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Sony SLT-A65V 24.3 MP Translucent Mirror Digital SLR With 18-55mm Lens
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- 2nd Generation Translucent Mirror Technology camera
- 24.3 MP for superb detail and amazing enlargements
- Ultra-fast up to 10 fps continuous shooting with Auto Focus
- Built-in GPS chip for geotagging your pictures and video
- World's first HD Movie mode with AVCHD 60p/60i/24p
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|Sold By||Available from these sellers||Cameta Camera||Green's Camera World||Amazon.com||Blue Point||Amazon.com|
|Screen Size||3 in||2.7 in||3 in||3 in||2.6 in||3 in|
|Focus Type||Autofocus & Manual||Includes Manual Focus||Automatic with Manual||—||Includes Manual Focus||Includes Manual Focus|
|ISO Range||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, (25600 with boost)||100-25600||—||—||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, 25600||Auto (ISO 100-51200), Manual (ISO 100-25600)|
|Item Dimensions||3.19 x 5.2 x 3.82 in||6.77 x 7.64 x 6.22 in||5.9 x 6.8 x 10.7 in||4.13 x 5.63 x 3 in||3.35 x 4.88 x 3.62 in||3.19 x 5.63 x 4.09 in|
|Item Weight||1.37 lbs||2.5 lbs||3.4 lbs||1.7 lbs||1.12 lbs||1.43 lbs|
|Megapixels||24.3||24.2 megapixels||24||42.4 megapixels||16.1 megapixels||24.3 megapixels|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||—||1 megapixels||24.3 megapixels||42.4 megapixels||—||—|
|Photo Sensor Size||APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)||APS-C||full frame||full frame||APS-C||APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)|
|Style Name||With 18-55mm lens||Base||Base||—||With 18-55mm lens||w/ 16-50mm|
|Video Capture Resolution||1920 x 1080 (60, 24 fps), 1440 x 1080 (30fps), 640 x 424 (29.97 fps)||1080p||1080p_hd||other||1920 x 1080 (60, 29.97 fps), 1440 x 1080 (30fps), 640 x 424 (29.97 fps)||1080p_hd|
Best of both worlds, 24.3 megapixel and up to 10 fps. Get action photos, HD Movies and Live View shots that other cameras miss, thanks to Sony’s exclusive Translucent Mirror Technology. Enjoy smooth and creative HD video at full 1920 x 1080 resolution – at either 60p or 24p frame rate - plus the world’s first OLED electronic viewfinder.
From the Manufacturer
|Best of both worlds, 24.3 megapixel and up to 10 fps. Get action photos, HD Movies and Live View shots that other cameras miss, thanks to Sony's exclusive Translucent Mirror Technology. Enjoy smooth and creative HD video at full 1920 x 1080 resolution – at either 60p or 24p frame rate - plus the world's first OLED electronic viewfinder. |
2nd Generation Translucent Mirror Design
Other DSLRs can shoot. Or they can focus with the speed and precision of Phase Detection AF. They cannot do both at once. Sony changes all that with the award-winning Translucent Mirror Technology system. It directs light to both the image sensor and the Phase Detection AF sensor simultaneously.
24.3 MP; best-in-class resolution
You get incredible detail and gorgeous enlargements thanks to an APS-C sensor with 24.3 megapixels. It's the worlds's first 24.3MPAPS-C DSLR
Upgraded BIONZ image processor
The brain of the camera is a Sony's BIONZ image processor substantially upgraded for the demands of 24.3 megapixel photography. Chroma noise reduction delivers high-resolution, low-noise photos even at ISO 16000. Also enables fast processing for up to 10 fps continuous shooting of data-intensive 24.3 MP images, 2D/3D Sweep Panorama modes and 6-image layering.
Sony Exmor technology
Conventional image sensors use only a handful of analog-to-digital (A/D) converters, which can slow you down. The Exmor sensor provides more than 5,600 column-parallel A/D converters. This helps enable continuous shooting at up to 10 frames per second.
Ultra-fast up to 10 fps continuous
The translucent mirror makes it far easier to capture the decisive soccer kick or your baby at her absolute cutest. Shoots up to 10 frames per second at full-resolution 24.3 megapixels with continuous auto focus (AE locked after first frame).
World's first OLED viewfinder
There's never been anything quite like the Tru-Finder OLED electronic viewfinder. For size, speed and brightness even after sunset, this is a gem. It begins with 2359K dots for amazing resolution and high contrast ratio for incredible depth. OLED reduces motion blur to a bare minimum. You can also see the results of camera adjustments in real time with superb color and detail.
Full-Time Live View in LCD or EVF
You can use both the LCD monitor and OLED Electronic Viewfinder for composing shots in Live View. Both provide a what-you-see-is-what-you-get preview of white balance, focus, depth of field, exposure and 100% framing accuracy, plus informative on-screen displays.
Tilt/swivel LCD screen
Tilt it up or down to frame high- and low-angle shots that would otherwise be hit-or-miss. Tilt and swivel under the camera for self-portraits. Finally, the monitor folds flush to the camera with the LCD exposed for shooting or protected for travel.
