Sony SLT-A77 Review

Sony SLT-A77 Review

In recent months it was obvious that Sony and Panasonic had left the upper end DSLR to others … such as Nikon and Canon.

Until now! And this one is a big mother… the Sony SLT-A77!

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Loaded with battery, card and the supplied f2/16-50 SSM lens the camera weighed in at 1.3kg, thanks to the magnesium alloy body. Ports, doors and controls are weather-resistant.

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The A77 is the first camera to incorporate the continuous focus ability of Translucent Mirror Technology into an enthusiast level body.

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It has a new Exmor CMOS sensor, OLED viewfinder, weather-sealed body and a radical three way tilting 7.6cm LCD screen … a world first? The top-mounted LCD mirrors the exposure information usually found on a rear LCD.

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Both the LCD monitor and turret finder are operable with Live View and give you a preview of white balance, focus, depth of field, exposure, etc.

A factor which will please some people who feel they should not be expected to pay for an AF function in each lens they buy, Sony’s in-body SteadyShot allows lens stabilisation on all suitable lenses, enabling steady shooting up to 2.5-4.0 lens stops.

Sony SLT-A77 Features

My early hours with the camera were a bit of a challenge as it was delivered to me without an instruction manual — printed or PDF!

However I did manage to determine that the A77, in keeping with its pro aspirations, has a bundle of external controls, some of which are customisable.

So, without need to labour in the jungle of the viewfinder menu, you get to fine tune the ISO setting, white balance, exposure compensation, finder enlargement, drive mode (single, continuous), a Function button and others. The red movie record button is placed right next to the turret viewfinder.

The mode dial has 12 options: auto exposure, Program AE, aperture and speed priority, sweep panorama, scene modes, 3D, movie and others.

The 24.3 million effective pixels allow a huge maximum image size of 6000×4000 pixels: expect to make a 51x34cm print.
In movies you have the option of Full HD 1920×1080 in AVCHD format; you can also shoot 1440×1080 in MPEG4. The auto focus and auto exposure worked brilliantly while shooting video, but the bad news is that you cannot shoot still images while shooting a movie. It may also be a wise move to kill sound recording via the mic if you want to avoid the squeaks and bumps from the camera and lens operation.

Burst shooting can be made at up to 12fps, with continuous focusing in play all the way; this speed allows for capture of full size images. This amazing speed is aided and abetted by the translucent mirror: it remains fixed in position to reduce ‘tween shot blackout time. Total of 13 shots at the top setting.

There are some significant ‘helpers’ in the A77 as well as some dinky features that indicate the camera could be used as a family snapper as well.

With JPEG capture (only) there is an HDR function that will capture three shots varying in exposure in a range of one to six f stops.

There is built in GPS that records location and the time of every shot taken and then gives you a view of your images on a map when loaded onto a compatible computer and Internet apps.

Backlit or heavily shadowed subjects can be optimised with the Dynamic Range Optimizer. You can choose from auto, a choice of five operating levels and off.

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The dinky: there is a smile shutter, adjustable for sensitivity! Slight! Normal! And Big!

More: a handheld twilight mode shoots six shots very quickly and blends them into a single image for smooth, low-noise evening shots. The data from all six undergoes a reduction in noise equivalent to two additional steps of ISO sensitivity, with sensitivity selectable up to ISO 16000. This is OK for handheld shooting as, post-shoot, image processing is applied to handle subject blur, camera shake and noise.

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Even dinkier: the A77 can auto detect up to eight individual faces, adjust focus, exposure, white balance and flash to capture optimum images of people. Face Registration can remember friends and family members.

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There are 11 Picture Effect modes that will help the newbie; these include Posterization, Pop Color, Retro Photo and so on.

Of course, Sony’s giant killer Sweep Panorama function is on board to capture huge vertical or horizontal panos. This feature alone is worth the trip to a retailer to try it out!

Startup

What else would you expect from a camera that has no flipping mirror: rapid startup and the ability to fire off shots as fast as you can hit the button: but with a 12fps burst ability, why bother doing it manually!

(insert Sony SLT-A77 ISO 50 to Sony SLT-A77 ISO 16,000)

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Sony SLT-A77 ISO 200.JPG

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Sony SLT-A77 ISO 1600.JPG

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Sony SLT-A77 ISO Tests

A very good, noise-free performance all the way up to ISO 3200, with only a small amount showing at ISO 6400. By ISO 12,800 we’re nearly over the edge. At ISO 16,000 we’re over!

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Sony SLT-A77 Verdict

Quality: Close to top level DSLR.

