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Customer Review

158 of 167 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal Game Changer, November 9, 2011
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This review is from: Sony SLT-A65V 24.3 MP Translucent Mirror Digital SLR With 18-55mm Lens (Camera)
I have only had this A65 for a couple of days so let's call this a "first impression". I think one of the early magazine reviews called the A65 and A77 "game changers". I have to agree and think that the engineers at Canon and Nikon are really looking at this camera. I also have a Nikon 5100 and Canon G12 in which to compare. Neither of those cameras are slouches. The G12 is my "go to" and I love it dearly (buy one). Of course it is a high end P&S, but a P&S none the less. So I will base my comparison on the Nikon 5100.

Most of my comparisons have been indoor flash shots and a night shots outside. Pixels comparisons aside (16m for the 5100 and 24 for the A65), I am astounded by how much better the Sony photos are. And I thought the 5100 was good-and it is, of course. One of reasons I bought the 5100 was to replace a Nikon D80. I love having a flip out screen, which it and the Sony have. I NEED flip out screens, the G12 has one too. I take a lot of my shots from a position other than up to my eye. Anyway, more about the A65.

The OLED viewfinder is amazing. For a real thorough review of the viewfinder alone check out a review of the A77 here on Amazon. The A65 and A77 share the same viewfinder. First off, is shows the entire image which you don't get with the 5100. You have to move up to, what the D7000 to get that? I have to tell you the ability to level the camera in the viewfinder in two axis is REALLY handy. No more wonky horizons. I hike a lot in our local PA mountains. The ability to sight across from one hill side to the other and use the viewfinder as a sighting level is a real cool, but admittedly esoteric use of the view finder. Once you have the viewfinder tilt and yaw indicator you will be spoiled forever trust me on that!

With the push of a button you can zoom in the view finder very easily. You can turn on and off the information you see in the finder.

Here's another advantage in bright daylight: You can review the photos in the finder with your eye through the finder. That is another of MANY pluses of the EVF. I understand Sony has broken some new ground with this new EVF vs. the older iterations of EVFs. They are here to stay. My guess is the optical viewfinder will fade (no flames please). This a very big deal. Using it is a "wow" moment as it is a better mousetrap.

If you put the 5100 on Live View and compare it to the Sony A65 there is NO comparison. If you take a photo in Live View you need to wait until the darn mirror flips up and down. Slooooooow. A P&S camera such as the G12 is MUCH faster shot to shot since it does not have to operate a mirror. The Sony just zooms along merrily, click, click, click, click. Then if you want to mimic a chain gun on a Apache helicopter put it on a continuous 10 shots a second mode. I had no way to measure it, but I put the 5100 on continuous shooting (of course, NOT with Live View) and it was quite a bit slower with that darn 'ole mirror getting a workout. Don't forget, though, to minimize your SD card choking on all that data you need to use one of "Extreme" SD cards. I assume you would want that type of SD card for videos anyway (I don't do much video). A cheapy SD card will work fine unless you want to play machine gun with the shutter. No matter what, it will not keep up with 10fps for very long. I am not sure how the other DSLRs fair in that regard. I did use it an action pistol match my son and competed in. I was able to capture his flying brass and the Glock in full recoil which was pretty cool.

I recently shot some video and played it back on my Sony Bravia 50" TV (I am NOT, in general, a Sony fanboy, as I currently own Nikon, Canon and Lumix cameras) via the mini HDMI port on the camera. It was truly excellent. Another review here on Amazon from an obvious video enthusiast called it "amazing". I won't dispute that. The quality of the audio seem pretty darn good. the microphone sits on top of what would be the pentaprism in an arc. Previously, my videos from the Canon G12 have been on my computer monitor. I am not doing a pixel peeping comparison. Based on my experience and web site reviews the video capabilities are probably best in class.