921K dot TruBlack LCD screen
Sony's 3.0-inch Xtra Fine LCD monitor has 921K dots for superb resolution. The TruBlack screen includes a special resin layer to suppress internal reflections, increasing contrast compared to conventional LCDs. Sunny Weather mode boosts visibility even further.
|Graphic Display |
Clarifies the relationship between aperture and shutter speed, as well as the effect each has on photographic results.
HD Movies at 60p, 60i, or 24p
Capture spectacular HD Movies. This is the world's first DSLR to offer a choice of super-smooth 60p, standard 60i or cinematic 24p, all at Full HD 1920x1080 resolution. AVCHD Progressive codec delivers stunning picture quality. MP4 codec offers smaller files for easier upload to the web.
HD movies with full manual control
Now you don't need to surrender control when you shoot HD movies. Enjoy the full expressive potential of Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority or Manual (P/A/S/M) control in HD movie mode.
Full-time Phase Detection AF
You get fast, accurate auto focus in every mode—even HD Movie and Live View—thanks to Sony's exclusive Translucent Mirror Technology. While Contrast Detection Auto Focus often hunts for correct focus, Phase Detection AF knows exactly where correct focus is, and goes straight for it.
HDMI output for HD viewing
Enjoy HD movies and stunning still images on a compatible HDTV. The camera includes an HDMI output. In addition, the BRAVIA Sync system works with compatible Sony BRAVIA HDTVs enabling you to control camera playback using the television's remote.
15-point Auto Focus
To maximize the value of Translucent Mirror Technology, Sony incorporates Phase Detection AF of great sophistication. 15 sensors with 3 cross sensors maximize precision for both vertical and horizontal subjects.
World's shortest release time lag
Helps ensure that the image you want is the image you get. Once auto focus occurs, release time lag is the delay between fully pressing the shutter release and when the camera actually starts taking the picture. Long lag makes it harder to capture fast-moving objects. The Sony A65 boasts the world's shortest DSLR release time lag at only 0.05 seconds.
Object Tracking AF
Locks onto a specified object and maintains focus even as the subject moves. Unpredictable subjects stay in focus even while zooming. You can concentrate on composition without worrying about focus.
|6-image layering |
Leverages the fast BIONZ processor to capture six images in a fraction of a second, and then combine the data. The result is one incredible single image that gets a cleaner result in Multi-Frame NR mode or sharper nighttime pictures in Hand-held Twilight mode.
Experience incredible low-light shooting without a flash. The camera captures six images in a fraction of a second. Combining the data from all six, it creates a single image with a reduction in noise equivalent to two additional steps of ISO sensitivity. Sensitivity selectable up to ISO 25600. (Recommended for still subjects.)
Handheld Twilight mode
Get gorgeous shots at night without a tripod. Combines six frames into a single image for smooth, low-noise evening shots. (Recommended for still subjects.)
Auto HDR built into camera
Captures more scene dynamic range than a single exposure can handle—and more range than photo film. Combines the best highlight detail from one shot, the best mid-tones from a second and the best shadow detail from a third for one incredible shot. (Recommended for still subjects.)
3D Sweep Panorama Mode
Capture vast scenic vistas and 16:9 shots in spectacular 3D. As you sweep across the panorama, the camera records separate right-eye and left-eye images that make landscapes come alive on your 3D television. Records both JPEG and MPO file formats.
Sweep Panorama Mode
Capture expansive landscapes automatically. Press the shutter, sweep vertically or horizontally. The camera does the rest, continuously shooting images and stitching them together.
Shot Result Preview
See the results before you take the shot. This preview takes the guesswork out of camera settings by showing the effects of the aperture, shutter and DRO settings on the depth of field, motion and dynamic range.
Main Sensor Quick AF Live View
Combines the fast focus of Phase Detection AF with high quality Live View images right from the main sensor. This is made possible by Sony Translucent Mirror Technology. You get accurate images and 100% framing on the LCD monitor or eye-level viewfinder.
ISO 16000 sensitivity
Incredibly clear low-light pictures without sacrificing detail, made possible by the low-noise Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensor and refined BIONZ image processor.
AUTO+ (Advanced Auto) mode
Get cleaner, more dynamic pictures and fewer missed shots. Unifies and simplifies Sony intelligent technologies. The camera automatically recognizes the correct scene mode.
11 Picture Effect modes
Discover innovative ways to make your images and videos pop. These include Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow), Soft High-key, High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, and Miniature.
Face Detection and Registration
The camera can automatically detect up to eight individual faces and adjust focus, exposure, white balance and flash to help deliver crisp, properly lit images of people. Can prioritize children or adults. Face Registration can remember friends and family members and prioritize them.
1200-Zone exposure metering
Reads exposure directly from the main image sensor. Choice of Multi, Center and Spot metering accommodates a full range of shooting situations.
SteadyShot INSIDE stabilization
Image stabilization reduces blur by compensating for camera shake. Typical DSLR systems build image stabilization into selected lenses only. SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization is built into the camera body itself. You'll reduce blur with every A Mount lens, including macro and wide-aperture standard zoom lenses.
Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO)
Improves results with backlit subjects and recovers details hidden in shadows. Settings include Auto, Level with a choice of five operating levels and Off.
