on 25 November 2011
I have had the Sony A77 for about a month and am still discovering hidden depths. The electronic viewfinder is excellent and though some optical die-hards may still quibble, I have experienced no problems whatsoever. My previous experience of the 'new-wave' translucent mirror system was with the A33 so the A77's improvement in resolution and responsiveness is easy to see.
The kit lens, 16-50 f2.8 is a first-class piece of glass which meets -at a guess - 90 per cent of my needs.
The 24 plus megapixel sensor provides wonderful detail, with easy cropping potential and for the APS-C format, is a world's first. The response from reviewers has been overwhelmingly positive and I can't help feeling that this camera heralds a new era of SLR/SLT development.
Update: February 2012. The EVF is proving an extremely useful aid to exposure. With an optical viewfinder there is no way of knowing (until the shot is taken) how exposure has fared. With the Sony EVF, every nuance can be seen 'live'. For those photographers who wish to explore the possibilities of long exposure using ND filters, the electronic viewfinder allows you to maintain full view with little or no screen blackout.
on 20 June 2012
I'm a wildlife photographer, having used Canon for many years I never thought I'd switch manufacturer, but having seen reviews and footage of the A77 in action I knew it was time to make the leap.
Now for all of you that have discussed this camera body with friends and colleagues, and have been greeted with the negative comments that seem to be doing the rounds on You-Tube and the photography forums let's get some of the nonesense out of the way -
Yes, it's different, it's a Sony.
It has a lot more controls and menus to deal with.
Yes, it has 'Translucent Mirror Technology' that allows for very high speed shooting without a moving mirror.
And it has a 'Precision Electronic Viewfinder' as opposed to an optic viewfinder.
Not to mention the ability to shoot 1920x1080 HD video, with full-time AF tracking of moving subjects, at either 24p or 50p progressive.
All of these features are a move away from what you'll see from the other two manufacturuers offerings, but here's the thing, it all works, and it does everything staggingly well, at a fraction of the cost of the competition.
The very fact that you can shoot, at 12fps, up to 1/8000th of a second, is itself an incrediable feature, yes you still have the constraints of the cameras own internal buffer, and the size and write speed of the memory card, but I've used this with a Sandisk Ultra 95mbs SD card and have consistantly managed 36 frames before realising any buffer lag, with the internal buffer then clearing down in around 10 seconds.
How about using the supplied 16-50mm f/2.8 'kit' lens, which is weather proofed, sharp, fast and in conjunction with the cameras onboard 2 x teleconverter (shooting jpeg only) suddenly becomes a 100mm f/2.8, anyone else give you such a high quality lens as part of a package?
And before I forget, a 24.3 effective megapixels Ultra-high resolution Exmor(tm) APS HD CMOS Sensor, on a camera body that retails for under £1,500.00, with the kit lens - anyone else do that?
Like I said, I never thought I would change from Canon, but I am so glad I did!
on 5 June 2012
One of my best purchases ever, worth every penny.
Joy to use & shoot giving great results from not so great photographer!
I won't list all the features - you can easily find them, so I'll just describe main pros & cons.
Great build quality, feels solid and right grip in hand
Weather sealed body & lens
Very good controls with plenty of buttons for efficient and fast access to most settings
Excellent, all way adjustable LCD
Brilliant OLED EVF - this literally transform the way you take photos - what you see is what you get, no more compose and look at the results on LCD - not to mention all the information available - also easily switchable as on the LCD - best thing ever.
Focus peaking - finally easy way to manually fast focus
Excellent image quality - including JPEG which can be adjusted a lot
Very high resolution images
Panorama/3D panoramas - easy to do, well stitched
Multi Noise Reduction
Very fast and accurate, 19 points phase detection auto focus
Fast image processing
Strong built-in flash (though I prefer external for bouncing and other effects)
Very high burst and continuous shooting
Sony lenses correction
Customisation + 3 memory sets
Fantastic video quality - 1080p 50fps is hard to beat
Fast focus in video
Useful (sometimes) gadgets - GPS, picture modes/effects
Bad video audio - for high quality best use good external
No video audio volume adjustment
Can't adjust all the buttons the way you want (minor)
If I were picky, I could say EVF in very low light, but in reality it won't hamper you much
On/Off switch feels worse than A550, less tactile
All in all - if this is in your budget, just get it, you won't regret it a second.
