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Sony Alpha A77 review

24Mp and a groundbreaking viewfinder, bring it on!

Our Verdict

For

  • Blisteringly fast phase detection AF
  • Very good overall image quality
  • Weather sealing and decent build
  • Plenty of dedicated controls
  • Comprehensive feature-set

Against

  • Reduced battery life
  • EVF may not suit everyone
  • Aggressive noise reduction in JPEGs at high ISOs
  • Slower start-up than an equivalent DSLR
  • Lag when switching between EVF and LCD

Review units for Sony's long-anticipated replacement for the Alpha A700, the Sony Alpha A77, have finally made it to UK shores, although the worst flood disaster to strike Thailand for 50 years has hampered the camera's official release into the market. UK photographers may need to bide their time before they can own one of these formidable new cameras, but in the meantime, we're pleased to be able to deliver our verdict on Sony's latest innovation.

It's been four years since Sony turned its attention to the semi-pro sector of the camera market, but the unique technology and burgeoning feature-set that its latest creation boasts is testament to the hard work that's been going on during that time.

Sony introduced its Alpha A700 in 2007: the company's first foray into the semi-pro DSLR category. While the A700 attracted its fair share of followers, it failed to make much of an impact on the market shares of 'big guns' Nikon and Canon.

Sony alpha a77 review

In response, it seems that Sony has decided to try a different tack: in an ambitious move, the manufacturer is now attempting to take on the powerful prosumer DSLRs that currently set the benchmark for semi-pro cameras, bringing its revolutionary TMT (Translucent Mirror Technology) to the advanced photographer.

Features

Scanning the new Sony Alpha A77's specifications, it's impossible to be unimpressed with what's on offer. The camera is positively overflowing with up-to-the-minute technology that either matches or supersedes the competition.

Boasting a new 24.3MP APS-C format CMOS sensor, 19-point autofocus (AF) system, 12fps continuous shooting, Full HD (1080p) movie recording and the highest resolution electronic viewfinder we've seen to date - to name a select few - it's clear that Sony isn't taking any prisoners in its battle against the traditional DSLR.

Sony alpha a77 review

While it may look similar to its rivals on the outside, internally the Sony Alpha A77 is an entirely different beast. Building on the SLT (Single Lens Translucent) technology that Sony brought to the digital camera market last year, the manufacturer is looking to capitalise on the main benefits that this design affords - namely fast full-time AF and continuous shooting.

For the uninitiated, the Sony Alpha A77's mirror is semi-translucent and splits the light entering through the lens between the imaging sensor and separate phase detection AF sensor. This means that - unlike the mechanism inside a DSLR - the mirror doesn't have to swing out of the way in order for a shot to be recorded, resulting in new breakthroughs in terms of operational speed and performance.

Although the technology itself isn't new (Canon first featured a Pellicle mirror in its analogue Pellix in 1965) Sony's implementation of it in a semi-pro digital camera is, so it should be applauded for what it's achieved.

Sony alpha a77 review

As we've already mentioned, due to the nature of the SLT design, the Sony Alpha A77 features an electronic viewfinder (EVF) in place of the traditional optical version you find on a DSLR. One of the main disadvantages of the SLT system is that less light makes it onto the sensor, resulting in a dimmer view of the scene through the lens (as well as potentially hampering low-light shooting performance).

EVFs have been met with their fair share of criticism over the years, but recent developments mean we've started to see fairly significant improvements in their level of sharpness and clarity. We're pleased to report that the Sony Alpha A77's offering is leaps and bounds ahead of anything we've experienced before, with a very impressive 1.3cm, 2,359,296-dot resolution OLED screen that provides the closest performance to an optical viewfinder that we've had the pleasure of using to date.

In addition to the headline features we've already mentioned, the Sony Alpha A77 provides automatic and scene, as well as a whole raft of manual exposure modes, Sony's superb Sweep Panorama mode and 3D shooting capability.

Built-in GPS, a three-inch, high resolution, 921,000-dot three-way tilting LCD and SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilisation bolster this highly-specified camera's feature set even further. Add an extensive range of customisable features available via the menu system, and the Sony Alpha A77 certainly looks like it's well-equipped to take on its DSLR rivals.

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital SLT Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Green CompliantYes
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution24.3 Megapixel
GPSYes
USBYes
Wide AngleYes
PictBridgeNo
Product Familyalpha A
Image StabilizationOptical
ColourBlack
Optical Zoom3.1x
Digital ZoomNo
Brand NameSony
FeaturesLive View, Self-timer, Face Detection, Smile Detection, Continuous Shooting Mode, 3D Panorama
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsMPEG-4 AVC, AVCHD
Viewfinder TypeElectronic
Weight (Approximate)653 g
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityWEEE
Minimum Focus Distance300 mm
Maximum Image Resolution6000 x 4000
Maximum Frame Rate50 fps
Number of Batteries Supported1
Battery Built-inNo
Battery RechargeableYes
Battery IncludedYes
Display Screen TypeLCD
Image Sensor TypeCMOS
Total Camera Resolution24.7 Megapixel
HDMIYes
Camera AssemblyBody with Lens Kit
HD Movie ModeYes
Battery Model SupportedNP-FM500H
Memory Card SupportedMemory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Secure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Eye-Fi Card
Height104 mm
Width142.6 mm
Depth80.9 mm
Autofocus Points19
Product SeriesA
Focal Length16 mm to 50 mm (Lens 1)
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW, MPO
Audio FormatsAC3, AAC
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product ModelSLT-A77
Product NameA77 Translucent Mirror Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product Linealpha
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberSLTA77VQ.CEH
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sony.co.uk
Marketing Information

Step up to new levels of imaging quality, performance and handling to meet the demands of serious photo enthusiasts. Capture flawless images and Full HD video, with class-leading responsiveness and immense creative control.

Battery Life530 Shot
Package Contents
  • A77 Translucent Mirror Interchangeable Lens Camera
  • BC-VM10A Battery Charger
  • Power Cord
  • Rechargeable Battery Pack NPFM500H
  • USB Cable
  • Shoulder Strap
  • Body Cap
  • Accessory Shoe Cap
  • Eyecup
  • CD-ROM
  • Instruction Manual
  • SAL-1650 Lens
  • Front Lens Cap
  • Rear Lens Cap
  • Lens Hood
Display Resolution921600 Pixel
Limited Warranty1 Year
Built-in DevicesMicrophone, Speaker