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Sony a35 Digital Camera Review

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Digital Camera Review by: Michael Gazzola

 

Sony has a long history of releasing cool electronic items and firsts in technology. In recent times Sony releases a translucent DSLR mirror and now the a35 has been lucky enough to score this technology. This new DSRL(T) is a pretty sharp little unit packed with plenty of features. This review is based on the body / single lens kit, [http://www.sony.com.au/product/slt-a35k]. The a35 promises a ton, from 12,800 ISO to 3D Sweep Panorama, to Picture Effect and Full HD recording...

 

Appearance & Functionality


As with previous models in the a33 and a55 there’s a very similar styling maintained with the release of the Sony a35. The body is noticeably smaller than your professional and bulkier camera body, increasing ease of use and handling. This in itself opens Sony to the female / ‘Mum’ market looking for something better than a compact camera without having to get into the deep end of DSLR cameras.

There’s a good useful rubber grip on the right side, with an inbuilt activation hand sensor and a nice matt black paint job over the remainder. Function buttons are placed where they should be, with the two main buttons positioned for capturing images / video within easy reach. Sony haven’t tried to be overly clever and work with minimal buttons, they’ve simply put thought into the placement of the function buttons you need most.

The camera’s ‘Menu’ at a glance is a little full on, but this is simply because the a35 offers so many options and tweaks. The menu is clear, bright and fairly user-friendly to scroll through on the 3.0-inch (100% field of view), 921,600-dot TFT, Xtra Fine LCD with TruBlack technology.

The ‘Function’ option is like a secondary menu, where you can access a host of quick change modes within the shooting dial selection.  So when you’re shooting, you can easily tweak the camera’s defaults on the fly as you move from one photo opportunity to the next.

The 16mp capture produces large enough files to print an image the size of a door each time you push the button, so coupled with the option to shoot 7 frames per second you better get yourself a memory card at least 16gb in size to begin with.

The only thing that may have a few people on the fence is the Xtra Fine EVF Electronic Viewfinder, which pulls in at 1,440,000 pixels and is in place of a traditional optical viewfinder due to the new APS HD CMOS translucent sensor technology the a35 carries.

 

Image Quality / Lens Quality

 

Image quality can sometimes be difficult to judge as you’re restricted by the lens provided. If one manufacturer provides a professional lens to show what the body can do, and another just provides a kit lens it would be easy to think there would be an unfair advantage in there, even though both companies technically, were in the right with each stance.

sony20110807c.jpgSony in this case, has provided the actual kit lens that the consumer would purchase with the body, rather than trying to show off anything else. But, in short the image quality is outstanding.

For this segment, it punches well above its weight division and easily finds sharp focus  every time. In general testing, whether it be indoor, outdoor or shooting through a window in an attempt to trick the Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor for depth, to my amazement,  the Sony a35 simply nailed it every time.

The lens included with the body / single lens kit is an 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 and although it seems quite light, I’m happy to turn the cheek on this occasion as I just can’t believe the sharpness of so many of the images.

White balance for the Sony a35 in daylight produced clean images as expected. Under tungsten light the results were slightly warm but not an issue and remained good when tested with flash. Fluorescent lighting with flash also produced good results, and surprisingly very clean results without flash.

Like the a55, the a35 is capable of taking photographs up to 12,800 ISO. So, for the regular person on the street what does this mean? Well it takes photography into a space that film never entered. In film days, you were told (for example) to use 400 ISO film if you wanted to take action photos or capture life in darker scenes. With each step from 100 ISO to 200 ISO, it is the equivalent to 1-stop on your aperture dial on the lens, from say f4 to f5.6. So, when looking at the ISO steps available from 100 (finest grain), 200, 400, 800, 1600 (highest colour film option), 3200 (highest b&w film options) and now 6400 and 12800 ISO. This is 2 extra stops of light on the top end allowing you now to shoot in very dark rooms without the aid of a flash unit. This also opens up more flexibility to sports photographers who won’t have to rely on a faster lens, eg f2 lens.

A couple of other benefits also worth mentioning with moving to this higher level of ISO is that if using flash, it will use less power giving you more shots, and also extend the flash range / distance on the camera.

