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Just Posted: In-depth Sony SLT-A77 review

By dpreview staff on Oct 25, 2011 at 22:16 GMT

Just Posted: our in-depth review of the Sony SLT-A77. Sony's latest flagship APS-C camera is the long-awaited replacement for the well-respected A700 DSLR and the most sophisticated camera to use the company's SLT design. We've paid particular attention to the benefits offered by its two key features: its 24MP CMOS sensor and its autofocus system that continues to operate at the camera's maximum 12fps shooting speed. We also had a look around for signs of the infamous 'ghosting' glitch that put some people off previous SLT models.

Click here to read our 27-page in-depth Sony SLT-A77 review

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Comments

Total comments: 225
12
dbo
By dbo (Oct 26, 2011)

A brilliant review as usual from the guys.

However I don't agree to some of the points. For me the menu isn't confusing as of me being Sony user from the start.
Past two days I shot some dozen pictures at different settings and regarding the Jpeg quality I don't feel necessity to complain about (tested with my Zeiss 2470, G70200 and the Sigma 816).
Although noise was an issue starting with ISO800 viewing at 50% size or higher on the 24" screen in my office I felt it being a non-issue when printing in small formats (as i usually do on my 13x18cm printer or with photobooks). Even some ISO3200 looked nice on printouts while annoying watching on the screen in large size.
I haven't been able to relate to the loss of detail issue. Most probably that's owed to my set of high end lenses.
Quintessence is that the a77 seemingly is a very capable SLR for both exp. beginners and semi-pros. Not without flaws, but this is what no SLR on the market is. After two days using I love her already. :-)

1 upvote
royalpar1
By royalpar1 (Oct 29, 2011)

Hi, i just ordered a A77 with a ziess 2470 lens. I notice that you seem to have high end glass. is this the correct combo for everyday shooting? I am a newbie and am concerned that the zeiss will not be a perfect fit for the camera?

0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Oct 26, 2011)

That was quite an extensive review.

Amusing how there is a sign on the top LCD constantly reminding you:
"Steady Shot Inside" (as if you will forget...)

Well done review.

2 upvotes
sibyy
By sibyy (Oct 26, 2011)

What a shame about the noise.

Stuff-Review has also posted a quick hands-on the A65 and they pretty much confirm everything Dpreview is saying at first look:

http://www.stuff-review.com/2011-10/sony-alpha-slt-a65-initial-hands-on-oled-evf-and-high-iso-tests/

They have a nice shot of the EVF.

5 upvotes
ogl
By ogl (Oct 26, 2011)

Good review. But pictures in RAW is rather noisy to say honest. Close to old 10 MP CCD in terms of noise.

4 upvotes
Leopotamus
By Leopotamus (Oct 26, 2011)

Fantastic Review... so much information. It definately helps decide my next investment. Do you know if the sony A77 specifically has an option to change video recording format from PAL to NTSC and visa versa?

I did some 'basic' research at a camera shop and it seems canons, panasonics all allow you to switch between them, but I have yet to see this feature on the sony's i used (a55 and nex5n).

1 upvote
NK777
By NK777 (Oct 26, 2011)

If you look a little left of center in the RAW mode (where the white letters on red background), beginning with 1600 ISO A77 loses everything, even Sony NEX5...

0 upvotes
jds7230
By jds7230 (Oct 26, 2011)

In comparing the image quality in high ISO JPEG it's interesting that the noise seems less concerning than the lack of detail rendered. Noise can be managed. Perhaps if a lens that's on the same resolving par as the Pentax D FA 50macro, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G or the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 on the 5DII, then the detail disparity would not be so great. The comp lenses used on the Pentax K-5, Nikon D7000 and Canon EOS 5DII are pretty stellar performers. The 50mm f/1.8SAM Sony lens is quite good for a $150 lens, but it doesn't exactly stack up to the $500 counterparts used on the comparison cameras. My experience with cameras such as the A900 tells me that better lenses render better detail and can be key in managing noise at the point of capture.

Whether the lens makes a difference in the comparison images or not, an A77 user can be confident the sensor is more than capable of capturing plenty of detail when a lens worthy of the camera is used.

5 upvotes
Dennis
By Dennis (Oct 26, 2011)

Great review ! I have a question about a feature. On page 11, under "Electronic front-curtain shutter" the reviewer states "In our shooting, we see no reason not to keep front curtain shutter enabled at all times."

It's been reported that the user manual states that exposure inaccuracies are possible with "Konica Minolta" lenses. One reviewer speculated that any older lenses (3rd party or Minolta) might potentially have trouble closing the aperture down sufficiently before the exposure, especially on a fast lens. Do you have an older Minolta lens that can be used to test this ? I plan to bring my 85/1.4 with me to Photoplus in a couple days to try it there.

2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Oct 26, 2011)

This is a good point. I will update the review when we have more information. At present I have nothing specific from Sony about incompatibilities but I will ask at PPE.

3 upvotes
Dennis
By Dennis (Oct 26, 2011)

Thanks Barney

0 upvotes
ET2
By ET2 (Oct 26, 2011)

Well, Barney don't just go by what Sony claims about Minolta lenses. Try it and see if there is any difference.

