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Hands On: Sony A77

by Chris Gampat on 09/28/2011

The other day, I finally got my hands on the extremely coveted Sony A77 camera. Though the reviews have already started to come out, I’m still waiting for my units to give them a full run through. However, this camera seemed extremely impressive during the brief time I spent with it.

Focusing Demo from Both Cameras

A77

Tech Specs

  • 24.3 megapixel APS-C Sensor
  • Magnesium Alloy and high grade plastic body
  • Main controls sealed against dust and moisture
  • Anti-dust system
  • ISO 100 – 16000 equivalent (expandable to ISO 50)
  • AUTO ISO 100 – 12800 selectable with upper or lower limit
  • In-body Image Stabilization
  • 12 frames/second at full resolution with continuous autofocus
  • 30 sec to 1/8000 shutter speed, bulb
  • 1/250 sec. flash sync. speed
  • Exposure Compensation ±5.0 EV (1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps selectable)
  • 1200-zone evaluative metering plus Spot, Center weighted modes
  • XGA OLED, 2,359,296 dots electronic viewfinder
  • 3-way tilt/swivel, 921,600 dots TFT LCD with TruBlack technology
  • Storage by SD memory card, Memory Stick Duo
  • USB 2.0 – no Thunderbolt
  • 1080p HD Video
  • Virtual horizon indicator in viewfinder
  • External Microphone jack (but no volume control)
  • In-body lens correction of vignetting, CA and distortion (JPEG only)
  • Electronic first curtain shutter reduces vibration and shutter lag
  • Built in GPS
  • Shot Result Preview allows preview of shutter speed, a la Panasonic G series
  • Focus Peaking function helps verify manual focus
  • ‘Smart Teleconverter’ shows 1.4 or 2x crop
  • Memory Recall function saves three sets of camera settings
  • Approx. 470 shots with viewfinder and 530 shots with LCD monitor (CIPA standard) for still images
  • Approx. 185 min. with viewfinder and 185 min. with LCD monitor for videos
  • Dimensions 142.6 x 104.0 x 80.9mm (excluding protrusions)
  • Weight 732g with battery and card

Ergonomics

The Sony A77 is one heck of a beefy DSLR camera; especially with the grip on. In fact, when the grip is on, it feels even beefier but still good in the hand. The grip and shutter release are in an interesting position ergonomically, and if I did use it, it would take some getting used to as opposed to those from Canon and Nikon.

The build of the camera is both very Nikon-like and Canon-like. The shutter and aperture dials are like Nikon’s, but the body feels like a Canon 7D in some ways.

The back of the camera features an ejection seat, dual rocket launchers, four mini guns to take out threats on the side, and twelve inches of steel armor. lots of functions. First off, there is a control joystick like on Canon’s DSLR models. The back also features and Auto Exposure Lock button that it in just the right place. There is also a custom function button, display button, and that big LCD screen that flips out in a very innovative way. Above the LCD screen is that big, gorgeous, and amazing OLED viewfinder that I really love. Plus, there is the menu button. It makes a lot of sense to place that where it is.

The top of the camera features the mode dial: which I which had a center button to lock it in place. The pop-up flash, finder/LCD button, ISO button, and drive buttons are also there. These seem much more Canon-like in placement, so holding the body felt like I was right at home.

The left side of the camera features the ports (and the focusing control dial; which is in an interesting place.) Here you can plug in a remote, HDMI cable, USB connection cable, microphone, or DC in cable.

Build Quality

Overall, the build quality of the A77 seemed very impressive. It’s a solid body that isn’t overly heavy, but still feels extremely robust. The Sony Rep told me that he shot a wedding with it this past weekend, and it was able to take all the normal punishment that a wedding photographer dishes out on their cameras. He also stated that the 16-50mm f2.8 lens handled extremely well when shooting the wedding. By that, it had great image quality, focuses quickly, and just overall worked well. Indeed, the 16-50mm was quite impressive, but I wasn’t floored by it.

The focusing with the lens was also relatively quick, but I still feel that my 7D wins in this case.

Ease of Use

Since I am used to both Canon and Nikon’s systems, using this camera felt very familiar to me. The controls and dials felt just like one or the other and it was simple and easy to figure things out. I didn’t dig into Sony’s menus though. However, the display is very informational in that almost any setting that you’d want is displayed across the top, side or bottom. When looking at that through the viewfinder, you really appreciate all the information that is easily displayed right in front of you. Because of this, your eye will probably never leave the viewfinder when shooting.

I couldn’t put a card in unfortunately, I was handling a pre-production model. However, Sony has made a very impressive step forward with the A77.

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