Typically, the manual that comes with your new camera is less than satisfactory. Sure they tell you how to push all the buttons, but that's about it. Third party camera manuals or field guides can be a great resource for specific camera model owners.
Tom Bonner recently published a Digital Field Guide for the Sony Alpha DSLR A300/A350. Since the two cameras are nearly identical, Tom wrapped up both cameras in a single book. Myself being a Sony Alpha user, Tom thought I might like to check it out.
The book is a combination of extended camera manual, general photography guide, and hands-on assignments. The flow is very logical and easy to follow. This is one book that A300/A350 owners will certainly benefit from.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Sony Alpha DSLR A300/A350 Digital Field Guide, by Tom Bonner, is 272 pages with a soft cover. The book is small enough to fit in your camera bag, but large enough to fit in your hands. It's broken up into three parts and seven chapters, plus two very handy appendices.
Part 1 focuses on the two cameras and their various controls and menus. The A300 and A350 are so similar in construction that Tom covers both cameras simultaneously while pointing out the differences. This section of the book by itself could potentially replace the user manual that comes with the camera.
Part 2 starts with the basics of photography, including camera control, exposure, and composition. Then it goes into the specifics of lenses and other accessories, including various types of lenses available for the Alpha cameras. This section ends with a chapter on lighting — theory, application, and equipment.
Part 3 is more general in nature, covering subjects, types of photography, and digital workflow. Though this section is applicable to any camera, Tom constantly gives specific examples and tips for the Alpha photographer. I liked this section the best because it gives a lot of great examples and the content is structured in an academic manner with miniature assignments designed to explore and learn the A300 and A350.
The appendices are a good resource for Sony shooters. The first appendix is a listing of businesses and websites dedicated to Sony cameras. The second appendix is a troubleshooting guide specific to these cameras.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Bonner is a 30-year Minolta/Sony camera enthusiast and photographer (my kind of guy!). He's spent many years as a freelance photographer and writer. Some of his photographic experience includes automotive and motorsports subjects.
I've been following Tom for many months because of his blog, Alphatracks — a website dedicated to the fledgling Sony Alpha DSLR line. Being a Sony/Minolta user myself, the subject of his blog caught my attention. But Tom's ability to write and teach is what keeps me going back for more.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a great resource book for the Sony A300 and A350 photographer. It covers just about everything you can find in your user manual, plus a whole lot of practical stuff. New users will benefit the most from this book, as the assignments in Part 3 will familiarize them with the camera in-use.
For those who aren't A300/A350 users, it's probably not a book you'd buy. The entire book is sprinkled with Alpha details and it would be frustrating trying to translate the features and functions. But, I'm sure that Tom wasn't targeting Canon or Nikon photographers when he wrote it.
But regardless of which brand you use, I'd still go check out Tom's blog. A lot of the stuff he publishes isn't completely specific to Sony or Minolta.