Minlota film and digital camera SLR lenses, other digital SLRs

Week of September 24, 2006

Q: I have several Minolta cameras the latest of which is the XE-7. My favorite was my very first, the SRT 101.

The time has come to move to digital. My lenses are MC Rokkors. Other than being non- auto focus, would they be appropriate for the Sony Alpha-1? I also have a Minolta Auto Electro Flash Macro 80XP set. Would this function automatically with the Sony?

-Bruce Blumenfeld, Pittsburgh, PA

A: For those of you curious as to why the question regards Minolta lenses and a Sony digital camera, Konica Minolta recently left the camera business. It’s a sad event, given Minolta’s many years of producing excellent, innovative cameras. Sony purchased the interchangeable lens digital SLR assets from Minolta and is producing cameras using Minolta’s lens mount while adding some innovative Sony technology.

The Minolta autofocus mount is not backwards compatible with older manual focus lenses. Nor is the flash. In fact, a few years ago Minolta changed to a new, non-standard show design which has two separate sets of rails, vs. the single shoe system used by most cameras. You will be starting over with all new lenses and flash units.

Since you are starting over, I recommend checking other systems out as well. Now is an excellent time for anyone to buy a digital SLR, particularly if you have $1,000 for the basic kit of camera and a starter lens.

Your question mentioned the Sony Alpha-1, which has 10 megapixels and an internal, CCD-based image stabilization system for $999 including the 18-70mm kit lens. Though I have not tested one, test reports are positive and it seems to be an excellent buy.

Canon’s new Digital Rebel XTi features a 10 megapixel sensor using their CMOS technology, a different kind of sensor than the CCD used in most other cameras. The CMOS gives you more pictures per battery charge and is particularly good in low-light photography. The XTi also features a dust removal system, a feature long missing from Canon’s excellent SLRs. The Digital Rebel XTi is all but certain to feature Canon’s excellent image quality and fast shooting speed, as well as access to their wide variety of excellent pro lenses. The drawback to the Digital Rebel series has been the small size, small viewfinder and lightweight construction that does not impress when you hold it in your hand. There is no arguing with the image quality, though! The Digital Rebel XTi sells for $899 with the Canon 18-55mm kit lens.

Rounding out my suggestions is Pentax’s new K10D, and I am inclined to believe this camera is going to dominate this class of $1,000 digital SLRs. It has a 10 megapixel sensor with an even more effective version of the Pentax Shake Reduction system I have lauded in prior columns, as well as automatic dust removal. The K10D also has a heavy-duty construction with weather sealing, something rarely seen in a camera of this class,and has a big, beautiful screen that looks much nicer than that of the Sony Alpha. The K10D very noticeably out-specifies the Canon 30D and Nikon D200, critically acclaimed cameras which cost considerably more. The K10D sells for $999 with the Pentax 18-55mm lens.

Don’t forget, everyone… a lot of this is personal preference, go to the store and handle these cameras before you buy! Though technical differences exist, you, the photographer are more important than the camera you choose.

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