Sony Alpha SLT-A77V Review (with 16-50mm lens) – Good design
I will start off this review directly by saying that I really enjoyed using the Sony Alpha SLT-A77V. It was the best camera I have ever used since the Nikon D7000. This camera is heavy particularly due to 16-50 mm kit lens (it is my fav lens from Sony). The grip is really comfortable and things are balanced very well. There are a few exceptions but most of the controls are in the right places. EVF is really good to use. There are plenty of features packed in but I was disappointed to see that the manufacturer hasn’t included some key features. The performance and the quality of photos are good enough for this class of price and the video quality too is impressive.
The Sony Alpha SLT-A77V has good noise profile for this class and the video and photo quality is really good. For JPEGs, you will see some degradation for the edges in ISO 800 but the noise suppression artifacts do not come in till ISO 1600. But in the photos which have plenty of detail, that is plenty of edges, this degradation makes the pics look a bit mushier than what you’d like. For people who are going to process RAW, this camera is really good till ISO 3200 or maybe ISO 6400 however, things also depend on the subject matter. Shooting RAW will give you quality that is as good as that on Canon EOS 7D.
Dynamic range is pretty broad but I had more of unrecoverable clipped high lights than what I’d like. The camera does a good job for the shadow detail. During my review, I felt that this camera sharpens the JPEGs very well and it doesn’t go overboard with it at least with default settings. I didn’t really liked way in which Sony’s default color of Creative Style setting pushes hues until they do shift but the neutral setting of A77 works very well. This makes it possible to get some accurate colors for people who yearn for them. Flash that is built in too is a good implementation but it overexposes at times in the default setting.
Sometimes, the bigger pictures are a liability. For example, i had shot in one situation where i needed to print directly from card to printer of 4×6 size and it took a lot of time for loading the images in to memory of the printer to select the printing. A77V does give you one option for the down sized JPEGs but there isn’t any support for the small or medium RAW or RAW+JPEG which is a really important feature for camera of this class. This disqualifies A77V for needs of a lot of people who are going at press live blogging conferences. In one more example of the anti raw sentiment, focus magnifier (which gives easier manual focus) does not work along with RAW too. This, I think, is a bug.
To shoot videos, Sony Alpha SLT-A77V does really good job at rendering nice tones along with none of noticeable artifacts like rolling shutter or moiré. I really enjoyed shooting the video and this can be attributed to lens – autofocus really works quietly and smoothly. Zoom ring is a bit tighter as compared to what I would like but it is implemented quite well otherwise. Manoeuvring around is pretty easy too when you are shooting videos. Things get done without any problems.
However, you can only shoot in the automatic mode. It isn’t available in the aperture-shutter priority or the manual modes. Also, I ain’t really crazy about automatic gain or ISO sensitivity decisions which this camera makes. Also, the lack of controls didn’t really bug me. There is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 which has a lesser price tag and still gives better quality of videos and photos. SLT-A77V is a bit superior as compared to options of Nikon and is also better as compared to 7D.
Sony Alpha SLT-A77V isn’t really fastest in its class – this tag is still retained by 7D and it also lags behind Nikon D7000 but it gets the job done pretty well considering that it is processing a lot of image data. Except for annoying message of ‘processing’ which it shows when you are in the mode of automatic review; things are pretty zippy and fluid for shooting. It is a bit slower as compared to others while starting up and shooting but the difference isn’t drastic. The delay might be because this device needs to initialize 2 displays. Time for focussing and shooting in conditions of good light is 0.3 second which is typical in this class and for the dimmer conditions; it is 0.6 second which too is reasonable. Shooting 2 sequential RAW or JPEG images is 0.6 second too and if you are using flash, then the delay goes up to 0.8 second. The standard burst rate is eight and half frames per second which is better than what the competition has to offer.
