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Sony A77 SLT Digital Camera Review

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Digital Camera Review by: Michael Gazzola 

 

When the announcement of the Sony A77 hit the airwaves it was accompanied by a fair bit of hype, as the new hero in the SLT / DSLR Sony line up came with 12 fps Continuous Shooting, High-precision Continuous AF Translucent Mirror Technology, a 24.3 Megapixel Exmor APS-C size HD CMOS sensor and a newly developed BIONZ image processor. After a week with the camera we’ve put it through a number of everyday tests and come up with the following results…

 

Appearance & Functionality


Sony have a history of finding clever ways to marry great technological advancements with cool product design. The A77 is no exception.

For a camera that is not targeted at professionals, it’s one hell of an over specked unit that gives the two DSLR market leaders a serious run for their money. The A77 body is heavy in a professional-like way, solidly built in a professional-like way, and functions and shoots in a professional-like way.

sony20111223-5.jpgIt feels great in your hands and shoots equally well. All the key ingredients are mixed in to satisfy Sony’s target market, however Sony are likely to gain broader appeal than just their target and may well sneak a little extra market share within the DSLR segment and close in on Nikon’s number 2 spot.

Every function that needs to be reached quickly by a photographer has been allowed for and carefully placed. It’s amazes me that some manufacturers are starting to put a few of the primary functions onto the menu, however Sony have stayed true and allowed for easy access to basics such as ISO, White Balance and bracketing options on the A77, each with dedicated buttons.

Navigating the menu is as user-friendly as it gets. Even though it’s loaded with pages of information, tweaks and tricks, it’s instantly accessible by a dedicated button on the top left rear.  The layout is clean and icons simple yet understandable.

 

Image Quality / Lens Quality

 

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Like the previously reviewed A55 model the Sony A77 SLT digital camera is capable too of shooting in either JPEG or RAW formats (or both simultaneously). The camera also offers 8 scene modes including Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Sunset, Night view / Night portrait and Hand-held Twilight.

The 24.3 megapixel capture produces 6,000 x 4,000 pixel files from Sony’s Exmor APS-C size HD CMOS sensor, coupled with its award-winning Translucent Mirror Technology which features a 150,000-shot shutter release durability.

 

So if you’re looking to invest in a camera with this type of large capture be sure to add at least an 8GB SD memory card to your wish list.


With our image testing we were keen to see how the ISO performed as the camera comes with a high 16,000 ISO option, which is generally a territory for grain and soft images.

 

The Sony A77 ISO selections vary from 50 to 16,000 but are only really useful up to 3,200 before pushing your luck and compromising image quality. It’s great though to see where Sony is heading and the energy they’re putting in to achieve cleaner ISO images at the higher end of the ISO spectrum. Images shot at 4,000 – 6,000 are pushed to their limits, but the real fun starts at 16,000 ISO allowing you to walk into a very dimly room and capture images that are actually better than the eye can see, from a brightness perspective. However the captured images are more for fun than eanything else.

 

With translucent mirror technology Sony have been able to achieve 12 fps continuous shooting coupled with a 1/8000 shutter speed. As we’re only going to see the ‘frame rate per second’ increase with each advance in technology, thanks to the removal of the internal flip up mirror found in DSLR cameras, Sony are well placed to capture the attention of photo journalist more than ever with this frame rates.


Autofocus on the A77 is quick and precise thanks to a 19-point AF System, with 11 Cross Sensorsnoisy images for high ISO speeds. Image sharpness is crisp and comes as no surprise as a the new DT 16-50mm F2.8 SSM zoom lens looks, feels and performs professionally. The lens available in a ‘kit’ option features dust and moisture-resistant designed seals. It’s optical performance is assured by two aspherical elements and three ED glass elements to minimize aberration at all focal lengths. Furthermore, an internal SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) drive assures fast, quiet autofocus.

 

The last point on focussing is the Manual option. When focussing in Auto mode, within the viewfinder a small box highlights in green when the point of focus is reached, however Sony have cleverly used this to also assist in Manual mode. When manally focussing back and forth as you reach a sharp point the box turns green allowing the photographer to not only test their manual skills but also keep them in check!

  

sony20111223-4.jpgLCD / Viewfinder


Quite possibly the biggest selling point for this camera is one that has slipped off the radar... The Sony A77 boasts a world first XGA OLED Tru-Finder at an unprecedented 2,359k dots (XGA) resolution, using a 100% field of view. It’s the first camera to use OLED and has paid off big time. Sony’s R&D team must be congratulated. Never has an electronic viewfinder come as close to the traditional optical viewfinder than now. For most people on the street handling this camera for the first time they may not even notice the viewfinder being electronic as the resolution, brightness, clarity and refresh rate is nothing short of fantastic. Sony, with the A77 have now shown that the days of the optical viewfinder might actually be…dare I say it… numbered.

sony20111223-3.jpgThe rear 7.5 cm (3.0-type) wide type TFT, Xtra Fine LCD screen has a  story of it’s own too. Offering a resolution at 921k dot and TruBlack technology the images look punchy and clear on screen. However the high gloss LCD cover looks amazing but picks up finger prints almost without touch it!

