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Sony Alpha SLT-A77 Translucent Mirror Digital SLR Camera - Body only (OLD MODEL)
Overall score: 81%
See review summary and sample images
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- 2nd Generation Translucent Mirror Technology camera
- 24.3 MP for superb detail and amazing enlargements
- World?s fastest up to 12 fps continuous shooting
- World's first OLED viewfinder; big and bright
- World's first HD Movie mode with AVCHD 60p/60i/24p
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|Auto Focus Technology|
|Battery Average Life||470 Photos|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||12 fps|
|Display Fixture Type||Fully-articulated|
|Display Resolution Maximum||921,000|
|Display Size||0.12 inches|
|Effective Still Resolution||24.3 MP|
|Expanded ISO Maximum||16,000|
|Expanded ISO Minimum||100|
|External Memory Included||No|
|Flash Memory Type||SD/SDHC/SDXC/Memory Stick Pro Duo/ Pro-HG Duo|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/250_sec|
|Flash Type||Built-in Flash, Hot-shoe, PC Sync|
|Flash Type||Built-In Flash|
|Focus Description||TTL 19-point Phase Detection|
|Focus Type||Automatic with Manual|
|Form Factor||Mid-size SLR|
|HDMI Type||Mini Type C|
|ISO Range||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, 16000 (50, 25600 with boost)|
|Image Aspect Ratio||3:2, 16:9|
|Item Dimensions||4.09 x 3.19 x 5.63 inches|
|Item Display Weight||5 pounds|
|Item Weight||1.61 pounds|
|Lithium Battery Energy Content||11.8 Watt Hours|
|Lithium Battery Weight||78 ounces|
|Maximum Focal Length||75 mm|
|Maximum Shutter Speed||1/8000 of a second|
|Maximum horizontal resolution||6,000|
|Metering||Multi, Center-weighted, Spot|
|Minimum Focal Length||24 mm|
|Minimum Shutter Speed||30 seconds|
|Optical Sensor Resolution||24 MP|
|Optical Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Photo Sensor Technology||CMOS|
|Remote Control Description||Optional|
|Sensor Cleaning Method||Charge protection coating on low-pass filter|
|Shipping Weight||2.95 pounds|
|Style Name||Body Only|
|Supported Battery Types||Rechargeable NP-FM500H battery & charger|
|Video Capture Format||mpeg-4;avchd|
|Video Capture Resolution||1920 x 1080 (60, 24 fps), 1440 x 1080 (30fps), 640 x 424 (29.97 fps)|
|Viewfinder Description||2359000 dots|
|Water Resistance Level||Not Water Resistant|
|Weather Resistance||Dust and moisture resistant|
Review summary from DPReview
The A77 is a well-designed camera which spans the mid-range and semi-professional categories. Its headline features, high pixel count and blazingly fast continuous shooting, will attract a lot of interest, but of greater utility in day-to-day use are its effective ergonomics, reliable systems, and excellent full-time live view system and full-time AF.
Scoring is relative only to the other products in the same category.
Sample images from DPReview
Sample images for Sony SLT-A77
From the Manufacturer
Redefining the camera. Get action photos, HD Movies and Live View shots that
other cameras miss, thanks to Sony's exclusive Translucent Mirror Technology.
Enjoy 24.3 megapixel resolution—with the best in class shooting— up to
12 frames per second—and the world's first OLED electronic viewfinder.2
|Spectacular 24.3 MP Resolution.||HD Movies4 at 60p, 60i, or 24p.||Translucent Mirror Design.|
Capture incredibly-detailed images that make for gorgeous enlargements thanks to an impressive 24.3 megapixel sensor - the world's first amongst APS-C DSLR cameras. With resolution this high, each shot captures a massive amount of detail for greatly reduced noise and vibrant images that explode with clarity and richness.
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.
Other DSLRs can shoot. Or they can focus with speed and precision of Phase Detection AF. They cannot do both simultaneously. Sony changes that with the award-winning Translucent Mirror Technology system. It directs light to both the image sensor and the Phase Dectection AF sensor simultaneously.
incredible entertainment quality. Explore the full range of features and options below.
|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 resolution2
You get incredible detail and gorgeous enlargements thanks to a 24.3 megapixel sensor. It's the highest resolution among APS-C DSLRs, as of November 2012.
World's fastest up to
12 fps continuous2
The translucent mirror makes it far easier to capture the decisive soccer kick or your baby at her absolute cutest. Shoots up to 12 frames per second at full-resolution 24.3 megapixels with continuous auto focus (AE locked after first frame). This is the world's fastest shooting speed for interchangeable lens APS-C cameras, as of November, 2012.
