on October 30, 2011
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.
on November 3, 2011
The Camera Fairy blessed my porch last Friday and handed me an Amazon box which upon opening, disgorged a familiar black and orange Alpha box with my A77 body inside, safely cushioned in bubble-wrap. In addition to the charger, manuals and ads, software CD, neck strap and USB cable, there was an empty space (sadly) for the kit lens. Since I already own a very nice Minolta 28-75 f/2.8 standard zoom, I passed on ordering the A77 with the new 16-50 f/2.8 SSM "kit" lens. I put quotes around "kit" because the new 16-50 is anything but a standard starter lens. It has a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, solid build and is weather-sealed to match the A77. Though not designated as a "G" or "CZ" lens, in tests it approaches the performance of Sony's excellent 24-70 f/2.8 Zeiss and is actually designed to fill the same effective focal length range on the APS-C cameras that the 24-70 does on full-frame. I planned on replacing my Minolta lens with the Zeiss next year but this new "kit" entry seems to be a serious alternative and since it is designed for the smaller APS-C sensor, manufacturing cost savings make it a heck of a bargain at half the price.
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.
on September 28, 2011
Haven't updated in a while so here we go!
We are now on bodies number 15 and 16 of these fabulous cameras. We shoot a lot of photos so we change out bodies every 3-4 months so we don't run the shutter count too high and ruin the resale. We shoot 250,000-300,000 photos a year currently. Sony has fixed the bug that made me have to keep rebooting my first camera, as a matter of fact we've had zero camera problems since the first 3-4 bodies. We believe that this is the perfect camera for what we do and will continue to use them until they are no longer available. After trying several point and shoot zoom cameras we also settled in on a Sony HX-50. It is an excellent 24-1200MM 20MP camera with excellent video. I use ours for all of our video needs exclusively :D
Last week we put our 2 SONY SLT-A77s through the ultimate test.
We were the official photographers on the Rock Legends Cruise and shot over 9,000 excellent photos over 3 days. I had to only reboot my A77 3 times but my wife did not have to reboot hers at all.
We shot about 65% of the concert photos with no flash in low natural stage light and got amazing results with very little ISO noise problems.
We also shot our 1st and 2nd rock videos with the A77 and were amazed at the results. I was set up about 15 feet from the main PA system right stack and the sound was not blown out even though I only used the on-board microphone. The stereo sound is crystal clear and other than some faint wind that was picked up the audio was perfect!
We've received hundreds of compliments on our concert photos and many are from Canon and Nikon users :D They have already been published on several online rock magazines and there are a lot more to come :D
We were going to preorder one of these SONY A77s here on Amazon but my wife and I don't have enough patience ... plus we didn't want to risk the initial shipment from Sony being sold out before it arrives in the US... so we ordered 1 from a Hong Kong E seller Sunday night and received it this morning (Wednesday). (only $1329 delivered!)Wooohooo!
It's quite a bit bigger (than our A55s) but it's not too big for my wife's normal sized female hands. It's a lot heavier (than our A55s) but not too heavy for her to use(she's our top WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER). She's been shooting 5 straight hours with it now with 3 different lenses.
The new SONY A77 looks absolutely awesome! Sony has put all the buttons for everything nicely placed right on the body. There is very little need to go to the menu. The manual seems very comprehensive and since we already had 3 A55s it was very easy for us to breeze through and just highlight the new stuff.
As far as photo quality if you are upgrading from an A55 we didn't expect too much more than the size/definition you gain with a 50% increase in MPs. We were wrong, the photos are phenomenal! If you are upgrading from another camera brand you will be stunned! My recommendation to all you Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, and Fuji users... If you are thinking about upgrading your outfit, DO IT! Sell everything you have and grab one of these revolutionary new cameras and some legendary MINOLTA LENSES, or the SONY 16-50, "G" Lenses, or Carl Zeiss lenses. You will be opening up a whole new world of photography excellence!
The 1st 25 quick photos we shot with an APO Minny 100-300 look excellent on our 42" TV!
We have now shot almost 5,000 great photos including 2 weddings. The 2nd wedding we shot was outdoors on a dreary, gray, rainy day and the photos came out fantastic. As a matter of fact they were so good that we sold our last 2 SONY A55s and ordered another SONY A77 with the 16-50 2.8 LENS which will arrive Wednesday-Thursday next week.
