Overall, the A77 delivers a solid noise profile for its class. 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. JPEG artifacts are another story (see next slide).
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At midrange ISO sensitivities, I spotted the occasional compression artifacts (top), which take the form of excessive blockiness.
(1/30 sec, f2.8, ISO 800, AWB, pattern metering, 16-50mm lens at 40mm)
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JPEG, ISO 800
You can see how the combination of noise suppression and sharpening both mushes up and emphasizes detail on Grace's fur and eye, producing a slightly special-effect-type look.
(1/100 sec, f2.8, ISO 800, AWB, pattern metering, 16-50mm lens at 35mm)
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Noise, ISO 3200
You can get results with fewer artifacts by shooting raw at ISO 3200.
(1/40 sec, f4, ISO 3200, AWB, pattern metering, 16-50mm lens at 40mm)
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A77V vs. Canon EOS 7D, ISO 1600 JPEG
At ISO 1600, I'd call it a tie for JPEGs: they both have some artifacts, though not egregious ones, and are close enough that it's a matter of taste.
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A77V vs. Canon EOS 7D, ISO 3200 no NR
Without any noise reduction applied (in Adobe Camera Raw), this is what the two cameras produce. I think the size of the "grain" is what determines the type of noise-reduction artifacts you'll see. When processed, however, the images look extremely close.
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For the most part, the camera does a good job of sharpening JPEGs without going overboard, at least at the default settings. The lens is nicely sharp as well.
(1/160 sec, f5.6, ISO 200, AWB, pattern metering, 16-50mm lens at 50mm)
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While I don't like the way Sony's default Creative Style color setting pushes the hues, the A77's Neutral setting works quite well.
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Just a few examples of the A77's color rendering. Some were shot using the default Standard Creative Style setting--the two shots of roses on the left and bottom right tuber--and the others using the Neutral option.
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Bokeh, 16-50mm lens
I really like the new 16-50mm lens; in addition to being able to be bright, fast, and able to focus fairly closely, it produces lovely out-of-focus highlights.
(1/80 sec, f2.8, ISO 100, AWB, spot metering, 16-50mm lens at 26mm)
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Video, good light
The A77V produces excellent video, with a nice tonal range and no artifacts like moiré or rolling shutter. (Crop from frame grab at 100 percent)
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Video, low light
The low-light video gets soft, but overall is pretty good for its class. (Crop from frame grab at 100 percent)