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.
HD Movies4 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™ 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.
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.
World's shortest release time lag3
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 A77 boasts the world's shortest release time lag at only 0.05 seconds.3
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.
HDMI® output for HD viewing
Enjoy HD movies and stunning still images on a compatible HDTV.7 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.8
Up to 530 Shots of battery life9
Take up to 530 shots on a single charge with Sony® Stamina™ battery power.9 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.
|Rugged, magnesium alloy body |
The SLT-A77 is built for the real world with a magnesium alloy body that combines high strength with light weight. Ports, doors and controls are also weather-resistant for smooth operation under adverse conditions.
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.
19-point Auto Focus
To maximize the value of Translucent Mirror Technology, Sony incorporates Phase Detection AF of great sophistication. 19 sensors with 11 cross sensors maximize precision for both vertical and horizontal subjects.
Three-way 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 over the camera for self-portraits. You can even tilt it up and down when you hold the camera in vertical mode! Finally, the monitor folds flush to the camera with the LCD exposed for shooting or protected for travel.
Dual control dials
Perfect for experienced shooters, dual control dials provide direct, hands-on access to two settings at a time.
Top mounted LCD
In addition to status displays on the LCD monitor and Electronic Viewfinder, Sony offers a top-mounted LCD with exposure information.
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 16000. (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.1 Records both JPEG and MPO file formats.
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.
|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.
An integrated GPS receiver records the location and time of every shot you take and lets you view your images on a map with compatible computer and Internet applications, so you can remember where you took your favorite shots.6
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.
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.
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.
Clarifies the relationship between aperture and shutter speed, as well as the effect each has on photographic results.
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 12 fps continuous shooting of data-intensive 24.3 MP images, 2D/3D Sweep Panorama™ modes and 6-image layering.
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.
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.
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 12 frames per second.
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.
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.
1. Requires 3D HDTV, HDMI cable (at least 10.2 Gbps) and active 3D glasses sold sep.
2. Among interchangeable lens cameras with APS-C size sensors as of November 2012.
3. Among DSLRs as of November 2012.
4. Records in 29 minute segments.
6. Map service requires PC with internet. Service provided by Google and subject to change without notice.
7. Requires HDTV and HDMI® cable sold sep.
8. Compatible with BRAVIA® Sync or Theatre Sync™ HDTVs connected via HDMI®.
9. Actual performance varies based on settings, environmental conditions, and usage. Battery capacity decreases over time and use.
© 2012 Sony Electronics Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Sony is not responsible for typographic and photographic errors. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice. Sony, BIONZ, BRAVIA, Exmor, InfoLITHIUM, Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Smile Shutter, Stamina, SteadyShot INSIDE, Sweep Panorama, Theatre Sync, Tru-Finder, TruBlack, and Xtra Fine LCD are trademarks of Sony. AVCHD is a trademark of Panasonic Corporation and Sony Corporation. HDMI is a trademark of HDMI Licensing LLC. All other trademarks are trademarks of their respective owners.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Look and Feel
If you have never handled a pro or semi-pro camera body, the tactile difference between a polycarbonate and magnesium alloy shell is immediately noticeable. Even though the body only weighs a little over 1½ lbs (without lens), it feels solid. It has a rubber grip that extends around the back on the right to cover the thumb rest area. The grip itself is deep and fits my medium-wide hands comfortably with a secure feel when holding it one-handed. The body is a little taller than the A700 but more rounded with a matte finish that gives it a no-nonsense appearance. I wouldn't base a camera purchase on how pretty it was, but I appreciate the look of a well-made tool whether it is a Kitchen-Ad mixer, a drill press or a tripod. The A77 is a well-made tool and that makes it pretty to me!
It's What's Outside That Counts
The control layout is a bit different than the A700 but the main controls are similar enough that I was comfortable with it after only a few minutes of fiddling with them. Sony's Quick-Navi menu system from the A700 is gone but the replacement is not a step backward. All of the main functions except stabilization on/off can be accessed either with a dedicated button or on the LCD with a press of the function button. the The stabilization on/off being relegated to the menu instead of having a dedicated button was surprising at first, but after thinking it over, I decided that I really never switched it off unless it was for one of the rare times I was using a tripod (or by accident) and all too often I forgot to turn It back on. Having it on by default and being able to set the menu to come on in the same position that you left it is a workable alternative to having a dedicated switch. One addition is the movie button. Yes, movie. The A77 is the first DSLR I've owned that can do movies and in addition to a full movie mode on the mode dial, there is a record-it-now movie button that lets you start a recording of that unexpected UFO encounter with your default settings at a moment's notice. Now I just have to remember that my DSLR takes movies!
