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Christmas Gift Guide

Noise

Noise, ISO 3,200

Noise, ISO 3,200, raw vs. JPEG

Image quality, ISO 6,400

Image quality, ISO 12800

Sharpness and color

AF speed

Focus

General photo quality

Sharpness

The A55's JPEGs fare pretty well up through ISO 1,600 insofar as the balance between noise and detail is concerned (these were shot with the 50mm f1.8 lens, so the depth of field is shallower than we usually see in our test shots.)
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
While it's not great, JPEG processing and noise at ISO 3,200 don't render the photos unusable unless you've got a lot of fine detail or edges where softness will be too obvious.
(1/40 sec, f4.5, ISO 3,200, evaluative metering, AWB, standard Creative Style)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
I find you can get sharper results with more attractive grain by processing the raw files, but the trade-off is more clipping in the shadows.

(1/40 sec, f4.5, ISO 3,200, evaulative metering, AWB, standard Creative Style, 18-55mm lens at 22mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Sony has vastly improved its noise-reduction feature in recent cameras. Though there's still some obvious artifacts here, there's a much better balance between sharpness and color noise reduction than I'm used to seeing in photos shot with older models. The light source was an LED light, which routinely causes problems for automatic white-balance algorithms, hence the golden cast.

(1/50 sec, f9, ISO 6,400, centerweighted metering, AWB, 28-75mm f2.8 lens at 75mm, standard Creative Style)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the noise reduction at the camera's highest sensitivity. While you can certainly tell that it's boosted, the image printed well at 13x19 inches. The light source was an LED light, which routinely causes problems for automatic white-balance algorithms, hence the golden cast.

(1/50 sec, f5.6, ISO 12,800, center-weighted metering, AWB, 28-75mm f2.8 lens at 75mm, standard Creative Style)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Though the SLTs lack a neutral color setting, the standard values didn't induce too much of a color shift. And it doesn't seem to oversharpen, either.

(1/2500 sec, f2.8, ISO 100, centerweighted metering -1EV, AWB, 28-75mm f2.8 lens at 75mm, standard Creative Style)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The new AF system can be very fast; there was a pretty stiff wind blowing everything around, and combined with the natural flittiness of the butterfly it was easier to get a lock than I anticipated.

(1/400 sec, f3.2, ISO 100, centerweighted metering, AWB, 28-75mm f2.8 lens at 40mm, standard Creative Style)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
In shots like this it was easier to keep the AF system locked on the subject. On a side note, the consumer 70-300mm seems more prone to fringing than I'd like.

(1/320 sec, f5.6, ISO 100, centerweighted metering, AWB, 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 lens at 110mm, standard Creative Style)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The few general landscape photos I shot didn't thrill me. The images had a very point-and-shoot quality to them, and the cameras in general have an overly cool white balance in daylight. This was shot with one of the new Zeiss lenses, and the camera didn't seem to do the lens justice.

(1/250 sec, f8, ISO 100, centerweighted metering, AWB, 24mm f2.0 lens, standard Creative Style)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The A55 is capable of producing sharp photos without significant post-process oversharpening.

(1/40 sec, f5.6, ISO 200, evaluative metering, AWB, standard Creative Style, 18-55mm lens at 45mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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