************ UPDATE February 2012 - after 7 months of use ************
After 7 months and > 5000 photos I thought I'll share my feedback & experience.
Over time, I absolutely got to love this camera. Thanks to OLED EVF, precise, fast AF and lens micro adjustment, my numbers of keepers is ~ 95% and the remaining 5% is pretty much due to my errors rather than camera.
At some point I stopped using RAW (with the exception of very high ISO shots) and shoot Extra Fine JPEG only - with 15-19Mb files I'm not loosing much and still can process files in Lightroom if I want to.
Thanks to the 24MP sensor photos are very detailed even when heavily cropped - so eventual composition errors are easily corrected.
Once microadjusted sharpness is excellent with all lenses - and the 16-50mm 2.8 kit lens is amazing.
Colours, bokeh, sharpness (especially when stopped to F4), speed - phenomenal glass, especially when used well. Yes, there is distortion at the wide and, but it is in-camera corrected (JPEG) or in the PP (RAW) - so not an issue at all.
As it is very quiet it is great for videos - which are excellent - I sold my Sony HDR-SR12 camcorder as the video was on par (and better for high speed - 60fps full HD!) so there was no point carrying it with me.
I use mostly EVF + the top display for settings changes - and in this combo I'm amazed how many shots you can take on battery - it seems to go and go forever.
I've been updating firmware as soon as the new version appeared and being now on 1.07 my observations are - versus the initial 1.04:
1) Responsiveness has been improved from very good to outstanding
2) Start-up/shutdown is much faster. In the 1.07 they introduced a trick - basically the camera has 2 types of shutdown - first it sort of hibernates, giving almost immediate start up if not left for long, and the proper one, when not used. I don't know however what is the exact time after which it shuts down fully - and didn't see any battery draining. All in all, great idea Sony!
3) Buffer emptying in 12fps mode is much faster, with the Sandisk Extreme Pro 95Mb/sec camera is ready after ~5.5 sec!!! Fantastic
4) Auto ISO seems to be more considerate with higher ISO (i.e. keeping lower ISO than before)
5) Auto Focus improved, especially in tricky conditions
6) Can't see OLED lag bug (basically rarely I would get slower fps after switching modes - this would be corrected after switching to different mode and back so not that it was a big issue)
7) I'm not a huge pixel peeper so can't say there's noticable IQ improvement - it was excellent to me from the start.
Don't want to repeat myself, but this camera transformed me as an amateur photographer, it is a real joy to use, and thanks to that as well as all the qualities, I've learned a lot and I'm able to shoot much better pictures - and it has been noticed by anyone who looked and my photos. It gives confidence when you press the shutter and I want to carry it with me everywhere - not to mention going out as much as possible.
It is an expensive camera, however if you can afford, it's fantastic and worth every penny - after all, you can't put a price on captured memories!
on 6 January 2013
I know i'll get a lot of stick for the "subject" of my review, but I used both & can confidently say that for me the A77 is far better. The focusing and speed of the camera is excellent, as is the quality of the image. It's not in the same league as say the Canon MKII for noise control, but then it isnt a full frame camera.
The EVF is as most people will probably say, a matter of choice, but for me it works - period. I take a lot of animal photos, and getting the eyes in focus is a must. Having the ability to zoom in through the viewfinder to ensure accuracy is such a boon + you dont really have to worry too much about whether you have the correct exposure settings, as wysiwyg.
Purists and Canon / Nikon snobs will probably hate it - to them I would ask why it now seems that both manufacturers always seem to be one step behind when it comes to innovation? Sensor cleaning, in built camera shake, in built GPS, reticulated screens, the list goes on.... I'm not trying to poo poo Canon's and Nikons btw, I have used both over many years of photography, and they have made some real stars, such as the Canon 5d Mark II, but if you are in the market for buying a camera, dont feel forced in to just looking at these two manufactures as now Sony and others are hot on their heels. Reviews of the A77 prove this.
