293 of 302 people found the following review helpful
I've had a Panasonic FZ30 "bridge" camera for five years. It is the type of camera without interchangeable lenses and a small sensor. I've really enjoyed that camera as it had good ergonomics, a great 35mm to 420mm 12x zoom lens, shot video, a good set of features, and pretty good stills. However I found it limited me in three areas (there's always something right?):
1) I wanted better image quality.
2) I wanted better low light capability.
3) I wanted better video performance.
Not wanting to carry and change lenses I searched for another bridge mega-zoom type of camera but they all suffered from the same small sensors and limited low light capability. So I decided I had to make the leap to an interchangeable lens camera. I would search for one that had a sort of mega-zoom lens available so I could just have one lens.
I looked at DSLRs but they are so big, so expensive, and so heavy that I shyed away from them.
Recently several micro four-thirds size sensor cameras came on the market, all using a new set of lenses, but I wasn't impressed with them. I thought if the sensor had been the biggest problem in my FZ30 I didn't want just a step up, I wanted a large leap up in sensor size.
Then I saw Sony introduce the A33 and A55. Reading through the specification I was so excited to see it would likely meet all of my wants and then some.
I've had the A55 for just over a week and I am very happy with it. I have the one lens I wanted (sort of) which is the Sony SAL18250 with a 33mm equivalent of 27mm to 375mm, almost as much zoom as my FZ30. I do appreciate the wider 27mm and can crop on the PC to extend the zoom range. Photo quality with this camera/lens combination is a huge improvement, just what I was looking for.
This camera is small compared to most other DSLRs on the market, but it is competitive in photo quality, ahead in video quality, and has some great features not found on even much more expensive cameras.
The sensor used in the A55 is an ASP-C size used in many prosumer DSLR cameras. Sony has done a great job combining advanced features into a small and light body.
As for low light the FZ30 was limited to 400 ISO while the A55 goes up to a somewhat grainy 12,800 and can mimic 25,000 in one mode. So it far exceeds my needs for low light capability. There is little noise up to about 6,400.
The video quality is astounding at 1080i/60fps (captured at 30fps, recorded at 60fps). It is smooth, sharp, and the color is good even in low light. Check it out on youtube.com
There are lots of detailed professional reviews online so I won't go much deeper - and I'm not the one to do that anyway. I'm just an amateur photographer who wants to take good photos of my seven month old grand son, some videos of wake boarders behind our boat, and photos of family gatherings. This camera will do that and much more.
There are many complaints of low battery life but it is better than my FZ30 so I am happy. I have three batteries which should solve any low battery issues anyway. It depends a lot on your shooting conditions. Yesterday I took 700 photos with very little auto focus required; the battery level showed 75% after those 700 shots. This was just a test and the total duration was less than 15 minutes. I just offer it to say that your shooting conditions will dramatically alter battery life.
- Light weight, small and easy to handle.
- Great photo quality
- Even better video quality than most.
- Very fast, continuous Auto Focus even during video.
- Level indicator on screen (I can't tell you how many images I've had to adjust photos on the PC for a crooked horizon)
- Fully articulated 2.9" LCD (I won't buy a camera without one of these)
- Very nice Electronic View Finder. Some see this as a "Con" if they've come from an OVF. I've only used EVF for 10 years so this is no big deal for me.
- Nice, sharp, 18-250 lens (an option I purchased separately.
- Panorama mode - take an auto-stitched sequence of photos in one quick motion. Awesome feature.
- High Dynamic Range - Take, for example, a photo indoors with a bright window in the background. HDR will properly expose both the inside of the room and the image outside the window - automatically in the camera.
- Hand Held Twilight mode - take a photo in very dark conditions. The camera will take 6 photos and combine them to achieve amazing 25,000 ISO equivalent photos.
- Night portrait - uses the flash for the person in the foreground but properly exposes the background too.
- Amazing Night View scene mode - take great city skyline photos at night.