We shot the 1st 5,000 shots with version 1.02 and experienced none of the issues that others have seen. We updated to version 1.03 yesterday, but since we had no issues we really don't have a comparison.
We now are the proud owners of 2 of these beauties plus the new SONY 16-50 2.8 lens. The camera and lens go together like peanut butter and jelly! They are so fast together that the finished photo has appeared on the screen before the subject has finished saying "cheese"!
We have shot our 3rd wedding, our 1st with good lighting. The photos that we took were nothing less than stunning. We are off today to shoot our 2nd engagement session and we are both like kids on Christmas Eve with every new opportunity to shoot. This camera grows on you every day and even though we have had the 1st one almost a month it is still exciting to use.
We have now taken over 6,000 excellent photos with our 2 SONY SLT-A77s. So far zero problems with either camera. We went out yesterday and shot with a handful of MINOLTA lenses and they all performed wonderfully on the A77s! We also now had the opportunity to shoot a few hundred shots with some of the new in-camera special effects. The color extraction is amazing, and you'll really like the pop and vivid as well!
If you google our company name you will find our site with hands on reviews and photo samples under the SONY|MINOLTA tab of both the camera and lens.
on November 3, 2012
I purchased this camera to shoot wedding video's because of it's superior focusing system. I shot several stills as well, and found that the images equalled or exceeded the quality of images shot with my Canon 5D MKII with L Series lenses. The only department this camera falls short in is it's limited capacity to shoot in low light. It will still focus very well in low light, but the images/video become very grainy. Images are equal to or slightly better than 5D MKII at 100 ISO and stay really good till about 800 ISO. After 800 ISO image quality starts degrading slowly till 1600 ISO which is the last usable ISO setting with acceptable results. The camera does have an option to shoot high quality pictures at even 6400 ISO, but the render time is very long. But it is great to have this option. Because of the extensive electronics, there is a lot of drain on the battery, so a spare battery is a must if you shoot professionally. Sony's 'Steady shot' is definately superior and more affective than Canon's 'Image stabalizer' and Nikon's 'Vibration reduction' technology. The electronic OLED True Viewfinder is amazingly accurate and can be switched off to work as a conventional viewfinder. The built in special effects are very interesting and a real Bonus. Everytime I pick up the camera and hit the FN button, I discover someting new. This camera has by far exceeded my expectations, and is priced reasonably. This is not like a conventional DSLR, it is totally new technology, redesigned from scratch. I have been shooting professionally for 30 years and have used all kinds of camera's in different formats, made by different manufacturer's and I would highly recommend this camera for Business or pleasure.
on November 11, 2011
What a stunning camera this A77 is.
Forget the dated Canons and Nikons(good though many are); tomorrow is here right now! Of course, if you are already bogged down with another manufacturer's lenses and kit, you'll almost certainly disagree.......we understand and sympathise!
Let us look at a few facts and leave nefarious comment to the bitter and twisted.
1. This camera does not have a big flappy mirror assembly....thank you,God...even my digital Hasselblad cannot negate the appalling vibrations from its mirror (and there is actually a dedicated program in the software to delay shutter activation by 50, 100, 200 ms...or whatever to cover the failing up). Yuk.
2. The A77 does have a super electronic viewfinder that even when wearing complex prescription specs,copes superbly.And you actually see what you are taking ALL the time. I have been using this sort of viewfinder for over ten years and always have preferred it to my Hasselblad....and optical viewfinders don't come much better than Hasselblad's.
3.The frame rate at 12fps is magical.....no one else comes near.
4. The image stabilisation is in the body...thank you again God...so even the G lenses are good value. The standard range is almost cheap!
5. As STANDARD the camera does 12fps, sweep panorama, video, HD,and 3D and GPS. No fuss, it's all there.
6. The artificial horizon feature,,,,as well as yaw sensing...is absolutely great. Who needs spirit levels now?
7. There is a HUGE, yes HUGE, supply of Minolta lenses stacked up on eBay and elsewhere, that make experimenting with this camera a real joy.....instead of seeking a mortgage everytime you decide to try a new lens combination!
8. AND....AND, this thing has over 24 Mpixels of sheer resolution.....cropping has never been such fun!
9. The body is a metal casting and is sealed against a goodly level of water intrusion.....tough as old boots, if my 10 year old predecessor is anything to go by.
10. It costs far less then you might think too. Buy the body and try some of the 'giveaway' used lenses before you commit to your final choice.Do try the 18-250mm superzoom.
