Digital Cameras Guide

Sony Alpha SLT-A77 review

Preview: Sony Alpha SLT-A77

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Introduction

The A700's Translucent Successor

 

This preview is based on a pre-production model of the SLT-A77.

Exactly a year ago, Sony unveiled the Alpha SLT-A55 and A33, a pair of interchangeable lens cameras that use the company’s translucent mirror design. Unlike a conventional SLR (single lens reflex) camera that uses a reflex mirror that flips out of the way during an exposure, the Sony SLT (single lens translucent) camera uses a mirror that’s fixed and translucent. Being semi-transparent, majority of the light coming through the lens will pass straight through it to the image sensor behind, but a small portion will also be directed to a phase difference detection auto-focus (AF) sensor module located at the top of the camera. This implementation results in several advantages; the key one being the ability to achieve full-time, continuous AF, even during video recording. It also enables the A55 to do burst shooting at up to 10fps (frames per second), a spec unheard of in an entry-class, sub-S$2,000 DSLR prior to this.

In June this year, Sony began refreshing its SLT lineup with the introduction of the SLT-A35. A slightly updated A33, it gains a redesigned version of the 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor found in the A55, refinements in power consumption, longer video recording (29 minutes at a go), and an in-camera ‘Picture Effect’ setting. But it loses the tilt LCD and does a 1.4x crop when shooting at 7fps. An A55 successor was however ostensibly missing.

But if there’s a poll for the most eagerly awaited camera among the Sony Alpha and Konica Minolta faithful, the successor to the A700 would top it with ease. Launched in September 2007, the 12.2-megapixel A700 was the second DSLR (the A100 being the first) from Sony after its acquisition of Konica Minolta's camera business; and it went head-to-head with mid-range models from Canon and Nikon, such as the latter’s D300. A mockup of an A700 successor was finally shown in September last year at Photokina, and again in this year’s CES and CP+ trade shows. It's going to be an SLT camera, and the word at the time was that it’d arrive in the middle of 2011; but June only saw the A35 and the NEX-C3.

In any case, the SLT-A77 is finally official, along with the SLT-A65. True to rumors and leaks, both sport the same 24.3-megapixel APS HD CMOS sensor, which is Sony’s highest resolution APS-C size sensor yet. The A77’s maximum continuous shooting rate of 12fps is also the fastest ever in a Sony Alpha camera. Sony also boosts of a couple of world’s firsts: an XGA (1024 x 768) OLED (organic light emitting diode) electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a 3-way tilt/swivel LCD monitor (only on the A77). In the video department, both cameras have adopted the new AVCHD 2.0 (Progressive) format; that means 50p and 25p full HD video recording (60p and 24p if you’re in NTSC land) are now possible.

Key Specs & Differences between SLT-A77 & A65
 



Camera SLT-A77 SLT-A65
Sensor
  • 23.5 x 15.6mm Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor
  • 24.3 megapixels (effective)
  • 24.7 megapixels (total)
  • 23.5 x 15.6mm Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor
  • 24.3 megapixels (effective)
  • 24.7 megapixels (total) 
Continuous Shooting
  • Continuous Advance Priority AE: 12fps
  • Continuous Shooting (Hi): 8fps
  • Continuous Advance Priority AE: 10fps
  • Continuous Shooting (Hi): 8fps
Continuous Shooting Buffer
  • JPEG Extra Fine: 13 images
  • JPEG Fine: 18 images
  • JPEG Standard: 18 images
  • RAW + JPEG: 11 images
  • RAW: 13 images
  • JPEG Fine: 18 images
  • JPEG Standard: 18 images
  • RAW + JPEG: 11 images
  • RAW: 13 images
AF System
  • Phase-detection AF
  • 19 points (11 cross-type sensors)
  • Phase-detection AF
  • 15 points (3 cross-type sensors)
ISO Sensitivity
  • ISO 100 - 16000
  • Expandable to ISO 50
  • ISO 25600 equivalent in Multi Frame NR mode
  • ISO 100 - 16000
  • ISO 25600 equivalent in Multi Frame NR mode
HD Video Recording
  • AVCHD 1920 x 1080/50p (28Mbps)
  • AVCHD 1920 x 1080/50i (24/17Mbps)
  • AVCHD 1920 x 1080/25p (24/17Mbps)
  • MP4 1440 x 1080 (25fps/12Mbps)

* 60p/i, 24p & 30fps for NTSC
  • AVCHD 1920 x 1080/50p (28Mbps)
  • AVCHD 1920 x 1080/50i (24/17Mbps)
  • AVCHD 1920 x 1080/25p (24/17Mbps)
  • MP4 1440 x 1080 (25fps/12Mbps)

* 60p/i, 24p & 30fps for NTSC
Viewfinder
  • XGA OLED EVF
  • 2,359,296 dots
  • XGA OLED EVF
  • 2,359,296 dots
LCD
  • 3.0-inch, 921,600 dots
  • 150 degrees upward / 180 degrees downward / 270 degrees rotation
  • 3.0-inch, 921,600 dots
  • 180 degrees downward / 270 degrees rotation
Shutter
  • Shutter speed: 1/8000 to 30 sec., Bulb
  • Flash sync speed: 1/250 sec.
  • Shutter speed: 1/4000 to 30 sec., Bulb
  • Flash sync speed: 1/160 sec.
Popup Flash
  • GN12
  • 16mm FOV coverage
  • GN10
  • 18mm FOV coverage
GPS  Yes  Yes
Vertical Grip  Optional (VG-C77AM)  N/A
Battery Life
  • EVF: 470 shots, LCD: 530 shots (CIPA standard)
  • Video: 185 min.
  • EVF: 510 shots, LCD: 560 shots (CIPA standard)
  • Video: 190 min.
Body Material  Magnesium alloy and plastic  Plastic
Dimensions  142.6 x 104.0 x 80.9mm  132.1 x 97.5 x 80.7mm
Weight (body only)  653g  543g

 

Versus the SLT-A65

 

Both the A77 and A65 come in body only as well as kit versions. The A77 kit packs the new 16-50mm F2.8 SSM lens (24-75mm in 35mm equivalent); the A65 kit has the 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SAM lens (27-82.5mm in 35mm equivalent).

 

The A77 is noticeably larger than the A65, at about 1cm taller and 7mm wider. It's also 110g heavier.

 

The back of the A65 (right) resembles closer to the A35/A55, than to the A77. The rash of buttons on the A77 reminds us of the A900 and A700. So, while the A65 uses the same 24-megapixel sensor as the A77, it's not in the same class as the latter. Rather, the A65 is more like a souped-up A55.