- Built in pop-up flash
- Built in GPS records where you are in the photo data. Display on Google Earth
- Face detection
- Smile shutter
- 10 Frames Per Second - yes 10fps. You can't find that in any other camera in this price range. And it will focus during the burst!
- Sensor switches from LCD to EVF when you put your eye up to the EVF. Neat!
- I can have one lens and just leave it there. No carrying two or three lenses and having the frustration of having the wrong lens attached for a given situation. I did the three lens dance many years ago and don't ever want to do it again. With one lens there is no issue with cleaning the sensor if it gets dust on it because I'll never have the sensor exposed to the air.
- With the 18-250 lens the camera and lens weight about 2 lbs. That is about 1/2 lb. heavier than my FZ30 and I notice it.
- Lots of shooting, especially long video with the image stabilizer on, can result in an over heat shutdown. I've only had this happen once. Most of my videos are 1-3 minutes, well inside the overheat warning.
- To me the grip is uncomfortable and too small. I have average size hands for a man. After doing some research though I've learned I've been spoiled by my Panasonic FZ30 which had a very nice grip. I've tried a number of DSLRs and it seems many of them have grips that are not as comfortable for me as the FZ30.
If you are the owner of a larger, more expensive, DSLR you may find some things of this camera to fall a little short for your needs. One big issue is the lack of an OVF, another might be battery life. You may find, though, that the Sony A55 is a good addition to your camera inventory that is much smaller and lighter as a carry-around but still has great image quality and features. For you there are a lot of great Alpha lenses available for this camera.
If you are the owner of anything less than a DSLR I suspect you'll find this to be a gem of a camera. It has a lot of features that you can take your time to learn, but it also has several auto modes so you can treat it as a point-n-shoot. My wife picked it up this morning and took several photos without ever having touched it before. She took the lens cap off, turned it on, popped up the flash and took several great photos of me with my grand son.
Don't be scared away by those that tell you Canon and Nikon are the only good digital camera manufacturers. Sony makes sensors for Nikon.
I use this camera almost every day and I'm still very happy with it. I purchased a third party manual on Amazon.com which taught me a few things about the camera that I didn't know. The camera is still teaching me how to be a better photographer.
I also added an expensive, heavy, large second lens (the Sigma f/2.8 70-200) which I will use occasionally but the 18-250 is still my primary lens. The Sigma takes sharper photos, and allows for better low light photos without a flash (like a wedding reception for example). The good news is if you don't mind changing lenses this camera is still a good choice because there are some great lenses available for the Sony Alpha line.
I still don't change lenses. When I leave the house I have a target photo shoot in mind and attach either one or the other lens for the day.
I'm going to attach a photo of my 28 month old grandson in the pool with my wife that I took with the A55 and the Sigma lens so you can see how sharp it is. That photo is right out of the camera, unedited in any way on my computer.
160 of 168 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2010
This camera is probably the best compact DSLR in its segment right now. Here's my summary:
1. Extremely fast and accurate AF. It's as good and sometimes better than my Nikon D90!
2. Image quality from ISO 100-800 is good as my Nikon D90 and is as good or superior to anything near or in its segment! Images above ISO 800 are still very decent and competitive with anything with its class.
3. Images from the kit lens are sharp and vibrant.
4. EVF is accurate, detailed, and provides all the info. you need
5. Excellent quality HD (1080i) video.....better than most DSLR's in its class. Low light capability is excellent.
6. Best Live View of any DSLR around....w/very fast AF.
7. Excellent tilting LCD screen....vibrant and hi-res.
8. Light and compact body.....easy to travel with.
9. Tremendous value.....beats anything in its class (best bang-for-buck)
10. Received dpreview.com's coveted Gold Star award!
1. Relatively short battery life
2. HD video limited to 9 min. with Steady Shot on (but 29 min. with it off). 3rd-party lenses with lens OIS may be a work-around.