Smile Shutter technology
Captures a smile the moment it happens. Simply select the Smile Shutter mode and the camera takes the picture automatically. You can prioritize children or adults and adjust the smile sensitivity.
|Up to 560 Shots of battery life |
Take up to 560 shots on a single charge with Sony Stamina battery power. Sony's InfoLITHIUM battery system enables you to see the percent of power remaining, so you can keep shooting in confidence.
P/A/S/M exposure modes
The camera offers a full range of controls from the beginner's AUTO+ mode to P/A/S/M: Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. On-screen prompts help you refine your skills, build your confidence and exercise greater creative control.
Advanced Anti-Dust Technology
Anti-Dust Technology helps keep the CMOS sensor clean, resulting in consistently clear pictures. First a static-free coating on the sensor's low-pass filter helps repel dust. Then vibration automatically dislodges dust from the sensor.
Built-in Flash (GN12)
To help you shoot more effectively, the camera includes a built-in flash (Guide Number 12) that can also trigger a wireless accessory flash (sold separately). The integrated hot shoe enables you to expand your lighting options with a range of accessory flashes (sold separately).
Slot for two media types
For cost-effective, convenient storage and sharing of your images, the camera accepts Memory Stick PRO Duo/Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC media (Class 4 or higher recommended, sold separately). (APS-C size HD CMOS image sensor With 19.5 times the area of the typical camcorder image sensor, APS-C makes the difference between amateur and professional-looking video, delivering an exceptional combination of high resolution, high sensitivity and gorgeous, blurred backgrounds.
Top customer reviews
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And for those curious about the cryptic header (that this isn't a DSLR), it is a DSLT - meaning that a fixed translucent mirror that doesn't move replaces the standard SLR mirror that has to flop in and out of position in front of the sensor. That design difference is the key to the camera's unique strengths (and its weaknesses in the minds of many purists). However, that single design difference allows the much faster and more accurate phase detection autofocus system to be working all the time, including while shooting movies (something no other DSLR can do), and thus gives you full time live view, much faster hi-speed shooting, and a lighter body, but also requires an electronic (non-optical) viewfinder, and with a modest (~30%) loss of light to the sensor (with some attendant noise penalty of roughly ½ F stop). The key issue is whether that balance of pluses and minuses works for you . . . . but for most people looking for the best possible still photography and video, this is, at least in IMHO, a truly brilliant stroke that in one fell swoop removes some of the chronic limitations of the classic DSLR environs. There are a few downsides, but with HUGE upsides. Whether its mix of features works for you might depend on what and where you shoot . . . .
1) Best viewfinder in the sub-frame world (2.4 million dot OLED), as bright as any full frame viewfinder, and with far more useful information. Once you've used it, you may not be able to go back, and optical viewfinders seem frankly primitive and confining.
2) Class leading 24 megapixel resolution (at low to medium ISO, yields remarkably detailed images, esp in RAW). Good dynamic range and color from this sensor (but see last update).
3) Many useful shooting modes including panorama and high dynamic range modes (but see cons on panorama mode). Intuitive and yet deep & customizable operating system. But can be put in simple AUTO and AUTO+ modes for the less technical.
4) Full-time live view system and full time phase detection AF for both stills and movies - FAR better than the clunky live view systems `tacked on' in traditional DSLRs, and the contrast detection DLSRs have to use with mirror-lockup during movie shooting.
5) Class-leading video resolution (1080 at 60p) with as good video capabilities as most camcorders. Typically excellent video if shooting in 60p, and with option to use either viewfinder or LCD for framing video - something no other DSLR can do.
6) Intuitive and well thought-out ergonomics.
7) Fast and responsive operation. Fastest continuous shooting in class (10 frames per second). Fast focusing, decent menu speed (improved w/new firmware)
8) Excellent image stabilization system in both stills and video (and no more rapid sensor overheating from the IS being engaged during video shooting that plagued the Sony A55).
9) In-camera GPS (can be defeated).
10) Decent battery life (significant battery upgrade from the Alpha 55) given that EVF sucks down a lot of battery.
11) Perhaps as good features/price ratio in the middle to high-end consumer/prosumer group as any model.
12) Easy access to any Minolta lens and a decent selection of Sony lenses for reasonable money, particularly a superb new 16-50 mm 2.8 lens (see separate review).
13) Ability to remove virtually all CA, distortion, and vignetting in increasing number of Sony lens (firmware-based). When used with new 16-50mm 2.8 lens, produces very sharp images, w/out any visible classic optical distortions (CA, vignetting, barrel distortion, etc).
Firmware correction of classic lens optical aberrations has to be one of most under-appreciated but valuable features of this new camera's operating system. These corrections work with many popular Sony lenses (now available for virtually all the Sony kit and telephoto zooms and most Sony primes), w/ more included in future firmware. Software correction makes a VERY discernible difference in large prints, and means that these classic distortions are basically a non-issue for corrected lenses (see DP Reviews treatment of this).
1) Some increase in noise at higher ISO, particularly in RAW images without NR (noise reduction). Not surprising in view of increased pixel density (see #9 below). But this is clearly the camera's one major weakness, and no sense in glossing over it.
