Here is my review of the Sony Alpha SLT-A77VQS translucent mirrored camera "DSLR." DSLR is in quotes because it is not a Single Lens Reflex camera. The mirror inside the A77 is fixed and translucent and doesn't open to expose the sensor. Rather, when a photo is snapped, the light penetrates the translucent mirror to the sensor and continues to reflect up to the eyepiece giving the photographer continuous focus. This allows the camera to shoot up to 12 frames per second. (at high enough shutter speeds)
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My photography background
I have been a full-time, professional photographer for more than ten years now. I am an original Nikon shooter and have used their DSLRs, flashes and lenses exclusively until last year. In 2011 I added two Canon cameras to the mix because of their video capabilities. I learned to shoot photos on the Canon with the same speed I could use my Nikons. Two weeks ago, I added the Sony A77 to my collection and all I can say is "WOW!"
The Sony A77 Review
There are so many features on the camera that sold me on buying it. I will comment on some of my favorites here and if you have questions, please leave a comment in the box below.
Click on the tabs below to see my take on some of the camera's features
If you haven't been introduced to HDR photography, then check out Stuck In Customs. Trey Radcliff takes some out-of-this-world HDR shots. Following his blog is how I found out about the A77 in the first place. I can't speak for how Trey would use the camera, but the Sony A77 does a fantastic job with combining three images in the auto HDR mode. Here is a shot I took last night of a bookstore in Denver, CO.
The camera takes three shots at different shutter speeds (I was shooting in Manual) and then combines them. It takes about 8-9 seconds for the camera to do the combining, but I can certainly live with that delay for out of the camera HDR shots like these!
As you know, the Sony A77 can shoot up to 12 frames per second. Because the mirror doesn't have to move up and down, this speed makes it the fastest camera on the market...even faster than cameras costing twice as much. It actually takes you a bit off guard when you first hear it take this many shots in one second. As a wedding photographer, we don't normally have it on the high speed mode except in a couple of situations. But, for sports and action photography, I can see this being a HUGE benefit.
So, I went down to the local skate park and ask a couple of kids if they would do some jumps right next to me. I put the Sony A77 into the Sports/Action mode and shot in jpg. All images in this page are strait out of the camera. I did not enhance them at all before posting them. The three above are as the boarder approached me. The camera performed quite well. You can see more shots here.
The Sony A77 has a "Miniature Mode" under the Creative Styles section. I was curious, so I decided to photography some of my kids' Legos set up in a battle scene. When you turn on the miniature mode, there is a band that is across the screen. This band shows where your image will be in focus. The rest of the image is considerably out of focus. Similar to having a wide open aperture, but with a band extending horizontally across the screen, the miniature mode creates a really blurry surrounding area.
Since I am primarily a wedding shooter, I can see using this on some of the cake details and on the rings. It will make a really cool effect.
These are the flowers I bought for my wife for our anniversary. I used a Minolta 28-135 lens in Macro mode, shooting jpg in full manual for this shot. I did try the "Macro" scene mode on the Sony but didn't like it as much as this one.
RAW vs. JPG
If you want to have the RAW vs. JPG argument, this is neither the time nor the place. There are plenty of other blogs where you can hash it out. I wanted to mention this because some of the very cool features available in the Sony A77 aren't available if you are a RAW shooter. I primarily shoot RAW. That being said, most of the shots I have taken through this camera have had to be .jpg. Here is a short list of things that don't work when you are shooting with RAW as an option.
- None of the picture effects will work. This includes the miniature mode, the toy camera mode, the pop color mode the HDR Painting mode or the rich-tone mode.
- Auto HDR - Though the Auto Dynamic Range Optimizer will work however. For portraits, these modes aren't perfect at all. I will still use flash to offset lighting differences rather than relying on a mode.
Just for kicks, I wanted to try the Auto HDR mode when it was super bright outside my house. I took this shot with a 5-stop exposure value difference. The camera did a nice job with this considering the difference in light from inside to out.
One of my favorite features thus far is the in-camera steady shot. It makes a HUGE difference in which shutter speeds you can use. Keep in mind, I will almost never go above ISO 800 for a shot, so in a dark reception, I might find that it is necessary to use something less than 1/50th of a second for a shutter speed. Typically, I have to brace my camera, hold my breath, take a few shots and hope it is in focus. This is even when I use a VR lens.
With the Sony, I have found that I am able to shoot at 1/20th of a second and it does a fantastic job keeping it in focus.