I just recently, as in a a week ago, got an A850 because I wanted a DSLR to complement my Leica M9 for the occasions where I want reach. So I ordered the 850 with a 70-300G, figuring I'd check it out to see if it fits the bill. Here are some observations...
The 850 is a nice camera - very nice. Good dynamic range, weak AA filtration, good color. The raw files look great in Lightroom 3. Of course I saw the blue Zeiss logo and promptly entered the trance like state where I'm preprogrammed to push the 'buy' button... and here I am.
The Sony pro grade lens lineup is thin, very thin. I wouldn't want it as a main system for this reason. But it's a perfect complement to something else, for when a 35mm DSLR is the right tool.
I prompt turned off AF on the shutter button and relocated it to the AF/MF button on the back and set AF to center spot mode. Perfect.
I set the AEL button to spot reading, toggle. Unfortunately, it (as the name actually suggests) locks the exposure, not the meter. I was hoping to be able to use it to take a reading, then in M mode adjust exposure relative to this. But no... it locks exposure even in M mode!
The camera is overall great. But if Sony wants to market it to pros and serious shooters as a main system they need to invest in lenses, not more EVF gizmos and $100 Krapotar kit lenses with 5-5000mm range. The A850 (and A900 I presume) is a fine tool and perfectly marketable to that end. The next feature step up would be a more serious AF system akin to Canon's 45pt.
The 70-300G is an absolute steal. It's about as good as modern zooms get without straying into Leica/Zeiss territory. Compact, lightweight, CHEAP for what it offers. Impeccable bokeh - and I'm talking Leica Summicron 75 grade bokeh here. A little soft around the edges, and a slight contrast drop at the extreme end. Slow (f/5.6 most of the range) but moderately fast (AF). Great for people and PJ type work where there's typically little at the extreme edges, not so great for landscape or technical work, but perhaps serviceable if it's the only lens on hand. I think of it as a 70-240 with a little extra reach in a pinch.
The $5 Fotodiox M42 adapters work fine, though v2 of the firmware is needed to trip the shutter. There is no focus confirmation without chipping.
The battery charger sucks. :bang: 3-4 hours for a single cell? If I actually expected to use this camera a lot I'd get the Sony dual quick charger.
The vertical grip is... well... freaking huge. Not sure if I want to keep it. If your hands are punier than those of the Tibetan Yeti I'd say forget it.
I've grown very fond of the eye sensor and shutting off the rear LCD when I'm using the viewfinder. Never really thought much about it, but having the previews not flicker on the rear LCD is like turning off distracting music or chatter. Excellent feature! Ought to save a bit of battery, too.
Sony doesn't charge an arm and a leg for simple accessories. ~$40 for a battery is reasonable. $3.95 for a rear lens cap is LESS than the "generic brand" at B&H! About $10 for an OEM lens cap. Nickle and diming your customers has always struck me as really lame. Kudos!
It comes with an okay strap, but I'd get an UpStrap for it if I didn't already have another old favorite on hand.
The ZA 24-70 is a good lens. The extreme corners are soft at the 24 end and never clean up no matter how far it's stopped down. It's almost like they're vignetting or diffracting against an internal baffle or something. Just the tiniest amount of zoom (or crop) pushes this out of the frame. It's not noticeable for people/PJ, but for technical use the lens is probably 25.5-70 or thereabouts. The rest of the image is wonderful even wide open, and from f/4 it's extremely good. And this is with a 24.6MP full frame body. I got it so in case something happens to my M9 I can slap this on the 850 and have a reasonable backup. It works for that purpose.
The A850 mirror has a very pronounced clap and sounds a lot like the Canon 1D/1Ds. Or Pentax 67II! But it doesn't seem to vibrate much so is well weighted - just like the Canons. It's just noise, and not too bad. Just reminds me I'm not holding a rangefinder. The drive/shutter cocking is quiet.
Between this and the Leica M9 I'll probably sell my Mamiya ZD back. One half of me wants to keep an eye out for a good deal on a P45+, but the more sane half keeps saying screw it - the M9 and A850 is really all I need.
I'll end my here lest you all :sleep006: or declare me .
Those are my opinions. Reasonable people may disagree.