2) Despite six firmware updates, several which were supposed to address this, both built-in flash and external flash (Sony's HVL-F42) still yield consistently overexposed pictures. Can be easily fixed with exposure control but this shouldn't be happening.
3) As great as the EVF is, sometimes the view is too contrasty, yielding either blown highlights or `blackout' regions - needs contrast adjustment function.
4) Not as svelte as the Alpha 55 (but for those with big hands, the extra heft and size work). Quite hefty with the 16-50 2.8.
5) Limited control options in high-speed shooting modes and in movie modes.
6) Screen blacks out once you fill up the buffer in high-speed shooting and you have to wait until all the images are dumped onto your card with poor buffer depth (common problem across Sonys - even the new A99). Why can't Sony get this fixed????
7) Resulting loss of live view in high-speed shooting modes can make aiming the camera a bit tricky.
8) Switching between viewing photos vs. videos is still a bit cumbersome and awkward.
9) Default JPEG settings are both too smooth (need sharpening), and at the same time rather noisy at higher ISO - requires users understand menu options and make adjustments to get best possible JPEGs (set NR to high on high ISO, and sharpening to 3+ gives you the best JPEGs without discernible artifacts in JPEGs).
10) Sweep panorama modes often poor in resolution (because of having to remove panning effects and image smear with very high shutter speeds and high ISO?) compared to stitching together your own panorama images from discrete images (i.e. using Microsoft ICE). Sony should fix this as it limits a very useful mode - should be an option to use lower ISO and hold the camera still and move through field of view instead of rapid panning.
11) Although the EVF is generally excellent, view becomes noisy in low light.
12) Video in low light can be under-exposed, and camera will not go above ISO 1600 for video shooting.
BEST IN CLASS SPECIFICATIONS?
Although the Sony Alpha 65 might have flown under the radar in the context of the simultaneous release of Sony's flagship Alpha 77, I believe it's actually the better deal for everyone who's not interested in a pro-style body. It contains most of the high technology of the flagship model Alpha 77, minus the top LCD panel and the 12 frame per second shooting rate (you'll have to suffer along with a measly 10 frames per second), a less complex AF system, and a few other minor `downgrades'. But the sensor and the EVF (in my judgment, the most important innovations of the A77) are intact. All this for a significant reduction in Price ($949 for body only versus $1449 for the Alpha 77). (NOTE: both prices have come down).
If you're interested in video, there are few cameras that equal the video specification of this camera, as most DSLRs will only shoot in 60i (often times interpolated from 30p), whereas this camera will shoot a true 60 frames a second in progressive scan. Still pictures are spectacular, with more resolution than virtually anything outside of the full frame 24 megapixel Nikon D3X. A large 19x13 printout of a standard test image from DP Reviews studio scene shows the A65 very, very close in resolving fine detail to the Nikon D3x (the previous resolution king in 35mm photography prior to the Nikon D800 and able to resolve detail comparable to 35mm Kodachrome 64).
LOW LIGHT PROBLEMS?
Although the recent Digital Photography Review (the closest thing to a definitive reference source on digital cameras on the web) slammed the Alpha 77 (same sensor and basic image engine as the A65) for its high noise particularly in RAW, and its somewhat `mushy' JPEG rendering, while I generally agree, some clarifications are called for. First of all, the default JPEGs can be significantly sharpened. I run the camera in the `standard mode' (one of several `creative modes') but with sharpening at 2+-3+. You wouldn't want to do this with a Canon (they are already a bit `crunchy' in terms of their default JPEG settings), but there is no artifact effect that I have been able to find (due to excessive smoothing in the default JPEG definitions?) and this adjustment gets much closer to the maximum detail out of the 24MP sensor. Also, one can also set the HIGH ISO NR (noise reduction) to high, instead of its default. This combination gets much more out of the sensor than its default settings without extra noise above ISO 800. Someone at Sony seems just a bit too enamored of the `smooth' look - almost all of their cameras are set up with default JPEG definitions that could benefit from modest sharpening. Again Canon goes the other way.
Furthermore, DP Review's own images show that even at those soft and somewhat noisy default settings, the camera does pretty well compared to the competition - and really quite well indeed given the high pixel count/small pixel size. If you look on the DP reviews website, and use their revealing and useful studio scene comparator tool, and pull up images from several full frame cameras such as the Sony 900, the Nikon D3X, and even the pro-Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, the Sony A65 holds its own at low ISO, with frankly more detail than any 2011 35mm camera (outside of the Nikon D3x and the NEX 7), only giving ground a bit as ISO gets above 1600 (with its much higher pixel density as a major disadvantage). Even there, in low light, I believe that the camera does a credible job, and begins trading off some of its resolution advantage for more noise reduction. Even in head-to-head comparisons with the A900 (FF 24MP sensor), the A65 does a very credible job as ISO rises - and with the disadvantage of a smaller APS-C sensor. Admittedly, any FF model (and esp. the newer FF models like Canon EOS 1Dx and Nikon D4 - both low-light phenoms) are going to trounce it at 3200 and 6400 in terms of noise, but realistically, this is not a camera for low light, and if you shoot mostly in the virtual dark I would not recommend it. On the other hand, I certainly don't shoot at light levels where I need ISO 3200 and up, and I am not adverse to using a flash. Full frame cameras are going to be significantly better in low light - but they cost anywhere from three times to 10 times as much, are much bigger and heavier, and have bigger, heavier and much more costly lens systems.
