I searched for well over a year to buy a 'real' camera. I firmly believed it would be the successor to the Fuji s6000.. but the 8000 had neither manual zoom lens nor super-CCD so I looked elsewhere. I suspected it could be the Casio F1.. but for that price I could have a dSLR! I then thought it would be a small, hiker-friendly Olympus, either the e500 or e510.. but the e500 close-out system was not enough cheaper than new models, and the e510 didn't test as well as the Alpha (or the e500!) at my local Ritz store. Also.. the 4/3 cameras really were not smaller, at least not appreciably so. I really wanted image stablilzation (IS) in some form (sorry, e500), and checked out the Nikon d60 with its IS lens, but the price was enough higher to keep me away. Finally, in mid-April 2008, the a200 went on sale - and I made my decision. Since I had pestered my local Ritz dealer for so long, their patience earned my business.. after they matched a sale price from another store :-)

The features on the Sony were either cool or useful, and the mix was enough to sway me. Besides IS, shadow-boost technology (Sony's DRO, Nikon's D-Optimizer) was of value to me; Olympus is doing this now with their e420. Another consideration was my shooting style: I crop my images more often towards the 16:9 ratio than 4:3, so the Olympus sensor format was less appealing. [If you wanted 16:9 image format on a big sensor in early 2008, it was Sony or nobody!] Battery life and feedback are also worthy of note. On the cool side, the rotating info screen on the screen is now showing up on Canons, but the Sony had it sooner - and I like it. Program-shift is indispensible to the way I shoot, and as soon as I picked up the Alpha it worked the way it should - with no reading required.

I was very tempted to wait for the a300, but early reviews of the a350 suggested I would be trading off a few things (a bit more weight, higher price & tighter viewfinder.. and lower battery life?) for the supposed wonders of live view and a tilting screen. Since my Casio P505 has the rotating screen, I do enjoy it.. but I really want a great optical viewfinder & didn't feel like compromising it. I had also waited long enough - giving everyone another year to make my dream camera was killing too much time as I checked reviews and forums for hints!!

I seem to have ignored Canons in my debate, partly because Ritz had none but I also wasn't endeared to them. The XT was not appealing to me at all, in size or style, and other models were above my preferred price - and as the number-one seller, they wouldn't miss me anyway.

JimR, a200 user
http://www.picasaweb.google.com/alphaPDX