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With the introduction of the SLT-A77 and SLT-A65, Sony is making it perfectly clear they are proceeding full speed ahead with the fixed, translucent mirror technology cameras introduced last year. The top gun of the two new DSLRs is the Sony alpha SLT-A77, which in addition to a hefty, weather resistant, magnesium-alloy body, features an all-new 24.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor, making it the highest-resolution DSLR among APS-C format DSLRs.
In addition to watershed levels of resolving power, the A77 is also capable of firing off up to 12 full-resolution frames per second with shutter-lag times as short as 0.05-second, an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 16,000, and is expandable to a slower ISO 50 and a high of ISO 25,600. The new camera’s 19-point /11 cross-sensor continuous phase detection autofocus system isn’t too shabby either, and it remains fully active in both Live mode and Movie mode in either a horizontal and vertical position.
The A77’s 2,359,000-dot (that’s two million, three hundred and fifty-nine thousand dots, folks!) OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF), which all but equals the clarity of optical viewing systems, pretty much shatters the (up till now) second-class status of EVFs. The A77’s dual-hinged, 3-way tilt/shift, 921,000-dot LCD is equally unique in its ability to be set in almost any position you need in order to view the action, which is an attribute that should greatly appeal to those who plan on shooting video with the A77.
In addition to being able to view 100% of the lens coverage on both the EVF and LCD, because the image is electronic, the image you see reflects any exposure or white balance changes you may apply to the image for true WYSIWYG viewing. Our only (minor) gripe with the camera’s viewing system was a small degree of blur (only in the camera’s EVF) when panning left or right, which according to Sony is a pre-production bug and will not be noticeable in final production cameras. Regardless, it wasn’t enough to spoil the experience of an otherwise bright and snappy viewing system.
In addition to stills (JPEG, RAW or JPEG+RAW), the SLT-A77 also captures HD video in a choice of truly smooth AVCHD 1080/60p, a standard 60i and a more cinematic 24p with full manual control over focus and exposure. As for the audio portion of your video capture, the A77 features stereo mics, albeit with zero manual overrides. Those wishing to go beyond these limitations will have to resort to an auxiliary stereo mic, which most videophiles will opt for regardless of how good the camera’s built-in sound system may be.
The Sony A77 has a serious, low-profile look about it and feels as solid as it looks. Included among the new camera’s physical features is a molded grip that affords the user a secure handle on the camera when shooting, as well as control dials with knurled, sure-grip rubber treads around their circumferences. There are also two command dials—one where your thumb rests and the other within easy reach of your index finger.
The left-hand side of the A77 is where all of the camera’s connection ports are located and they include ports for a remote control, DC-Power, a 3.5mm stereo mic and an HDMI port for playing back stills and video on compatible HDTVs.
Many of the unique imaging modes found in Sony’s first-generation SLT DSLRs have been carried over to the new camera, and several of them have been improved upon. Included among these features are Handheld Twilight mode; a six-layer HDR process that combines a half-dozen rapidly-captured, bracketed exposures and merges the best portions of each into a single, optimized (and noise-suppressed) image file; a 5-range (plus Auto) Dynamic Range Optimizer; and Sweep Panorama mode, which allows you to capture ultra-wide panoramic scenes by capturing 60-plus images into a single image that encompasses a field of view wider than 226°, in-camera, in a matter of seconds. In addition to standard panoramas, the A77 can also capture 3D Sweep Panorama images that can be played back in 3D on compatible HDTVs. And for times you just want to snap pictures, the A77 has an AUTO+ mode that allows you to simply point and shoot.
Other features found in the Sony alpha SLT-A77 include a built-in GPS unit; a 1200-Zone exposure metering system; Advanced Anti-Dust technologies; SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization, which allows for sharp low-light imaging; a built-in flash (GN12), an upgraded BIONZ image processor; 11 picture modes; dual memory card slots (Memory Stick PRO Duo/PRO-HG Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC, Class 4 recommended); and up to 530 shots per battery charge.
The Sony alpha SLT-A77 is clearly intended to challenge the similarly-priced Canon EOS 60D and 7D, as well as Nikon’s D300s and D7000, and the camera certainly contains enough assets to make it a worthy consideration for anyone who might wish to purchase a camera of this caliber.