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Sony Alpha A77 (SLT-A77VQ) review - What is behind this headline grabbing camera?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography Forum' started by Eni, Apr 14, 2012.

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  1. Eni

    Yellow Belt

    Jan 2, 2012
    +0 / -0
    Hi :) Today I have written my review of the Sony SLT-A77VQ. I hope this is helpful and interesting, please comment below :) Thanks.


    After the (DSLR) A700 failed to take off, Sony decided to try something new. The A700's successor, the SLT- A77V uses SLT (Single LensTranslucent) mirror technology, giving faster continuous shooting and autofocus.

    Specification wise, the A77 is certainly impressive. It features a 24.3 mega pixel APS-C HD Exmor CMOS 23.5 x 15.2mm (1.5x crop factor) sensor, 12 frames per second continuous shooting, 2.4 million dot electronic XGA OLED TruFinder viewfinder, 19 point AF system, 11 cross type points. It feautures the latest BIONZ processor, and it boasts brilliant image processing, to create high quality files.

    It also has other impressive abilities, such as customizable seletion of the upper and lower limits for auto ISO, GPS, stereo sound with a external microphone socket, and (for video) wind noise reduction, and has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second. Its shutter has been rated to 150,000 cycles, enough for all but the most demanding users.
    Its LCD is articulating, and has hinge, tilt and swivel capabilities, as opposed to its younger brother's (SLT-A65) tilt and swivel. It has a top passive LCD panel, and its body is weather sealed. It has auto sensor cleaning and steady shot inside image stabilization, and an array of image effects and more.

    Sounds great! But, for £1,149, is it worth the investment?

    I shoot with the A77, so I have had a lot of time to come up close and personal with this camera, and here I will share my views.

    Handling and Design

    Upon handling the camera, the first thing you notice is that it feels solid, well built, yet fairly heavy, without being bulky. The camera is loaded with external buttons, including WB, ISO, Exposure Compensation, function, menu, playback, AEL , AF/MF , movie, display, fullscreen to name a few. There is also a joystick/multi-selector. The camera seems to have been designed with right-handed people in mind, because most of the buttons are on the right.

    The first thing you will notice upon turning the camera on is that it has a relatively slow start-up. The icons are set up all along the right and left side, and can be accessed via the function button.

    The camera has a rear dial, a front dial and a mode dial. The modes available by the mode dial are Program, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual, Auto, Auto+, Sweep panorama, 3D Sweep panorama, 12fps, Movie, Memory Recall and SCN (Landscape, Sports Action, Portrait, Sunset, Macro, Handheld Twighlight, Night Portrait and Night View).

    The SLT-A77V comes with a good quality kit lens (2.8/16-50mm DT SSM). It also features lens compensation, where the camera attempts to compensate for lens distortions (chromatic abberation, distortion and shading). This feature is fairly successful.


    One of the biggest uncertainties is the EVF. While Sony boasts a good EVF, this remained to be seen. But, this EVF did not dissapoint, it has high quality, and, unlike many other EVF's, it does not feel tunnel like, and responds amazingly fast and is crystal clear.

    The ISO range (100-16,000, extendable down to 50 and up to 25,600 (in multi-frame noise reduction, (JPEG only))) is good, but noise can be quite prominent at higher ISOs. ISO 1600 is fine in most shooting situations, but careful inspection on computer screen reveales some colour noise or grain. After an image is taken, the A77 applies noise reduction for the same amount of time as the exposure was long (JPEG only). If you expose for 59 seconds, you will get noise reduction for 59 seconds. This feature is useful, but can be turned off in the menu. It is only available for 1'+ exposures.

    Going much higher is not advised, ISO 12,800 is riddled with noise, and ISO 16,000 is simply a last resort.

    For general use, the a77's noise reduction at low ISO is good, but performance is not as spectacular at high ISOs as competitors such as the Nikon D7000.

    The A77's autofocus is continuous, thanks to the fixed mirror, even during continous shots and video. The autofocus that the A77 adopts is phase-detection, which is faster, and more reliable than contrast-detection AF.

    RAW quality is significantly better, as when shooting JPEG, you have little control over the noise reduction, and several other factors.

    With a UHS-I memory card, the A77 can shoot extreme continous shots. The 12 frames per second is only used when full optimum lighting conditions are available, to avoid underexposure, but in optimum lighting, with a fast memory card, this camera can capture split second action in a chain of crisp images, but due to high resolution, the files are large, and so the buffer (temporary in-camera storage) can easily be overloaded after a burst of shots.

    Sony promises a battery life of about 530 shots, and this is fairly accurate, it takes a vigorous day out shooting, and about 500 images to exhaust its battery life.

    The video is HD (1920x1080p) (ACVHD), and unlike some other cameras, the video mode gives you control. You can film in program auto, where you can set the ISO, white balance, etc, or in shutter priority where you control the shutterspeed of each frame, and aperture priority, where you have depth of field control. Of course, there is also a manual mode! Video autofocus is silent, and fast, and does not dissapoint.

    The still shooting modes also have the usual array of Sony-ishness, such as HDR (the combination of several images to create high dynamic range), and image effects such as toy camera, pop, posterization, rich B&W, Partial Color , High contrast Monochrome, Soft High-key , soft focus, minature and more.


    So, we can conclude by saying that the SLT-A77VQ is a enthusiast/ semi-pro DSLT, and is successful in most shooting situations, but is not particularly suited to low light photography.
    As we have seen, it has impressive features, a great viewfinder, but noise levels are quite high. Its tone and contrast is good though, it may even excel over that of the Canon EOS 7D and the Nikon D7000. As we have seen, the EVF is incredibly high quality, it is one of the best around, therefore I recommend trying it, rather than blacklisting it.
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