Got my A77 back - initial impressions.

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Dom K
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Got my A77 back - initial impressions.
9 months ago

I sent my A77 to Sony to get its backfocus issues fixed, and it finally arrived back yesterday (took a while because I had to send it via the eBay seller I bought it from). Having had a chance to use it and the 16-50/2.8 for something other than desperately trying to make AF work correctly, I thought I'd share my first impressions.

Things I love:

  • The EVF. Flat-out superior in every possible way to my A200 no question. Setting effect preview + histogram is very useful for ETTR.
  • Focus peaking. It's incredible how easy and accurate manual focussing is with focus peaking; I've set the peaking level to Low and I can more or less just snap as soon as I see a white outline and it usually comes out bang-on focused. With a little more time to get the most intense outline it's almost tack-sharp every time. Its usefulness has exceeded my expectations considerably. Adding to this is the buttery-smooth focusing ring on the 16-50.
  • Build quality. It feels incredibly solid and makes my A200 feel like a toy by comparison. The 16-50 also is incredibly well built. I've already taken advantage of the weather sealing, used the combo outside in the rain.
  • Low-ISO detail and dynamic range. I've taken a few shots at ISO 50 and ISO 100 that have included a lot of sky and a lot of foreground shadow to the extent that the foreground is practically silhouetted, and I've been able to raise the picture several stops in LR with minimal IQ degradation. The detail level as well on these shots is quite simply astonishing.
  • High-ISO image quality. I've left the camera on Auto ISO with a range of 100-3200 and after taking plenty of objects around my dimly-lit desk I am totally happy with the image quality throughout that ISO range. I haven't yet had reason to venture further than 3200, and nor have I had much need to use such high ISOs for real-world shots, but from the results I'm getting I would be as comfortable using 3200 on the A77 as I was 800 on the A200 (1600+ on the A200 was reserved for emergencies only)
  • Control customisation. I was finding myself having to change between Wide and Local AF quite often and it was getting rather tedious with all the button-presses until I realised you can assign it to another button - I've put mine on the AF/MF button and it works great. I look forward to customising my other controls similarly.

Things I don't love: ...honestly not much. The only minor niggles I have are

  • Auto-ISO's fondness of the 1/60th shutter speed. Not ideal for moving subjects at long-ish focal lengths, and conversely a little unnecessary for static subjects at wide FLs. However I'm still getting used to shooting with Auto-ISO (I mostly just controlled it manually on the A200), and given that my main lens is now excellent throughout the aperture range (compared to my 18-70 which I would almost never use wider than f/8) I'll try experimenting a bit more with Shutter priority and obviously just manual ISO.
  • It takes a while to navigate the focus-magnifier to the right area of the picture.
  • There is a little bit of a delay when zooming in on shot-review.

That's about all I can think of really. Some things I'm excited about but haven't had a chance to try yet are:

  • Continuous shooting and AF-C. I really need some fast-moving subjects to practice on but I haven't had the opportunity yet.
  • Video. Not sure how often I'll use this but I'd like to see what I can do with it.
  • Flash stuff. Not really specific to the A77 but it was so difficult to get anything to work with my A200 (the screen was broken so power adjustment was very tedious, the popup flash doesn't have manual so it's difficult to use as a master and various other difficulties), so it will be nice do work with a camera that makes life easier instead of harder. I don't have any of my flash gear with me at the moment but I'll be picking them up this weekend so it'll be exciting using it with the A77.

That's about all I can think of for the moment. Overall, my impressions are overwhelmingly positive!

Here are a few of the shots I've taken with the A77 these past two days that I'd like to share (I've not really had time to go anywhere so I've just taken pictures locally)

Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 Sony SLT-A77
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