When the major players in the market toyed with the idea of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, Sony tried to revive the large-bodied cameras and make it coexist with their mirrorless counterparts by reinventing the mirror. The Sony SLT (Single Lens Translucent) cameras have been around for some time, and the company has recently upgraded their APS-C flagship, the SLT A77 with fast autofocus and standard accessory shoe (instead of their original Minolta shoe), and a weather-sealed body. Here is our review of the A77 II (also known as A77 MII), the fi rst in an Indian photography magazine.
Design and Build Quality
The Sony SLT A77 II has a professional build with a magnesium alloy chassis and a mix of rugged metal and moulded polycarbonate in the exterior. It has a thick hand grip with textured rubber lining and a prominent thumb rest. The camera has a dust and moisture sealed design, which off ers protection from harsh exteriors. The LCD screen is mounted on sturdy hinges. We could see the connector wire (which connects the screen to the body) exposed at one place, which makes it easy for anyone to damage it. However, this hinge is the least movable and hence the chances of accidental damage are minimal. The camera has a metal tripod receptacle.
Th e 24 megapixel Sony SLT A77 II uses an APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm) Exmor CMOS sensor with primary colour fi lter and gapless onchip micro lens structure. Sony claim that the sensor provides 20 percent greater sensitivity than its predecessor, the A77. Th e camera uses sensor-shift image stabilisation and since the image stabilisation is built into the camera body, any lens attached to it becomes a stabilised lens. The sensor is supported by a superior BIONZ X processor, which is said to be almost three times faster than the previous BIONZ engine. The A77 II has a Sony/Minolta Alpha lens mount. The camera houses a new Phase Detection autofocus system with 79 autofocus points including 15 cross-type sensors. It also features Contrast Detection AF for Live View focussing. AF area modes available are Tracking, Single, Continuous, Face Detection, and Live View. AF Area can be selected from Multi, Centre, and Selective single-point. ISO sensitivity on the A77 II ranges from ISO 100 to 51,200. Shutter speed can be set from 30 to 1/8000 sec. Shooting modes available are iAuto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and Scene. Scene modes include Portrait, Sports Action, Macro, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, and Night Portrait. Still images are recorded in JPEG or Raw format with a maximum resolution of 6000 x 4000 pixel, while videos are captured in MPEG-4 or AVCHD format with the best quality option of 1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 30p). You also have the option of recording movies at 24p in PAL, which is the standard for Indian cinema. The A77 II features metering modes of Multi, Centre-weighted, and Spot. Exposure can be compensated up to +/-5EV at 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps. Auto Exposure Bracketing can be set to +/-3 EV for 3 or 5 frames at 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1, or 2 EV steps. White Balance can be bracketed for up to 3 shots. Drive modes include Single-frame,
Continuous High/Low, Continuous advance priority AE, and Self-timer. In continuous mode, the camera can capture up to 60 full resolution JPEG or 26 Raw images at a maximum speed of 12 frames per second. Selftimer can be set to either 2 or 12 seconds.
The A77 II sports a built-in flash with a range of 12m at ISO 100. The flash synchronises with the shutter at 1/250 sec or lower speeds. Flash modes available are Auto, Fill, Rear sync, and Slow sync.You can attach an external flash with the help of the standard accessory shoe. The camera has an Electronic Viewfi nder (EVF) with 100 percent coverage and a resolution of 2,359,000 dots. The 3-inch, 1,229,000-dot WhiteMagic TFT LCD is fully articulated, allowing you to shoot from virtually any angle possible. The camera accepts an SD/ Memory Stick Pro type memory module and features USB 2.0, HDMI, and Microphone ports. It has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC for hassle-free communication with compatible mobile device. The camera weighs 647g including batteries, and has dimensions of 143 x 104 x 81 mm. ergonomics
The Sony A77 II is comfortable to hold and use, though it has a broad grip (slightly big for my mid-size hands). The camera takes about 2 seconds to start after the power is switched on. The status LCD illuminates, which is useful for shooting in dimly lit conditions. The body balanced well with the new 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM lens (24- 75mm equivalent). The menu is intuitive and the buttons easily accessible. The flash popup action is quite gentle. There is a focus mode selector dial at the base of the camera near the lens mount. The LCD is bright and the images appear crisp. The EVF appeared as good as the Optical Viewfinders in other D-SLRs. In fact, it does not feel like an EVF except for the live exposure simulation.
