In case you didn't notice, Sony decided to go and announce a quintet of cameras this morning, including a pair of new NEX shooters. On top of that was the Alpha 77 and Alpha 65, both SLTs and both packing a whopping 24.3-megapixel EXMOR APS HD CMOS sensor.
Technical jargon aside, this means exciting times for Sony Alpha fans, with the new Alphas packing spec sheets that bring them right to the cutting edge of snapping technology.
We have now had a decent play with both the A77 and A65 and are suitably impressed, particularly by the former.
The Alpha 77 itself is composed of a tough dust proof and water resistant magnesium alloy body that weighs in at 732g with a battery inside. It certainly feels meaty and much more like a prosumer or even professional grade body. It isn't, however, overly hefty like some of the more expensive full frame shooters, but still from what we have shot, manages to come close in terms of imaging.
The APS-C sized sensor inside certainly has plenty of megapixels crammed onto it, enough you would think for serious noise problems. From the looks of it however the A77 doesn't suffer. Do remember though it only extends up to 16000 ISO, so you aren't quite getting the ludicrous low-light shooting options of some more expensive cameras from the competition.
Having all those megapixels to play with means Sony can implement an in-camera digital zoom, which when shooting sports (which we did), proved particularly useful. It does of course mean that things can get a little pixelated at maximum zoom but never so much that the shots wouldn't be suitable for web.
The really controversial bit of the A77 is the decision to include a 100 per cent XGA OLED electronic finder. Why is this controversial? Because rather than the conventional SLR mirror to viewfinder method, the image is reproduced electronically.
In many ways this makes sense; it means Sony can stick loads more settings and menus into the finder so you don't have to take your nose away from the shot. It also allows for a more accurate reproduction of what the digital image will be, rather than you viewing an analogue frame that is captured in digital.
Initially, it feels odd to be shooting with such a big camera via an electronic finder but we very quickly got used to it. Things like being able to overlay a digital horizon straight into the finder seemed totally logical as well as being able to switch menus without moving your eye away.
Images themselves can be shot in a whole variety of different ways in camera presets, with the usual seventies effect and black and white being available.
Shooting on full manual with nothing but auto-white balance on produced particularly high quality shots. In bright situations having 24 megapixels to play with definitely pays dividends on the sharpness front. We also like Sony's approach to colour which is not overly saturated but definitely pops out of the cameras 921k dot Xtra Fine 7.5cm screen.
Video was also a highlight, it being particularly nice to be able to shoot at Full HD at 50p. This means massively smooth movement as well as high-res video. We also gave the special mini HDMI-powered CLM-V55 LCD monitor a go while videoing. This virtually transformed what was an SLT into a fully fledged video camera. Given the auto focus during video and amount of settings available directly through the finder, we can't see why video fans wouldn't give it a go.
Phase-detection AF and the 19-point system going on inside the A77 all performed admirably while shooting action. With a long lens attached it was nice to see focus snapping in so quickly and tracking fast moving objects. Sony has clearly had a rethink on the focus front and it shows.
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