All in all, an exciting major step forward.
Go and enjoy it!
on October 31, 2011
All I can say is wow....
The resolution with the 16-50 f2.8 is outstanding. The EVF is a joy to use, the camera handles very well and is easy to use. I love the fact that what you see with the EVF is what you get on the photo.
So far, of the couple of thousand shots - its performance is great... Love the focus peaking (shows you what is in focus with a hi-light color) - its great for tweaking the focus.
I have not used the focus tracking for sports yet, but my tests (with a dog) show that it seems to work pretty well - I will leave others better qualified to answer that usage.
Nice interface (most of the options are really close to hand - and because of the EVF you don't even have to take your eye away from the viewfinder.
That EVF !!
Focus peeking and zoom functions allow you to nail the focus.
Its not quite as good at handling noise at very high ISO (aka VERY low light) as say the Nikon D7000.
The focus square confirmation can be a bit hard to see sometimes.. It really should be configurable.
All in all = I highly recommend this camera. This is coming from a canon SLR->DSLR user for 25 something years..
I will try to add a couple of images taken with this camera to the page.
on December 11, 2011
Pros: Extremely fast, very sharp images, very cool features & picture effects.
Cons: Would have liked a CF slot as well as SD, noise issues above 3200 iso.
I have shot with an a700 for almost 5 years and was very skeptical when the a77 was announced in August as it's replacement. My skepticism was based on 3 things: 1) the image quality of 24mps on a "C" sensor (lots of mps on a small sensor); 2) the quality of the OLED viewfinder; 3) the buffers ability to keep up with the speed of the camera in RAW and 12fps.
My concerns were put to rest when I tested the camera and saw the results.
1) With the high quality Sony and Tamron lenses I use, the 24mps makes the images extremely sharp and crisp without any noticeable edge distortion. WOW! Just amazing quality.
2) The OLED does take some getting use to and can become very pixelated in low light with the "Live View Display - Setting Effects is ON" but the advantages of what it can do when setting the proper exposure, shutter speed etc so that "what you see in the OLED viewfinder is exactly what you get on the card" has changed the way I shoot for the better. When using the camera with my studio lights in Manual mode, I Turn OFF the Live View Display in the menu and OLED operates like a DSLR with all the settings in complete manual mode without any pixelation in the OLED viewfinder or Live View Display.
3) The buffer speed when shooting in RAW or in the 12fps mode is not an issue WHEN YOU use a SD 92mb/s card. Slower cards work but you sacrifice buffer performance in RAW and at 12fps. Turn off the image preview in the menu. Image preview really overworks the buffer especially at 12fps. As you get use to using the OLED, you will find you won't need to be constantly previewing the images you just took because "what you see in the OLED is what you get".
Now for the fun stuff the camera can do: 1) in camera panorama mode; 2) digital 1.4 and 2.x zoom; 3) what I call Super Auto mode for the times when you are just shooting snap shots of family, things etc.; 4) and my favorite is the "Picture Mode"- with HDR Paint mode, b/w monotone, b/w spot color, soft focus, toy camera, etc.
Conclusion: I am very impressed with the a77. It does take some time to learn all it can do. Read the manual carefully and experiment with the modes, settings and features and you find, as I did, this camera is a remarkable leap forward in DSLR technology.
on February 11, 2012
I made the switch from Canon to Sony about five years ago with the release of the Sony a350. Wanting to move to a more feature rich DSLR I did extensive research and liked what I saw regarding Sony and the direction they were going. After acquiring Konica Minolta's photography technology, it didn't take long for Sony to start making an impact. They seemed to be on the cutting edge of research and DSLR technology (Sony released the 1st really useful Live View technology). My research was confirmed when I went to a well know photography chain to look at the newest Canon and the salesperson directed me toward the Sony line. After doing a side-by- side comparison of features and image quality, I made the jump to Sony and have not regretted it one little bit!
