CNET First Look
Sony Alpha SLT-A55VExpensive and probably a bit large for the typical point-and-shoot upgrader, the Sony Alpha SLT-A55V nevertheless delivers the performance and photo quality boost those shooters are expecting.
Hi, I'm Lori Grunin senior editor for CNET, and this is the Sony Alpha SLT-A55V. With its SLT series of cameras, Sony spans a gap between mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras and the traditional DSLR's. Unlike a DSLR, but like some ILC's, the SLT uses an electronic viewfinder, that's because the amount of light reflected up to the face detection center isn't quite enough to sufficiently illuminate a DSLR like optical viewfinder. The bottom line, the shooting experience of the SLT-A55V is kind of a hodgepodge as well. And because the mirror doesn't perform the single most important function it serves in the DSLR, enabling an optical viewfinder, we categorized the SLT's as interchangeable lens cameras rather than DSLR's the way Sony marketing does; a mixed thoughts about the A55V's photo quality. But many objective standards appear pretty well for its price class. In JPEGs, up to ISO 1600 it does a decent job balancing noise and detail. At ISO 3200, photos look acceptable, unless you've got a whole lot of fine detail or edges where softness will be too obvious. I find you can get sharper results from more attractive grain by processing the raw files. But the tradeoff is more clipping in the shadows. There doesn't seem to be a lot of dynamic range to play with. Furthermore, it delivers reasonable color accuracy. But none of my photos wowed me, and I shot about 500, most for the very point and shoot quality to them, not the over sharpened type of look, but the details never really resolve the appearance, and that's even with expensive lenses. For point and shoot upgraders who want better video, the A55V gets a qualified recommendation. The quality is pretty solid and it can autofocus well enough for casual use, albeit loudly. You really wanna use a hot shoe microphone with this. And the interchangeable lens system means you'll be able to put on a long zoom lens for shooting your kids' sports or school plays. Using the image stabilization, it really cuts into the recording time on this, though. And creative shooters, who are looking for a cheap entry into DSLR video, really should look elsewhere. From that perspective, the video is softer than I'd like, with some surprising m more and spots and there are practically no manual controls. Plus, un-hacked AVCHD camcorders don't support any progressive 1080 modes. There is an aperture priority movie capture mode, but it only works with manual focus and it locks the aperture wide open. As for speed, and A55V performs reasonably well. For burst shooting, it not only leads its class, but it's pretty fast for any class. I give the camera high marks for general photographic usability. The EVF probably the best I've ever used. The camera's function is very much like Sony standard DSLR. The relatively sparse mode dial contains the usual program modes, auto, flash, scene, etc, as well as the new auto+, a late-to-the-party automatic scene selection mode. I can't help but think that a camera like the A55V is what people are really looking for when they gravitate towards mega zooms. To me, that's where it fits in the photographic hierarchy. Most snapshooters looking to step up want something faster, and with better overall photo quality than their current camera. But usually, I want it for a lot less than the A55V costs. If it's brother, the 833 delivers comfortable image quality, and so big F. If you don't want the GPS, then that's definitely a better deal. Albeit it's still on the expensive side. However, if you're willing to spend the bucks or wait until the price inevitably drops by at least a hundred dollars off list, the AVV5 should deliver on the performance and photo quality many upgraders that are looking for. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Sony Alpha SLT-A55V.