Sony Alpha SLT-A77 review

8 Nov 2012

Sublime ergonomics, boldly innovative and brimming with features, but the Alpha SLT-A77's disappointing image noise levels let it down

Price when reviewed: 
970(£970 inc VAT)
4

Sony is a relative newcomer to SLR cameras, but we can't fault it for ambition, or for innovation. It may only have an APS-C sensor, but in almost every other way it’s a beast of a camera.

The 24-megapixel resolution sets the record for this sensor size. GPS and optical stabilisation are built in, and its bank of sockets includes PCsync for triggering studio flash equipment. The LCD screen is doubly articulated, pivoting vertically, horizontally and even reaching above or below the camera. Continuous shooting is at 12fps, and there’s a vast array of shooting modes including HDR, automatic panorama stitching and even 3D panoramas.

Sony Alpha SLT-A77 - front 3/4

We’ve only rated the camera body, but we’re compelled to mention the SLT-A77’s kit lens, which maintains an f/2.8 aperture throughout its 16-50mm zoom range. Canon’s similar 17-55mm f/2.8 lens costs around £800, so it’s astounding the SLT-A77 kit costs £1,033 (£1,240 inc VAT).

The remarkable aspect of this camera is that it isn’t an SLR. Rather than having a mirror that flips up to capture a photo, there’s a fixed, translucent mirror that sends light to both the imaging sensor and the phase-detection autofocus sensor simultaneously. This contributes to the camera’s phenomenal 12fps continuous mode, with focus that updates between shots, and allows smooth, continuous autofocus in videos. The SLT-A77 also focuses much more quickly in live view mode than any conventional DSLR.

Sony Alpha SLT-A77 - rear/LCD

The biggest practical difference is the electronic rather than optical viewfinder. DSLR owners may find that it takes some getting used to, but the quality of this 2.4-million-dot screen is stunning and marginally bigger than full-frame DSLRs’ viewfinders. Manual focus also benefits from 
a “peaking” mode that highlights high-contrast (and thus, sharply focused) parts of the frame, a 2x digital magnification function, and a dedicated button to trigger the autofocus when the camera is otherwise set to manual focus. 
The 19-point autofocus sensor is fairly well specified, although the eight points that aren’t cross-type often struggled to focus when presented with anything other than bold details.

The EVF is full of information, including exposure settings, battery capacity and either a digital spirit level or a histogram. The picture becomes grainy in low light, but the ability to preview exposure, white balance and colour-processing settings is very useful.

Details

Price ex VAT £808
Price inc VAT £970
Overall rating 4
Performance 4
Features & Design 5
Image quality 4
Value for Money 4

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 24.0mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 3x
Camera maximum resolution 6000 x 4000

Weight and dimensions

Weight 653g
Dimensions 143 x 81 x 104mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 470 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range f2.8 - f2.8
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/8,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 30s
Bulb exposure mode? yes
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 5EV
ISO range 100 - 16000
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? yes
Aperture priority mode? yes
Fully auto mode? yes
Burst frame rate 12.0fps
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? yes
Memory-card type SD, SDHC, SDXC, Memory Stick Pro Duo
Viewfinder coverage 100%
LCD resolution 2,400k
Secondary LCD display? no
Video/TV output? yes
Body construction Magnesium Alloy, plastic
Tripod mounting thread? yes
Data connector type USB