More telling are the comparisons on a level playing field. A recent comparison of this camera with the Canon EOS 7D and its cheaper cousin, the Canon Rebel T3i/T4i (at the same price point as the A65 and also w/an APS-C sensor) showed that the although the Canon 7D kept a somewhat higher percentage of its ISO 100 resolution at 1600, the Sony was still handily out-resolving it at ISO 1600. So do take the "low-light noise" knock on this camera with a grain of salt. If you need convincing, check out DP Reviews JPEG image comparator for yourself. Pixel peepers only.
BOTTOM LINE - SONY AND THE BIG TWO?
It's all about which tradeoffs you want to make. Sony made a clear decision to trade low light ability for speed, resolution and detail in better light. For me, that's a good-to-great tradeoff, but for some others, perhaps not so much. Obviously, it's just a matter of priorities and personal preferences. You really can't have everything. In bright light, the A65 is going to slightly out-resolve both the new Canon EOS 1Dx and the Nikon D4 for lots less money, and some Canon devotees are upset about potentially spending seven grand or so when this new pro camera comes out, and getting only 18 MP worth of detail. On the other hand, that camera (and the new Nikon D4) will take good to great pictures in the virtual dark. If you love to shoot in very low light, get one of the new Nikon or Canon full frame cameras (Update - or the new Sony Alpha 99). Just remember bring a truckload of money for the camera and lens systems! If you are willing to trade some of the low light ability for: 1) a more compact lenses/body; 2) much less money than a full frame system; 3) some of the better video one can get from a DSLR camera, then this system is for you . . . and is a very good deal. If you believe (like some purists) that HD video is a modern corruption of the original function of SLRs, you probably aren't someone who is going to like Sony's somewhat iconoclastic approach anyway.
Bottom line - there isn't another camera for $800 (body only) that comes close to this feature set, and with impressive speed of operation and ergonomics. This is a shot across the bow that both Nikon and Canon are very concerned about. Anyone who compares this to the Nikon 7000 or the Canon EOS 60D (two other prosumer models - with the A65 slightly cheaper than either) has to walk away thinking that the Sony is the better deal - and simply a more capable camera - again except in very low light. If you're interested in live view, the live view on this is so much better than the clunky live view on both the Canon and Nikon it's not even funny. It's far more responsive and much faster. And one look through their dim optical subframe viewfinders, after you've used the amazing EVF on the Sony Alpha 65, and you won't be able to go back to Canikon. The EVF alone is a paradigm-shifting experience - once you've used it, optical viewfinders in traditional sub-frame DSLRs seem primitive and confining.
If you look at Digital Photography Reviews over the last 18 months (the closest thing to a definitive reference on the Internet about digital photography), they have given four APS-C Sony cameras highly coveted Gold Awards in the last year and a half (the Alpha 65, Alpha 55 (its predecessor which also won Camera of the Year from Popular Photography in 2010), the NEX 5N, and just recently, the NEX 7. They have also given four Silver Awards to Sony (the NEX 3C, the Alpha 77 and Alpha 35, another silver to the more traditional DSLR Alpha A580). Four Silver and four Gold Awards in 18 months. NO OTHER CAMERA MANUFACTURER HAS EVEN BEEN WITHIN SPITTING DISTANCE OF THIS PERFORMANCE ON THE PODIUM IN THE LAST YEAR OR TWO. If you put all of Nikon's and Canon's awards in the FF DSLR and APS-C classes together during the same period, they aren't even close to this medal haul. (UPDATE - the new Sony A57, the Sony A99, and the RX-1 all secured Gold Awards from DP Reviews - meaning that since August 2010 Sony has received 7 Gold Awards from the best reviewers in the business. In that interval, Nikon, Olympus and Canon TOGETHER have secured FIVE Gold Awards in the combined FF and APS-C camera groups (not counting the D800/D800E as two models).
This suggests that a subtle but real shift of power is taking place in digital photography. Although professionals still clearly gravitate toward the Big Two (where Sony has been seen as an interesting distraction and lightweight), there is increasing reason now to seriously consider Sony, and not just in the APS-C segment. Most believe that Sony is now making some of the best compact ILC cameras (the NEX series), and starting to challenge Canon and Nikon in areas of their traditional dominance. In the space of just over two years, Sony has made traditional DSLRs look clunky, limiting and . . . . well, dated. Unless you are ideologically married to an optical viewfinder - or shoot in the virtual dark - you'll love the A65 and its big brother the A77. There is nothing better in the APS-C segment right now. As far as the high-end full frame pro market is concerned, let's see how the upcoming full frame Sony A99 stacks up against the full frame Canon 5D Mark III and cheaper Canon 6D and the new Nikon D800 and cheaper Nikon D 600 (all in the pricy 2-grand-and-up range with several of these over $3000 just for the body). Although Canikon have completely dominated that market, they may finally have some serious competition, even in the pricey pro camera territory.
