I recently got my Sony Alpha A77 DSLT. I’ve been quite anxious about this camera for several reasons:
- It will be replacing my reliable A700 DSLR
- There have been serious concerns regarding image quality coming out of the A77
- Shipping delays due to flooding in Thailand
- Firmware issues with shipped units
- Cameras crashing
- Fast enough SDHC cards
Well, I got my camera. Most of the concerns were addressed, save one: image quality.
The very night I received the camera, I took some high iso, low light test shots. What I saw really gave me a sharp jab to the gut. The images looked bad. Really really bad. Shooting even at moderate ISO levels was revealing noise where I not previously not expected noise before.
Well, today, I got a chance to walk around a local park with my new A77. Here are my thoughts:
- Focus peaking, the highlighting of areas of high contrast to aid in manual focus, ROCKS!!! Seriously, it was an absolute joy to use.
- Articulated LCD screen makes low angle shooting a pain free experience, at least for my neck.
- Auto focus is fast. Lock on is quick and solid, though I would have preferred for all of my lenses to be SSM/USM/HSM, for totally silent focusing, only one lens is blessed with SSM. Focusing was fast on all lenses I tried. Though I will be going through the micro-AF adjustment for each lens before too long, to get the most out of what I have.
- Buffering and shot to shot performance was great. I was using the Sandisk Extreme Pro 16GB UHS-I 95MB/second SDXC cards. They basically made sure that whatever was in the buffer would clear out ASAP.
- 24MP allows for ALOT of cropping options.
Here is a shot I took. It is unprocessed and is a straight conversion from RAW to a JPEG. Had this been shot with the 12MP A700, I would have tried to crop it, but ended up with an image without much room for adjustments…
With the A77′s 24MP image output, however, it is possible to perform a tighter crop and make adjustments on the resulting cropped image, and still have something you could print at a good size. The tighter crop, while a rather small crop of the original, comes in at around 5-6MP. That’s alot of cropping headroom provided by the A77′s 24MP sensor.
However, having said that, 24MP is alot of photosites to shove onto an APS-C sized sensor… And the penalty is noise. Even at ISO 100, there is luminous noise that shows up in the image, when you zoom in. This can be handled via processing, but it’s something I would like to see Sony improve on with a firmware update… perhaps allow for in-camera photosite binning.
Below is an example shot and two progressively cropped images. It was shot with the 70-200/2.8 lens, hand held, articulated screen up, and focus peaking on. This allowed me to place the camera literally on the ground to get a very low angle view.
The same shot from above, but cropped, and slightly post processed:
And the above shot, even further cropped:
What I love about this is that given a well exposed shot, properly focused, and developed well, you will be able to get a good deal of detail from a shot, even when cropped severely.
I’m looking forward to seeing what this camera can do in a variety of other environments. Dark aquariums in particular…. but so far, it seems that so long as I work within the strengths of the camera, it will produce amazing shots with rich detail, even when cropped down to a 6MP in the final image.
The A77 is a strong camera. However, given that it is prone to noise, it is a camera that will require some care in getting the best possible image out of it… not unlike how the A700 was, when it was first released. It will take some time to get used to the camera’s uniqueness, but I’m confident that it will serve me well for the next 4+ years, just as the A700 had for the past 4 years.
- All images posted here were shot at ISO 100
- No external flash was used
- No tripod was used
- Camera used: Sony SLT-A77V
- Lens used: Sony 70-200/2.8 G SSM
- Memory Card: Sandisk Extreme Pro UHS-I 16GB 95MB/second SDHC/SDXC
- Post processing: Adobe Lightroom 3
- While the original exported JPG(s) from LR3 contained the GPS data in the EXIF headers, they got munged after being uploaded and processed by the site. :(