Upgraded to A77 II. Actually rather impressed. (First impressions review.)

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Promit
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Upgraded to A77 II. Actually rather impressed. (First impressions review.)
5 months ago

Like many others, I was underwhelmed by the A77 II annoucement, and hadn't really planned on buying one. This week, things aligned in a way that wound up with me buying one after all. I figured there were a few nice fixes for things that were bugging me about the A77, and the new camera arrived yesterday.

And the truth is, I really like this camera. I liked the A77 a lot, but always felt that it had some design/layout issues that I wasn't happy about. Overall I'd describe the GH3/GH4 as a better laid out and more usable camera. What I didn't realize in skimming the handful of reviews out there is that there's been a lot of UI work on the A77 II, things quietly added and shifted around. The final result is that even though the camera is largely the same on paper, actually working with it in the field is dramatically improved. I think a lot of this has been lost in the discussion.

On the original A77, there were a variety of hard buttons for various settings, plus a non-customizable help button. I always thought the help button was an incredible waste of a button, and it's now been converted to a fully customizable button. Many other button customizations on the original A77 were extremely limited; they've now been opened up to allow a huge array of options. There are now a total of 11 fully assignable buttons on the A77 II with absolutely no limitations, increased from 3 on the original camera. Naturally these buttons can be dialed in differently and stored in the 1/2/3 presets. This is a huge step forward in configuring the camera to taste, particularly with video-dedicated presets that change the buttons to more video-appropriate configurations.

On top of the button changes, the Fn button now supports a custom menu mode similar to Panasonic's Q.Menu. (This is not the default setting; out of the box, it behaves like the original A77.) It's a new twelve slot selection that can be fully customized to a gigantic range of settings. This is a massive improvement over the original Fn behavior, which forced scrolling in a particular order through a lot of uninteresting settings (some of which duplicated hard buttons). All together, this makes for a camera that is much, much faster to adjust and configure quickly during shooting, without missing a beat.

There are other nice additions: zebras, audio levels, the locking mode dial, half-press stabilization, etc. The new AF system, combined with the substantially bigger buffer, makes this a much stronger action camera. I felt that the A77 was a more capable camera than the 70D, but still did not have the action abilities of a 7D. With the new changes, I think the A77ii is now every bit the 7D's superior. Some people will complain about the EVF's lag in burst shooting, but that has never bothered me.

Now would I have preferred an A79 with XAVC on board and more substantial improvements? Definitely yes. But it's clear to me that somebody has actually been using this camera day-to-day and taking notes, and that engineering actually read those notes and made most of the necessary changes. The A77 has been a workhorse camera for me, and it looks like the A77 II will fill that role even better for a few years to come.

 Promit's gear list:Promit's gear list
Sony SLT-A77 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Sony a77 II Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 14-140mm F4-5.8 OIS +11 more
Sony a77 II
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