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Sony Alpha A100 Compared to the Nikon D80
and Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi / 400D Digital SLR's

Sony Alpha DSLR-A100
Nikon D80
Canon Rebel XTi / 400D

Sept 12th, 2006.

With Canon's recent announcement of the Canon Digital Rebel XTi / 400D (their 10.1 MP update to the popular Canon Digital Rebel XT digital SLR), the competition in the double digit megapixel digital SLR market aimed at the entry level to photo enthusiast has certainly heated up.

The main players in this segment now consist of the Sony Alpha A100, the Nikon D80 and the Canon Digital Rebel XTi digital SLR.

The Sony A100 digital SLR with the Sony DT Alpha 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens has a current manufacturer's recommended retail price (MSRP) of $1199 Canadian, the Nikon D80 digital SLR with AF-S DX 18-135mm ED Nikkor zoom has an MSRP of $1549 CDN.

The Canon Rebel XTi with the EF-S 18-55mm kit lens comes in at the most affordable print point with an MSRP of $1099 CDN. See the latest US price for the Digital Rebel XTi , Nikon D80, and the Sony A100 digital SLR's at Adorama.

Sony Alpha A100 versus Nikon D80 versus Canon Rebel XTi. Click for larger view

Sony A100 vs Nikon D80 vs Canon Rebel XTi back view. Click on image to enlarge

To make it easier to compare between the Sony A100, Nikon D80 and the Rebel XTi digital SLR without having to dwell into all the specification details we have provided a general overview between these cameras and added our own observations. For those that want more technical details see our Sony A100 versus Nikon D80 versus Canon Digital Rebel XTi digital SLR camera side by side feature comparison further below.

Sony A100 vs Nikon D80 vs Canon Rebel XTi
Major Advantages

We have outlined the respective advantages of the Sony Alpha A100 and the Nikon D80 and the Canon Rebel XTi digital SLR below concentrating on some of the features and capabilities that are generally considered the most important in terms of what makes for a good digital SLR camera.

Ergonomics and Design: For some camera manufacturers ergonomics seems like an afterthought. In the field, ergonomics can make the difference between a winning shot and a shot missed. In our opinion the Nikon D80 digital SLR camera is the leader in this respect when compared to both the Sony A100 and the Canon Rebel XTi.

With the Nikon D80 digital SLR you can operate the camera without moving your eye from the viewfinder with key buttons and dials placed within instinctive reach, even when you are wearing gloves. (An unfortunate reality in our climate.)

Nikon D80 Grip

The Nikon D80 features two command dials for changing camera settings, similar to the design of the D200 and the D2Xs. One of the benefits that this offers is that you can rotate the sub-command dial to select the desired aperture value while rotating the main command dial to change the shutter speed while changing exposure settings. You can easily make adjustments with your index finger controlling the sub command dial and your thumb controlling the main command dial while looking through the camera . This is a real benefit when it comes to adjusting values quickly in manual exposure modes and when changing camera settings in general.

With the Sony Alpha A100 and the Canon Digital Rebel XTi there is only one command dial located on the top of the grip. To adjust shutter speed settings on either camera you rotate the top command dial. To change the aperture when you are in manual mode you have to push the Av button located on the back of the camera while rotating the command dial. In Aperture Priority mode rotating the top command dial changes the aperture settings.

If you are the type of shooter that likes to use Manual (M) override exposure control mode then the dual command dial setup on the Nikon D80 will offer a definite advantage.

The Nikon D80 also has a Function button located on the front of the camera that can be customized for quick access to specific frequently used settings.

Menu System: In terms of being able to read and navigate camera menu options we find the Nikon D80 offers the most user friendly interface compared to both the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Sony A100. The Nikon D80's Menu system is presented in plain language with minimal use of icons making it easier to quickly make selections. The D80 even incorporates a handy "Help" menu that can be accessed to provide a brief explanation of settings. The menu interface on the Rebel XTi is better than the more confusing Sony A100 setup especially from a novice perspective.

Sony Alpha A100 Menu
Nikon D80 Menu
Canon Digital Rebel XTi Menu

The Nikon D80 digital SLR also incorporates a traditional top LCD information display panel which is practical when you want to check and adjust camera settings quickly.

Nikon D80 Top
LCD information
panel with illuminated display


With the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Sony A100 digital SLR the rear LCD monitor is used to display camera settings which means that you have to move the camera further away from your body when you want to simply view current settings or make adjustments . With the Nikon D80 you can view the camera settings information on the top LCD panel at a glance while keeping your eye closer to the viewfinder and ready to respond sooner to that unexpected moment.

Canon sacrificed the rear LCD information panel found on the Digital Rebel XT to make room for the larger 2.5" LCD monitor found on the Digital Rebel XTi while keeping the camera size about the same.

Grip and Feel: In terms of overall construction the Sony A100, Nikon D80 and the Canon Rebel XTi are all fairly similar. None of the cameras offer the ruggedness provided by magnesium alloy and enhanced weather seal body construction similar to the design found in higher end models like the Nikon D200 and EOS 1Ds Mark II. Nevertheless, the Sony A100, D80 and Rebel XTi all offer a fairly solid well built feel and are designed to withstand the type of normal use required by most novice to serious enthusiast photographers.

The Nikon D80 features a larger rounded grip portion with natural grooves for your fingers that allows you to wrap your hand comfortably around the camera for a more solid hold and feel.

We find that the grip on the Canon Rebel XTi is a bit small and lacking depth making the camera more awkward to hold. For someone who does not have big hands this might not be an issue.