The LCD screen is the same size as the one on the A700 and has the same extremely high resolution but with improved brightness and contrast making it easier to see in bright light. Unlike the A700 the A77's LCD is articulated. Very articulated! The mechanism is very sturdy and can be tilted or swiveled into almost any forward, rearward or sideward position. It even allows you to flip the screen inward in the collapsed position for protection.
The top of the body includes the aforementioned dedicated function buttons plus a monochrome LCD with it own dedicated backlight button that displays the basic camera settings at a glance. The selection on the mode dial is a little different from the ones on the A700. The multiple scene modes are replaced with a single scene mode position and the various modes are now chosen on the rear screen using the joystick control. The additional scene modes have been replaced with settings for Movie mode, 12 fps shooting mode, Sweep Panorama and 3D Sweep Panorama.
The pop-up flash has a new mechanism that slides the flash forward and up to reduce the chance of the lens/shade blocking it. There is also a button to pop the flash up rather than the manual flip-up on earlier 7-series models. On top of the flash is another new thing for me...there's a microphone on my camera! Maybe I'll have to try this movie thing after all. The autofocus mode switch near the lens hasn't changed but the depth-of-field preview can now be programmed to show either depth of field or a preview of scene settings.
Inside counts too
The first "inside" part that I checked out was the viewfinder. After reading all of the doomsaying from the fear, uncertainty and doubt threads on the forums followed by nearly unanimous praise from people who had actually used the camera, I had to see for myself. I have had cameras with EVFs that were considered good. My Minolta D7i was hopelessly outclassed by the full VGA EVF on my Minolta A2 (yes, full VGA on a digicam bridge camera back in 2004!) and I was impressed by the A55 that I tried at a local store. About the new OLED viewfinder on the A77, all I can say is....wow! I imagine if you had 20-10 vision and were college-trained to pick flyspecks out of ground pepper, you might be able to see pixels in the image. I certainly can't. It's like looking at a good 17" XVGA monitor from about 2'-3' away. The image is sharp and contrasty with nicely saturated color. The only clear reminder that it is an electronic image is in areas of very bright highlights or deep shadows where the dynamic range of the display cuts off before you eye would through an OVF. If you pan quickly, there is a faint fuzzing of vertical edges, but no serious degradation and no color tearing at all. Following a moving object is no more difficult than it was with my A700. As light gets lower the image grains up and gives you video noise sparkle which worsens as available light decreases. but still lets you see to compose down past where it would be practical or even possible with an OVF. Those are the basics. The initial plusses and minuses, so to speak. Now for the cool stuff! The list of add-ons in the menu includes options for showing all info (OCD mode), no info (just basic shooting info at the top and bottom), graphic mode (like the NEX LCD info display), Histogram overlay and electronic level. On top of any of these you can add a grid with a choice of a 4x6 square grid, rule of thirds or diagonal lines. The real value is something I missed when I went from my Minolta A2 to the 7D DSLR, namely that the viewfinder can be set to display exactly what the sensor is set to capture. This is really helpful when you are working in mixed light or mixed shade where auto white balance will often fail. Too blue? You see it. A little green from fluorescents? You see it. You can tweak settings until it is corrected and check the results in real-time. Another plus is that you can review the image for critical focus or exposure directly in the viewfinder in the brightest light and see it perfectly. Speaking of critical focus... Most of the better DSLRs can magnify the live-view image for critical focus, but in the field it is often difficult to see clearly. Being able to look through the viewfinder and see a magnified image centered on any point in the frame is a real winner. Another great tool is focus peaking. This is a tool used in videography to highlight the parts of the frame that have the highest contrast (sharpest focus) so the cameraman can quickly determine where the focal point is while filming. What it does is create a colored halo (choice of red, yellow or white) on the edges of objects in the in-focus area that is very easy to see even if you are looking at a washed out LCD with the camera at an angle that makes using the viewfinder difficult or impossible. My bottom line? The A77 EVF exceeded my expectations. It offers a razor-sharp image that displays a larger, brighter view than any APS-C camera (the A700 is one of the best) and nearly as good as the full frame cameras. It also has some technological tricks up its sleeve that are more than marketing gimmicks and offer real functional value.
