd page of the "setup" menu and select "Cleaning mode"




Q: Why can't I use the original A100 battery (NP-FM55H) in the A700?
A: The original A100 battery (NP-FM55H) physically will not fit in the A700 because it lacks a channel/groove down the middle. Also, the older NP-FM55H is debatable whether is is a "Infolithium" type battery or not* and the new NP-FM500H definitely is. Infolithium batteries have a circuit inside that can communicate with the host device data which the device usually cannot get with a dedicated circuit in the battery. This is why the A700 can give a % readout of the battery life remaining.

*The NP-FM55H does not have a big "InfoLithium" badge printed on it but it does have a very small sticker on the back with "InfoLithium" printed on it and is also mentioned on the website which could very well be mis-marketing. The sticker may just be a standard sticker and it might not have been feasible to reprint this sticker just for the sake of a single battery.



Q: I'm having a hard time getting accurate focus for macro and low light work, whats going on?
A: Although every camera system will have trouble in those situations, there is no absolute "fix" for these problems but you can try turning the auto-focus speed down which is supposed to increase focus accuracy. Even though the mode is called "slow", its not really that slow and is comparable to the A100.

Simply go to the first page of the "custom" menu and set "AF drive speed" from "Fast" to "Slow"




Q: I did not purchase my A700 from Sony directly, can I still get the (cheaper) Sony Extended Warranty?
A: Yes you can. This is what the US Sony website says:

"If you purchased your new digital camera within the last 60 days and did not purchase a Service Plan, call us today at 877-865-SONY to learn about your options."

$69.99   - 2 Year Service Plan
$119.99 - 2 Year Service Plan with Accidental Damage from Handling
$129.99 - 3 Year Service Plan
$159.99 - 4 Year Service Plan
$169.99 - 3 Year Service Plan with Accidental Damage from Handling
$239.99 - 4 Year Service Plan with Accidental Damage from Handling

Basically you can buy an extended warranty from Sony within 60 days of your purchase no matter where you bought it. Link to more information at Sonystyle.com



Q: How do I get my 15% off accessories coupon from Sony?
A: If you register your A700 with Sony (even if you bought it somewhere else), you will get a 15% coupon towards a lot of A700 accessories including batteries and the vertical grip.

-Go to: productregistration.sony.com
-ENABLE pop-ups for the sony site
-Enter in your information (Apparently you get a coupon even if you don't enter the serial number)
-Submit and you will get the coupon in a pop-up (lame. If the popup gets blocked, you can enable pop-ups and hit back, that might get it to come back)



Q: Is there a copy of the A700 manual I can read online?
A: Yes, you can download a copy of the english manual directly from Sony

Edited by Shaocaholica - 12 November 2007 at 03:54
 



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brettania View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote brettania Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2007 at 03:02

Thanks for this.

We are looking at developing an even more comprehensive coverage of the a700's performance, and this will complement that if it materialises.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote phazemstr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2007 at 07:54
I was just in the sonystyle store in San Diego, and I had every single Sony rep there tell me that cRaw is lossless. I also got 100% confirmation that I can purchase the a700 through Ritz online to avoid tax and bring it into the store to get the full warranty through them. Just has to be within 30 days of purchase.

Long story short, I ordered it and am anxiously awaiting. It made the tokina 100-300 f/4 fast enough to track people running outside and walking towards me. I'm very impressed, and after a few minutes I had no trouble at all using the controls. Hint, the top buttons aren't all meant to be used with your index finger... only one is.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sanjuro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2007 at 08:14
Thanks a lot, can i ask somenthing here then?

If you take a RAW and cRAW and convert them to tiff with Sony SW or Lightroom, what file size do you get?
Both the same?
cRAW smaller, then there is a loss of data.
Rgds
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Post Options Post Options   Quote infrastellar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2007 at 08:14
Thank you a lot. Were answered exactly my questions.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Girello Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2007 at 08:33
Very interesting, thank you very much!!

Just one question:

Originally posted by Shaocaholica Shaocaholica wrote:

Workaround A: Set your jpeg level to x.fine and set sharpness to +3. This will produce sharp jpegs but at a cost of sizes very close to cRAW (~12mb).

What should be the average dimensions of the JPGs without this workaround? Thanks!