The Digital Rebel XTi does become more comfortable to hold if you add the optional vertical battery grip BG-E3 that extends the base portion of the camera and provides an additional area to rest your fingers. The Nikon D80 also provides for an optional vertical battery grip MB-D80 that likewise makes the camera more comfortable to hold and helps add balance when shooting in the vertical position (portraits). The Sony A100 does not provide the option of using an accessory grip however the grip on the camera itself is pretty good.

The design of the Nikon D80 maintains an image that is consistent with the current lineup of Nikon digital SLR camera bodies like the Nikon D50, D200 and D2Xs. The Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Sony A100 digital SLR both incorporate their own individual design. The Rebel XTi shares a similar look and design to the 8MP Rebel XT digital SLR.

Viewfinder System: One of the most important components of a great SLR camera is having a good viewfinder system. A major argument provided by full frame DSLR camera advocates is the advantage offered by the larger viewfinder magnification incorporated in such cameras as the professional Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II.

Most digital SLR cameras, with the exception of a couple of offerings from Olympus and Panasonic, do not offer the option of a live LCD monitor preview as found on point and shoot consumer digital cameras. The viewfinder system on a digital SLR becomes a critical part of being able to see the image to focus and compose your shot.

With respect to having the best viewfinder system, the Nikon D80 easily trumps over the Sony A100 and the Canon DIgital Rebel XTi. Delivering a large bright viewfinder the Nikon D80 incorporates a glass pentaprism viewfinder similar to the type found on more expensive digital SLR's. The viewfinder magnification on the D80 is 94% compared to the viewfinder magnification on the Sony A100 at 83% and the Canon Digital Rebel XTi at 80%.

Below is a graphical illustration showing the difference between the viewfinder magnification as seen in the Nikon D80 versus the area seen in the viewfinder on the Canon Digital Rebel XTi (shown by inner grey area bounded by red lines). In our opinion the viewfinder system on the Sony Alpha A100 seems slightly brighter and better than the viewfinder on the Canon Digital Rebel XTi.

With the Nikon D80 you have the benefit of being able to select on-demand grid lines that are superimposed in the viewfinder. (useful for assisting in vertical and horizontal composition, architecture etc.) There is also an optional Magnifying Eyepiece DK-21M available for the Nikon D80 that improves the viewfinder magnification further from 0.94x to 1.1x.

Response and Performance: The Sony A100, Nikon D80 and the Canon Rebel XTi all offer a quick continuous shooting performance of 3 fps, fast enough to capture the action as it unfolds.

Both the Sony A100 and the Nikon D80 allow you to shoot continuously in JPEG mode limited pretty much only by card capacity. The Canon Rebel XTi will allow you to shoot up to 27 successive images in JPEG, however the camera offers a burst shooting capacity of up to 10 images in RAW mode. This is an advantage compared to the Sony A100 and Nikon D80 which offer a maximum of 6 shots when shooting continuously in RAW mode.

The Nikon D80 offers the fastest start up although the Canon DIgital Rebel XTi comes in very close. The Sony A100 is considerably slower taking almost a full second to start up. There is a delay that occurs on the Canon Digital Rebel XTi if you have the Self Cleaning sensor system set to activate when the camera is turned on. (1 sec delay) The dust cleaning process can be interrupted by lightly tapping the shutter release button on the Rebel XTi and the camera is ready to take pictures.

Both the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Nikon D80 offer a fast 2 channel output from the image sensor which helps speed up camera image processing performance. The Nikon D80 features a short shutter lag of only 80ms compared to 118ms for the Sony A100, making the D80 more responsive to catching the moment.

Exposure Metering System: The Nikon D80 incorporates the most advanced exposure metering system of the three cameras compared. The D80 features Nikon's acclaimed 3D Colour Matrix Metering II technology based on readings from a 420 segment RGB sensor, and offers variable Centre-weighted and Spot metering that can be tied to one of the 11 focus points. In dealing with creative and difficult lighting situations the Nikon D80's metering system offers an important benefit versus the exposure metering capabilities of both the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Sony A100.

Comparing the Rebel XTi to the Sony A100 we feel that the Canon Rebel XTi does a better job at exposure metering. Canon's advanced exposure metering algorithms and general metering technology account for the difference.

The Nikon D80 also supports the Nikon Creative Lighting System and Advanced Wireless Lighting capabilities with compatible Nikon Speedlights. The Nikon D80's built-in flash is able to function as the master flash unit (activated in the D80's Custom Settings menu) and perform as a two-group remote commander that provides direct control over wireless SB-800, SB-600 or SB-R200 Nikon Speedlights. User friendly setup and a great benefit if you are passionate about creative flash photography.

Nikon Creative Lighting System and Advanced Wireless Control sample setup with two Nikon SB800 external speedlights. The SU-800 transmitter would not be required with the D80 since the built in flash can act as the "Commander" unit.

The Sony A100 does allow for wireless external flash support from the built-in flash although it does not offer the same level of creative control as seen on the D80. The Canon Digital Rebel XTi does offer wireless multi-flash support when using the optional Canon wireless multi-flash ST-E2 transmitter mounted on the cameras hotshoe (a $300 CDN accessory).

Although the Sony A100 digital SLR is compatible with two new Sony flash units (Sony HVL-F56M and Sony HVL-F36M) and some of the older Minolta system units, the Sony Alpha A100 features a proprietary hotshoe for external flash connection. Both the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Nikon D80 feature a standard type hotshoe mount making them compatible to a certain degree with non proprietary flash systems.

Based on the advanced flash technology available today from Canon and especially Nikon, we would definately recommend investing in one of the latest brand dedicated speedlights to take proper advantage of what these camera systems are capable of offering.