So if you are looking for a good solid camera, that wont cost you the earth, then you wont go far wrong with this.
on 1 December 2011
This is a unique camera with so many innovations, which will change the future of the SRL market, the "kit" lens is excellent, fast optics and super fast focusing, while being silent (which is important for making movies). The same fast (24-70) F/2.8 lens for full frame cameras cost twice as much (Nikon /Canon equivalents) and weights twice as much too! The electronic viewfinder is a game changer, much easier to view in low light, all info is visible at a glance, focus peaking, depth of field check function, white balance adjustment are very convenient; the A77 camera is relatively compact, while giving the full field of view in the viewfinder, such coverage of view one can only see on the full-frame pro-SLRs.
on 21 August 2012
Before purchasing the A77 I owned an A200 and still own an A700, as well as numerous Minolta film cameras which share the same lens mount.
This is a very good camera. Focussing is fast and accurate, it's speed blistering, as well as many other useful features such as GPS, sweep panorama and face recognition etc.
However, it does take some time to adjust to the EVF. I've missed quite a view shots waiting for the EVF to start when raising the camera to my eye or because I was chimping at the rear screen before going to take a shot, then finding the image I'd been looking at on the rear filling the EVF rather than the subject I'm about to shoot. Slightly annoying but I suppose it is user error. It would be nice to be able to get option to disable image playback in the EVF so this doesn't happen. The EVF does have the very useful feature of being able to display a histogram or an electronic spirit level as well as other data.
My main problem I have with the camera is its flash metering. It constantly over exposes shots by 0.7 to 1.3 EV and requires a permanent flash compensation of -1.0 EV. This issue is well known on Sony fora such as Dyxum .com or dpreview.com and affect both pop-up and external flashes. This does not appear to effect all A77s but does affect a significant portion. Attempts to try and get Sony to address the issue seem to have fallen on deaf ears but there is hope that a software update may fix this issue in the future.
The 16-50mm f2.8 is a great lens and many people would have expected a lens of this quality to bear the "G" designation. It fast, silent and sharp and works very well with the A77's video capabilities.
To get the best out of the camera it is best to shoot RAW as the JPGs don't really do the 24MP sensor any justice and lack the detail that can be achieved by using good RAW processing software. I would recommend DxO Optics Pro for this job.
This is definitely not a beginners camera and needs time to learn how to get the best out of it. You will be sadly disappointed with this camera if you just shoot jpgs in auto mode. But if you take the time to get to know it, then it really is capable of taking stunning images.
UPDATE: Firmware 1.0.7 has now fixed the flash issue so I can now give the A77 the 5th star that it deserves.
Like many I toyed with the idea of the A77 for some time, having briefly used one a few years back it was nice, but the price was fairly heavy at the time.
Fast forward to 2014 and a newer model A77 MkII and we get some very good deals on this camera right now.
Having used the camera for a week or so I'll give you my honest impressions of it so far, and will update the review as required over time.
Quick fire good/bad points
+ Very good build, mag alloy front and back panels, weather sealing (dust moisture)
+ Excellent 19 point (11 cross type AF points) autofocus, it's very fast with good accuracy
+ Ability to AF "fine tune" lenses (so far I have not needed to)
+ Built in red LED beam "AF assist" very handy for low light, it puts a pattern out and you can focus even in complete darkness or on subjects with no contrast
+ Excellent details and tonality with very good dynamic range, 24mp is overkill for most, but the firepower is there if you need it
+ Extensive on body controls with direct buttons for WB, ISO, joystick control, front/rear dials, AF mode knob
+ Top LCD can be useful (it's backlit) for tripod shooting
+ Multi swivel LCD can be fully articulated, sharp high res 3" display
+ Very fast frames per second shooting rate up to 12fps (fixed aperture though) also has 8fps and 3fps cont shooting modes
+ Full metal mount (lower priced alpha bodies don't have this, just worth a mention)
+ Focus "peaking" can be use and a magnify focus check, this makes manual focus very easy
+ Ability to "save" 3 banks of settings on the dial (MR position)
+ Has a DOF preview, DMF (direct manual focus) option for AF
+ PC sync port, remote port, GPS built in, 3.5mm microphone
+ Quiet shutter sound (electronic first curtain) Shutter rated to 150k actuations
+ 1/8000 sec top shutter speed
+ Steady shot adds in body stabilisations to all lenses (even older Minolta and third party A mount lenses) for free
- Battery life is around 500 shots below comparable DSLR's
- Some limitations to movie mode, Auto ISO is limited to ISO 1600 max, the video also crops in more, AF is restricted to f3.5 even if you have faster lenses, cannot adjust audio levels (though sound quality is good - stereo with wind cut function) You do have manual controls though (just not AF)
- Jpeg noise reduction is too strong for my own tastes, ok at low ISO but higher ISO levels you are better off shooting raw (and you are best shooting raw at low ISO for max details)
- High ISO/Low light shooting requires more care with exposure (metering can underexpose) ISO 3200 is usable with decent exposures, 6400 is pushing things a little.