April 2012 UPDATE
Several interesting new developments. First of all, the new Nikon D800/800E has blown away the competition in terms of resolution, and with surprisingly good low light abilities too - might be the best sensor residing in any camera including medium format (and it's clearly a Sony sensor). Then again, it's 3 grand to get the Nikon D800 body (and $3400 for the Canon 5D Mark III), making the A65 still a great deal for almost the same level of detail as the D800. These two new cameras are about 1.5 (Nikon) to 2 stops (Canon) better in terms of low light noise than the A65/77, but it will be really interesting to see what the new full frame Sony A99 brings to this heated up pro camera territory - sometime this summer or fall. You will see a full review of both the Canon 5D MkIII and Nikon D800 on Digital Photography Reviews website soon. I expect them both to easily secure Gold Awards. Pressure will be on Sony to hold serve. The problem is, historically, Sony is not into competing in the high-end pro FF arena - two cameras there over the last 5-6 years compared to 10-12 FF Canikons? Sony has its work cut out given the excellent performance of these two new FF models from Canikon.
On the home front, the new Sony firmware 1.05 (for both the A65/77) is a big improvement in several areas - it (sometimes) resolves the overexposure problem in ADI flash mode (still not quite right however), speeds up picture preview (it's now virtually instantaneous), provides correction profiles for some additional Sony lenses (distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting corrections) including the 70-300 mm G (pro) telephoto (good news for me simply because I own that lens), and fixes a few other items. The speed of preview is really impressive. As soon as you finish the shot, it is available for review on the LCD. Shutdown is MUCH quicker. Nice job Sony. Now if you could just get the flash exposure spot on all the time.
June 2012 UPDATE
Not surprisingly, both the new Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800 easily secured Gold awards on DP Reviews. I think just to avoid controversy and bickering between the two camps, they gave them both the identical score (82). Sony's full frame A99 however appears delayed and probably is not going to be out this summer. I continue to be impressed overall with the A65 and have now taken at least 6000 pictures. Clearly the one Achilles' heel of the Sony A65/77 is low light noise, particularly above ISO 1600. However, with the current 16-50 2.8 lens (with F4/5.6 being sharpest edge to edge), I get a full two stop advantage, relative to a typical kit lens which has to be stopped down to f8 get really sharp, which pretty much balances out the two stop noise disadvantage that this camera has relative to a full frame camera like the Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark III (shooting at F8). There are times when I wish the camera had somewhat better performance at ISO 3200, and certainly the RAW files have significant noise at that setting, but Sony's RAW editing software can potentially do a pretty good job with even those somewhat noisy files in terms of cleaning up the noise without losing all the fine detail. I think if you want to put the extra time into shoot RAW, and use IS, you can mitigate the low light disadvantage of this sensor, although still this is its one weakness. Again if you are shooting in bright conditions, or using flash, this really never is an issue.
September 2012 Update:
So where do things stand now that several new competing cameras have been released - including the new Nikon 3200, and the Olympus OMD5? The Nikon 3200 at $699 looks like a very good deal and is slightly better at high ISO (about a half f-stop) in terms of noise than the Sony A 65/77, with the same 24 megapixel resolution (and basic sensor) as the Sony. The Olympus OMD 5 has fantastic high ISO performance for a micro 4/3 sensor (better than either the Nikon 3200 or the Sony A65 frankly) and also offers better JPEG definition than either Sony or Nikon (to the point where RAW post processing typically yields little). The much improved high ISO performance of the OMD 5 also underscores how sensor manufacturers are continually moving the goalposts in terms of improving both high ISO performance and resolution at the same time. The Sony A65 still looks like a great deal as it undercuts the Olympus in price, and although it's somewhat more expensive than the Nikon 3200, it has a significantly better viewfinder, much better high-speed shooting, and better movie modes. So . . . the short form of the story is while the competition is getting better, the Sony is still a very solid choice in the mid-range DSLR segment.
October 2012 Update:
Sony just released its new firmware version - 1.06. It does a number of things, including - most significantly - improving ADI and TTL flash over-exposure. Flash exposure is still not perfect, but it's better than earlier versions of the firmware and less variable. I'm using one of Sony's dedicated flash units (the now discontinued HVL 42 flashgun) and was troubled when bounce flash consistently overexposed. It's now better but I still have an occasional over-exposure (on both flash direct illumination and on bounce flash), and baseline exposure appears about a 1/2 EV overexposed, suggesting that there is still something modestly amiss from time to time with flash computation. This was never an issue on the A55 so there is something about this camera's firmware or control system that is still not quite optimized on this point. In any case, it's good that Sony has acknowledged the problem because initially it looked like they were refusing to admit it. In addition, 1.06 increases the number of Sony lenses that have built-in firmware correction profiles (correcting the three primary optical distortions of chromatic aberration, vignetting, and pin/barrel distortion issues). Virtually any lens that you can buy on the Sony website with this camera now has software correction for these classic optical distortions. Advantage Sony.
