Customer Review

635 of 647 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The EVF Will Change The Way You Use Your Camera (For The Better), October 30, 2011
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This review is from: Sony Alpha SLT-A77 Translucent Mirror Digital SLR Camera - Body only (Camera)
My rating reflects the camera as a whole. I bought it, use it and love it, but I'm going to take a different approach here and review one aspect of this camera: the viewfinder.

Most of the professional reviews I've found for the Sony a77 (dpreview, etc) are entirely missing the point. The electronic viewfinder alone is reason enough to consider this camera a step up from a traditional DSLR, even if the DSLR you were comparing an a77 with had identical specs. I'd say the a77's viewfinder is a pleasure to use (and it is), but even that is missing the point.

This viewfinder will change the way you use your camera. It'll change it for the better because it gives you greater control over the camera than you've ever had before.

Because the viewfinder is an OLED video screen in the eyepiece instead of being a typical piece of glass, you're seeing something entirely different. Something more useful.

An optical viewfinder shows you what the lens is seeing. An electronic viewfinder shows you what the sensor is doing. Think about that for a moment. Let's say you own a Nikon D7000 and you boost exposure compensation. Do you see any change in the viewfinder? Of course not. You'll see that change in the photo you take. That's how SLRs have always worked, even back in the days before digital. Ah, but with the electronic viewfinder in a Sony a77, when you boost exposure compensation, you'll see the image in the viewfinder become brighter, just as the shot you take will be brighter.

An even simpler example: Look through the viewfinder of a DSLR and choose an exposure point. Pick a dark spot. Nothing changes in your viewfinder, right? Pick a bright spot. Do you see any change in the viewfinder? Of course not. But, in the a77 viewfinder, you see the exposure change because the viewfinder is showing you what the camera is doing rather than only showing you what the lens is seeing.

Here's how most of us probably used our DSLRs: You pick the camera up to your eye. You look through the viewfinder to frame your shot, etc. You take the shot and then pull the camera away from your eye so you can review the shot you just took, using the LCD screen on the back of your camera "Ah, shoot. Blown highlights." You lower exposure compensation, put the camera viewfinder to your eye, frame up the shot again and take it again. Then check it again on the LCD screen on the back of the camera.

In other words, it's a game of switching from viewfinder to LCD, LCD to viewfinder, etc etc etc. Back and forth.

With the electronic viewfinder in the Sony a77, you don't have to do that anymore. You can literally see the changes you're making in the viewfinder. And, better still, you can set up your viewfinder to review the shot you just took for 2 seconds (or 5, though I find 2 to be enough). So, you take the shot and immediately see the shot you just took without moving the camera.

This electronic viewfinder is an absolute pleasure to view, and it can do some amazing things.

Want a level laid over the shot you're about to take? Put it in your viewfinder.

There's an excellent tele/crop feature in the a77 that drops the 24 megapixel sensor down to 12 and doubles the length of your lens' reach. Thus, a 50mm lens becomes a 100mm lens, and you're seeing this change perfectly in the electronic viewfinder.

There's also an option to check your focus. Click a button and the viewfinder will show you a super-zoomed in view so you can check the precision of your focus. There is absolutely no way this sort of thing can be done with an optical viewfinder.

I've seen so many reviews talking about the weaknesses of electronic viewfinders in comparison to optical viewfinders, but they fail to mention the weaknesses of optical viewfinders. Now that I've made the switch to an EVF, I'd really hate to have to switch back. After using the viewfinder in this Sony a77 for a day or two, you'll realize just how limiting an old fashioned optical viewfinder really is.

Specs only tell you what a camera is capable of, but as we all know, photography isn't about the camera. It's about the photographer and the photo taken. The viewfinder in this camera will give you, as a photographer, more control over your camera than you've ever known. The buttons and dials give you control over the camera, but the EVF literally puts you inside the camera. It's an awesome experience. I suspect that, ten years from now, most DSLRs will have electronic viewfinders.

I certainly wouldn't want to go back to an optical viewfinder after using this thing. No way.

UPDATE: Two years later, and I love shooting with my a77 more than I did when I wrote this review. I also realize how much I didn't even mention, such as Focus Peaking, just to give one example. Again, that sort of thing simply isn't possible with an old fashioned optical viewfinder. Or how about the fact that this EVF is large and show 100% of the frame, whereas DSLR optical viewfinders only tend to show you most of the frame, though the edges aren't in view. Details matter, right? I want to see edge to edge of what will be in the shot. I realize that the change from an OVF to an EVF is probably intimidating for some, just as the switch from film to digital was intimidating years ago. It's change. Digital isn't perfect, of course. Some still prefer film. That's fine if it works for them. And an EVF isn't perfect. Some will still prefer an OVF. Again, that's fine if it works for them. But for me, this camera with its electronic viewfinder is simply astounding. It's two years later and I'm as excited about it now as I was when I bought it.
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Comments

