Sony Alpha SLT-A77V review: Sony Alpha SLT-A77V

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.2
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Image quality: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good A well-designed camera that's enjoyable to shoot, partly thanks to a great viewfinder, the fixed-mirror Sony Alpha SLT-A77V bests the competition with features like a cleverly articulated display, built-in GPS for geotagging, and very good 1080/60p video.

The Bad There are some annoying omissions in the A77V's feature set, including odd limitations for raw and video shooting, plus battery life is subpar.

The Bottom Line The Sony Alpha SLT-A77V is an excellent, well-designed camera for deep-pocketed amateurs; it nevertheless has a few limitations that may make it impractical for professionals.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

I'll lead off by saying that I enjoyed shooting with the Sony Alpha SLT-A77V more than any camera since the Nikon D7000. It's heavy, especially with the 16-50mm kit lens (which, by the way, has become my favorite Sony lens), but the grip is comfy, it feels well balanced, and with only a few exceptions, it has the controls in the right places. The EVF is a pleasure to use. It's packed full of solid features, although still missing a couple key ones. And of course the photo quality and performance are what they need to be for its price class, with the bonus of really nice video.

Overall, the SLT-A77V delivers a solid noise profile for its class, and generally excellent photo and video. On JPEGs, you can see just a hair of degradation on edges at ISO 800, but casually noticeable noise-suppression artifacts don't kick in until ISO 1600. However, in photos with a lot of detail--that is, a lot of edges--the aforementioned degradation makes photos look a little mushier than I'd like. If you process raw, the camera's good up to ISO 3200--possibly ISO 6400, depending upon subject matter. If you shoot raw, it delivers roughly comparable photo quality to the Canon EOS 7D.

The dynamic range is fairly broad; though I had more unrecoverable clipped highlights than I like, it does an excellent job with shadow detail. For the most part, the camera does a good job of sharpening JPEGs without going overboard, at least at the default settings. And while I don't like the way Sony's default Creative Style color setting pushes the hues until they shift, the A77's Neutral setting works quite well, so it's possible to get accurate colors if you want them. The built-in flash is also one of the better implementations I've seen; though it seems to overexpose by default, it delivers even coverage.

Despite the sometimes bewildering press for moar pixels!, the large images can occasionally be a liability; for instance, I shot in a situation in which I had to print directly from the card to a 4x6 printer and it took forever to load the large photos into printer memory to select for printing. But while the A77V has an option for downsized JPEGs, there's no support for medium or small raw/raw+JPEG--a key feature for a camera in this class. That lack disqualifies the A77V for my needs when live-blogging press conferences, for example. In another bizarre example of anti-raw sentiment, the focus magnifier (for easier manual focus) doesn't work with raw either. (I suspect that may be a bug.)

For shooting video, the A77V does a great job, rendering very nice tones with no noticeable artifacts like moiré or rolling shutter. I attribute part of the enjoyability of shooting video with the A77V to the lens; the autofocus works smoothly and quietly. The zoom ring is a little tighter than I like, but otherwise it's very well-implemented, and pretty easy to maneuver while shooting video, even without a rig.

But.

You can only use autofocus in what's essentially automatic mode. It's unavailable in shutter/aperture-priority or manual modes. And I'm not crazy about the automatic gain/ISO sensitivity decisions the camera makes, or the fact that it lacks any audio controls. The less-expensive Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 delivers better video capabilities and quality, even unhacked. However, the SLT-A77V is still far superior to Nikon's options, and probably a bit better than the 7D.

The A77V isn't the fastest in its class--that honor remains with the 7D--and even lags behind the Nikon D7000, but it does pretty well considering it's processing so much more image data. And except for the annoying "processing" message it throws up when you're in automatic review mode, it feels quite fluid and zippy to shoot. It is noticeably slower than others to start up and shoot, taking half a second, possibly in part because it has to initialize two LCD displays. The time to focus and shoot in good light is a class-typical 0.3 second, and in dim light rises to a still-reasonable 0.6 second. Shooting two sequential JPEG or raw images runs 0.6 second as well; using flash bumps that up to 0.8 second. And it jets past the rest of the field with a standard burst of 8.5fps.

The caveat for continuous shooting is that the buffer can only handle about 14 JPEGs before it slows a bit to a more erratic burst, and that's with one of the fastest SD cards currently available, SanDisk's 95MBps Extreme Pro. On the other hand, when I initially tested it and was disappointed by a slowdown after 14 shots, it turned out I had actually been shooting raw+JPEG--and couldn't tell the difference. That was pretty impressive. The only real disappointment is battery life, which is rated at 470 shots, and that's without GPS active. Those OLED displays seem toxic to battery life. The A77V's GPS doesn't include a logger feature (which tracks your travels even when the camera's off), but those suck the battery dry.

The new autofocus system seems to work extremely well, and I've always liked Sony's interface for selecting among the focus areas, and the Zone focus (which clumps AF areas in the center, left, or right) is the only mode I like to use better than simply leaving it on the center spot (what Sony refers to as Local). The AF is fast and responsive, too.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy See all prices

Sony Alpha SLT-A77V (Body Only)

Part Number: SLT-A77V Released: Nov 1, 2011
MSRP: $1,399.99 Low Price: $689.95 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov 1, 2011
  • Digital camera type SLR
  • 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