Ciao!!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote brettania Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2007 at 08:42
Originally posted by Sanjuro Sanjuro wrote:


If you take a RAW and cRAW and convert them to tiff with Sony SW or Lightroom, what file size do you get?
Both the same?
cRAW smaller, then there is a loss of data.


This could be a point for discussion as the cRAW may still be lossless when it "leaves the camera" in the same way the the camera's full RAW is lossless.

If you think about this sentence -- "Interesting Note: Exporting a A700 RAW file(~18mb) into lossless DNG format yields a file 30% smaller at ~12mb." -- then maybe you could argue that the RAW is lossy and the cRAW is not.

Edited by brettania - 01 October 2007 at 08:46
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Shaocaholica Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2007 at 09:09
Originally posted by Sanjuro Sanjuro wrote:

Thanks a lot, can i ask somenthing here then?

If you take a RAW and cRAW and convert them to tiff with Sony SW or Lightroom, what file size do you get?
Both the same?
cRAW smaller, then there is a loss of data.

Since the RAW and cRAW have the same image dimensions and pixel depth, converting them to TIFF will only generate files exactly the same size. Suffice it to say, there are no conclusive tests that can be done to determine whether it is lossy or lossless without getting official documentation or reading through the source code of the cRAW engine.

Edited by Shaocaholica - 01 October 2007 at 09:10
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Post Options Post Options   Quote madcat207 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 October 2007 at 23:16
Shaocaholica -
First, thank you for the guide. Because of it, you made my Quick-Navi even more useful (the hint about the dedicated buttons).

In regards to the cRAW - while i don't know the tech specs, i have not seen any reason to believe that there is any measurable quality loss in using it. Perhaps though, since toady is a rainy day, i will pull out my ISO test chart, and do a comprehensive test.....
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Post Options Post Options   Quote philgibson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2007 at 00:01
Thanks for the tip on the buttons to switch to quick nav.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Wordfreak Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2007 at 00:13
Originally posted by phazemstr phazemstr wrote:

It made the tokina 100-300 f/4 fast enough to track people running outside and walking towards me. I'm very impressed, and after a few minutes I had no trouble at all using the controls. Hint, the top buttons aren't all meant to be used with your index finger... only one is.


Good to know. I've got that same lens and I'm eager to try it out with some sports action photos soon.

Roger
Sony: A6000, a700, HVL-F56AM; Minolta: 28-75 2.8, 50mm 1.7 RS, 50mm 3.5 macro, 70-210 f4; Tokina: 100-300 f4 AT-X 340 AF-II; Carl Zeiss: 85mm 1.4, Touit 12mm 2.8, Touit 32mm 1.8; Sigma: 19mm 2.8
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Post Options Post Options   Quote chacha Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2007 at 04:27
Nice summary. One thing I would change. No one should be using acr 4.1 or .2 as their raw converter for the new cmos in the a700 or canon 40d. Above iso 1600 the new converter misinterprets image detail for noise and the softening effect creates smudge or watercolor. This would eliminate using Lightroom 1.2 or latest photoshop as your raw converter. Canon and Sony users are currently posting information at adobe in this regards. Also check the sony dslr forum at DPReview where the topic has received lots of attention lately. ChaCha
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Shaocaholica Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 October 2007 at 08:08
Originally posted by chacha chacha wrote:

Nice summary. One thing I would change. No one should be using acr 4.1 or .2 as their raw converter for the new cmos in the a700 or canon 40d. Above iso 1600 the new converter misinterprets image detail for noise and the softening effect creates smudge or watercolor. This would eliminate using Lightroom 1.2 or latest photoshop as your raw converter. Canon and Sony users are currently posting information at adobe in this regards. Also check the sony dslr forum at DPReview where the topic has received lots of attention lately. ChaCha


Thanks for the tip. I will do some reading and see how I can best present the issue without being biased or unreasonably harsh on either party.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote fogfire Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 October 2007 at 04:43
I would propose alternate wording for the first Answer.

"The default settings for A700 jpgs, like the 40D, appear to have less sharpening, possibply to allow for more post processing.

Many have found that adding +2 to to shaprness and sometimes +1 to contrast produces ready to print jpgs. This is true for both Fine and X.Fine jpgs.

You can also shoot raw and process them yourself."

Note: this has been hashed out on dpreview even Dave at IR has said his language was tough on the jpgs. He now calls them decent, and that seems to be without the extra sharpening.
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