Shot to shot comparison is: A65 is sharper, but with better color rendition. The only thing the 5100 MAY have over the A65 is perhaps a slightly stronger flash, but not by much. a November 11th review on a German camera web site came out and declared the best camera under 1000 euros. I think the camera has maybe two weakness (or maybe two characteristics that are not better than a Canon or Nikon): the first is that the flash is good but the Nikon may be a bit better. But no one matches Nikon on that. The second is that at high ISOs the quality MAY fall off a little more quickly than comparable Nikon or Canon offerings. That MAY be a tradeoff from having 24m pixels. I say that ONLY from the reviews I have read. I have not had any real world comparisons for high ISOs. My comparisons using a flash in a room with a lot of detail shows the A65 pretty much blowing the 5100 into weeds. I think some have also questioned that the Sony .jpg engine and advised shooting in RAW until Sony refines the firmware. That may be, but the photos, to this amateurs and non-technogeek, look awfully good. It is a heck of a camera and a joy to uses.

I like how the A65 has a dedicated ISO button for quick changes. You can modify one of the 5100's buttons to do the same thing, but I don't think it is as intuitive. In fact, none of the command structure in the 5100 is as intuitive as the Sony's. I have to hunt for options on the Nikon that seem easier to find on the Sony. I have had the 5100 for 7 months and only two days for the Sony...

Here is a bonus to the Sony that I was ignorant of until last week. Legacy AF Minolta and Konica-Minolta lenses work just fine on all the Alphas. Shame on me for not knowing. When Sony bought Minolta in 2005 they wisely retained the old A-mount. Why is that important? You are not stuck buying new Sony lenses. You can buy good used Minoltas that are HIGHLY rated Japanese made lenses. I got my A65 with the 18-55 kit lens. I just received a used Minolta 70-210mm f3.5-4.5 off eBay for $120. It is MINT and works PERFECTLY. If you do a quick search there are web sites devoted to rating Minolta lenses that work with Sony Alphas. Did I say BARGAIN? The lens I bought I think sold for $350 when it was new. On site showed it at $625 in today's money (based on the old purchase price) if I recall. Even if the Nikon, Canon and Sony were equivalent at the same price point (and they are not) being able to use the legacy Minolta lens is a real plus. (I almost forgot-I had a Canon Rebel XTi. Had buyers remorse right away. The photos from it just did not look good, but that is dam water long gone soured me on Canon DSLRs. I love my G12 though! I realize Canons DSLR are fantastic cameras with lots of happy campers. A semipro I know that shoots wildlife switched to high-end Canons from Nikon simply because comparable lenses from Canon are much cheaper than Nikon, but that is a story for another day).

If you check out eBay lenses. I cannot recommend one seller too highly; ddrfam1439. Dennis deals only with Minolta lenses and is the best seller of ANYTHING I have bought from eBay. There are other reliable lenses dealers on there, but if Dennis has it I would buy with 110% confidence.

I considered the A77 too, BUT here is the problem: a big price hit over the A65. Yes it does have a magnesium body and is weather sealed. If I go hiking in bad weather I will take my weather proof Lumix TS2. It is quite a bit larger and heavier though than the A65. They share the same EVF - that is important. Yeah, I guess it has a couple more focus points, but in real world I don't think that matters. Sometimes technical reviews focus (to steal a phrase) on pixel peeking and theoreticals rather than real world use. Maybe a pro needs the A77, but $999 vs. $1999? I can find other uses for $1000 - more lenses and filters maybe with lots left over for 18-year old Scotch.

I have always had Nikons and Canons, but until now, never gave Sony a look. The buzz about the A77 caused me to check out the line and I am glad I did. This Sony A65 is like jumping into an Audi S4 from a VW Golf from my Nikon. I think for $999 there is nothing better-at the moment anyway.

I will try to update this review over time.

November 11, 2011 UPDATE. Remember the scene in "Something About Mary" when the greasy P.I. Healy (played to a "T" by Matt Dillon), was lurking around Mary's apartment? Through his binoculars, he got a glimpse of the body of her prune-like neighbor, but not seeing the face he thought it was Mary. To his fellow buffoon and voyeur he muttered "oooof, first chink in the armor, Teddy". Well, the A65 has a problem. Sometimes it will not shut or or start up. Taking the battery out and putting it back in solves it for a while. It is acting flaky. I did check on-line and I am running the latest firmware (1.03). So I called Sony...they are emailing me a FedEx label to ship to the Laredo TX service center. The camera is working, but I don't trust it to hold the charge as something drained the battery even though the switch was 'OFF' when I was not using it. I will report how Sony does on service. It is working so I will use it some, but ship it out on Monday.

