M

Nikon

1. DIAL

Drive modes including timers, live view and mirror lock-up are accessed via the dial, on top of which sit buttons for image quality, white balance and ISO.

2. VIEWFINDER

Offering 100% coverage, the viewfinder is fronted by a porthole style cup.

3. TOP PLATE LCD

Exposure information is displayed on this LCD.

4. FOCUS LOCK

By locking the focus point with the dial around the control pad, you eliminate the risk of accidentally changing the focus point while shooting.

5. FOCUS MODE

The focus modes may be selected via the switch at the bottom of the camera. This includes the dynamic area mode, which uses all 51 points (if you wish) to track moving subjects.

buttons Sony has squeezed into this space means that this display is much smaller than the others, and consequently is only able to display basic information at default, though any changes you make to shooting parameters such as ISO and white balance are indicated on this screen. These aforementioned buttons-which concern drive mode, exposure compensation, white balance and ISO - aren't all easy to operate quickly without straining your finger, particularly the latter two, which are furthest towards the back of the camera.

Another consequence of the smaller LCD monitor is that in some cases it only allows for somewhat obscure labelling of certain menu options; continuous shooting at low speed is simply stated as 'oooL', for example.

The Canon and Nikon offer a similar concept of menu- and body-based controls, though on both I find it easier and faster to change settings via the dedicated buttons. Canon's long-standing arrangement of pairing up two key functions per button on the top-plate makes changing these with one hand easy, and as with the other two cameras changes to exposure, sensitivity and so on are indicated in the viewfinder, too. You generally need two hands to do the same on the D700, as the buttons for image quality, white balance and sensitivity are located on the other side of the camera to the two command dials, though neither of the three systems is unworkable.

The menus, however, are a little trickier to navigate on the a900, mainly because the same black, orange and white colour palette is used throughout the various tabs and options. Even after extended periods of use, I would often find myself needing to carefully look through each tab to make sure I didn't go past what I was looking for. Admittedly this may seem a trivial concern,

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