- LCD can't be seen properly if turned around facing you if there is a flash in the hot shoe
- ? Button is only useful for image deleting (you can bring up a guide mode with it - option in the menu)
Other notes: (I will update this as required)
OLED EVF is good resolution wise and has some benefits (focus peaking and exposure simulation, big view) it does struggle with dynamic range in harsh lighting though, and there is some noise in low light in the viewfinder (not listed this as a pro or con like an optical finder it has advantages and disadvantages) The live view advantage due to the fixed mirror is that you get phase detect AF in live view full time (though the 70d has this off the sensor too), the mirror does take a bit of light though for the AF system (I estimate about half a stop)
Buffer depth is around 15/16 frames raw (shooting at 8fps) that's ok though the newer A77 II has a significantly bigger buffer, it's probably enough for most (quite a lot larger than the D7100 buffer, similar to the 70d's buffer), the A57 I have shoots around 23 frames at 8fps (buffer the same smaller raw files mean more shots)
Do get yourself a faster card if you shoot action, I tested the 80MB/s Sandisk in camera and it's clearing times are quick, likewise the Extreme pro is a touch faster, the 45MB/s Extreme is acceptable clearing times wise (longer than both but not bad) The A77 is UHS-I compatible so look out for cards that are compatible with that from various makers. A normal class 10 SD card is fairly slow to clear a big burst, one to watch for if you shoot higher frames per second. If you're a landscape shooter it's not really an issue.
Firmware it's running 1.07 out of the box (this is the latest update) this cured some lag issues and flash exposure problems (no issues here to report with flash so far) Menus are quite easy to use with good customisation, though not quite as comprehensive as similar Canon/Nikon bodies.
You can set various buttons to different functions such as the AEL button, the ISO button, AF/MF button on the back, some of those might be handy for other functions, it's a shame you can't customise the ? button though. Like the 7 series cameras from the past era (Minolta and Sony) you can set the rear dial to exposure compensation.
Operation and performance are snappy with fast autofocus, it does take a while to get used to the controls the rear joystick is handy for directly setting the AF points. You have wireless flash control via the built in flash (as you do on all Sony bodies), you can additionally set the A77's built in flash to manual output (1/16 min output) this can be useful for triggering optical flashes without the main flash influencing the exposure.
Exposure is good in most situations, even in harsh light it balances exposure well, but in lower light levels it can be a bit under, this won't do you any favours with high ISO shooting, so adjust the exposure if required underexposing at high ISO will increase noise. The A77 isn't as bad as some make out in this area (1600 is good, 3200 if done with care can yield good print sizes..above that all APS-C models tend to struggle at ISO 6400), but it's not quite up there with the Canikon's on this. Still you do have stabilisation built in, you might be able to compensate with that.
In terms of overall spec it's comparable to the D7100, and 70d in many ways. These bodies all have good and bad points, and are considered to be "semi pro" level ie they have enhanced build over lower priced bodies, faster max shutter speeds, more functions and customisation of controls (and many more direct controls)
The EVF is something you'll have to decide on yourself I have got used to it (to a point) it does have some advantages, and some downsides. Manual focus is very easy now, you get a real time exposure preview, it can gain up in very low light, and can have lots of information on the display. Downsides are clarity isn't as good as a good pentaprism optical finder (details) and it can struggle a bit in very contrasty light (shadows can be crushed a bit), following action is harder too (last image displayed rather than current one) and battery life takes a hit. A personal choice here worth trying one if you can in person.
