Moving from A700 to A77 – a brief review

Since the Sony A700 discontinued for about 2 years, finally the successor (A77) is revealed in August 2011. I get my A77 in the end of October. A77 is a DSLT (digital single lens translucent) camera. The big different of DSLT vs DSLR is DSLT use a semi transparent (called translucent) mirror to replace the reflective mirror in SLR. Hence the mirror does not need to flip up during picture taking. This has few advantages such as faster focus speed and quiet. The main disadvantage is only 70% light will reach the sensor and 30% goes to view finder reflection. It will result more image noise. Until now the SLT approach is very new and only time will tell whether it will be success in next few years.

Before I bought the A77 I am in dilemma. I have tried the A77 in Sony Center somehow it didn’t impress me much. I almost cancel my pre-order of A77. Then the turning points come to MotogP 2011 where I was using my brother’s A55, the first DSLT by Sony. Side by side is my trusted A700. Surprisingly the A55 outperforms A700 in focusing. I hit more usable shots with A55 than A700 in that afternoon. Although A55 have slow EVF refresh (electronic view finder) and unable to catch up with fast shuttering. I need to ‘guess’ and predict where the bike is going. But once the focus hit, it is twice sharper than A700 although A55 just an entry level model camera. Sony claims the EVF in A77 at least twice faster than A55. After the race I went to collect my A77.

First grab the A77 on hand and feel it is solid as A700 in built, I like the muscular feel. Some of the function buttons are kind of plastic feel, navigation stick is smaller too. The rubber grip is better than A700, soft and sticks to palm. The weight is about to A700, no diferent. Buttons layout looks alike and should be no problem to master it later. One big miss would be the absent of CF card support. I need to buy a new SD card. Power on the camera and look into the EVF, it just like DSLR pentaprism viewinder. The EVF brightness will self adjust to environment lighting like a compact camera but it is a lot faster and sharper. Half press the shutter and bingo it lock the subject instantly. Mount the lens back to A700 and there is focus hunting under dim shopping mall lobby. I’ve been long time waiting for a fast focus DSLR from Sony and now it has arrived (and it is DSLT).

I notice following advantages of A77 over A700 after few days trial

  1. Focus is FAST and SHARP
  2. Can do video recording and it is very smooth, Blu-ray quality
  3. Can peek and check the picture from EVF
  4. At dim situation the EVF see better than OVF
  5. Can change shooting options in EVF without putting down the camera
  6. The continuous shooting is more accurate focus

The advantages A700 still hold are

  1. Quick-Navi menu system which allows see-and-change shooting options on the fly. A77 menu is more like a cycbershot or NEX now.
  2. Better picture quality and noise. Although A77 produces very detail images up to 24 megapixel but the noise reduction has wipe it off in JPEG. Hope Sony very soon to release new firmware that can disable the noise reduction in JPEG.
  3. Battery life. I was surprise that usage of A77’s EVF drain more juice than the LCD itself as documented in user manual. Luckily my third party battery is still works for A77. Phew!
  4. Faster menu reqpond time. In A77 there is about 0.5s sluggish. Feel like running a Pentium in A77…

In the next couple of weeks I will do more documentation of this camera, including brings it to field shooting. There are many negative comments given to A77 till now. I agreed it is not a perfect release, and I am confidence most of the problems can be resolved in firmware upgrade especially the sluggish menu respond and noisy pictures beyond ISO1600. For me, A77 is fast and sharp, that’s is the concern for me to move forward from A700 else I will blame for the blur faces and misfocus.

The A77 and vertical grip.

White balance is alot better now. Bye bye yellowish tungsten.

Focus on the light and A77 did it at once without hunting. Piece of cake.

No problem with low angle shots any more. Thanks to 3-way-tilting LCD

I like the filter effects. DSLR should be fun as compact camera.

My friend bring A77 for celebrity hunting. It just operates like a compact camera.

Image shot at ISO3200.

At ISO3200 the noise reduction and sharpening just does not look natural. This is 200% enlarge crop.


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