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First Look: Sony Alpha SLT-A77V

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First Look: Sony Alpha SLT-A77V

4:30 /

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.

Hi. I'm Laurie Grunnan, Senior Editor for CNET. And this Sony Alpha SLT-A77K. I have to say, I enjoyed shooting with the A77 more than any other cameras since the Nikon D7000. It's heavy especially with the 16 to 50 mm K lens which by the way is become my favorite my Sony lens but it's weather sealed and well constructed. The grip is comfortable and 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. The camera is packed, full of solid features. Although, it's still missing a couple of key ones and of course, the photo quality and performance are right where they need to be for it's price class with the bonus of really nice video. The shutter button has a soft but not mushy feel and it's really easy to get used to the smoothness of having no reflex mirror because the SLT has a fixed mirror. So there's no reflex mirror to balance while you shoot. Almost all the back controls are reachable via your right thumb. Maybe it's my lack of gaming experience but I find most joystick navigation controls on cameras awkward and imprecise to use. That said, it's functional and I didn't find it excessively profanity in using. The EVF is delightfully large and magnified compared with it's DSLR competitors and this type of electronic level read out is the most effective I've ever used. And for the LCD, Sony created a fairly complicated mechanism to enable the LCD to tilt as well to swivel. It's really useful. Though I can never quite get in to the position I want fast enough because of all the different twist and turns. Surprisingly, the all out screens are almost too good. Well, the technology makes for great TVs because of their super blacks. They make everything look higher contrast than it is and saturate the colors almost surrealistically. That's kind of a negative on a camera plus the colors on the EVF and LC, the don't match each other. Over all, the A77 delivers a solid noise profile for its class and generally excellent photo and video. If you process raw, the camera is good up to ISO3200 and possibly ISO6400 depending on subject matter. The dynamic range is fairly broad. Though I experienced more unrecoverable clip to highlights than I like, does an excellent job with shadow detail. Well, while the A77 has an option for downsized JPEGs, there's no support for medium or small Raw or Raw plus JPEGs. That's a key feature for a camera in this class. For shooting video, the A77 does great job at 1080 progressive, rendering very nice tones with no noticable artifacts like wide ray or rolling shutter. The tribute part of the enjoyability of shooting video with the camera to the lens. The auto-focus works smoothly and quietly but you can only use auto-focus in what essentially and automatic mode. It's unavailable in shutter or Apichart priority in your manual modes and I'm not crazy about the automatic gain ISO sensitivity decisions that the camera makes in video mode or the fact that it lacks any audio controls. The camera is not the fastest in its class. That honor remains with the 7D, that even lags than Nikon D7000. But it does pretty well considering its processing so much more image data. The only real performance disappointment is battery life which is rated at 470 shots and that's without the GPS active. The new auto-focus 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 the AF areas in the center, left or right is the only mode I like to use more than simply just leaving it on center spot. As for features, Sony doesn't provide lots of bells and whistles. The GPS for Geo Tagging is probably the lousiest along the ability to register up to 8 faces for face recognition but it has an excellent subtle set of useful capabilities. For instance, you can perform exposure bracketing in either a continuous burst or shot by shot with up to a 5 shot bracket. It offers plus or minus 5 stops of its exposure compensation as well as Sony's 3 shot auto HDR and for manual focusing, it has peaky. It's got some annoying corps and feature lapses but it's fast, fluid, fun to shoot camera that delivers excellent photos and better than competing DSLR video. I'm Laurie Grunnan. And this is the Sony Alpha SLT-A77K.

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