Really deep inside is a somewhat controversial Exmor sensor. It is 24MP which is far and away the highest pixel count of any APS-C camera on the market today. Why controversial? If you have been following the build-up to the release of the A77 and the initial reviews, you have surely seen endless threads on whether Sony should have put so many pixels on an APS-C sensor or spent their efforts on making a lower pixel-count sensor with stellar high-ISO performance. There are also thousands of images with accompanying text declaring its image quality is anywhere from better than medium-format to worse than a cheap compact. In truth, it is neither. Rather it is an advancement in sensor technology that trades some high-ISO performance for some pretty remarkable low-ISO resolution. It also makes a couple of steps ahead in color accuracy and dynamic range.
I am not one to snap a photo and peer endlessly at each pixel blown up to 100% on my monitor, searching for something to b1tch about. I prefer to look at the images as I expect to display them and determine if they will look good. So far, the A77 looks good. Real good.
Tools to Get Those Images
In the past, having "special" modes on a DSLR other than P-A-S-M (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual) was pooh-poohed as a sure indicator of an entry-level camera that catered to photographers without a clear understanding of basic settings. Though this sounds a little snotty, it was generally true with helper modes like "Sunsets", "Sports" and "Landscapes" to preset the beginner's camera for best-bet shutter and aperture combinations for those subjects. I always thought that some of the more advanced cameras might benefit from some presets that would quickly get you near the optimal settings or add functionality that would be hard to set up manually. As I mentioned earlier, the A700 had a selection "special" settings on the mode dial for just that purpose and after checking them out when I got it, I never actually used any of them. That may change with the A77. While diving into the scene mode menu on the A77, it earned guaranteed return visits when it revealed a hidden gem in the Hand-Held Twilight mode. This first appeared on the higher end Sony compacts and is quite a useful feature. It fires off a series of shots in rapid succession then matches and stacks them to reduce noise and enhance detail in low-light situations. Image stacking has been available in Photoshop and other dedicated programs for years, but having it done for you in-camera is pretty cool. Some of the other features that have migrated from the compacts to the NEX and now to the DSLRs are Auto HDR and Sweep Panorama. The Auto HDR is similar to the Auto Bracket feature found on many DSLRs to trigger a series of exposures with ascending values to be used to create an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image. Auto HDR goes one step farther by actually combining and processing the images in the camera. Maybe not as "pro" as sitting in front of a computer and processing/tweaking the files in expensive software for an hour to get a natural-looking dynamic range enhancement, but Easy and Good trumps Hard and A Tiny Bit Better any day. If you want to do more than natural and create HDR art, the auto-bracketing covers up to a 6 EV span and there is always manual. The list goes on...
Quite simply...I like it!
It is solid, well-balanced, easy to grip and has a control set that grows familiar very quickly. I originally chose the A700 for its control ergonomics and the A77 may end up being a bit better! There's the huge, bright viewfinder and an acrobatic LCD that makes low, high and odd angle shots easier than ever before.
The fastest autofocus I have ever had the pleasure to use and it is accurate too. If one of my lenses back- or front-focuses, there is a menu to compensate with micro adjustments that registers and saves the adjustments for up to 30 lenses. Technological assist for critical manual focusing is very useful.
Fully metered, focus tracking continuous shooting at up to 8 fps is probably more than I will ever need and if it isn't, the more restricted 12 fps mode should cover it.
Image quality is pretty amazing. I haven't tried out the RAW files yet but the JPEGs are quite good. If they improve the JPEG engine with firmware like they did with the A700, I may never use RAW.
And then there is the movie mode...up to 28mbs 1080p60 recording with full-time autofocus or manual focus assisted with peaking...
The features and combination of features fills a 240 page manual and rather than plod through them here ad nauseum, I'm going to go enjoy the rush of photographic inspiration that always comes with a shiny new tool!
Down The Rabbit Hole...?
Is the SLT design with a high-quality electronic viewfinder the wave of the future? Maybe, maybe not. There is personal preference and user inertia involved as with any major change. Remember, it wasn't until digital capture surpassed the film in working quality the it was widely accepted by working photographers and it took years after that to pry film out of some of those cold, dead cameras. The usability of the A77 viewfinder certainly has captured my interest and the interest of a lot of people that would have (and did) scoff at the idea.
Is 24MP too much for APS-C? Some would say yes and I might have been one of them. Certainly the high-ISO performance would have been improved with fewer and larger pixels but for print sizes up to 12x18, the ISO 6400 images are pretty darn good and that places it at least two stops better than the A700 even with double the pixels. At ISO 100 to 400 in good light (which covers portraits and most landscapes) the level of detail is truly amazing and rivals the current crop of full-frame cameras. If you add the improved dynamic range and better color fidelity I might still say that 24MP is too much, but with a lot less conviction than before.
I hope this answered a few questions, I will add more images and perhaps some comments as I get more familiar with my new friend.