November 14, 2011 UPDATE: I updated and edited some of the text above. AND the camera seems to be working just fine. I may not sent it back just yet. I took quite a few shots and video yesterday. Likely, my 5100 is going on eBay; don't need both.

Late November 14 UPDATE: Although it does seem to be working fine now, I think since I have the FedEx (ground) label I may as well send it back to have it gone over. By the way, when I was talking to Sony over the weekend they gave me the address to send it to. I then said it would be nice to get a prepaid label. The rep said, "we will email you one". I am not sure if she just forgot or that is something you have to ask for. With Sony losing money it may be the latter.

Update November 24, 2011: camera was shipped to Sony in Laredo, TX on 11/16 and arrived 11/21. I received an email from Sony that evening indicating it was received. I just got a phone call this morning (Thanksgiving!) from a fellow at the service center asking me questions on the on-off/battery issue. He said it will ship next Tuesday and arrive to me on Thursday. I have to give Sony high marks to Sony for customer service at this point. I did feel bad, though, for the fellow working on Thanksgiving. That was pretty unexpected.

Update March 18, 2012: I have had the A65 for some time now and can reflect further. It is a fantastic camera with a ton of best in class benefits with only one Achilles heel (very high ISO performance-beyond 1600-is not as good as Canikon). OK, so what I have been up to? Buying lots of Minolta legacy lenses (50/1.7; MACRO 50/2.8; 35-105; 35-80; 700210/f3.5-4.5) and a Sony Carl Zeiss 16-80. Here would be a killer deal: buy the A65 body and the Carl Zeiss 16-80. Then add maybe the Minolta 70-210 (a good one if you can find it. Get the Minolta MACRO 50/2.8 too if you dig closeup work-which I do). I have run comparison tests on all my lens as accurately as I can...the CZ is fantastic from center to edge. The Minolta 50 MACRO 2.8 is just about as good, but the 50/1.7 falls on its ass in the corners-at least my example does. I also compared these lens to the kit lens...the kit lens is no POS. It is quite decent. I got my CZ lens off eBay in as new condition for $625. New it is $800, so it is not cheap. Some have complained that it has a plastic (well made though) body and not metal (the mount is metal). Well, a metal CZ lens cost about double this one, plus it is LIGHTER - always good.

At the risk of repeating myself...the ability to use those legacy Minolta lens is HUGE. For example, the MACRO 50 I got in super shape off eBay for $220 (and gulped at that). The Sony version of that lens now sells for over $500! I paid only $120 for that 70-210/f3.5-4.5 and it is fantastic. I don't know what you would have to pay for a new lens with comparable optics and range.

I have also picked up a couple of flashes. You can get a Minolta 3600HS for a good price on eBay. It DOES have its limitations (head flips up but does not swivel and cannot cut the power). A MUCH better choice, albeit more expensive is the Sony HVL-F56AM. It is a rebadged Minolta 5600. It has far more capabilities than the 3600. Check them out.

If you REALLY want very high ISO performance, buy a Pentax DSLR and not the Canon or Nikon. Pentax blows everyone into the weeds-and they are an excellent value. As for really low light stuff, such as street shooting, I am fortunate to have a Fuji X100 which does that so well (among other things very well, but with more than a few quirks).
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Showing 1-10 of 35 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 11, 2011, 5:14:43 PM PST
Chacho says:
Oh, Thank You for your time on this review. my favorite Digital Camera so far after about a month of comparing models is the "Sony Alpha SLT_A65", but I wasn't sure on witch camera to decide between Canon EOS 60D, Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Nikon 5100 or Sony Alpha SLT-A65. I am buying the Sony A65 this month. Thanks again!!

Posted on Nov 12, 2011, 5:39:25 PM PST
Faith says:
WOW, what a coincident, I'm looking to upgrade from my Nikon D80 and was pretty sure I'd go with the 5100, but I started checking out the Sonys....EXACTLY the same situation as you (except I haven't bought the 5100 or Sony yet). It'll be a few months before I purchase, so I'll be following your experience with the A65. Thanks for taking the time to do this!