The only pitfall, as with all DSLR’s at present offering this high level of ISO, is the grain – and there’s loads of it. In bright daylight with minimal black areas some great images can be taken without grain dominating the image. But 12800 ISO is not really for bright light, but for night scenarios or darker venues where the grain will become very evident. However, considering the pixel race is dead for ISO it’s game on, and to the absolute benefit of everyone from hobbyist, amateur right through to professionals. The next few years of development will be very interesting indeed…

 

View sample images here: http://www.facebook.com/BuynShoot

 

sony20110807b.jpgLCD / Viewfinder

 

The LCD is a bright and punchy 3.0-inch (100% field of view), 921,600-dot TFT, Xtra Fine LCD with TruBlack technology. It dominates 4/5ths of the camera’s back and is worth every inch. Furthermore, it doesn’t drain the battery of power, with an estimated battery performance of approximately 440 shots (EVF) / approximately 420 shots (LCD) based on CIPA measurements.

 

Video

 

More and more cameras, especially DSLRs are being released with HD video, and the a35 is no exception scoring a Full HD option, capturing in two formats AVCHD and MP4. The a35 has the added bonus of continuous tracking autofocus of still or moving objects, or Sony says “the feature is ideal for capturing fast-moving sports, children's expressions at just the right moment or distant subjects with a high-speed burst of frames” …which I agree with.


 

 


 

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Conclusion

 

When sitting down to list the pros and cons for the Sony a35 it was actually hard to find a compelling reason not to highly recommend this camera. The sharpness of the images, the wide range of useful and fun function options available to the photographer plus the availability of Full HD video puts this camera at the top of its segment.

It performed extremely well in so many different tests that the only award appropriate for the a35 was ‘Platinum’ (our highest award), as anything less would be cheating Sony out of a top spot on the podium.



Appearance rating 4 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
5 stars
Lens quality
3.5 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4.5 stars
Value for money 4.5 stars
RRP (AUD) $949
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Effective Pixels 16.5 Megapixels
Sensor Type
Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor with RGB primary colour filter
Image Sizes 13 Sizes
Lenses 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 Kit Lens
Resolution Settings Image Size (Aspect ratio 3:2) L(16M): 4,912 x 3,264; M(8.4M): 3,568 x 2,368; S(4M): 2,448 x 1,624
Image Size (Aspect ratio 16:9) L(14M): 4,912 x 2,760; M(7.1M): 3,568 x 2,000; S(3.4M): 2,448 x 1,370
Sweep Panorama (Wide) Horizontal(23M): 12,416 x 1,856; Vertical(12M): 2,160 x 5,536 Sweep Panorama (Standard) Horizontal(15M): 8,192 x 1,856; Vertical(8.4M): 2,160 x 3,872 3D Sweep Panorama (Wide) (7.7 M): 7,152 x 1,080 3D Sweep Panorama (Standard) (5.3 M): 4,912 x 1,080; 16:9 (2.1 M): 1,920 x 1,080
Shooting Modes 7 Scene options; Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Sunset, Night view / Night portrait, Hand-held Twilight
Face Detection No
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane shutter. 1/4000 sec. -30 sec., bulb. Flash sync: 1/160 sec.
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO Auto: 100 - 1600; Selectable: 100 - 12800; Multi Frame NR (up to ISO 25600)
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 3.0-inch (100% field of view), 921,600-dot TFT, Xtra Fine LCD with TruBlack technology
Viewfinder Electronic viewfinder (color), 100% Field of View
Flash Built-in Auto Pop-up, GN 10 (in meters at ISO 100)
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance Auto, Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash), Colour Temperature (2500 – 9900K with 19-step Magenta / Green compensation)
Self Timer Yes, 10 sec., 2 sec. 
Movie Options AVCHD / MP4, 1,920 x 1,080 (50i recording, 25 fps image sensor output / Average bit rate 17 Mbps), 1,440 x 1,080 (25 fps / Average bit rate 12 Mbps), 640 x 480 (25 fps / Average bit rate 3 Mbps)
Video Out Yes
Storage Type Memory Stick Pro Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD Memory card, SDHC Memory card, SDXC memory card
Image / Audio Formats JPEG (DCF2.0, Exif 2.3), RAW (ARW 2.2 format), RAW + JPEG, 3D still image MPO
Connectivity USB2.0 Hi-Speed (mass storage mode / PTP mode)
Power Source AC adaptor - AV-PW20 (optional)
Battery Options NP-FW50
Dimensions 124.4mm x 92mm x 84.7mm (excl. protrusions)
Weight 433g (not including battery, memory card or accessories)
 

 

 
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