Tracked by 15 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 92 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 2, 2011 9:11:52 AM PDT
M. Klein says:
I have an a55 and I agree fully with your review, even though the a55's EVF is nowhere near the quality of the a77's. It has taken me months to unlearn prior DSLR exposure techniques. On my last shoot of an early-morning 5k/10k/half-marathon race (lots of shots had to be into the rising sun), I finally settled fully into using the EVF to judge exposure. I set the camera to manual mode, picked an aperture that would provide me the DOF I wanted, and adjusted shutter speed and ISO while only looking at the EVF. Out of about 350 photos only about 5 were substantially off on exposure and the overall quality of images was better than, I think, any other session I've had.

It takes a little experience to know how the image on the EVF translates to the dynamic range actually captured by the sensor. Even with the a55's EVF I'm getting pretty good at it, and that can only be substantially better with the a77's OLED EVF.

Adjusting white balance is similar; keeping both eyes open and adjust WB until the image color balance in the EVF is approximately the color balance seen by your other eye.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 2, 2011 10:33:44 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 2, 2011 10:34:08 AM PDT
j says:
Using the EVF to dial in WB like that is quite brilliant. I've been hesitant about the EVF, so hearing little bits like that really does help.

Posted on Nov 3, 2011 7:30:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 3, 2011 7:34:57 PM PDT
very nice "thinking outside the box" review.. Too bad the other pro's missed this point and some are even discounting the EVF for perhaps they feel it is sacrilegious..

But, however, one can always set DoF, exp comp, etc and see how the shot is going to look like by using the LCD in a Canikon. The focus may be slower in this "live-view" mode, but it is essentially like using a large EVF.

Posted on Nov 4, 2011 3:56:49 PM PDT
Nice review. Thanks. Can you talk to buying the A77 over the A65 now that you have it? Do you still think it's worth the extra $500, and why (sorry, sounds like a request for a high school essay). I'me moving from an A700.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2011 4:12:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 4, 2011 4:18:48 PM PDT
Rob says:
My decision was simple, really. These are just a few reasons off the top of my head:

I wanted two control dials. I have one set to exposure comp. Love that.
I wanted the AF/MF button (I've assigned that to "AF/MF Control/Hold, which is more or less the Nikon equivalent of "AF-on" which basically reassigns autofocus to that button instead of a half-press of the shutter. I prefer shooting that way).
I preferred the buttons and layout of the a77.
I wanted the better flip-out LCD. It works great, even on my tripod.
I wanted the top panel showing settings, etc, even though I don't need it. I guess that's a holdover from my days of shooting with cameras that had one. I've grown used to it and prefer it.
Also, I preferred the larger size and weight of the a77. I have huge hands, and I'm not shooting with particularly light lenses, so I like the feel of a heavier (but not too heavy) camera. The a77 is slightly lighter than my D7000 was.
And, hey, I live in Portland. It rains a lot here, so the weather sealing is a nice touch, though my lenses aren't weather sealed (Sony 18-250mm tele and Tamron 90mm macro)

I can definitely see people deciding that stuff is irrelevant and being really happy with the a65. It's probably a really sweet camera. I don't think you can go wrong either way. I just decided that if I was going to switch from Nikon (a D7000) to Sony, I might as well go all out. I'm really happy with my decision, but like I said, I don't think you can go wrong either way.

Posted on Nov 9, 2011 11:14:21 AM PST
jcgoobee says:
Thanks for a very well written review. You have explained what a OLED viewfinder is without any technical jargons. I just purchased a Nex 5N last week, and have heard of many folks recommending the OLED viewfinder which costs half of the price of the camera. I don't mind spending my money but just don't want to waste it. Rob, in your opinion, do you think I should get it. Oh yes, this 5N is my back up camera for my Leica M8, which I do use my Leica M mount lenses with. Thank you again.

James

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2011 11:25:30 AM PST
Rob says:
Hi James. The reason I can't answer that is because I haven't ever used a 5N. I'd think it all depends on how the viewfinder and body come together, ergonomically. An important part of what makes a camera great is how it fits in your hands and what it's like to shoot with. If I were you, I'd try researching it on the dpreview forums. Best of luck!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2011 11:25:48 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 9, 2011 11:26:05 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2011 11:45:40 AM PST
jcgoobee says:
Hello Rob, I see your point and thanks for writing back so quickly. I did look up the viewfinder from dpreview but it doesn't say much there, and I prefer to get feedback directly from the folks who actually owns and uses the OLED viewfinder like yourself, which always tend to be unbiased and genuine. Thanks again. :)

James

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2011 11:48:23 AM PST
Rob says:
That's why I was recommending the dpreview forums. They have a few Sony specific forums. I'd bet you'll find specific info there. If not, register for an account and ask a question. Cheers!
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