I finally got lucky and caught the a77 in stock at a very popular NY photo supply store and had it in my hands in TX just three days after I placed the order! I have been shooting with it for a couple of weeks. There was a slight learning curve as the a77 is quite an upgrade from my a350. Simply put, this is the best camera I have ever used. It was nice that it came with the newest firmware already installed (1.04). After reading some reviews I was a little concerned about the EVF but am truly amazed at Sony's implementation of the new technology. It is bright (even in sunlight), big and extremely helpful at obtaining the correct exposure (WYSIWYG) and I don't have to take my glasses off to use the viewfinder. Another really nice feature that I discovered, while attending a wedding, is the sheer quietness of this camera. Two photographers were shooting the wedding (One with a Canon, the other with a Nikon) and it sounded like the paparazzi. The shutter noise of the pros cameras was distracting while my a77 was extremely quiet. Another cool feature is the "Peaking Level" menu option that is extremely useful while manually focusing the camera (for macro shots, etc.). When you obtain focus the EVF or the back LCD draws color lines (red, white or yellow options) around the object you are shooting to verify focus. Really cool and useful.
If I have to find something to complain about regarding the a77 I have a few points. One, the battery life could be longer. It uses the same battery as my A350 (so I have some extras) but it would be nice if Sony would develop a longer lasting battery. For some reason the GPS feature seems to suck battery life. Two, there is no "Steady Shot" button on the camera body. To use the camera on a tripod I have to go through the menu system to turn off "Steady Shot." Not a huge deal but a button/switch would have been nice. That's it, no other negatives from my perspective. There has been a lot of chatter about the noise in high ISO ranges from this camera but I have not found it to be an issue in real world use. All cameras are going to be "noisy" in ISO 1600 and up. This camera has so many useful features as well as many fun options; it's just not practical to discuss them in a short review.
Just a note of caution. . . if you are trying to make a decision about which camera to buy, keep in mind that not all reviews on the Sony DSLR/SLT cameras are unbiased. As I was researching I found that many pro reviewers (photographers, tech. geeks, etc.) were heavily biased toward the equipment they use. There are also many unbiased reviews that point out the short comings of each of the camera models. I recommend that you go to a photo store and see them for yourself and do your own side-by-side comparison. If you have lens from Canon or Nikon it may not make since to switch. But, Sony is on the cutting edge and the future looks bright for their technology. I know I'm going to be very happy with my a77 and look forward to what is next.
on January 15, 2012
I had a Nikon D300s. The scores for the sensor of the A77 in DXOmark are slightly better than the D300s and slightly lower than the Nikon D7000 which has the same sensor as the Sony A55 and it's known to be the best in class so far. It's unfair to compare this camera with other models that are more expensive, so keep it real.
So, in my mind, when I changed systems, these were the things I gained:
* Full focusing during video
* Option to shoot at 24MP (I still shoot at 12MP most of the time)
* Stabilized sensor, which means every lens I put will be stabilized
* Superb electronic viewfinder, OLED with >2 million pixels!
* Auto and Manual HDR, Auto and Manual DRO (Dynamic Range Optimizer)
* And a whole bunch of features that for the first time I've used effectively...
On top of all of these points, I highly recommend the bundle with the 16-50mm f/2.8 lens. They call it "kit" lens but it's definitely not. Just look at the specs: f/2.8 and weather sealed. And I can tell you the image quality it's way up there with the lenses in the $X,XXX range. It's only $600 extra to add it to the body price. Go for it!
* The only cons I've found are that the JPEG processing in-camera seems to blur details a little more than Nikon or Canon. But still, for a 24MP sensor and to keep-up with current noise performance of competitors I think it's a major breakthrough and the images are very usable.
You can safely shoot with plenty of details up to ISO1600 or even a little more, but don't expect to be using ISO12,800 all the time. RAW image data is much better, so if you have the time to edit your photos, shoot RAW.
* The auto-focusing only works with the largest lens aperture of the lens you put in the camera, but it works decently.
* If you shoot at 24MP all the time and especially RAW, you'll fill those memory cards quickly. My solution? I was happy with 12MP on the Nikon D300s, so I just adjust the setting on the A77 to shoot at 12MP and that's it. I still have the option of going 24MP if the situation needs it.
Give Sony a chance, you won't regret it. If Canon or Nikon were to offer a camera with the specs of the A77 it would easily be in the $2,200 range. Just check the reviews online everywhere and you'll see how happy people are. But beware of the Canon and Nikon fanboys whose eyes are closed to other options, please.
on July 18, 2013
I'll let other reviewers cover the more technical aspects of this camera, and there are plenty of reviews online.