Why you’d buy the Sony SLT-A77: big, big 6000×4000 pixel stills; 12fps ability; terrific movie mode; top drawer exposure modes; you want to explore high end photography without the tech tangles of a high end camera (like the Canon 7D).

Why you wouldn’t: weight may be a penalty if you’re trekking.

There will be some, brought up on optical viewfinders who will find the Sony’s approach to be less than ideal. In truth, an LCD view is far from ideal but, IMHO, the benefits outweigh the penalties.

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However, at the price, and if you can afford the top glass available for it, this is a phenomenal camera. Deserves to do well in the market. Good news Sony!

Sony SLT-A77 Specifications

Image Sensor: 24.3 million effective pixels.
Metering: 1200 zone multi segment, centre-weighted, spot.
Lens Mount: Sony A-mount.
Exposure Modes: Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Effective Sensor Size: 23.5×15.6mm HD CMOS.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 1.5x.
Shutter Speed (stills): 30 to 1/8000 second and Bulb. Flash sync: 1/250 sec.
Continuous Shooting: 3-12 fps.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 6000×4000 to 3008×1688.
Movies: 1920×1080 (AVCHD) — (PAL: 50p/28Mbps/PS, 50i/24Mbps/FX, 50i/ 17Mbps/ FH, 25p/24Mbps/ FX, 25p/17Mbps/FH); 1440×1080 (MPEG4) — (PAL: 25fps/12M), VGA: 640×480 (25fps/ 3M).
Viewfinder: Live (2.36 million pixels); 7.6cm LCD screen (921,600 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW, MPEG4, AVCHD.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 25,600.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, ext mic.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 143x104x81 WHDmm.
Weight: 732 g (battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Sony SLT-A77 With 16-50mm F2.8 lens or Sony SLT-A77 – Body Only.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Sony SLT-A77
Author Rating
4

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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • A BETTER DJ AND PHOTOGRAPHER August 17, 2012 12:31 pm

    Update 8-16-12

    We now have 3 Sony A77s having replaced our original pair with new ones and adding a 3rd. So far we have had zero problems with any of the new ones and we still totally love this camera. We are high volume shooters so we change out cameras before they get too many activations and kill the resale value. We have now shot over 100,000 photos with the A77s!

    We rearranged our lens arsenal a bit, we now shoot with:
    Sony 16-50 2.8 (great wide angle/mini zoom)
    Sony 35MM 1.8 (awesome low light lens with very short MFD)
    Sony 18-135 (replaced our Minolta 28-135s very well, much closer MFD)
    Minolta 70-200 2.8 (killer zoom lens)
    Minolta 500MM AF (only 500MM AF lens on the market. Very sharp with excellent color)
    In addition to our Sony and Minolta flashes we have added a Gary Fong light sphere. Dramatic changes in lighting and allows us to light up subjects straight on without blowouts!

    Check out some of our concert images and video at http://www.rocklegendsphotographers.com

  • A BETTER DJ AND PHOTOGRAPHER May 23, 2012 11:59 am

    You are welcome. All of the Minolta Maxxum lenses work on Sony. IMO the Minolta lenses are built much better than Sony. Our 28-135s are 26 years old, our 20MM is 19 years old. Both work like new :D

  • Zulis May 23, 2012 11:54 am

    Thanks for the info bro...
    So that mean all minolta dslr lens its suitable for a77 right...
    Another thing is't right sony lens SAL model not suitable for a77 cause can make this lens have problem gear striped...

  • A BETTER DJ AND PHOTOGRAPHER May 23, 2012 10:32 am

    Hi Zulis,
    The 18-70 is the worst lens made by Sony, the 55-200 is just kinda OK, the Minolta 50MM is great. I would all all 3 of those on ebay and get a Minolta 28-135, a 20MM Minolta 2.8 for your wide angle and extreme close ups, and a 100-300 Minolta APO for your zoom needs. These should be the only 3 lenses you will eve need and will run about $1000 for all 3. You should be able to get about $250-300 for your 3 lenses :D

  • Zulis May 22, 2012 04:04 pm

    May i know what lens is suitable for this camera...i have minolta 50mm,sony 18-70mm and 55-200mm, i got the problem with 18-70mm sometimes their is no value for F

  • Toni April 24, 2012 03:13 pm

    I went with the Sony 2.8/16-50 kit lens and cannot fault it! It takes beautiful photos and the build is excellent! As I am residing in Thailand it's very difficult to get hold of Minolta lenses although when I used my older Sony Alpha 300 I picked up the old Minolta beercan lens!

    The kit lens seems to be perfect for my needs as I like shooting landscape, architecture, flora and people. I also have a 50mm prime lens but it's not the full frame but I do believe the kit does the same thing!