Posted on Nov 12, 2011, 6:44:48 PM PST
Faith says:
WOW, what a coincident, I'm looking to upgrade from my Nikon D80 and was pretty sure I'd go with the 5100, but I started checking out the Sonys....EXACTLY the same situation as you (except I haven't bought the 5100 or Sony yet). It'll be a few months before I purchase, so I'll be following your experience with the A65. Thanks for taking the time to do this!

Posted on Nov 14, 2011, 4:13:30 PM PST
ZONAZOO says:
Hi, I just received the a65 also and I absolutely love it, however I am a little concerned about the power off/on issue. I've literally only had it for about an hour and every time I turn it off it will not turn back on unless I take the battery out and put it back in. Is this the same issue you are having? Did it go away or fix itself somehow since you said you may not be sending it back? Could you please update with how Sony is handling it. Thanks.

Posted on Nov 16, 2011, 4:16:35 AM PST
Very helpful review, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I've been watching Sony for a few years, always tempted by their innovative approach but usually pull back when I consider the lens line up. Since you are coming from a good, mid-level Nikon it really makes your thought relevant to me as a current D90 owner looking at the "next step" (whatever that truly means).

Valuable experience and like you I see a value quotient in the balance of capabilities versus price.

Posted on Nov 27, 2011, 9:58:45 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 27, 2011, 1:50:01 PM PST
William Bash says:
My two cents worth as well. I too am an Amateur Photographer, who frequently took lots of Film/35mm photos decades ago (Canon FTb), and then faded away from photography due to other typical life pressures. Retired this past year, and purchased my first Digital-Based Cameras - and now I am ate-up in the head over Digital Cameras and all their capabilities -WOW!

The point herein, is that over this past year, I now have a Canon T2i (w/various extra Lenses), a Nikon D3100 (also various Lenses) - both purchased before the T3i and D5100 where announced. Also have several mid-ranged Point & Shoots (Nikon S8100, P100, Canon 210is, and new Sony DSC-H9XV), and of course lots of Accessory widgets, Batteries, and "stuff" that we Camera geeks all seem to not be able to live without. In October 2011 I finally brought myself to the point after months of reading/learning and pining over the new Sony A55 due to its Color Rendering, Speed, reduced Size & Weight, that I just had to have it (you know the spoiled brat feeling). I am very impressed with the Sony A55 all the way around with the only drawback being that it likes to use up Battery Power - especially if you have the GPS turned on. My Review in Sony's direct Web-Site has become their Featured Review for this Model.

I have considered purchasing the Sony A65... but 24MP is more than any Amateur would/should ever need. However, if someone wants lots of detail for expanded print Landscapes (I primarily shoot these), this Model could potentially be an advantage. Your review regarding the Start/Stop Problem, Battery consumption, and getting hot, seems to be a common complaint about the Sony "A" Series of products. Your insight into Sony's (TX) Service Center and its people have added more insight - thank you for your lengthy review.

As just a footnote for the reader herein - the new Sony DSC-HX9V (P&S) is a true kick-butt small but powerful Camera. Its color rendering, speed, movie taking, and user optional control capabilities for a Camera that costs under $300 is impressive. Take a look at one for yourself - a great pocket-sized product from Sony. I too was of the mind set that only Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic were the only real choices to consider... However, the two Sony's I now own are top shelf in my opinion, and their picture taking capabilities are something to take note of, and within a price range that is somewhat affordable. Especially now that I am retired. WMB.

Posted on Dec 4, 2011, 12:45:26 PM PST
TAPDESIGNS says:
I've had the same freezing issue while using the camera under a very demanding load. The new 1.4 firmware was made available on the Sony site November 28, so I'd suggest upgrading to that. I'm in the process of installing it so I can't tell you whether it fixes this issue, though.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2011, 1:08:53 PM PST
D. F. Watt says:
I suspect that this is another firmware issue - along with the strange overexposure on one of the flash modes. Have you upgraded your firmware to 1.04? May be easily fixable if that is the case.

best, Doug

Posted on Dec 19, 2011, 1:10:26 PM PST
D. F. Watt says:
So did the problem get fixed in 1.04?

Doug

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2011, 4:09:58 PM PST
ZONAZOO says:
I believe I was having a similar issue as the OP and yes 1.04 did fix it. Haven't had any of the aforementioned issues since I've updated.
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