SONY ALPHA A77
Sony, $1899 sony.com.au ★★★★
CAMERAS make a lot of promises. Barely a week passes without a new shooter pledging to be the lightest, slimmest, fastest or greatest.
But Sony’s new ‘‘ prosumer’’ camera makes promises its body can cash. When this camera says it has the ‘‘ world’s fastest continuous shooting speed’’, you can believe it.
This camera really does shoot 12 full-size photos every second, making a satisfyingly professional shutter noise and filling your memory card with images as fast as you can say, ‘‘ Would you like a new hard drive with that?’’
To really test it, Switched On took this camera to the Singapore Grand Prix, pointing it at ridiculously fast Formula One cars and even a night-time Rick Astley performance.
In both instances, the Alpha A77 excelled.
This camera achieves its speed with two hardware additions: a powerful new Bionz image processor and, more importantly, Single Lens Translucent (SLT) technology.
As described above, the use of this see-through mirror lets this camera use the more accurate phase-detection autofocus technology, allowing it to deliver sharper images even in high-speed mode or when capturing video.
In practice, and without a fence in the way, this means you can confidently sweep the camera around a Formula One track, car in your sights, and let the autofocus lock on to its body. Alternatively, a Focus Peaking mode will show you when the edges of your subject are sharp in manual focus mode.
The A77’s SLT technology also works to deliver sharp focus when capturing videos. Its ability to record British pop singer Astley at a night-time performance proved impressive – for exam-
ple, as it sought out faces in low lighting and continually adjusted focus (bit.ly/nlxHku).
This camera’s high-speed 12 frames-a-second mode captures photos in their full 24.3- megapixel glory. A slower 8fps mode is available for less demanding situations.
Other bonuses include a three-way tilting LCD screen, a weatherproof body and kit lens, light sensitivity up to 16,000 ISO, GPS tagging and sensor-shift image stabilisation.
Investors should be aware that they’ll have to trade off an optical viewfinder to make use of the A77’s SLT technology, however, even though they will be trading it for an effective, full-frame, OLED model.
Perhaps its biggest failing is that the processing buffer is quite small, which limits the number of photos you can take at full speed.
This Alpha is a refreshing entrant to the prosumer camera category, however. JENNIFER DUDLEY