White Balance (WB): The Sony A100, Nikon D80 and the Canon Rebel XTi all provide an Auto WB mode that matches white balance automatically to the light source of the shot. The cameras also incorporate a number of options that allow you to set WB settings manually or select a preset option for using a gray or white object as a reference for white balance.

With respect to Auto White Balance we find that the Nikon D80 and the Canon Digital Rebel XTi do a more consistent and accurate job of determining the correct White Balance (WB), especially when dealing with mixed and difficult lighting conditions compared to the Sony A100. The Nikon D80 stands out in particular for offering very accurate Auto WB when using the built in or external flash. (D80 uses readings from its 420-segment sensor to assist in determining AWB)

AF system: The Sony A100, Nikon D80 and the Canon Rebel XTi all feature very capable Auto Focus (AF) systems for most shooting situations. The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi inherits the reliable and proven AF system incorporated in the higher end Canon EOS 30D. The Nikon D80 does offer a more sophisticated AF system however (based on Nikon D200 technology) with the advantage of providing 11 focus areas offering improved subject acquisition and tracking capabilities compared to the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Sony A100 which incorporate 9 focus areas.

Nikon D80
11-Area AF Point Selection
Sony A100
9-area AF point selection
Canon Digital Rebel XTi
9-Area AF Point Selection

The D80 also features a new Auto-Area AF mode that measures from all 11 focus areas, automatically determines which of them are on the primary subject, and activates only those areas as a group. A nice feature especially for more novice users.

The Nikon D80 is also able to focus under lower light levels than the Canon Rebel XTi or the Sony A100. The D80 can focus down to -1 EV light levels compared to the Canon Rebel XTi at -0.5 EV and the Sony A100 at 0 EV.

The Nikon D80 features an Auto Focus assist beam that can illuminate a close by subject so the camera can focus under lower light conditions. The Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Sony A100 both employ intermittent firing of the built-in flash to help the camera focus on the subject. The downside with this is that the flash has to be in the up position for the AF assist to work. With the Sony A100 a particular inconvenience is that the built in flash does not offer an Auto pop up feature like on the Nikon D80 and the Rebel XTi so you have to manually lift the flash to the upward position whenever required.

Kit Lens Options: The Sony A100, Nikon D80 or the Canon Digital Rebel XTi can be purchased as a body only or in a kit with a lens. The Sony Alpha A100 is available with a Sony DT 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens.

The Nikon D80 can be purchased with a Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ED zoom lens (same as in the Nikon D50 kit) or in a kit with the camera body and the new Nikon AF-S DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF zoom lens. The Canon Digital Rebel XTi is sold with a Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens.

The Sony DT 18-70mm
zoom offers the advantage of a longer telephoto range range compared to the standard 18-55mm zoom lenses available with the Canon or the Nikon. The lens is built on the Konica Minolta heritage of optics and offers very decent image quality for an entry level lens. Sharpness is good and the lens handles distortion well.

The Nikon AF-S DX 18-55mm is also a nice entry level lens and does offer the advantage of incorporating Nikon's ED glass to help minimize chromatic abberations (purple fringing in highlight areas of an image) and Nikon's Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology for faster and quieter focusing.

The Canon EF-S 18-55mm zoom lens is in our opinion the weakest of the lenses offered showing fairly soft edges and less sharpness in general than the Nikon or Sony kit lenses. Canon has however an excellent EF-S 17-85mm image stabilized zoom lens that we would recommend taking into consideration if buying into the Canon system. Quite a bit more money although you get a much better lens with some very nice features.

The Nikon D80 is also available with the new AF-S DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED Nikkor zoom lens which offers considerably more telephoto range with the equivalent field of view of a 28-200mm lens in 35mm terms. A great feature for zooming in on the hockey or soccer action as it unfolds or for that candid shot across the room. The lens offers very good image quality and sharpness, ED glass and Nikon's SWM technology (similar concept to Canon's USM lens technology), and makes for a very nice all in one solution for those that like the convenience that carrying just one lens offers.

ACDSee Photo Editor-Creative ease.Photo Perfection

Vibration Reduction Technology:
With the Sony A100 incorporating a CCD based Anti-Shake vibration reduction mechanism the A100 offers the benefit of essentially providing vibration reduction with any lens attached. With the Nikon D80 and the Canon Digital Rebel XTi the only way to get vibration reduction is to buy lenses that feature image stabilization technologies. The advantage offered by the Nikon D80 and the Rebel XTi is that optical based image stabilization systems offer a greater range of VR compensation ability as well as allow you to preview the effects while looking through the viewfinder of the camera. With the Sony A100 the stabilization effect is not visable as you are looking through the viewfinder.

Optical image stabilization systems offer superior VR effectiveness, since they use individual mechanisms which are optimized for each lens. Nikon provides lenses in their lineup that will offer up to 4 stop VR effectiveness. Canon's image stabilized (IS) lenses offer up to 3 steps of compensation while the Sony A100 offers on average only about a 2 stop effectiveness. The reason for this is that the physical amount of vibration compensation differs by the focal length of the lens. CCD shift based VR systems can not recognize the individual differences of focal length for each lens, so the accuracy suffers compared to optical VR.

System Accessories: The Canon or Nikon system offers a much larger selection of available system accessories such as lenses, grips and speedlights that can be used with the Canon Digital Rebel XTi or the Nikon D80 respectively. Sony being a new entrant to the DSLR market is working on expanding its lineup of available accessories and does offer compatibility with the Minolta AF lens system. As of now however the Sony A100 does not match Canon or Nikon with respect to available system accessories.