Another world first can be found here too with Sony implementing a 3-way adjustable screen that tilts and pivots freely for effortless framing at any angle. Flip out and turn left, right, up or down, or even flip the LCD 180 degrees when at its highest point and you can use live view to frame an own head shot.

 

Video


Users can now film in both interlace and progressive cinematic modes 25p, 50i and a world first for consumer-oriented APS-C cameras, Full HD video at 50p, utilizing the faster speed of the new BIONZ processor.  

Creative video options are extended further by the addition of manual focusing and P/A/S/M exposure modes familiar to still photographers. Full HD video of 1920 x 1080 is captured as AVCHD 2.0 / MP4 with a Video compression format MPEG-4 AVC (H.264).

Video capture is as easy to use as stills capture with a dedicated button on the rear to trigger recording. Even in stills mode you can hit the video record button and instantly begin capturing without delay.

The video quality for the Sony A77 is clean and sharp thanks to the DT 16-50mm F2.8 SSM zoom lens and Phase Detection technology implemented to assist focussing. And for those who like to tag their photos with data from their location, Sony have now enabled this feature for video with on-board GPS, which allows automatic geotagging of photos and video clips, with location data.

 

 

 


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Conclusion


After spending a week with this camera there really is very little to dislike and a whole lot to love. Other than an LCD that picks up finger prints easily, a video record button that could be better placed and a non-standard hot shoe, the A77 offers loads of pluses such as 24.3MP capture, Full HD movie capture, professional quality body and lens build, multi-angled rear LCD and the big surprise… the fantastic world first XGA OLED Tru-Finder Electronic Viewfinder with that whopping 2,359k dots (XGA) resolution. No matter which way you look at this camera it takes the cake!

This camera is very highly recommended.


Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Video quality
4 stars
Lens quality
5 stars
View finder (EVF)
4 stars
LCD screen (Rear)
4 stars
Value for money 4 star
RRP (AUD) Body only $1,899.00
RRP (AUD) Kit $2,799.00 (16-50mm Lens)
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 24.3 Mega pixels
Sensor Type
23.5 x 15.6mm (APS-C type), Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor with RGB primary colour filter
Image Sizes 3 Sizes / 2 Aspect
Lens DT 16-50mm F2.8 SSM zoom lens
Lens Mount
Sony A-mount lens, Minolta and Konica Minolta AF lenses
Resolution Settings L(24M): 6,000 x 4,000; M(12M): 4,240 x 2,832; S(6M): 3,008 x 2,000 // L(20M): 6,000 x 3,376; M(10M): 4,240 x 2,400; S(5.1M): 3,008 x 1,688
Shooting Modes Standard, Fine, Extra Fine, RAW, RAW+JPEG
Face Detection No
Manual Focus Yes (assisted with focus point highlight)
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane shutter, 1/8000 sec. - 30 sec., bulb. Flash Sync Speed 1/250 sec
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO Auto, ISO 100 to 16000 in 1-stop increments
LCD Monitor 3.0-inch (100% field of view), 921,600-dot TFT, Xtra Fine LCD with TruBlack technology
Viewfinder Electronic viewfinder (colour), 100% Field of view, OLED Tru-Finder at 2,359k dots (XGA) resolution
Flash Built-in Auto Pop-up, Auto (Flash-off), Auto, Fill flash, Red-eye reduction, Rear Sync, Slow sync, High-speed sync*, Wireless* *Requires compatible external flash. +/- 3EV (1/3 EV, 1/2 EV increments switchable)
Hot Shoe Yes
White Balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent (Warm White, Cool White, Day White), Flash, C. Temp 2500 to 9900k with 15-step, C. Filter (G7 to M7, A7 to B7), Custom, AWB micro adjustment
Self Timer 10 sec., 2 sec.
Stills Format/s
JPEG (DCF2.0, Exif 2.3), RAW (ARW 2.3 format), RAW + JPEG, 3D still image MPO
Video Format/s AVCHD 1920 x 1080 (50p/28Mbps/PS, 50i/24Mbps/FX, 50i/17Mbps/FH, 25p/24Mbps/FX, 25p/17Mbps/FH), MP4 1,440 x 1,080 (25 fps / Average bit rate 12 Mbps), 640 x 480 (25 fps / Average bit rate 3 Mbps)
Video Recording Time/s -
Storage Type - External Memory Stick Pro Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD Memory card, SDHC Memory card, SDXC Memory card
Storage Type - Internal
-
Connectivity USB2.0 Hi-Speed (mass storage mode / MTP mode), HDMI mini connector
Power Source AC adaptor - AC-PW10AM
Battery Options NP-FM500H
Battery Life 470 shots(EVF) / Approx. 530 shots(LCD) (CIPA measurement)
Dimensions 142.6 mm (W) x 104.0mm (H) x 80.9mm (D)
Weight 653g (not including battery, memory card or accessories)
















 


 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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