Some interesting new options in the mid-range DSLR segment. Pentax just released the K-30 at roughly the same price point as the A65. Best high ISO performance outside of a FF sensor (and full weather sealing - unheard of at this price point), but limited movie mode support (no options for external mic, no dedicated movie button, no still shooting during movies) - Pentax was really thinking about stills when they made this camera, and although its low light abilities are clearly better than the A65's - and anything else in the sub-frame world - if you are not shooting in low light much of the time, the Sony is the more `balanced' choice. Pentax uses the 16 MP sensor that Sony supplies to Nikon and also uses in their own A33/35/55/57 APS-C product lines, which is the best current 16 MP subframe sensor in my opinion. Nice job overall by Pentax, so if you find the A65's Achilles heel of low light noise a real hindrance, you will likely love the Pentax K-30, unless you are a serious videographer. Casual video on the other hand will be fine on the K-30. So there are many attractive options in the subframe semi-pro or `prosumer' segment. Still think that for most people the EVF, great movie ability and support, superb 16-50 2.8 lens option (really a G- or Zeiss quality lens for just over kit lens money), great resolution, etc. of the Sony A65 outweighs its one big deficit of high ISO noise, but if you disagree with that, by all means, get a K-30. Very close to FF noise performance with fully usable ISO 3200/6400. Credit to Pentax (and to Sony's great mid-res APS-C sensor).
November 24th Update
I have had a chance to spend almost two weeks shooting with the Sony A99. Very fine camera, wanted to keep it but after much vacillation, decided against that and just returned it. Here's why - it's just not $2000 better than the A65 for my purposes, although if I was a pro shooter, or shooting mostly in low light, I would have kept it. Here is how I think it stacked up against the A65 - and Sony is competing not just with Canikon, but with themselves now too - the clearest indication that Sony's SLT environs has really altered the mid to high end DSLR scene.
Pros of the A99 vs the A65:
1) Superb low light performance, almost as good or as good as the new Nikon D600 and competitive with any FF camera. Credit Sony's fine development work on the FF sensor for this. Two full F stops better in terms of noise than the A77/65.
2) Somewhat better autofocus performance than even the A77, but only if using AF-D lenses - and not many of them.
3) Weather sealed (advantage vis a vis A65 but toss up with A77).
4) Better video support and better low light video with much less noise (but see cons).
5) Amazing front control dial that really aids on the fly adjustments.
Cons of the A99 vs the A65:
1) $2000 more - pretty big ticket item that requires you love at least something in the PRO: column a LOT!!
2) Weight - with comparable lenses, (15-50 vs 24-70) the A65 is almost a full pound lighter (1200 grams for the A65w/lens vs. 1720 for A99w/CZ lens). That extra pound really makes a difference. It's frankly tough just toting around the Sony A 65 with the 16-50 2.8 lens, but the Sony A 99 with the Zeiss 24-70 2.8 is really a monster.
3) Lens (and other ecosystem) costs - the 16-50 2.8 (see my Amazon review of this amazing lens) is every bit the equal of the CZ 24-70 for $1000 less - one of the great values in walk around lenses anywhere.
4) Speed - high speed shooting on the A65 is up to 10FPS while the A99 can only do 6FPS - both are stuck with seriously undersized buffers - a really stupid mistake that was repeated on the A99 for unfathomable reasons.
5) No built in flash on the A99.
6) No substantive differences that I can see, even at 100% view in RAW if ISO is 100-200. Barely (and I do mean barely) noticeable by ISO 400 in terms of noise, but cameras really start to separate only at 1600 and up.
7) In view of recent reviews, overall, poorer video of A99 vs. A65 (see Tim Naff's superb review of the A99 on Amazon, and discussion of the video issues facing the A99 - something of a shock given Sony's hype about pro videography support for the A99).
Most of this looks like a predictable summary of tradeoffs of full frame cameras (weight and cost vs. better high ISO) compared to their subframe cousins. It is a real testimony to the A65 that most of the time I couldn't take a better picture with the A99, except when it got dark. So if you shoot a lot in low light, and have the funds, the A99 looks pretty attractive. If funds are more limited, the A65 is still a real deal and offers a lot for the money. The clincher is that the A65 takes good to great video and the A99 pretty average (at best) video.
Update February 12th, 2013
Some stunning developments that could rock the APS-C world and that have sailed mostly under everyone's radar. Nikon released the 5200 - an upgrade over the 3200 which used basically the same Sony sensor as the A77/65. But this new camera has a Toshiba sensor, and one that comfortably outperforms the competing Sony chip. It shows more dynamic range (one full EV), an extra full bit of color depth, and not surprisingly, about a 500 ISO advantage in low light in DXO testing (some of that emerging from the loss of light to the translucent mirror). However, even without the mirror, testing this against the sensor of the NEX-7, this new Toshiba sensor is better (minimally in relationship to ISO, but with still 1/2 EV advantage in dynamic range). Technical details aside, it's simply a better sensor, and the first time that someone has made a sensor for APS-C that outperformed the Sony equivalent in years. But does this mean that the Nikon 5200 is a better camera? Well if you are shooting in low light, yes, it probably is, although I still prefer the great Sony EVF over the dark `tunnel' viewfinder experience on subframe DSLRs like all the Nikon DX cameras. But still, this sensor and its low light performance is a major shot over the bow for Sony, the first time in a long time that someone has produced a better APS-C sensor than Sony. Will this translate into erosion of their market dominance in sensor technology? It's really kind of a shock given the Toshiba is not known for their sensor technology prowess but it raises some intriguing questions. Will Toshiba be able to produce a FF sensor that also outperforms Sony's amazing 24 MP FF chip? (powering the Nikon D600, Sony A99 and the amazing Sony RX-1) (see my Amazon review of this quite pocketable wonder camera).
