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Sony Alpha A55 review

The first DSLR to use a translucent mirror is part of a new breed of digital cameras

Our Verdict

For

  • Fast live view AF system
  • Good features
  • Articulated screen
  • Good image quality

Against

  • Live view blackout after shooting
  • Fast memory cards are a must
  • Small buffer

Sony isn't one to be left behind when it comes to the latest crazes. Its NEX cameras were released earlier in the year in response to other manufacturer's compact mirrorless camera offerings. Now the company has moved to introduce a new genere of SLR-style cameras with electronic viewfinders.

This is where the Sony A55 body fits in, being an electronic viewfinder camera that can accept the range of Sony Alpha-mount lenses. It's not quite the same as the offerings you'll find from Panasonic digital cameras, Samsung et al, as it's not a mirrorless camera.

Interestingly Sony has chosen to implement a translucent mirror system in the Sony A55 body, which allows for fast phase detection autofocus during live-view, and also while recording video. Translucent mirrors are nothing new, and were first seen in Canon's Pellix 35mm SLR back in the mid-1960s, although Sony's implementation of this technology is quite novel.

As the mirror is translucent, it remains in the optical path at all times, directing a third of the light to the autofocus sensor, whilst allowing the other two thirds to pass through to the imaging sensor. The advantage of this design is that the camera can use the phase detection AF system in live view mode instead of the slower contrast detection system that is employed by other cameras when images are composed on screen. It also allows the camera to be more lightweight and avoids the problem of mirror-induced vibrations.

Unfortunately as the mirror causes a loss of light available for imaging, the design will mean slightly higher sensitivities will be required for the same exposure, which may result in grainier pictures. In addition, the loss of light would mean that an optical viewfinder would be quite dim, so Sony has opted to employ an electronic viewfinder (EVF) in the Alpha 55 and Alpha 33.

With the Sony A55 price at £800 (including the 18-55mm kit lens) at its launch, the current Sony A55 price on the high street has already dropped to around £700, which is a similar price tag to SLR cameras geared towards the enthusiast, or a beginner after a few more features. Other cameras in the Sony A55 price bracket include the Nikon D90 or the Canon EOS 550D which offer many similar features, such as a high resolution sensor and HD video, but have optical viewfinders.

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital SLT Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution16.2 Megapixel
GPSYes
USBYes
Wide AngleNo
PictBridgeNo
Product Familyalpha
Optical Zoom3.1x, 3.1x (Lens 1) - 3.6x (Lens 2)
Brand NameSony
FeaturesFace Detection, Smile Detection, Manual White Balance, Aperture Priority, Live View, External Flash Shoe, Continuous Shooting Mode
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsMP4
Viewfinder TypeElectronic
Weight (Approximate)441 g
Maximum Image Resolution4912 x 3264
Maximum Frame Rate25 fps
Number of Batteries Supported1
Battery Built-inNo
Battery RechargeableYes
Battery IncludedYes
Display Screen TypeLCD
Image Sensor TypeCMOS
Total Camera Resolution16.7 Megapixel
HDMIYes
Camera AssemblyBody with Lens Kit
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo
Height92 mm
Width124.4 mm
Depth84.7 mm
Autofocus Points15
Focal Length18 mm to 55 mm (Lens 1) - 55 mm to 200 mm (Lens 2)
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
Audio FormatsAAC
Flash ModesAuto Flash, Flash OFF, Flash ON, Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Flash Exposure Compensation, Rear Curtain Sync
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product ModelSLT-A55
Product Namealpha SLT-A55 Digital SLT Camera
Product Linealpha
Manufacturer Part NumberSLTA55VY.CEH
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sony.co.uk
Marketing Information

Never miss another moment, however fleeting. Discover a new world of lightning-quick shooting responses and smooth, accurate autofocus tracking - even with moving objects. Capture beautiful videos in detail-packed Full HD. All in a light, compact camera that's easy to carry.

Battery Life380 Shot
Package Contents
  • alpha SLT-A55 Digital SLT Camera
  • NP-FW50 Battery
  • SAL-1855 Lens
  • SAL-55200-2 Lens
Display Resolution921600 Pixel
Limited Warranty1 Year