3. Limited manual controls with video.
4. Camera might be too small for users with big hands (be sure to handle it in person if possible)
83 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2010
The a55 makes it easy to shoot great photos in very challenging lighting conditions. The Auto-HDR (digh dynamic range) takes 3 photos and combines them perfectly into one photo, so that very bright sky and darker landscape both are exposed properly in the final photo. The camera also uses a similar process for doing low light situations (where subject movement would cause a blur if no flash was used). These are in-camera processing features that only Sony is offering at this point.
The continuous auto-focus during video is also a first for inter-changeable lens cameras. Overall, it's a great photographic tool.
By the way, one reviewer compared the a55 to his Canon 7D. That's a $1,600 camera, body only, while this is $750 body only. In a way, it's a compliment that a camera costing so little has to be compared not to others in its price class, but to a camera double the price.
53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2010
I'm the first to admit that I never liked any of the Sony cameras. I never cared for their Steadyshot P & S, and I still don't care for it today. I considered their DSLR line to be waaaaay too bulky & ISO too noisy, compared to the Canon & Nikon DSLR line (of similar feature models). So I had to re-read all these GREAT reviews about the A55 thinking that it was too good to be true: An improved technology (invented years ago) that ACTUALLY makes good on its promise of faster focus & more light being absorbed by the camera.
I've been playing with my a55 for two days now & I am terribly impressed by its accomplishments & innovative features (gps, image stabilization, lightweight & small footprint, PLUS CONTINUOUS AUTO-FOCUS DURING HD VIDEO RECORDING). Another set of features that I am terribly surprised to see being ACTUALLY USEFUL: Panorama & 10fps shooting mode. I couldn't be more thankful to realize that I can save myself HOURS of pc-processing, by simply panning the A55 left to right (or top to bottom) while pressing the shutter button (continuously taking shots) & processsing (stitching) the pictures internally to give me the final shot practically on-the-fly (literally done in under 15 seconds). Yes, the panorama pictures are very decent (except when people are moving around, then u get blurry subjects) and very useful. The 10fps mode works ONLY if you have very good lighting outside (you can forget indoor shots, even if you have a f/1.4 lens). Granted the focus is fixed, but the feature actually works. I took some shots of my son playing basketball while keeping up with the focus spot, pointed at his face. What sucks is the post-processing & writing of your shots to the memory card. My class 6 sdhc was a TURTLE. I'm hoping that my soon-to-be-shipped 8gb SDXC will make a difference.
Another plus regarding the Sony DSLR's (which is not a secret): Because of in-camera stabilization, Sony offers CHEAPER LENS prices (of similar to the models compared to Canon & Nikon). I'm assuming the lack of image stabilization offered on the Sony lenses help lower the price. Unfortunately I've read in some forums & lens reviews that... although Sony's line of dslr lenses (as a whole) create exceptional pictures, the construction (plastic) is not as reliable. I've yet to experience that flaw... to be continued.
UPDATE: I just got done testing the a55 w/ my tokina 11-16mm lens (plus sony's f/1.4 50mm wonder) & I couldn't be MORE SATISFIED with its results. I even tested it with my co-worker's old minolta lens & the image stabilization works like a champ. In manual mode, it's a GODSEND to adjust the settings & see the upcoming result on the lcd screen, instead of relying on numbers & graphs (but it's also on the lcd screen to accommodate the technical savvy's unlike myself), before I take a shot.
Prior to this, I tried (and failed) many times (in my previously owned dslr's) to tackle manual mode, on getting my desired picture. I adjusted, took the shot, then viewed the picture... TOO DARK. I adjusted again, took the shot, then viewed the picture... TOO LIGHT! And so on... and so forth. The a55 (at least in my experience) eliminated my trial-n-error in manual mode. The drawback to this: I'm still a dope w/ a dunce cap if someone asks me the adjustment specs on
a specific picture that I took in manual mode.
