The Alpha a700 is the second digital SLR (single reflex lens) camera Sony has come out with and builds on the interest generated by last year’s Alpha a100. We had a chance to try it out earlier this week.

As with its predecessor, the Alpha a700 is a stylish-looking camera that offers a faster shutter speed than its predecessor and is likely to appeal to the semi-professionals and photo enthusiasts Sony is targeting with this model.

Using the Alpha a700 we found shooting with it was a straightforward affair and we were taken by its magnesium-alloy body which felt sturdy and rugged. The buttons and media card slots are also protected by weather-resistant silicon seals and the optional VG-C70AM vertical grip makes shooting with the 700 even more comfortable.

Sony has been successful in demonstrating that making the move to digital SLR cameras doesn’t have to be as complicated as many beginner photographers fear. For example, Sony has added a quick navigation function on this model that ensures you can easily find the best settings for the shot you want to take.

The menu is displayed clearly on the 3in screen and the joystick is used to move your way around and select options. The Xtra Fine screen also displays a high level of accuracy when reviewing images you have captured and features an anti-reflective coating for better visibility when viewing images outside.

Sony claims users can expect exceptional results from the new 12.24Mp (effective megapixel) Exmore CMOS sensor. This is designed for operate at high speed and to do so without introducing any visual noise into shots. Sony also says it has paid particular attention to both the clarity and richness of colour, using advanced signal processing techniques.

The Sony Alpha a700 has a maximum sensitivity of ISO 3200 and uses Sony’s Super SteadyShot to assist with image stabilisation and prevent blur. If it’s half as good at this as its predecessor, the Alpha a100, which we used during a high-speed Jeep rally back in May, the combination of these and the maximum shutter speed of 1/8,000 second should ensure some truly impressive fast-action shots.

As well as the full gamut of manual controls, Sony has upped the number of styles and scene presets on the Alpha a700. Among the 14 new image styles are ones listed as Vivid, Landscape and Deep – for those mean and moody moments, perhaps?

Something called a DRO (D-range Optimiser) apparently alters contrast and hue further to enhance exposure of backlit portraits and high contrast scenes.

Sony includes separate media card slots for Memory Stick or CompactFlash removable memory while output options include display on an HD-ready TV as the Alpha a700 has an HDMI output. Sony is, of course, geared up with a range of lens options for those who want to experiment in different conditions or introduce specific effects.

Images can also be browsed, enlarged, compared and rated through using the lightbox software included with the Sony Alpha a700. Sony includes a remote camera control application should you want to set up and execute a shot from your PC – useful when, say, the focus, shutter release and lighting conditions for a series of photos needs to be precisely replicated.

Sony’s own Image Data Converter SR 2.0 is included for viewing and editing RAW files.

The Sony a700 body only will be available from mid October priced at £1,000 inc VAT. Sony Alpha a700 kits including DT16-105mm lens will be available from mid-November priced at £1,350.

The kit including the DT18-70mm lens will be available in mid October costing £1,100, while the kit including the Vario Sonna T DT16-80mm lens will be available in November priced at £1,500 inc VAT.

Sony Alpha A700

Sony Alpha A700 digital SLR camera