  • A BETTER DJ AND PHOTOGRAPHER April 24, 2012 01:31 pm

    Hi Toni,

    Congratulations on joining the wonderful Sony A77 owners club! These are truly amazing cameras. We've taken over 50,000 excellent photos and videos with our pair of them.

    As far as buying lenses... unless you are buying Sony "G" lenses or Carl Zeiss go with Minolta AF lenses. They are much cheaper,l better built, and yield beautiful sharp photos with perfect color. My favorite is the 28-135 1:4-4.5 that acts like a 2.8.

    We run or 2 photography business with 2 28-135s for walk around lenses, a 20MM 2.8 for wide angle and close ups, and an APO 100-300 for super zoom... all excellent Minolta glass. We have about $1200 invested in the 4 lenses and with the 2x button on the A77 we probably will never need another lens!

    Check out some of the concert videos we've posted under the band photography tab at http://www.abetterdj.net you'll be amazed!

    Enjoy!

  • Toni April 24, 2012 04:20 am

    After reading all the reviews, fan-boy wars and daily trips to the stores I decided to purchase the Alpha77 I am simply 'in love' with this camera and have no regrets. I do find on bright days (here in Thailand) the EVF is a little difficult getting used to but I had this set on Auto and will venture out again next week with the 'manual' setting reducing over brightness!

    When I bought mine it had a small spec on the translucent mirror which wouldn't go in cleaning mode and upon reading the Sony manual they say you mustn't touch or try to clean it! I have since discovered that you can clean the mirror but the staff at the Sony store replaced it on the spot! I am an amateur photographer but I'm getting great feedback regarding my images! They are very sharp with great color depth.

    I got tired of the fan-boy wars; Sony, Nikon, Canon are ALL great cameras. My wife took my Canon so unfortunetly we're buying lenses for both cameras! If I could only get her to come over to the dark side!

  • A BETTER DJ AND PHOTOGRAPHER March 31, 2012 01:54 pm

    We've now taken over 50,000 great shots with out A77s. The newest firmware has made the cameras more responsive to settings, it shuts down in about 1 second, and it seems like the AF is even faster. Although we really like the SONY 16-50 2.8 lens we are starting to lean towards replacing it with a 2nd Minolta 28-135 and a 20MM 2.8 for group shots. The 28-135 seems more practical for shooting weddings and receptions and is definitely more practical when we shoot concerts. If you need a good download of the 1.05 firmware we have a link under the Sony Camera Minolta Lens tab on our site http://www.abetterdj.net

  • Collin March 24, 2012 06:41 am

    I am hoping to get this camera before next winter. I am 17 and hoping to start my own Action Photography business. But I need a job to get new equipment.

  • oceanguy February 16, 2012 10:10 am

    Here is a video review of the Sony Alpha SLT- A77 camera: http://bit.ly/ye46Wh

  • A BETTER DJ AND PHOTOGRAPHER February 6, 2012 05:06 pm

    We've been using 2 of these fine cameras for our wedding photography and concert/band photography businesses since September/mid October. We've fired off over 30,000 excellent photos and some very high quality videos. The color and sharpness with great glass mounted are far above any of the competitors in anywhere near this price category.

    I stress again WITH GREAT GLASS. Please don't insult this wonderful camera by mounting an 18-55 kit lens or one of Sony's cheap lenses. This camera deserves no less than Sony's new 16-50 2.8, a "G" lens, a Carl Zeiss, or some legendary MINOLTA glass. We shoot with the 16-50 on one camera and a MINOLTA 28-135 on the other.

    My wife has zero problems with her camera (she's our main shooter) and I have experienced very seldom "lock-ups" where I need to spend 2 seconds for a reboot.

    We are very happy with our cameras, and more importantly our clients are thrilled with their photos!

    In our photography business we get to edit wedding photos from all over the country taken by professional photographers with all of the different cameras. Each manufacturer seems to have its strong points but none present the whole package in photo quality that the Sony does.

    Some people complain about poor quality photos at high ISO but we haven't seen much of that in our applications. We have taken about 7,000 photos at concerts with no flash and are always awed at the results.

    If you are a pro looking to upgrade we highly recommend this camera. If you are a consumer looking for a great camera buy this one if you'll also have money in your budget for some great glass. If you are on a tight budget get the Sony A65 and spend the extra money on a great lens.