I've come to appreciate the PANORAMA-ON-THE-FLY feature more so now than ever. Perfect for still shots outdoors. That includes the 10fps burst modes for active kids. I took some great shots of the little monsters as they try to murder a piñata.
As for the video issue that everyone was talking about. I never encountered the 'overheating' defect. Then again, I used the fastest memory stick pro duo that sony has released to date. So far, so good. I've yet to use my 8gb sdhc class 10, in video mode - past 3 minutes.
On the Nikon D7000 comparison: American Photo just compared the photo output of both cameras. The Nikon D7000 only faired slightly better. It's interesting that the CMOS on both cameras are made by Sony (I didn't know this). In my opinion, the a55 is a better buy (given the competing features & results) against the D7000, while saving over $500 to boot. Video focus is also far superior on the a55 than the D7000, as reviewed by the magazine.
For $849, I couldn't be any happier for what this little baby can do. Although I still hate the fact that I have to buy a hotshoe adapter just to accomodate the a55's proprietary slot! You and your BETAMAX mentality, Sony... Quit it.
60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2010
I like this camera! For $750 I can't find another camera with these specs. It is well made and is now my do everything, go everywhere, second camera to my big gear.
Pros: Clean high ISO
6 fps with full functionality, 10 fps with limits
FAST autofocus, especially in video mode!
LCD screen swivels into the body for protection, great for hikes
In body stabilization, great for the vast selection of old "Minolta" lenses
Menus are very helpful and easy to navigate
Button layout is very efficient
Small body great for travel
Mirror does not move lessening camera shake during shooting
In camera GPS
Cons: None that match this price range, this camera beats everything else in my opinion
Yes, this is a small body, semi-limited function camera designed to be a step-up camera or second body to pros. Many of the complaints are pros who are trying to use this little speedgun inside a studio with a full flash set-up. That is not the function of this camera, buy a Canon 5d mkII, Nikon D700, or Sony a900 if that is what you are looking for. For $750 I can't find anything similar in functionality. I bought this camera with a full complement of lenses for under the price of the new Nikon D7000.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
I first bought the A33 camera but returned it to upgrade to this Sony Alpha SLTA55.
Some background will help others understand my comments: I had a Panasonic FZ30 for five years. I liked everything about that camera except it had its limits and that was what I was looking for - something that would be at least an equivalent but remove the limits. For your reference the FZ30 is an 8mp camera with a 35-420mm fixed lens, swivel 2" LCD, built in flash. It is considered a "bridge" camera that falls between mega-zooms and DSLRs. So I'm not coming from a position of having a DSLR with many more features or a full frame sensor. I enjoy photography but just for casual and family use, no publishing for me. Just snapshots.
The three things I was looking for specifically were better image quality, better video, and better low light capability. The Sony Alpha A33/A55 definitely addressed those issues, and there are a bunch of very interesting features I wasn't looking for but am glad to have.
First this camera has an ASP-C sized sensor, the same size used in many larger DSLR cameras. It isn't "Full Frame" but it is way larger than my Panasonic FZ30 sensor. That larger sensor made all the difference in the world when it comes to photo quality. At 14 megapixels in the A33 and 16 megapixels in the A55 I find the image quality is so good I haven't felt the need to sharpen any of my photos on the PC. Also I can now crop (zoom) on the PC and still have a high quality image.
The low light capability of this camera is superb. I now can take good photos in low light where my FZ30 couldn't even perform. It goes all the way to ISO 12,800 (the FZ30 went to 400), and can mimic 25,600 in a hand held twilight mode that I find works quite well.
As far as video this camera is also superb.
So it solved the three issues I had with the older camera.
I really don't like changing lenses. I had that experience 30 years ago with a Canon A1 film camera and don't want to do that again. So I purchased the Sony 18-250mm (27-375 equivalent) zoom lens and that I just leave on all the time. This means I can go wide angle to zoom over a 14X range, never change lenses, and don't have to worry about the pesky sensor dust problem of interchangeable lenses.
