Hands-on: Sony Alpha SLT-A35

Sony's update to its entry-level SLT (single-lens translucent) interchangeable-lens cameras is solid, if not terribly exciting. The company also plans a firmware update to bring a couple new capabilities to its existing models.

As Sony's replacement for its SLT-A33, the current entry-level model in its line of interchangeable-lens cameras with a fixed translucent-mirror design, the A35 looks like only a modest update, but it is also merely marginally different than the currently shipping A55. That's probably one reason why the A35 won't be shipping until August, at which point I expect that Sony will be ready to announce the replacement for the A55, which will be a year old in September. The other Sony camera announced today, the Alpha NEX-C3, is also slated to ship in August.

The most notable difference is that the A35 retains the fixed LCD of the A33, while the A55's is articulated. I have to say, I'm partial to the articulated LCDs. Even though I'm a viewfinder shooter, the LCD occasionally lets me get shots I wouldn't otherwise have tried. The A55V also has GPS.

Otherwise, the design remains pretty similar to the other SLT models: SLR-like but with an electronic viewfinder. It's relatively lightweight for its size, with the same functional--if somewhat uninspiring--design as the rest of Sony's SLRs. The feature set has a few additions, including the same Picture Effect menu that debuts in the C3, with the usual options we're used to seeing from other cameras, including selective-color R, Y, G or B; toy camera (vignetting); posterizing; pop art (vivid color); and retro (faded). Unlike the C3, though, you can't layer the effects together before shooting, and you can't adjust the quality or intensity of the effects like you can with Olympus' models. Plus, I found the selection of effects and their rendering to be just OK.

I was also disappointed that the A35 doesn't pick up the interface convention of the new NEX, wherein it will tell you why a particular option is grayed out. And the video options haven't been updated, either, with the A35 limited to 1080/60i AVCHD.

Here's how it compares with some of its Sony brethren and a couple of competitors:

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