One problem when it comes to continuous shooting is that buffer just handles around fourteen JPEG images before it goes slow for erratic bursts and I was using SanDisk 95 MBps Extreme Pro which is one of fastest cards that are available in market right now. I was disappointed with the slow down post 14 shots, when tested first but later I realized that I was testing with RAW+JPEG and hence could not tell the difference. This is really impressive. However, I was really disappointed with battery life. It is rated at about 470 shots but that is without GPS being active. It seems like the OLED screens suck in a lot of battery juice. GPS of A77V does not have logger feature (it tracks the travels when camera is switched off) but they suck battery juice faster.
There is new system of autofocus which works really well and I have always like interface of Sony in which they have selected amongst focus areas, and Zone Focus (it clumps areas of AF in right, left, or center) is only mode which I liked for using better instead of just leaving it alone on center spot (Sony calls this Local). AF is really fast and is quite responsive too.
Sony Alpha SLT-A77V is a bit lighter as compared to the competitors and still i would say that this is a bit heavy camera particularly when it is equipped along with 16-50mm lens which are quite heavy. Build is heavy, the body can stand weather and dust and there is chassis of magnesium alloy along with competitive cycle rating of 150,000 for shutter.
According to design of Sony, mode dial is located on left shoulder. It comes with standard selection of the automatic, semimanual, and manual modes along with MR or Memory Recall mode which lets the manual adjustment of the shutter and aperture speed; Continuous Advance Priority auto exposure mode, which fixes exposure for 12 fps burst and 3D Sweep Panorama and standard Sweep.
Top right side has controls of direct access for the ISO sensitivity, white balance, exposure compensation, and the burst modes along with one button that is placed a bit awkwardly and it is used to switch manually between the LCD and EVF. Center has hot shoe and microphone which is really good. Shutter key has soft and not mushy feel and it is easy to use. You will get used to its softness in no time. Most of back controls are reachable through right thumb. Ones which are most important MF/AF override, movie record, AE lock, quick adjustment access of menu (Fn), and navigation joystick are well positioned and you can reach it easily without any contortions. Connectors and ports are flash sync along with wired remote terminals, mic jack, USB, and HDMI.
Maybe it is because i don’t have a lot of experience in gaming but I found that a lot of the joystick controls of navigation for cameras are quite awkward and using them isn’t too user friendly. I am used to such controls on a lot of cameras but frankly speaking, i don’t really like it. A77V isn’t any exception either. On the other hand, it is still really functional. Preview button is placed below the lens on right which isn’t ergonomic. I pressed it accidentally a lot while holding the cameras. Dial of focus mode gives you continuous, single, manual, and AF automatic options. It is really large and is placed prominently on front left of this camera. Operating it is easy provided you are looking at it.
EVF of the Sony Alpha SLT-A77V is quite big and is magnified as compared to the dSLR rivals. Such electronic level of read out is quite effective. The refresh rate is fast enough and you get continuous comfortable shooting too. For LCD, the manufacturer has made complex mechanism to enable the LCD for tilting and swivelling. It is quite useful but I couldn’t really get it in position at all while testing the camera.
OLED displays are quite good. This technology is used in TVs to give super blacks and the scenes have high contrast than what things are and the colors too are saturated surrealistically. Also, LCD and EVF do not match one another. We are now getting to one point where we will need to put in some color and gamma controls along with some tools of calibration for displays.
In terms of the features, the manufacturer hasn’t really given a lot of goodies – there is GPS to geotag which is the best one according to me and this camera can register max 8 faces in face recognition but the set of capabilities are subtle and excellent. For example, you get to perform the exposure bracketing in either shot by shot or continuous burst with maximum 5 shots bracket. You get -/+ five stops in exposure compensation along with Sony’s 3 shot Auto HDR. In manual focussing, it does supply peaking.
Expect the Sony Alpha SLT-A77V camera price to be around $1,599/-
To conclude, I would say that the Sony Alpha SLT-A77V does come with a few feature lapses and quirks but it is still fluid and fast camera that is fun to shoot and gives some really good quality photos and the video is also better than what the competition offers.