    We have photos samples under the SONY/MINOLTA tab at http://www.abetterdj.net

  • Armen January 25, 2012 08:10 pm

    Pros: Excellent quality of the images,lots of features to play with.I do consider this camera as a professional camera

    Cons: No Cons at all

    I was waiting for this camera since it was announced and i have it finally.I am totally speechless and i can say that the money was worth it.I bought it with the SAL1650 and the quality of the images are fantastic.My first camera was Sony Alpha a230 and the transition to a77 is huge.I have always given my credit to Sony Alpha and i always will.I cant wait to start doing photography with a77.Please visit my website to see the images i have taken so far with my Sony Alpha equipment.(www.armendemirdjian.com) or (www.facebook.com/ArmenPhoto87)

  • alphabjerke November 26, 2011 09:41 am

    To me there are some awesome features of the a77 that no one mentions. I don't fully understand it, but focus peaking seems incredible. It is a manual focus mode that I assume would not be possible except with the EVF. When the part of the image you want in focus is sharp, that area shows up outlined in a band of color--you don't have to rely on your own judgement whether or not it is sharp!

    The other thing that it has over the a580 is the ability to dial in the auto focus for up to 30 lenses. With any other lower level camera, you can adjust the AF for one lens only and then you have to hope your other lenses are a good match. I can't wait to have a camera with that capability! For my current purposes, the a580 is my camera of choice, but when Sony comes out with the next gen SLT in 2012--the a99--it will be full frame and be much better for noise than having those same 24 mp on a cropped sensor.

  • peterk November 25, 2011 11:55 pm

    Well, I'm also a Sony user, and I also have been in the dilemma of upgrading the 350 to 580 or to 77. In the review the 77 sounds stunning, but (at the moment) I still prefer the OVF, so I've bought the 580. I'm still not convinced by the translucent mirror with its loss of light. Maybe in the future, who knows, but not for the moment.

  • Haji November 25, 2011 09:20 pm

    I love the Canon 7D and felt no camera could compare. So I tried a Nikon d7000. It didn't come close. So I saw the Sony A77 and researched all the reviews and liked what I saw. Was this the camera to steal my heart from my 7D? Absolutely! I love everything about this camera. The image quality, the focus speed, the ease of use and the list goes on. There are a couple things that Sony could do to make it even better such as improve the self cleaning. But I can work over those tiny imperfections. My 7D will remain near and dear to my heart and will be my back up to the A77.

    BTW, good review.

  • laura November 25, 2011 09:19 pm

    I´m considerig to buy this camera for video purposes... I´d like to know if this camera can record video at 60 fps or 50 fps so that I can make slow motion with it?
    And this 12fps... what is it useful to?

    Than you very much

  • alphabjerke November 25, 2011 07:33 pm

    @ manual, why in the world would anybody be shooting in jpeg with a camera of that level? I don't care what the jpegs look like. Anybody that drops over a thousand bucks on a camera and doesn't shoot raw, well, I don't know what to think about that. Why would someone do that? Also, the dpreview was written before they upgraded the firmware, and I think there are four update already.

  • Ron November 24, 2011 08:14 pm

    At present I'm using a700 It's been a great camera,about to up grade to a77.
    But what next from Sony?
    Thanks for all the great comments

  • manuel November 24, 2011 03:17 pm

    All I can say is that this camera is a tweekers delight but if your really into image quality go elsewhere especially if you shot only JPG's .If you shot raw it's a whole differenct ballgame. Just go the DPreview and without reading the review go to the samples and check out it's jpg performance and compare it to other camera as the Nikon D7000 or Canon 60D . You be the judge.

  • Tom Kennedy November 24, 2011 12:12 pm

    I have an a33. Haven't had any overheading trouble up to 10mins on video yet, but it is a contentious issue with Sony. I like the review, but I had to have a quiiet chuckle when you said you were a bit lost at first without the manual. Trust me, if it's anything like the manual for the a33 you wern't missing anything. It is useful as a bookmark, but not for much else! I don't know if this is the case with other Sony products, but they REALLY have to address this significant failure. The manual is terrible, next to useless.

  • Rob November 24, 2011 11:39 am

    Enjoyed the review. I have used an A55 for the last year and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I mostly do insects and Birds in Flight and find the speed and information available to me via the EVF to be brilliant. Just having a live histogram is but one advantage. Don't think I could go back to the old technology now. Looking forward to getting an A77. Well done Sony...8-))

  • David November 23, 2011 02:15 am

    Again, just to confirm that all overheating issues are gone

    Stabilising in movie mode is now software based, not sensor shift.. therefore no extra heat generated

    And as an amazing plus point - every lens is stabilised for photo AND video. So that's 35 1.4, 85 1.4, 135 1.8.. all stabilised. Canon and Nikon can't compete with THAT! Stabilised video with a 35 1.4 has SO much potential it's amazing.

