Having got around to loading the camera up with the v4 firmware yesterday, I was ready to play with the new functions.

The progress of technology however, has revealed two sticky points. The first is that my vintage 2007 card-reader isn't able to read the new SDHC memory cards. The second is that the AVCHD video files the camera produces can't be edited with the software I had (Adobe Premiere Elements 8). Aah, the dilemma of whether to upgrade or not.

Okay, the main issue with using the camera at first is that it was very menu driven. This is different to the other cameras I've used where many functions have had easy access through dedicated buttons. The Sony a700 has one of the most economical user-interfaces I've used on a camera. The Sony NEX-5 generally requires much more button pushes to cycle through to the options you want.

The new firmware 4 however makes some welcome changes. I have been able to 'customise' two buttons. One has been set for the White Balance menu and one for the ISO. I like to shoot largely in aperture priority, so the shooting mode is largely stuck on A. This customisation makes a noticeable improvement to the UI.

So here's a shot I took with the kit lens today.

This is a jpeg shot straight from the camera. The ISO is 800, and the noise in the scene is very nicely controlled. The colour fidelity is also high. I customised the white balance by calibrating the camera against a purpose white-card. This makes using the camera's jpeg software much more useful.

This kind of customisation, combined with a superb manual focus function and high image quality, makes this a very appealing kit to the serious photographer wanting something portable.