Dust Prevention:
Digital SLRs with interchangeable lenses are susceptible to dust particles entering the camera especially when the lens is changed. The dust can settle on the sensor and affect image quality as a result. The Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Sony A100 feature self cleaning sensor technologies that both companies are eagerly promoting in their marketing materials as "Dust Reduction" systems.

With the Canon Rebel XTi, Canon has used a number of different methods to minimize the occurance of dust.

The shutter unit (the same as in the Digital Rebel XT) generates minimal dust; the body cap is now made of a material which minimizes dust caused by normal wear and rubbing, and the low-pass filter features an antistatic design to prevent static electricity from attracting dust and foreign matter to its surface.

A Self Cleaning Sensor Unit was designed to eliminate larger types of dust. Lowpass filter #1 on the front of the sensor is attached to an ultrasonic vibrating unit (piezoelectric element). When LPF #1 is subjected to ultrasonic vibrations, the dust is shaken off the surface.

Canon Digital Rebel XTi Sensor Unit Design

Two kinds of dust are less likely to be dislocated by the movements of the vibrating Low Pass Filter: small and light particles and the worse sticky stuff. In the event that the Self Cleaning Sensor Unit cannot remove all the dust, the Dust Delete Data (the size and position of dust too small or too sticky to remove with the Self Cleaning Sensor Unit) is obtained and added to the image so that Digital Photo Professional Ver. 2.2 software that comes supplied with the camera can erase the remaining dust spots on the image automatically.

The Nikon D80 also incorporates a number of dust prevention measures. The following lists the measures taken to prevent dust or foreign matter on the surface of the optical low-pass filter (OLPF) on the D80:

  • The OLPF has an antistatic design to prevent static electricity from attracting dust and foreign matter to its surface. (same as Rebel XTi and Sony A100)

  • The area surrounding the rear surface of the image sensor is sealed to help prevent dust and foreign matter from entering from the rear. (same as Rebel XTi)

  • The camera is designed to maintain a space between the imaging surface of the image sensor and the surface of the OLPF. As dust and foreign matter on the image sensor do not form a sharp image (degree of sharpness also varies with aperture value), it is less likely for such dust and/or foreign matter to have an effect on photographs. (same as Rebel XTi)

  • It is designed so that the moving parts such as the shutter and quick-return mirror produce very little of the dust and particles associated with mechanical wear of new parts inside the camera.

  • The Nikon D80 offers a "Dust Off" feature with the optional Nikon Capture NX software that allows you to map out the dust on the sensor and have the software remove it automatically. (Similar to the new Canon Dust Delete Data feature with Digital Photo Professional Ver. 2.2 software)

The Sony A100 does not offer a sensor "dust mapping" feature with software like the Nikon or the Canon although the camera does feature an anti-static coating on the OLPF and an anti-dust vibration system designed to perform similar actions to the "Self Cleaning" sensor unit in the Rebel XTi.

Overall we feel that anti-dust shake removal technologies are a bit of a marketing hype aimed at more novice consumers. These systems are only really effective in dealing with larger dust particles and other measures still have to be taken to efficiently remove smaller forms of dust and sticky substances.

There are a number of different third party sensor cleaning kits available on the market that allow for "do it yourself" sensor cleaning. We would generally recommend however that if you find that dust is becoming a persistant issue you should have the cameras sensor checked and cleaned by the manufacturer's authorized service centre.

See the deals on the Sony A100, Nikon D80 and Canon Rebel XTi at Adorama

Image Quality:
The Sony A100, Nikon D80 and the Canon Rebel XTi
are in general all capable of offering very good image quality. The sensor technologies are well developed and with the advantage of providing 10 MP resolution there is lots of detail available for extra big enlargements or cropping into an image.

The Nikon D80 with its advanced metering capabilities does offer an advantage over both the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Sony A100 allowing much finer precision in determing the correct exposure important for creative control and overall image quality. As mentioned previously we are also particularly impressed with the Nikon D80's Auto White Balance capability especially with respect to flash photography.

In terms of low light and high ISO performance, the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Nikon D80 both perform very well with a slight bit of an advantage given to the Canon Rebel XTi at 1600 ISO. The Nikon D80 provides the advantage of featuring ISO boost settings up to 1 stop which can be set in 1/3 increments (H0.3, H0.7, H1 3200 ISO). The Sony A100 provides poorer results showing higher than average image noise levels at 800 ISO and 1600 ISO.

The Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Nikon D80 offer the benefit of incorporating proven image processing technologies and other advanced trickle down features from some of the higher end digital SLR's in their respective lineups.

Canon and Sony have taken the step of naming their image processors. The Canon Digital Rebel XTi incorporates Canon's DIGIC II image processor the same reliable and high quality processor found in their top of the line DSLR's including the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II. The Sony "Bionz" image processor is newly developed for the Sony A100.

The Nikon D80 features a newly developed image processing engine based on the Nikon D200 and the Nikon D2Xs image processing technologies. Nikon does not market a name for their image processing technology.

Other Features: although they all provide many similar standard features (10MP, 2.5" LCD, 3fps shooting etc.) the Sony A100, Nikon D80 and the Canon Rebel XTi all incorporate certain proprietary and exclusive options. Some of these are highlighted below:

  • Sony has introduced a feature called "D-Range Optimizer" in the Sony A100. Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) analyzes the captured image data and instantly determines the best exposure and color tonality of an image before JPEG compression. Unlike software optimization of a processed image, DRO is performed in the hardware. In comparison with Nikon's similar D-Lighting feature, there are a few advantages with the Nikon approach.

D-Lighting (accessed in the Nikon D80's Retouch Menu) offers three different intensity settings and can be applied to an image in camera anytime after capture and the corrected image is then saved as a copy. With Sony's D-Range Optimizer settings have to be made before taking the picture.