As mentioned above, we received the Sony A77 II with the Sony 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM lens that is bundled along with it. The combination performed very well under our tests. Autofocus was very fast and precise. Metering was perfect. Flare was well under control, though slight flare was observed. The lens produced purple fringing in strong against-the-light images. Images appeared sharp out of the box. The sweet spot varied between f/4 and f/2.8. For the images to be critically sharp, avoid using f/11 and narrower apertures because of diffraction and the resultant loss of sharpness. The lens produced moustache distortion at 16mm and slight barrel till about 35mm. As mentioned in Ergonomics, the LCD and EVF broad grip (slightly big for my mid-size hands). The camera takes about 2 seconds to start after the power is switched on. The status LCD illuminates, which is useful for shooting in dimly lit conditions. The body balanced well with the new 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM lens (24-75mm equivalent). The menu is intuitive and the buttons easily accessible. The flash popup action is quite gentle. There is a focus mode selector dial at the base of the camera near the lens mount. The LCD is bright and the images appear crisp. The EVF appeared as good as the Optical Viewfinders in other D-SLRs. In fact, it does not feel like an EVF except for the live exposure simulation. performed impressively. The lens produced darkening of corners throughout the aperture range at the wide-angle end.
Auto White Balance performed well under most lighting conditions. Slight casts observed under some artificial light sources could be removed during postprocessing.
Native image size is 20 x 13.33 inches at 300 ppi. At 25 percent of the screen size, the images were noise-free up to ISO 3200. Slight noise was observed at ISO 6400, though the images were usable up to ISO 12,800. At 50 percent screen size, we observed mild noise from ISO 3200 onwards. The images were usable up to ISO 3200. Observed at 100 percent, the images remained noise-free up to ISO 800. Slight noise was observed at ISO 1600. The images were perfectly usable up to ISO 3200.
We used a Class 4 SD HC memory card for the tests. The A77 II captured about 8 images per second in JPEG High quality, and it captured a burst of 44 images before slowing down. On the downside, it took approximately 3 minutes to write these images. Of course, with a Class 10 card, the burst speed could increase significantly, and if you fire the shutter in short bursts, it could free up the buffer faster.
Value for Money
Generally, Sony cameras are believed to be very expensive. But the pricing of the SLT A77 II is a pleasant surprise. The Sony A77 II retails at an MRP of Rs.85000. At this price, the camera is great value for money. With the 16-50mm f/2.8 lens, the kit is available at Rs.115,000 (By comparison, the Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens itself costs Rs.85,000, while the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 costs Rs.116,000). You can also opt for the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at a kit price of Rs.105,000.
• Weathersealed body
• Magnesium alloy chassis
• Fast autofocus
• Fully Articulated LCD
• High quality EVF
• Professional quality video
• Super Fast burst shooting
• New 16- 50mm f/2.8 kit lens
• Competitive pricing
• Grip is too broad for small hands
• Writing speed could have been faster
Final Score 86%
Design and Build Quality 18/20
Key Features 18/20
Noise Control 4/5
Auto W/B 3.5/5
Value for Money 8/10
The Sony A77 II is a great performer at a fantastic price point. The fast autofocus, magnesium alloy chassis, weather-sealed design, and impressive burst rate are just few of the superior features. Inclusion of the 16-50mm f/2.8 kit lens is a well-thought-of move, especially with a price of under Rs.1 Lakh. Sony has also come up with a clear roadmap for expanding the inventory of lenses and dispelling the fears of cusomers. Best Buy indeed.