On balance though, at this price a bit of a sleeper bargain if you are invested in A mount and were holding off on the A77 due to cost, well now it's a lot more affordable and wallet friendly. Will update the review with additional thoughts over time (with more extended field use)
The supplied 16-50mm f2.8 I have only briefly used, it's a constant f2.8 aperture and is weather sealed with SSM (super sonic motor) which is fast and very quiet. It's a decent lens similar in optics to the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8, though the Tamron has the edge in sharpness at the 50mm end, and a little better in the corners.
Still a good bundle deal for a weather sealed kit
on 12 March 2012
The EVF. You just have to try it, & you'll probably be like me, for the first 10 minutes I was like, I hate this, what have I done! Then, it clicked, & I don't think I'll ever go back to an Optical Viewfinder ever again.
You can overlay a histogram, & more importantly, enable focus peaking, so you instantly know you've nailed the focus on those important images. The other important thing is to set the viewfinder brightness to 'manual' & +1 brightness. Also, turn the contrast down in the 'creative style' jpeg setting which in-turn effects the contrast in the EVF. This gives a far more pleasing EVF experience than when first using the camera.
The camera is quick to react, but there is the tiniest of lag's when changing f-stop/shutter. This is apparently being updated with the 1.05 firmware. High Iso performance is absolutely fine up to ISO 3200. Beyond this is, noise rises a fair bit. However, you can get around this by downloading a piece of software called 'lightroom enfuse'. This allows you to stack images to reduce noise whilst in Lightroom. I find this, combined with the A77's 12fps, can really get you out of some tight situations. Just shoot 3/4 shots instead of the usual 1 & then combine in Lightroom. This gives you another 2stops+ High ISO performance, & I'd be happy shooting up to 12,800 with this method.
The 16-50 lens is excellent, and sharp, corner to corner right from f2.8. The 16-50 (24-70) focal length is also excellent, and unmatched by the Canon & Nikon DX current lens offerings and that extra 1-2mm at the short end of the focal range really helps.
The Sony flashguns are also excellent, the quick bounce system is 'so' much easier than twisting around a traditional flashgun head. The only area of real let down is Sony's wireless flash control. This apparently is being sorted by the Pixel King radio trasmitters, but, it would be nice to see a Sony offering in the area.
To summarise then, this is a solid semi-pro offering & definitely worth checking out. The only other thing I'd like to see added to the Sony system is a 50-150 f2.8 which would increase the appeal of this system greatly.
on 18 October 2013
Brilliant viewfinder and solid build quality of camera body. Lens is wide aperture and extremely good resolution for a standard fit. Photos well exposed and naturally very sharp. Fast autofocus with no hunting. Translucent mirror has got to be the future of DSLR cameras. No crude mechanical mirror mechanism which is an absolute anachronism in the era of electronics.
on 7 February 2014
This camera is a joy to use, and has reinvigorated and improved my photography, and I have been taking pictures both professionally and for my own pleasure for 30 years plus. The viewfinder is big and bright akin to my Canon 5D original and can be adjusted to suit contrast wise, it does take a while to adjust to the electronic viewfinder but offers several major advantages over an optical one the main one is the ability to adjust the aperture and shutter speed and see the changes to the image in real time, picture quality at low iso's is stunning and the combo of a cracking lens, and 24 megapixals turn out images with superb levels of detail. Dont be put off with the criticisms doing the rounds about high noise at high iso's, up to 1600 iso its fine ,indeed I have shot images of lanterns at night at 1600 and these images which incidently clean up just fine in any good image software , are well usable, big tip always use the lowest speed you can get away with, and this camera has excellent image stabilisation, no moving mirror to cause vibration, and a fast 2.8 aperture lens means you can keep your iso low for longer, indeed last october I was taking pics on the coast by Swansea at 7pm hand held .Build quaility and finish are excellent typically Sony the feature list is fantastic worth a special mention is the panoramic mode which makes light work of shooting them and produces great vistas well stitched, all in all I'm glad I made the switch to the Sony a fantastic bang for buck picture taking machine