From the images that we have seen so far we feel that the Nikon D-Lighting software based dynamic range optimization technology does a better job than the results provided by the Sony hardware based "D-Range Optimizer". The Nikon D-Lighting feature seems to open up detail in the shadows to a better degree compared to the Sony while keeping highlight detail well maintained. With Nikon's optional Nikon Capture NX software it is also possible to apply D-Lighting in post-production workflow while viewing and editing images. The Canon Digital Rebel XTi does not offer a specific dynamic range optimization feature other than a new direct to print option for "Face Brighten".

  • Canon has added their user friendly "Picture Style" image processing settings in the Canon Rebel XTi (similar to EOS 30D). The process of selecting or refining a Picture Style can be likened to deciding on a film: something a little more saturated and sharper, or perhaps something less forward and vivid. The Nikon D80 incorporates a very similar functionality with the "Optimize Image" settings menu. Both cameras also allow you to apply a variety of black and white filter effects in Monochrome mode. The Sony A100 provides 7 image enhacement settings and a standard black and white mode.

  • The Nikon D80 features a handy "Retouch Menu" and also offers the advantage of a multiple exposure mode. Selectable in the Nikon D80 Shooting Menu, multiple exposure mode creates a single image within the camera from up to 3 consecutive exposures, producing an effect automatically that resembles multiple exposure techniques traditionally used with film.

    The Nikon D80 Retouch Menu includes options for the following selections:

  • D-lighting: Brighten dark or back-lit subjects
  • Red-eye correction: Correct “red-eye” that may be caused by flash
  • Trim: Create cropped copies of existing photographs
  • Monochrome: Copy pictures in black-and-white, sepia, or cyanotype
  • Filter effects: Create copies with color filter effects
  • Small picture: Create small copies of existing photographs
  • Image overlay: Combine two RAW photographs into a single image

When comparing the Sony Alpha A100, Nikon D80 and the Canon Digital Rebel XTi it can be seen how each of these camera systems have their own respective advantages and feature overall good performance as outlined above. When viewed as a total package however the Nikon D80 maintains a definate advantage over its competitors with its combination of advanced metering capabilities, brighter viewfinder system, enhanced AF performance, industry leading flash technology, superior camera handling (ergonomics) and expanded feature set.

The Canon Digital Rebel XTi is a solid performer in its own right, certainly the lightest and most compact, and with its very capable feature set, good image quality, wide range of optional system accessories and relatively aggressive price point will be sure to be another Canon success.

The Sony A100 is a good camera and particularly worth the investment if you already have an extended system of compatible Minolta AF lenses. If you are looking however at buying into a new camera system (moving up from a point and shoot) then we would definately recommend taking a closer look at Canon or Nikon since we feel that both of these manufacturer's have considerably more advantages to offer compared to the Sony A100.

We personally really like the new Nikon D80 and feel that for the extra $200 CDN or so compared to the price of the Canon Digital Rebel XTi (body only pricing) the Nikon D80 does offer a number of distinct advantages in terms of useability, performance and features. In the end however you really can't go wrong with either of these two cameras.

Sony Alpha A100 compared to Nikon D80
versus Canon Digital Rebel XTi / 400D


Sony DSLR-A100

Nikon D80

Canon Digital Rebel XTi / 400D


10.2 MP

10.2 MP

10.1 MP





Sensor Size
23.7 x 15.6mm
23.6 x 15.8mm
22.2 x 14.8mm
Image Processor New Sony "Bionz" image processor Newly developed high-precision, high-speed image processing engine based on Nikon D200 and D2Xs. Two channel readout from sensor for fast data transfer High speed DIGIC II Image processor found in all Canon DSLR's including the top of the line EOS 1D Mark II N. Two channel readout from sensor for fast data transfer
Start Up 0.9 sec 0.18 sec 0.2 sec
Shutter Lag 118ms 80ms N/A

Picture angle

Equivalent in 35mm format is approximately 1.5 times lens focal length

Equivalent in 35mm format is approximately 1.5 times lens focal length

Equivalent in 35mm format is approximately 1.6 times lens focal length

Low-Pass Filter

Built-in / Fixed

Built-in / Fixed

New design. Divided into two individual components LPF#1 and LPF#2 which helps to minimize colour artifacts and the potential of moire. LPF#1 attached to Ultrasonic vibrating unit to shake off dust.

Image Stabilization Anti-Shake mechanism built-into camera. Approximately 2 to 3.5 stop decrease in shutter speed possible (varies depending on conditions and lens used) Optical Vibration Reduction (VR) with designated lenses. Up to 4 stop decrease in shutter speed. Varies with VR lens used. Optical Image Stabilization (IS) with designated lenses. Up to 3 stop decrease in shutter speed. Varies with VR lens used.

LCD monitor

2.5 inch Clear Photo LCD Plus, 230,000 pixels with brightness adjustment allows up to 170-degree viewing angle. Up to 12x playback magnification

2.5-in., 230,000-dot, lowtemperature polysilicon
TFT LCD with brightness
adjustment allows up to 170-degree viewing angle. Up to 25x magnification playback viewing

A 2.5-in., 230,000-pixel, color TFT LCD screen with a wide, 170° viewing angle. New Auto sensor turns display off when you look through the viewfinder. Up to 10x magnification playback viewing

Image Sizes

• 3872 x 2592
• 2896 x 1936
• 1920 x 1280

3,872 x 2,592 [L]
2,896 x 1,944 [M]
1,936 x 1,296 [S]

• 3888 x 2592 (L)
• 2816 x 1880 (M)
• 1936 x 1288 (S)

Image Compression Settings Fine, Standard Basic, Normal, Fine Fine, Normal
Anti-Dust Technology Utilizes both static-free anti-dust coating on the CCD filter and anti-dust vibration that automatically shakes the CCD to dislodge dust each time the camera is shut off.