This camera is about 1/2 pound heavier than my FZ30 but after a while I didn't notice that. With the Alpha 18-250 zoom lens it is just about 2 pounds. It isn't without its faults though. First Sony simply made the grip too small. It is annoying but I'll live with it. Second, as with a lot of digital cameras in this genre, the sensor can overheat and shut the camera down. This might happen on hot days when you are trying to shoot long videos. Videos of 2-3 minutes are no problem. I don't take videos longer than that so this isn't an issue for me.
There are lots of comments about battery life being short but it is longer than my FZ30 so I'm happy. I found on a two week vacation in France that I never had to use the spare battery in my pocket once. I took over 1,200 photos over 10 days, sometimes 300 in one day, and never ran the battery down below 50%.
- Very fast auto focus.
- Translucent mirror technology allows focus during video.
- Awesome low light performance
- Awesome video
- Very useful "handheld twilight mode" to take handheld photos in very low light. Takes 6 shots and combines them.
- Awesome High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature that brackets three shots and assembles them. This was great in France when the sky had clouds with bright sunlight on the edges that blew out the highlights. The HDR mode took three shots and combined them, lessoning the sky highlights and improving the detail of the darker sections of the scene. I used it a lot.
- 6/10 frames per second, great for moving objects like kids or sports.
- Panorama mode (but I don't use this much)
- Too many other features to mention (see review on dpreview.com)
- Very sharp and clear 3" LCD
- Much better EVF than my FZ30
- Small grip - and there is no good reason it couldn't have been larger without compromising the compact nature of the camera.
- Not good if you intend to take long videos.
Should you buy the A33 or the A55? In my opinion, and for my use, I think the A33 would have been fine. I did the upgrade for one reason only and that was some charts that showed the low light noise was less on the A55. You get 2 more mega pixels but I just don't think that is important.
The A55 has a GPS feature that marks the images with the location coordinates but I found this feature didn't work well. As with any GPS it takes time to sync up with satellites. However if I turn the camera on, take three or four quick shots and turn it off the GPS never syncs and it records the wrong location.
The A55 goes up to 10 frames per second while the A33 goes to six. I suppose there are a few instances when that might make a difference.
January 29, 2012
I am still very happy with this camera and I use it almost every day. I still have just the one lens. The difference today is I've learned a lot more about the camera and can use it in ways that extract the best performance. There are times when I wish I had a longer zoom but I'm also learning most of the very long zoom shots aren't the best because there is always some kind of haze in the air so it is more wishful thinking to have those shots turn out in superb quality.
I think it is great to be able to take close up macro shots of flowers and a few seconds later take a medium zoom shot and both turn out very nice.
It's always interesting to read about the new rash of cameras coming onto the market, especially the inclusion of translucent mirror cameras from Sony's competitors. However I see nothing yet in these new cameras that will draw me away from this sweet little A55.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2010
* Very impressed with the speed, noise level and resolution. It's also very easy to use (works exactly like a point and shoot in AUTO mode).
* It's SMALL!
* The AUTO+ mode is really awesome when you want to take good pictures without worrying about manually setting the camera, or when you're in a hurry, or even when someone not experienced in your family wants to take a portrait of you or shoot landscapes.
* The "Handheld twilight" scene mode is pure gold. It takes several exposures in sequence and combines them.
* The camera is more than worth the money.
Now for some cons because nothing is perfect:
* Full-HD video mode is in practice limited to about 3 minutes because of overheating, with is frustating. Per Sony's website, you can get up to 29 minutes if you turn Super Steady Shot off, but image stabilization is very welcome for handheld video.
* Bracketed exposures appears to be limited to +- 0.7 EV. I wish there was no such limit.
* The EVF can be a nuisanse in rare occasions, but I think it's worth the beneffits.
