For Alpha A77 II Sony updates AF, adds clean HDMI, brings features into 2014

/ Updated: May 16, 2014 1:20 PM PDT

a77ii-01.jpg
Lori Grunin/CNET

Well, the good news is that Sony's A-mount cameras aren't dead. The Alpha SLT-A77V, the company's $1,199.99 (body) midrange single-lens translucent (SLT) camera, with a fixed rather than reflex mirror, has been languishing for over 2 years. Now it finally gets an update; as reflected by its name, the A77 II, there's nothing earthshaking here. The major changes include an upgraded autofocus system and incorporation of the latest Bionz X image-processing engine, which enables Sony to bring the feature set up to parity with its current cameras.

With this camera, Sony also drops the "SLT" naming convention, moving to ILCA -- the "A" is for A-mount -- in parallel to its E-mount move to "ILCE".

This market segment -- $1200 or so prosumer cameras suited for shooting action -- is actually a pretty important niche, despite the long delays in upgrades we tend to see. Physically, the A77 II is almost identical to the A77V. As I like the A77V's design, I have no complaints about that, and it means that the A77 II can use the same accessories as its predecessor. The exception is the hot shoe, as Sony's phasing out the legacy Konica-Minolta shoe in favor of its several-years-old multi-interface shoe. You'll be able to use an adapter with an existing flash, however.

Notably, Sony has dropped the 3D setting from the mode dial to make room for 3 direct-access custom-setting slots. (The A77V had three slots but you selected among them onscreen via one Memory Recall slot on the dial.)

In addition to moving to a phase-detection sensor with more focus points, Sony increased the number of AF options available, adding the ability to determine the subject-tracking duration and balance focus vs. release priority during continuous AF, a Range-Control focus limiter, and Eye AF mode for locking onto people's eyes. Tweaks to the A77V's AF implementation include focus-point expansion and improvements in predictive AF. If you think continuous autofocus options have gotten too confusing, you're not alone. And even if the options are useful, and you've worked out when to use which focus-area mode, there's rarely a way to quickly switch among them.

Though Sony hasn't increased the continuous-shooting rate, the A77V has a deeper frame buffer for more shots in a burst. And if you don't care about changes in exposure it can now burst to 12fps with continuous AF -- useful on the infrequent occasions when your subject doesn't move through shadows or other obstructed lighting conditions.

Improved movie options include clean HDMI output -- yay -- Zebra and audio-level metering. And, a capability near and dear to my heart, the A77 II will support tethered shooting.

Also, in keeping with its wireless-everywhere strategy, Sony adds Wi-Fi with NFC to this model.

Some drawbacks remain, though. It still doesn't have a small- or medium-sized raw format, and it still has only a single card slot. And perhaps most problematic, the already mediocre battery life of the A77V drops even further; it's obviously drawing more power but relying on the same battery.

Here are your choices in this camera class. I didn't have room to fit all the possible competitors in the chart: keep in mind that you now need to factor cameras such as the Fujifilm X-T1 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 into your buying decisions in this class, and if you discount sensor size there's also the Nikon 1 V3.

Canon EOS 70D Nikon D7100 Pentax K-3 Sony Alpha A77 II Sony Alpha SLT-A77V
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP CMOS
n/a
24.1MP CMOS
14 bits
24.4MP CMOS
14 bits
24.3MP Exmor APS HD CMOS
n/a
24.3MP Exmor APS HD CMOS
n/a
Sensor size 22.5 x 15 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
OLPF Yes No No Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800/25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 51200 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 12800
Burst shooting 7fps
16 raw/65 JPEG
6fps
(7fps in 1.3x crop mode)
n/a
8.3fps
23 raw/60 JPEG
8fps
26 raw/53 JPEG
(12fps with fixed exposure)
8fps
13 raw/14 JPEG
(12fps with fixed focus and exposure)
Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag) Optical
98% coverage
0.95x/0.59x
Optical
100%
coverage
0.94x/0.63x
Optical
100%
coverage
0.95x/0.63x
Electronic
0.5-inch/1.3cm
2.36m pixels
100% coverage
1.09x/0.73
Electronic
0.5-inch/1.3cm
2.36m pixels
100% coverage
1.09x/0.73
Autofocus Dual Pixel CMOS
19-pt phase-detection AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8
51-pt phase- detection AF
15 cross- type; center to f8 or faster
(Multi-CAM 3500DX)
27-pt phase-detection AF
25 cross-type
(SAFOX 11)
79-point phase-detection AF
15 cross-type
center to f2.8
19-point phase-detection AF
11 cross-type
AF sensitivity -0.5 - 18 EV -2 - 19 EV -3 - 18 EV -2 - 18 EV -1 - 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/48,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability n/a 150,000 cycles 200,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 150,000 cycles
Metering 63-zone iFCL 2,016-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 86,000-pixel RGB 1200 zones 1200 zones
Metering sensitivity 1 to 18 EV 0 to 20 EV -3 to 20 EV -2 - 17 EV -2 - 17 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/ 60p/50p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60i/50i/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p
(60i/50i only in 1.3x crop mode)
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60i/50i/ 30p/25p/24p; 720/60p
AVCHD
1080/60p/60i/24p @ 28Mbps
AVCHD
1080/60p/60i/24p @ 28Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input; headphone jack Mono; mic input, headphone jack Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Shutter only Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 29:59 min
4GB/29:59 min 25 min n/a n/a
IS Optical Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift Sensor shift
LCD size 3in/7.5cm articulated touch screen
n/a
3.2in/8cm fixed
1,228,800 dots
3.2in/8cm fixed
1,037,000 dots
3-inch/7.5cm tilting
921,600 dots
3-inch/7.5cm tilting
921,600 dots
(plus set of white for brightness)
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC 2 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi None Optional Wi-Fi
(Pentax-custom Flucard $99.95)
Wi-Fi, NFC None
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 920 shots
(210 Live View)
950 shots
(n/a)
560 shots
(n/a)
410 shots
(480 LCD)
470 shots
(530 LCD)
Size (WHD) 5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1 in
139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5 mm
5.3 x 4.2 x 3 in
135.5 x 106.5 x 76 mm
5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 in
131.5 x100 x 77.5 mm
5.8 x 4.1 x 3.3 in
142.6 x 104.2 x 80.9 mm
5.8 x 4.1 x 3.3 in
142.6 x 104.2 x 80.9 mm
Body operating weight 27.2oz
771.1g
27.3oz
773.9g
28.2oz
802.3g
25.9oz (est.)
734.3g (est.)
25.9oz
734.3g
Mfr. price (body only, USD) $1,119.00 $1,099.95 $1,299.95 (includes battery grip) $1,119.99 $799.99
Primary kit $1,349.00
(with 18-55mm STM lens)
$1,399.95
(with 18-105mm lens)
$1,699.95
(with 18-135mm WR lens and battery grip)
$1,799.00
(with 15-60mm lens)
$1,399.99
(with 15-60mm lens)
Alternate kit $1,549.00
(with 18-135mm STM lens)
$1,399.95
(with 18-140mm lens)
n/a n/a $1,099
(with 18-135mm lens)
Release date August 2013 March 2013 November 2013 June 2014 October 2011

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type Exmor APS HD CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 24.3 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (SteadyShot INSIDE)
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.6 x 23.5mm