In any case, the release of the Nikon 5200 and the pending release of the D7100 (same impressive Toshiba sensor and a pro-grade autofocus system and without an optical low pass filter) suggest clearly that Nikon is doing a `full court press' on the high-end sub-frame market. The lack of a low pass filter on the D7100 means that it will probably out-resolve virtually any other 24MP sensor, perhaps with the downside of more vulnerability to moiré. This Toshiba sensor is a full f stop better than the Sony chip on noise (meaning that is only one f-stop poorer in terms of noise than a bunch of full frame models, seriously closing the gap with pro FF equipment), and has somewhat better dynamic range than Sony's chip also. This suggests that the Nikon D5200/D7100 will offer a very serious challenge to the A65/77, esp. with the great Nikon ecosystem support.
The EVF - While you do lose 1/3 of the light to the fixed-mirror design, you make up for it with the amazing EVF and the camera's speed. The EVF is much larger than anything else in its class. It's also very responsive and smooth. You will quickly forget that you are using an EVF, except when you enjoy the benefits of (a) seeing changes in exposure as you move around the scene, (b) focus peeking during manual focus (outlines what's in focus in red), (c) tons of information on the screen, and (d) previewing images directly in the EVF. You really don't even need the rear LCD. I returned the Olympus OM-D EM-5 because of the EVF. It doesn't compare to the A65. The Olympus is slow to respond when you put it to your eye and the quality makes you miss an optical viewfinder.
The Sensor - The A65's sensor, when paired with a quality lens, allows for extensive cropping. The intelligent digital zoom, paired with this resolution, is very usable. Also, the colors and dynamic range are impressive (noticeable upgrade from my Canon XTi).
The Handling - The camera is a perfect size. The menus are well laid out and the ergonomics are excellent. It makes me want to use it more.
Video Autofocus with Phase Detection Autofocus - Thank you.
The Speed - Shooting 10 fps with full autofocus when shooting action is much better than the 4-5 you get on other cameras. Try to take a picture of a player swinging a bat or a couple kissing on their wedding day. You will appreciate having twice as many frames to choose from.
The Gimmicks - I'm not big into fancy shooting modes (e.g., pin hole, retro, 3D, etc...). But two modes on the A65 are very useable. First, multi-shot noise reduction works amazingly well for still subjects. ISO 6400 on MSNR essentially looks the same as ISO 800. Even if your subject is moving, it will pick the best shot from the bunch and do its best with noise reduction by gathering info from the other pictures. Second, sweep panorama is better than stitching in Photoshop; sweep panorama takes many pictures and intelligently frames around moving subjects (Photoshop can only work with what it has).
SteadyShot - Having all of your lens immediately image-stabilized is a major benefit. This not only applies to primes, but also non-IS zooms (this makes the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 a very attractive option).
The Bad - You do pick up a little more noise vs. something like the 7D, but it's hard to notice unless you are pixel peeping. However, the biggest practical issue with the camera is that you don't see the effect of SteadyShot image-stabilization in the viewfinder during stills when you half-press the shutter button. This drawback does make me miss my Canon lenses.
THE COMPETITION - I've used all of these other cameras in the field. Here is why my main camera is the A65:
- Sony A77: I didn't mind the higher price; I did care about the weight; I don't need the weather sealing. The A65 is more fun, produces the same quality pictures, and is less intimidating to subjects.
- Olympus OM-D EM-5: The Olympus is only about 100g or so lighter and doesn't fit in your pocket either. The lenses are lighter but are not that much smaller. Noise and image quality are comparable. However, the biggest drawbacks for the Olympus are (1) the EVF doesn't come close to the Sony, and (2) the low-light autofocus performance and continuos autofocus performance will drive you crazy.
- Canon 5D Mark III: Yes, the Canon will take better pictures in low-light (not much better in good light) by about 2 stops. But you don't have in camera IS to stabilize prime lenses. Plus, the Sony's multi-shot noise reduction will make up the ground in noise for still subjects. Essentially the Canon only bests the Sony in low-light moving subjects, when you'll use a flash for critical IQ anyways. Finally, the 5D Mark III is way too heavy to be much fun to use. I was sick of carrying it after one day. I didn't even mention the price.
- Sony NEX-7: The NEX costs more, autofocuses worse, has an anemic lens selection, and still won't fit in your pocket with a lens. The NEX, however, has the advantage of slightly better low-light IQ and is probably the system of the future for Sony. I was tempted.
- Canon Rebel T3i or Nikon D7000: You gain a small amount of low light performance (barely) and you lose all of the fantastic features of the Sony. I'll take the Sony.
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