* When review is turned on, both the EVF and live-view blacks out in between shots, adding some delay between focus + exposures (single drive). I think this could be corrected by a firmware upgrade (hear me, Sony?), where the EVF continually shows the live subject, where the live view displays the review *if* my eye is out of the viewfinder range. This would allow the SLT to work in a more similar way to other reflex/optical viewfinder cameras.
* Not many shortcuts to turn on and off features like metering mode, focus mode, drive mode etc, but again, it's a camera that won't intimidate much the not-initiated
* You have to leave Power saving in an agressive setting, or else battery will be an issue.
* In practice, GPS won't lock indoors, and will take 1-2 mins to lock even with clear sky.
* I didn't find Auto-HDR to be much useful since it shoots only on JPEG, and also couldn't quite get appealing pictures with it (yet), but I definitely need more practice with it.
* Sony software (like PMB) is not the most flexible and open around. The RAW format (ARW) is not the most popular, but Adobe supports it fine.
All those things are minimal in the light of
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2010
I own this camera. I'm a Nikon owner from way back and own a Nikon d90, but researched this camera and it's technology, and after using it I rate it 5 stars because it does everything but butter your bread! Unbelievable images!!!!!! I'll not review the attributes of this Sony because it's already been done previously, but honestly, it's probably the most awesome buy on the market now! No, I'm SURE it is!!!!!! Be aware though that this camera is substantially smaller than your average DSLR, and may take some getting used to, but I like it as a quick shooting alternative. I'll let you know more when I receive my new Nikon D7000, for a comparison. But in summary if you're contemplating purchasing this Sony, GO FOR IT!
UPDATE: November 12, 2010- Just returned from Italy with this camera and My Nikon d90, and I will have to say this camera is AMAZING! Yes, the d90 takes amazing shots and deserves praise, but this new Sony also deserves alot of praise. The Sony is lighter, easier to handle (for me, I have average-size hands), is FAST, SUPER EASY TO NAVIGATE AND OPERATE, and most importantly, takes awesome shots!!! After going over 1000 shots and interpreting the quality, the Sony performed with 5 stars, plus it's just so damn easy to shoot, and the added features were really very useful. I still rate it 5 stars, but will update when I receive my new d7000.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2010
I bought this from SONY directly when they just released. I set it up with 18 - 250mm lens. I've started with Nikon D40 and I was debating beetween Canon 7D and Nikon D90 for upgrade. Then I saw this camera's ad on internet that it's coming soon.
Based on the A550 and A800's customers' review, I've decided to give it Alpha55 a try. The biggest merit this camera has is the speed.From off to setup, continuous shooting(10fps), AF speed, so forth. 1080i HD movie with continuous AF is amazing binding with steady shot. 3inch swiveling LCD screen is par or better than iPhone4. I like the level indicator when I shoot landscapes. GPS geo tagging is also cool. A+ mode selects automatic scene detection even at night time. I also like the video quality, but I'd use external mic for audio. The built-in mics are not quite good enough. The sweeping method of taking panorama picture is so easy, anyone can make pan pics both horizontaly or verticaly. Only thing is the body grip is small for my hand. I think I'd need a verical grip to expand the size of the grip. I'd recommend if you're looking for all the latest tech with $1000 range dslr, you will like this.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2010
This camera has every little thing right, and every big thing right. Light, compact, quiet, wrap-around rubber grip on entire right side of camera, review photos right in the electronic viewfinder, or on the LCD. Shoots 10 fps, great in low light, gorgeous colors, articulated screen. I had originally bought the A500, but returned it because of a tiny scratch. Meanwhile, the A55 came out for pre-orders. God, I am so glad that I waited another month for the A55 to come out. It just feels right in your hands. The speed and smooth response are really nice. I think I've made the best possible choice for a camera costing under $1000 dollars. Full HD video, stereo recording, sweep panorama shots, 3-D sweep panorama. Couldn't be happier with the camera. Battery life could be a little longer, but it's not a crisis.
The more I use it, the more I love it.