The Image Dust Off feature in Nikon Capture software (optional) processes NEF (RAW) images to remove potential effects of dust in the camera system by comparing the images to the data acquired with the Dust ref Photo. Images can be batch processed.

Static-free anti-dust coating on the Optical Low Pass Filter

Comprehensive EOS Integrated Cleaning System including Self Cleaning Sensor Unit and Dust Delete Data detection with Canon's Digital Photo Professional software v.2.2. Instead of a dust-removal system which uses a vibrating glass, the Digital Rebel XTi uses its low-pass filter to vibrate directly, shaking off dust. Therefore, the optical
performance is not degraded by an extra sheet of glass. Static free coating on LPF.
Mirror Lock Up Feature Yes, tied to self timer Yes, only to clean sensor Mirror can be locked up to 30 sec. Activated by using Custom function 7-1


TTL full-aperture exposure metering system

40 segment Honeycomb Metering



TTL full-aperture exposure metering system

1) 420-pixel 3D Color
Matrix Metering II

2) Variable Center-weighted

3) Spot: Meters 3.5mm
diameter circle (about 2.5%
of frame) centered on active focus area

Center-weighted: Weight of 75% given to 6, 8, or 10-mm circle in center of frame (variable through custom functions)

TTL full aperture exposure metering

35-zone SPC (1) 35 Point Evaluative (linked to all AF points)

Partial metering at centre (approx. 9% of viewfinder)


Metering Range EV 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 1 to 20

Processing Parameters

Seven Image Enhancement Options

Standard (default): Recommended for most situations

• Vivid
: Enhances saturation, contrast and sharpness to produce vivid images with vibrant reds, greens and blues

• Portrait:
Softens outlines. Use to ensure smooth, natural looking skin tones in portraits

• Landscape
: Enhances saturation and sharpness to produce landscapes with vibrant greens and blues

• Sunset:
enhances and warms reds

• Night View

• Black and White:
capture images in black and white detail

• Adobe RGB:
select wider colour space for images that will be post processed with software

Image Parameters

Contrast (5 settings)
Saturation (5 settings)
Sharpness (5 settings)

Seven Image Enhancement Options under Optimize Image settings

Normal (default): Recommended for most situations

Softer: Softens outlines. Use to ensure smooth, natural looking skin tones in portraits

Vivid: Enhances saturation, contrast and sharpness to produce vivid images with vibrant reds, greens and blues

More Vivid: Maximizes saturation, contrast and sharpness to produce images with sharper outlines

Portrait: Lowers contrast and softens background details

Landscape: Enhances saturation and sharpness to produce landscapes with vibrant greens and blues

Custom: The parameters for; Sharpening, Contrast (Tone), Colour reproduction, Saturation, and Hue, can all be adjusted by selecting Custom mode in the "Optimize Image" menu.

Parameter Settings
Sharpening AUTO, Manual 6
Tone Comp. Auto, Normal, ± 2 settings, Create or download Custom Tone curve with optional Nikon Camera Control software
Colour Modes Ia) sRGB bias for portrait, II) Adobe RGB, IIIa) sRGB bias for landscape
Saturation Auto, Normal, Moderate, Enhanced
Hue Adjustment 3 step for each mode approx. 3/ each step

Black and white: Take photos in B&W. Standard or Custom mode. Tone and sharpening can be adjusted in Custom. Yellow, Orange, Red, Green filter effects can be used

Six Image Enhancement Options under Picture Styles

For the first 5 choices, Standard, Portrait,
Landscape, Neutral and Faithful, the variables are sharpness, contrast, saturation and color

Each Style has preset values for these image characteristics that can be changed by the user in the menu.

Available settings include:

• Sharpness: 0 to 7
• Contrast: -4 to +4
• Saturation: -4 to +4
• Color tone: -4 to +4

The sixth Picture Style is Monochrome, whose variables are Sharpness, Contrast, Filter effect
and Toning effect. Last, there are 3 open slots for User Defined styles.

Monochrome Parameter set:

• Sharpness can be adjusted from 0 to 7
• Contrast can be adjusted from -4 to +4

Filter effects (none, yellow, orange, red and green) that are just like camera filter effects and toning effects (none, sepia, blue, purple, green). Similar to on EOS 30D.

Recording Format


JPEG, RAW, JPEG Basic + RAW, JPEG Normal + RAW, JPEG Fine + RAW


Viewfinder Diopter Adjustment
Built-in viewfinder diopter adjustment (-2.5 to +1.0)
Built-in viewfinder diopter adjustment (-2.0 to +1.0m)
Built-in viewfinder diopter adjustment -3.0 to +1.0
Viewfinder Type Penta-mirror type Glass Pentaprism type

On demand "Grid Lines" can be superimposed in viewfinder. Ideal for architectual composition etc.
Penta-mirror type
Viewfinder Magnification
Compatible with the optional Magnifying Eyepiece DK-21M. Improves the viewfinder from 0.94x to 1.1x
LCD Camera Information Panel No. All camera info is displayed on rear 2.5" LCD monitor instead Yes, on top of camera. LCD illumination available. No. All camera info is displayed on rear 2.5" LCD monitor instead

Sony A100 compared to Nikon D80 versus Canon Rebel XTi Top View. Click on image to enlarge

Exposure Shooting Modes

• 7 Variable Program Modes - Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Sunset
(P) Flexible Program auto
(S) Shutter-priority auto
(A) Aperture priority auto
(M) Manual