As a longtime photographer with 2 nikon film cameras as paperweights now, I wanted a nice camera that I could continue to grow with. I also wanted something more sturdy and preferably weather resistant. I've seen this camera listed as an entry-level 35mm, which it is not. I've seen it listed as a professional, which it is not. It really bridges the entry-level to the professional, with the functionality of what I would consider to be a professional category camera. I know many pros use this with fantastic results, especially if they have better lenses. After all, the lens is 80% of the picture (my guess anyway).
I very quickly ruled out getting a Nikon or Canon. You pay extra for the name and when I played around with friend's Nikons (3100, 5100, and 7100) I was really not impressed at all. They took decent pictures but the cameras felt light (except the 7100) and, honestly, cheap. When I began comparing the Sony A65/77 with Nikons and Canons, it quickly became obvious that there were many more features in the Sony's and Pentax cameras!
So ultimately I was trying to decide between the Pentax K30 and the Sony A65. After researching the two I then was looking at the K-5 and K-5ii, again comparing that to the A65. Let me say that I believe that the K30 is the far better deal for the price! If you're looking to spend under $600 to get an outstanding weather-sealed camera AND lens, then the K30 is for you. It is, however, very much an entry-level camera and will not grow with you. There is no jack for an external microphone and a few other little things, that, for me, added up. For most it would be fine.
So my expectations grew from the ~$600 range to about $900-1000. So I compared the K-5 to the Sony A65. For me it was pretty much a dead heat, with the K-5 slightly outperforming the A65, especially as it is a weather-sealed camera. After a LOT of online research and examining the differences between the A65 and their weather-sealed A77, I found the A77 to really be far above the "entry level" A65. You go online and look at some reviews and you'll quickly see that the A77 is a pro camera for a relatively cheap, entry level price.
Some of the features that sold me:
1. weather-sealed body (now I opted for the non-weather-sealed 18-135 mm lens. I didn't know it wasn't weather-sealed when I got it though. I wrongly assumed that it was, but I don't regret it)
2. Magnesium alloy body (not plastic like most, even the canon and nikons, and the Sony A65)
3. 24 megapixels
4. ability to shoot amazing, cinema-quality "film". Autofocus during video! Amazing!
5. OLED viewfinder. I was used to optical VFs, but when I tried this I was blown away. Immediate feedback on what the picture will look like. Totally sold on this technology
6. LENSES GALORE FOR CHEAP!!!!
Let me explain this last one. First of all the "kit" lens that comes with it is weather-sealed. While I didn't get it I have read great reviews of this. I got the larger, 18-135 and let me tell you, this is a hell of a lens. This is a solid, heavy lens, not the cheap, lightweight lenses that are sold with high end Nikons, Canons, etc (I keep using Nikon and Canons as examples because, well, that is what everyone seems to feel they need to get)
Second point about lenses. You can get any of the older Minolta AF (and even non AF) "A" mount lenses. Sony bought Minolta and kept the mount. So you can now go into a used camera store or on Ebay and pick up some OUTSTANDING lenses for a fraction of the cost of new Sony lenses. I got the 70-300 mm Sony lens as an add-on to the purchase for cheap on here (they had a deal). But if I didn't I could find this same Minolta lens (which apparently is exactly the same as the current Sony lens internally) for about $100. Seriously. The fact that you can use Minolta A mount lenses AND Sony lenses is a major factor in my decision to go Sony over Pentax and the rest.
7. VERY QUIET AUTOFOCUS!!! Wow! I thought the lens was broken it was so quiet. You can find reviews of the Pentax K30 and Nikons and you'll hear how loud the autofocus is. The 18-135 is SO quiet! Good job, Sony.
8. I also appreciated the way the menu system is set up on the Sony. For me it is a more common sense approach to setting your camera up. All options are listed on screen without having to scroll down ... you tab to the next screen to see the options listed. Much easier!
9. Fantastic and LARGE sensor that surpasses most professional video cameras (this is a good thing for those of you who want to use this to shoot video.
Things I don't like:
1. non-standard "hot shoe" . Jeeez. Have to use Sony's proprietary flashes. They aren't too expensive, so no biggie for me
2. The fold out LCD screen. Again, not that big a deal, but why not just fold the thing out to the side?! If you put the camera on a tripod with a flash, then flip up the LCD to try to compose a self-timed pic, you can't do it. The tripod is in the way on the bottom and the flash is in the way at the top. Just dumb design on Sony's part. Stubborn.
That's about it for now. Hope this helps you decide between some of the cameras above. I spent weeks researching. I love the Pentax and Sonys as you seem to get much more for your money than the two top dogs.