Sony Alpha SLT-A35 review: Sony Alpha SLT-A35

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The Good If you're looking for a model with fast performance, decent video capture, and the benefits of an electronic viewfinder, those are the Sony Alpha SLT-A35's strong suit.

The Bad Even compared to a dSLR it's a bit dowdy-looking and it's bulkier than competitive ILCs, with a couple of awkward control placements.

The Bottom Line A solid camera for point-and-shoot upgraders who want to be able to shoot action and video, the Sonly Alpha SLT-A35's bulk may still be a turn-off for some.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

As Sony's replacement for its SLT-A33, the current entry-level model in its line of interchangeable-lens cameras with a fixed translucent-mirror design, the A35 looks like only a modest update, but it is also merely marginally different than the currently shipping A55V. The most notable differences are that the A35 retains the fixed LCD of the A33, while the A55V's is articulated and the camera has GPS support. I have to say, I'm partial to the articulated LCDs. Even though I'm a viewfinder shooter, the LCD occasionally lets me get shots I wouldn't otherwise have tried.

It's got the same new 16-megapixel sensor and updated image processing as the NEX-C3, which Sony claims delivers better noise reduction. Details start to get a little mushy at ISO 400, but the shots are usable, and the image quality of the A35 looks better than the A55V's at midrange ISOs like ISO 1600. (Note: because of odd, irresolvable backfocus issues which for some reason didn't affect my field testing, our standard ISO sensitivity comparison shots are not available.)

With the Standard default Creative Style photos look a little crunchier than I like, but you can dial back the sharpness a bit. Though the default settings are solid, it still annoys me that there's no neutral Creative Style available. Overall the A35's photos are quite pleasing, with very good color accuracy and dynamic range. Truly final judgments on the photo quality will have to wait until I can process the raw files, but JPEG shooters should be pretty happy.

The feature set includes the same Picture Effect menu that debuted in the NEX-C3, with the usual options we're used to seeing from other cameras, including selective-color R, Y, G or B; toy camera (vignetting); posterizing; pop art (vivid color); and retro (faded). Unlike the C3 (or Olympus' ILC models) you can't layer the effects together before shooting, and you can't adjust the quality or intensity of the effects like you can with Olympus' models. Plus, I found the selection of effects and their rendering to be just OK.

Sony's Handheld Twilight mode now combines six exposures into a single image optimized for dynamic range. Despite using more shots, the mode operates faster than in previous models, so it's a lot more useful.

The video quality is relatively good for what it offers; that is, no manual controls save exposure compensation. Sony doesn't provide data rate specs, but it seems to be 17Mbps; the video is sharp but washed out, with mushy background detail and would probably be a lot better at 24Mbps. The exposure changes a little too abruptly as well, but it handles the exposure value a lot better than most other competitors. The autofocus works quite well, too, focusing quickly and accurately.

The A35 earns relatively high marks for performance; it's fast overall, though not fastest at everything. It powers on and shoots in about 0.7 second, which is on the high side, but still adequately zippy. Shot lag in good light is an exceptional 0.2 second, increasing to a middling 0.6 second in low-contrast light. Shot-to-shot time for JPEGs runs about 0.5 second and slows to 0.7 second for raw--reasonable, but not quite as fast as you'd expect given the fast single-shot performance. Adding flash bumps that up to 1.1 seconds.

Its burst shooting clocked in at 5.0fps, which is excellent for its price class. The viewfinder actually updates quickly enough that I could pan comfortably while shooting, at least on only moderately fast subjects (like a bicyclist in NYC traffic) which is unusual in ILCs. And the continuous autofocus seemed to keep up pretty well.

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