7 Variable Program Modes - Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close up, Sports, Night Landscape, Night portrait
(P) Flexible Program auto
(S) Shutter-priority auto
(A) Aperture priority auto
(M) Manual

7 Variable Program Modes - Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night portrait, Auto depth-of-field
(P) Program AE
(Tv) Shutter priority
(Av) Aperture priority
(M) Manual

ISO Sensitivity

100 -1600 ISO, Lo 80, High 200
Manually select in 1 stop increments

100 -1600 ISO H0.3, H0.7, H1 (3200 ISO)
Manually select in 1/3 step increments

100 -1600 ISO
Manually select in 1/3 step increments

Color Mode

sRGB, Adobe RGB

Ia) sRGB bias for portrait
II) Adobe RGB,
IIIa) sRGB bias for landscapes

sRGB, Adobe RGB

Continuous Shooting Speed

3 fps

3 fps

3 fps

Continuous Shooting Number of Frames

JPEG Continuous shooting until memory card is full, RAW up to 6 frames

Continuous up to 100 JPEG, RAW up to 6 frames

Continuous up to 27 JPEG, RAW up to 10 frames

White Balance

Modes: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Preset Custom, WB can be dialed in by colour temperature

Auto TTL white-balance with 420 segment RGB sensor. Modes: Incandescent, Fluorescent, Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy,Shade, Custom Preset, WB can be dialed in by colour temperature

Auto TTL White Balance. Modes: Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Preset Custom

WB Fine-Tuning

3 step fine tuning for each WB setting

3 step fine tuning for each WB setting

3 step fine tuning for each WB setting. Fine tuning in Blue-Amber and/or Magenta-Green range

WB Bracketing

+/- 3 stops. Set in 1 stop increments.

+/- 3 stops. Set in 1/3 or step increments. WB-BKT does not work during RAW and RAW + JPEG shooting. When the shutter is released, two or three images are captured, each with a different WB setting as selected

+/- 3 stops. Selectable in 1/3 step increments. Blue/Amber bias or Magenta/Green bias. WB-BKT does not work during RAW and RAW + JPEG shooting. When the shutter is released, up to six images can be captured each with a different WB setting. WB bracketing also available in Blue-Amber and/or Magenta-Green range.

Shutter Speed

30 sec to 1/4000 sec + Bulb

30 sec to 1/4000 sec + Bulb

30 sec to 1/4000 + Bulb

Exposure Compensation

+2.0 to -2.0EV
(1/3EV step)

+5.0 to -5.0EV
(1/2, 1/3EV step)

+2.0 to -2.0EV
(1/2, 1/3EV step)

AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing)

3 frames
or 1/3 step increments

2 or 3 frames -2.0 to +2.0
or 1/3 step increments

3 frames -2.0 to +2.0
or 1/3 step increments

Histogram in Playback mode Luminance Histogram Luminance and RGB histogram Luminance and RGB histogram

Flash sync

1/160 sec
1/125 sec with Super Steady Shot On

1/200 sec

1/200 sec

Built-in flash Guide Number (ISO 100, metres)




Built-in flash coverage Coverage up to 18mm focal length Coverage up to 18mm focal length Coverage up to 17mm focal length

Flash Modes

Auto, Fill Flash, Red-eye Reduction, Wireless off camera Flash, Rear Flash Sync, High Speed Sync, Slow Sync

Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync, Slow Sync, Rear Curtain

Modeling and Repeating (RPT) flash function

Auto, On, Off, Red-eye reduction, (Rear Curtain Custom setting 9.1)

Red Eye Reduction System
Multi-Strobe from speedlight flash
Beam from lamp
Multi-Strobe from speedlight flash

Flash Type

Wireless off camera flash with optional external flash units Sony HVL-F56M and Sony HVL-F36M. Built-in flash triggers external flash wirelessly

i-TTL + Wireless Creative Lighting System support with optional SB-800, SB-600, Speedight flash units. "Commander Mode" on built-in flash for wireless multi-flash. Can control master and up to 2 remote groups (A, B) Can control up to 3 groups when the main unit is SB-800 or SU-800.
Auto FP high speed sync to 1/4000 sec with optional speedlight

E-TTL II with EX series Speedlites, wireless multi-flash support with optional ST-E2 transmitter. $300 CDN optional accessory (30/08/06)

Flash Compensation

+/-2 in 1/3 stop increments

3 to +1 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments

+/- 2 stops in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments

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AF Detection

EV 0 to 18 EV

EV -1 to 19 EV

EV -0.5 to 18 EV

Focus Sensor

9 AF areas

Multi-CAM1000 AF module with 11 area AF points. Wide Area AF can be selected

9 AF areas
Enhanced precision cross-type, center AF point compatible with f/2.8

Focus Modes

Eye Start AF System (on / off)

Selectable AF modes:

(1) Single AF
(2) Continuos AF
(3) AF-A, camera automatically selects AF mode
(4) Predictive focus for moving subjects


1) Single Area AF
2) Dynamic Area AF
3) Auto Area AF


Selectable: 1) AI Focus AF, 2) One shot AF, 3) AI Servo AF

Depth of field preview button Yes Yes Yes

Lens Compatibility

New Sony Alpha lenses and Konica Minolta MAXXUM / DYNAX SLR lenses. Plans for Carl Zeiss branded lenses as well.

