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First Impressions: The Sony A37 in Santa Monica

Sample Image From the Sony A37

There is something special brewing with Sony. If you haven’t looked or if you are only paying attention to the big two (Nikon and Canon) then you should take a look at what I have to say.

Sony is a big name in electronics but is only a rising star in the camera market. They aren’t putting their feet up and relaxing, they are making big moves and just doing some honest listening to what their customers want.

With an introduction like that you are probably expecting me to spill the beans on some unreleased full frame camera goodness but this is quite the opposite. I am here to talk about the brand new entry level camera from Sony, the A37. I had a few hours with Sony’s new release and I wanted to share with you my honest opinion on it.

I drove up to Santa Monica for the day to have a meeting with Sony. Here I had the opportunity to speak with the people who directly work with the Alpha and Nex teams. We had the meeting and before I headed out with the new camera onto the open streets with the public I asked if they wanted me to cover the camera or hide it from people. They guys at Sony said “no worries its fine, we’re the new cool Sony”.

Tech Specs

- 16.1 MP sensor

- ISO from 100-16,000

- Steadyshot offers 2 and a half  to 4 stops of stabilization

- 7fps

- 15 pt autofocus system with 3 cross sensors

- Quick AF Full HD Movie mode

- Auto Portrait Framing (from the A57) takes a landscape photo and crops it.

- Tiltable LCD

- Tru-finder = 100% coverage

- 1080 24p HD video with face detection plus there is also 60i

- Available in June  $599 with 18-55mm $799 with the 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 SAM. $500 for Body Only.

Image quality

I am going to say upfront that Sony has out spec’d all of the competing entry level cameras out there. At this price point you get more where it counts. The Sony A37 has kept the pixel count nice and lean at 16MP unlike Nikon. I love Nikon but at the consumer level there is no need for a higher pixel count, the images probably won’t make it further than social sharing. The tests have been in on this sensor and I’ve been told that it is the same sensor as the Nex-5n. This sensor has been tried and tested, the result is outstanding image quality. The camera supports from ISO 100 all the way up to 16,000. Even at high ISOs the camera performs very well which will be much more useful for its intended target.

With 2x Clear Image Zoom

Without 2x Clear Image Zoom

The 2x Clear Image Zoom feature to me looked like a gimmick right off the bat, I thought I would never use that feature. The camera instead of doing a digital zoom and cropping your image it interpolates the zoomed photo up to the set pixel count. As a testament for how serious the feature is I had to remember that the image which was closer than the other was the interpolated zoomed image. I wouldn’t consider it as a last ditch effort to capture a closer shot, I would instead capture it routinely along with my other images.

EVF

Adding to its arsenal of features and one of its largest guns is the electronic viewfinder or EVF. There are a couple basic reasons why this is a crucial feature and advantage over the competition. First off looking through the other cameras looks as if you have tunnel vision. You see a small square image at the end of the dark viewfinder.

The Sony EVF image is very clear and has been compared to the viewfinder on full frame cameras. Your eye is less strained and it is free to focus on the scene much easier. As a full frame Nikon user, in my opinion the EVF kicks out a leg of the chair that holds full frame cameras higher than APS-C sensor cameras. The viewfinder is the only one in it’s class that offers 100% coverage with the other cameras having about 95%. With 100% coverage there is no guessing the surrounding pixels, you see the exact framed image that you will get. The second main advantage of the electronic viewfinder is that the little LCD for your eye will show the exact exposure you are going to get. In manual modes you will see the changes live as you change aperture, shutter, ISO rating or other settings. This will get you more captured scenes the way you want them and less “how to I capture this how my eye sees it?!”.

When I turned over the camera back to Sony this is the feature that I missed the most. The only problem with the EVF is that it didn’t see my eye coming for it. Meaning it only senses your eye when it is pressed against the proximity sensor. There isn’t a lot of lag but when activated the EVF does power on quickly.

The question I have to ask is will this half second lag cause a future owner to miss a shot?

Yes, I do but I don’t see this being a deal breaker.

In the moment I suppose you could always use the LCD screen since its already activated and ready to go. It’s just hard for me as a pro user to picture myself using live view for pictures. This is of course coming from Nikon’s implementation which is very slow compared to Sony.

Handling

With the thought in mind that it is an entry level camera the grip feel is familiar. It is a smaller grip as the camera is aimed at being the smallest in its class. It is lighter than the competition but that doesn’t make it feel any different in your hands. I quickly accustomed myself to the layout of the camera with no major complaints. When it comes to handling everyone has their own opinion, its either comfortable or not. If someone asks me ”what camera should I get?” I always respond with go ahead and pickup each of the cameras. If you like the feel of the camera and I then tell you to imagine yourself holding it all day. Its just one of the few personal choices you have to make and it’s different user to user. The body is made of hard plastic it felt very solid in my hands. The weight of the camera even with the new Sony 18-135 zoom felt very even and well distributed to me.

Autofocus

If you have shot with a Sony translucent camera then you are familiar with the speed. Spoiler: it’s fast! This camera may only have 11 focus points but the speed is very comparable to the A77 with static subjects. Focus was quick and there was an instance where I took a photo which I think I would have missed on another camera.

A man was walking below me to my right, I turned, pulled the camera up to my eye, waited for the lag and then fired a few shots off. This right here is where I stopped, checked focus and then formed a large smile on my face. New technology really excites me and even more when I get to use it as its advertised. Is the autofocus enough for those consumers who are going to buy this camera? Does the fact that I want to buy the camera mean anything to you? The answer is a solid yes.

Sony DT 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM

The Sony DT 18-135mm SAM Lens on The A57

I wanted to share a few notes and impressions on the new Sony “kit lens”. In my opinion it may be sold as a kit lens but it is quite a good lens. My first response to the lens was the build and heft of it. I told the Sony reps how it reminded me of the 16-50mm f2.8 lens that comes with the A77, they told me that the same team designed the lens! It zooms smoothly and doesn’t feel cheap at all. All the images above where taken with the lens usually around f/10.

Samples

Image from the Sony A37

100% Crop From the Above Image

Sample Image From the Sony A37

Sample Image From the Sony A37

Conclusion

I know it seems like I’m “Mr. Sony is perfect” but honestly there is very little not to like about this camera at its price point. It is so exciting to watch Sony announce cameras that trounce the competition. Canon and Nikon have needed a competitor like this and for the longest time there have been expectations that have been set for what you get for blank amount of money. Now a reputable company is innovating beyond the others and selling for less. In my opinion Sony is the best thing that has happened to the DSLR market for as long as I can remember.

Keep disrupting the status quo Sony, I am with you.

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