  • SonyShooter November 22, 2011 09:25 am

    @superadrianme @aristarco

    The overheating on the A33/55 was due to the sensor stabilisation. If you turned SSS off you got 30 minutes.

    In movie mode the A77 does not use mechanical sensor stabilisation, it stabilises the image electronically and you'll get the full stabilised 30 minutes, no overheating. The A77 still uses sensor stabilisation for stills shooting.

    It should be noted that movie mode is limited to a maximum of ISO 1600 due to the sensor drawing too much current. I guess this also prevents it overheating too.

  • Alan November 21, 2011 01:03 pm

    @superadrianme @aristarco I haven't had it overheat or turn off while recording video yet. Taken a few 10+ minute clips at AVCHD 50p 28M setting, with SSS both off and on (for tripod/stable and steadicam-mounted respectively) and not had an issue. I imagine you'll get the full 30-mins continuous clip out of it. It's been noted elsewhere the heating issue has been sorted -- another non-event.

  • Stephen November 21, 2011 09:18 am

    I currently shoot with a Sony a700 with a Carl Zeiss 135 f1/8. The combination is stunning. I was hoping to upgrade but will not. dpreview gave the a77 mix reviews. Sony needs to get with the program and fix their noise issues. I'm seriously debating to switching over to Nikon...say the D7000 or D300s.

  • aristarco November 21, 2011 03:38 am

    For how long you can shoot movie till it turns off, because of heatting

  • Fonk November 21, 2011 03:17 am

    Matrox - I hear ya. I played around w/ the a77, and the EVF was definitely bright, and I did appreciate that you had all the settings info right there at your eye, which was nice. Still, it felt plenty obvious that I was looking at an electronic display, not directly on the objects (or more accurately, reflection of) with my own eyes. I think it's more about feeling than actual ability. I still just prefer the feel of OVF.

  • Jesse Savage (@Savagebuttonguy) November 21, 2011 12:08 am

    I can't believe you guys didn't even touch on the loss of light issue that comes from having TLR instead of a SLR

  • Alan November 20, 2011 08:26 pm

    I was about to jump ship from Sony to Nikon when I started hearing rumours about this camera so I backed off and waited a while. The cost in re-outfitting from scratch with a D300s/D700 was substantial compared to buying this kit so it was sensible to sit on the fence a while longer.

    I weighed up its pros and cons -- specifically the EVF and such a big sensor -- then decided in its favour and grabbed one upon release. I'm glad I did, it's phenomenal. It's certainly not perfect and there's a few niggly points I'm not pleased with, but it's nothing I can't work with. Adapt and overcome, right?

    There has been a lot of furphy about the EVF being inferior -- it's not. I do nearly all of my shooting in the dark and the A77's 100% EVF is the perfect tool for me while composing at the eye. It's bright and contrasty and all the info is right there at your eye. Same non-event with the alleged noisy JPEGs from the 24mp APS-C sensor -- if you shoot on auto you're going to be in trouble, but if you know what you're doing with a highly-configurable camera, you'll be fine. I use RAW anyway :)

  • Amin November 20, 2011 07:49 pm

    Love your straight to the point review. The A77 definitely brings a whole lot of advancements when compared to the previous a33/a55/a35 cameras. I have used it and it handles and feels pretty solid. OVF is way ahead of the a33/a55/a35 cameras and battery life has improved significantly. Yet again Sony is pushing forward by challenging conventions.

  • Matrox November 20, 2011 07:39 pm

    Fonk - I've got Sony SLT-A35, which has less advanced EVF than A77 (it's not OLED) and I'm really impressed with it. I had chance to compare it with Canon 600D, where is OVF, and I have to say that EVF in my Sony is brighter and bigger :)

  • subhorup dasgupta November 20, 2011 05:31 pm

    Most of the newer features on this are not what will appeal to people who are looking at DSLRs for professional work. The weight is another issue. This positioning, both in terms of capabilities and price, seems to be a little odd. I can bet we will see these capabilities in their next set of prosumer models very soon, and we will have to wait for improvements in this line for it to become attractive.

  • Fonk November 20, 2011 11:01 am

    I was waiting for the review on this. I played around with one at store recently, and it seemed to take some brilliant photos. I didn't really dig on the EVF, though; prefer the optical. As such, I just recently bought the a580 (I know, that's practically old school by now :) ). Pretty happy with it so far, but I think the a77 equivalent will probably be the future upgrade down the road.

  • SUPERADRIANME November 20, 2011 06:33 am

    Great review.
    Could I check if the body heats up and auto shuts down especially when taking videos. It's predecessors the a33 and a55 heats up and shuts down after approximately 5 minutes of video in an enclosed environment.