1) DX Nikkor : All functions supported
2) Type G or D AF Nikkor : All functions supported. 3) AI-P Nikkor : All functions supported except 3D color matrix metering, i-TTL balanced fill-flash for digital SLR, and autofocus
4) Non-CPU : Can be used in exposure mode M, but exposure meter does not function; electronic range finder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster

Over 43 AF Lenses and 9 Manual lenses supported

Canon EF and EF-S : All functions supported. Over 50 AF Lenses supported

Viewfinder Coverage








Noise Reduction

Long Exposure Noise Reduction available at shutter speeds longer than 1 sec

High ISO NR mode: select from Normal, Low, High, Off

Long Exp. NR: set to Off or On

Long Exp. NR: set to Auto, Off or On

Dynamic Range Optimization D-range Optimiser (hardware based) feature for auto image enhancement and contrast optimization. Three settings include: Advanced / Standard and Off. Selected before taking the picture. D-Lighting feature in camera. Choose Normal, Moderate or Enhanced. Will compensate for underexposed areas or insufficient flash without affecting properly exposed areas. Applied after the fact in the D80 'Retouch Menu' No


USB 2.0 High Speed

USB 2.0 High Speed

USB 2.0 High Speed

Custom Functions
12 Custom Setting Functions
32 Custom Setting Functions
11 Custom Setting Functions
Retouch Menu
• D-Lighting: brighten shadow areas while keeping highlights as they are
• Red-eye correction: Correct the image in case of red-eye from the flash.
• Trim: Crop an image in camera
• Monochrome: Black and white, Sepia, Cyanotype. Convert image and save a copy in monochrome setting.
• Filter effects: Skylight, Warm filter, Colors balance. Apply filters effects after the fact.
• Small picture: create a reduced size copy for email or web
• Image overlay: overlap two RAW images in camera for creative effects
Multiple Exposure Mode
My Menu Setting
"My Menu" lets users customize menus to display only the items they wish to see

Vertical Image Rotation




Alphanumeric data input


Up to 36 characters of alphanumeric text input is available with LCD monitor and multi-selector; stored in Exif header of image. Provide location information, copyright details etc.


Direct Print Support

Yes PictBridge Direct Print Compliant with PictBridge Printers, DPOF, Print Image Matching III with Epson printers

Yes PictBridge Direct Print Compliant with PictBridge Printers, DPOF, In camera support for PictBridge page setup

Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers, Bubble Jet Printers with the direct print function and PIXMA Printers supporting PictBridge, DPOF

Accessory vertical grip


MB-D80 Multi-Power battery pack. Use on or two EN-EL3e batteries or six AA size. Shutter release button, main and sub command dials, and a AE/AF lock button convenient for vertical shooting

Yes Canon BG-E3. Can hold two NB-2LH batteries or 6 AA's

Bundled Software

Picture Motion Browser for Sony v1.1 (Windows), Image Data Converter SR Ver. 1.1 (Windows & Macintosh), USB Driver

Nikon Picture Project, The 123 of Digital Imaging ebook Full Edition, Optional Nikon Capture NX Editing Software and Camera Control Pro Software

ZoomBrowser EX, Digital Photo Professional RAW editing software, Photo Record (Remote Capture), ArcSoft

Memory Type

CompactFlash™ Type I/II media and optional Memory Stick Duo media (with supplied adaptor)

Secure Digital SD Memory Card CompactFlash Type I and II
Slideshow Yes. 5 sec interval and can be set to music. The Sony A100 can be connected to a TV for playback. PAL/NTSC Yes. Standard or Pictmotion which includes style selections that control transitions (pan and zoom effects) and background music. The Nikon D80 can be connected to a TV for playback. PAL/NTSC Yes. 4 sec delay. The Canon Digital Rebel XTi can be connected to a TV for playback. PAL/NTSC
Language Menu

7 language options available for North American models: Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional)

15 menu languages available: Japanese, German, English, Spanish, Finnish, French, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean 15 menu languages available; English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Korean and Russian.

Optional Remote

Sony cable remote RM-S1AM

Wireless ML-L3 remote control or MC-DC 1 Remote Cord (1m)

Cable remote RS-60E3 or Wireless RC-1 or RC-5 remote

Power Source

One rechargeable Sony NP-FM55 Li-ion battery and BC-VM10 charger included. Optional AC-VQ900AM dual battery charger AC adapter

One rechargeable Nikon EN-EL3a Li-ion battery and MH-18a quick charger included Optional MH-19 multi battery charger and EH-5 AC adapter available.

Li-Ion rechargeable NB-2LH battery and charger supplied.

Approx. number of shots per battery charge
Up to 750 shots with NP-FM55 Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
600 (flash 50%) to 2700 shots with Nikon EN-EL3a rechargeable battery
500 shots with NB-2LH Lithium-ion battery
Battery Info No InfoLithium status display The Battery info feature shows information on the EN-EL3e rechargeable Li-ion battery. The following battery info is displayed:

Bat. meter: percentage of full charge
Pic. meter: The number of times the shutter has been released since the battery was last charged.
Charge life: A five-level display showing battery age, from 0 (new) to 4 (displayed when the battery has reached the end of its charging life and requires replacement)

4 level battery indicator
Manufacturer's Warranty
One Year
Two Year In Canada
One Year

(W x H x D)

133 x 95 x 71 mm

132 x 103 x 77mm

127 x 94 x 65 mm

Weight w/o battery

545 grams

585 grams

510 grams

Manufacturer's Recommended Retail Price CDN$
Sept 1st 06
Sony Alpha A100 digital SLR with Sony DT 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom lens $1199 Canadian

Nikon D80 with Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED zoom lens $1349

Nikon D80 with AF-S DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G ED zoom lens (28-200mm equivalent in 35mm terms) $1549 Canadian

Canon Rebel XTi with Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens $1099 Canadian in black or silver body colour

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