The remarkable thing about these settings: They're applied in real-time to JPEG files without slowing down the camera. So, the A100 can capture JPEG bursts of 3 frames per second continuously until the memory card fills up. Neither DR setting works, though, when the camera is set to RAW + JPEG.
For RAW shooters, the A100 ships with Sony's powerful Image Data Converter SR software, which includes a variety of advanced controls, and allows you to save images with the full 12 bits per channel of data the sensor captures. It also ships with Picture Motion Browser software for PCs running Windows.
The A100 supports the Adobe RGB color space for JPEGs, as well as several image-mode presets that use the sRGB color space (including Vivid, Portrait, Sunset, Landscape, and Night View). For each of these settings, you can set contrast, color saturation, and sharpness. The A100 manual explains how to navigate the maze of color space and image quality controls; we'd give it an A+ overall.
In field tests, the auto white balance function worked well, even in tricky lighting situations. The A100's custom white balance is extremely easy to set using the central spot area on a white paper or material, and the camera also includes WB bracketing and Kelvin color temperature settings.
In addition to a built-in pop-up flash, the A100 supports wireless external flash control with new Sony external flash units. Wireless setup and pairing is simple. The system supports several channels for complex multilight setups, and flash compensation can be set separately (via the menus).
According to Sony, the A100 will work with recent Konica Minolta external flash units, although without a firm guarantee. The pop-up includes controls for rear curtain sync and automatic fill flash, but no redeye reduction mode-we think Sony should add either a pop-up button or larger tab to make opening the flash easier.
As we wrote in August, the A100 is solidly built (though not as tough as either the Canon EOS 30D or Nikon D200), and much of its design is copied from the KM Maxxum 5D, including most of the buttons, the eye-activated sensor, AF system, and more than half the menu items.
As for the function button, which makes it easier than ever to access important controls such as ISO, Flash, DR, and White Balance, we have two gripes: There should be a position on the dial for image file type (JPEG or RAW + JPEG), and the middle of the dial needs a raised button so we can tell where it's set by touch alone, without taking our eye from the viewfinder. Other pet peeves include the self-time/burst switch. When set to burst, it stays in that mode until the camera is switched off or you manually change it. Yet, in the 10-second self-timer mode, the A100 switches back to single-shot after every frame-a real pain. But these are relatively minor complaints.
The 2.5-inch LCD on the A100 is among the brightest and sharpest we've seen, with a great viewing angle and automatic data display that switches from horizontal to vertical when the camera body is rotated (another trait borrowed from Maxxum DSLRs). The display button also quickly resizes fonts, and the four-way controller gives you quick access to the histogram exposure display or rapidly rotates the image.