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Oct 26, 2011)

@ET2 - that would be my job :)

3 upvotes
Hugo600si
By Hugo600si (Oct 26, 2011)

I have used the 28-135, 50/1.7 and 70-210/4 and have not spotted any issues so far. If they exist I did not encounter them with normal shooting condition on these lenses. Mind you these are Minolta lenses, not Konica Minolta.

0 upvotes
Deven-D7
By Deven-D7 (Oct 26, 2011)

When using the pull down to compare to other cameras, the canon 60D has a better video mode than the A77? The Nikon D700 has the same score for video mode? How can that be when this camera is the only one to do 1080p 60fps and has full time autofocus (albeit not able to control exposure and have autofocus at the same time). It for sure is the best DSLR at taking videos but its score is not reflective.

5 upvotes
Spazmedia
By Spazmedia (Oct 26, 2011)

While I can't speak for the auto-focus, the video quality of Canon cameras seems to be a bit better, given they shoot at a higher bitrate. At 1080p 60fps, you are seeing a lot of compression with the A77. Great camera though none the less.

1 upvote
pureaxis
By pureaxis (Oct 26, 2011)

I would like to see some more thought about Canon 60D vs the A77 in terms of video quality. I'm deciding which to buy depending on video quality

1 upvote
mike kobal
By mike kobal (Oct 26, 2011)

I am also very curious about video quality from the A77, I think AVCHD 2.0 is just as good if not better then H264 and the score compared to other cameras, esp Nikon seems very odd.
The FS100 beats any current Canon DSLR, the only reason I am keeping the 5D2 is for full frame video and the incredible shallow DOF.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Geir Eivind Mork
By Geir Eivind Mork (Oct 26, 2011)

AVCHD uses h264... ;)

1 upvote
sensibill
By sensibill (Oct 26, 2011)

The high ISO (both JPEG *and* RAW) samples are quite noisy. I expected more out of this camera.

4 upvotes
ET2
By ET2 (Oct 26, 2011)

The high ISO is in fact identical to A55 when viewed/printed at equal size: See

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sonyslta77/page19.asp

1 upvote
lamah
By lamah (Oct 26, 2011)

"Even when its files are downsampled to 16MP, images the A77's 24MP sensor still display slightly higher noise levels at ISO 12800 than the 16MP sensor of the A55"

1 upvote
ET2
By ET2 (Oct 26, 2011)

"What this means is that if you're an A55 user habitually making prints of a given size, the A77 will give you near-identical image quality in low light, high ISO situations. The extra pixels on its sensor won't appreciably increase the quality of the output you're used to, but they won't make things noticeably worse, either."

1 upvote
Jarda_Houdek
By Jarda_Houdek (Oct 26, 2011)

Pentax and Nikon cameras with same chip, better processing and classic SLR design will get some more performance of that chip, but after reading this review, I'm not sure it it will be enough.

3 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 26, 2011)

@ Lamah, check the exposure differences (up to 2/3 of a stop) between the 2 cameras. That explained the difference you see.

0 upvotes
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Oct 26, 2011)

This review fully confirms my feelings that Sony should provide the user the ability to move the mirror out of the way. The severe noise penalty in comparison to other cameras appears to be largely ameliorated in the NEX-7's samples, meaning that the mirror is the problem.

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Oct 26, 2011)

I think you might be reading a little too much in there - the difference really isn't that great, and remember we're looking at performance under very low-intensity, tungsten light. We're really stressing the cameras in the example we've published.

2 upvotes
sensibill
By sensibill (Oct 26, 2011)

No more than any other camera you test is stressed, though... And many of those perform much better at higher ISO.

6 upvotes
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Oct 26, 2011)

I'm certainly not one to shoot my mouth off without checking, so I did a couple of experiments. I downloaded the ACR NR-0 images from both the NEX and the A77. I then reduced the images in Photoshop to 500x334; Facebook quality. Even at this low resolution, the differences were, at least to my eye, significant. No one could mistake the two images. The A77 had a noisey-blue cast over the entire image.

I performed the same test to the ACR NR-Default images. The differences were not as stark, but still plainly recognizable. Shadows especially looked very bad.

I included the A55's NR-Default images and, interestingly, it appeared slightly worse than the NEX-7 to me. This was also at 500x333(4) resolution. Checking the NR-0 images confirmed it. The NEX-7's images were much better than the A55 and the A77. I hope that Sony allows us the move the mirror in their upcoming pro A9x.

1 upvote
SDF
By SDF (Oct 26, 2011)

Very fair review. Bravo DPR. I agree. The laggy menu should be fixed immediately via firmware.

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 25, 2011)

Which UHS-I card was used for testing? One of the cards with 80MB/S *write* times or the relatively slow Panasonic (25MB/s) as seen in one of the pictures?
With the fastest UHS-I cards, atleast buffer clearing times are less than half of what was measured in the review.

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Oct 25, 2011)

This has been clarified in the review - SanDisk Extreme Pro, 45MB/s.

1 upvote
ET2
By ET2 (Oct 26, 2011)

The fastest cards are faster than what you are using, 95 MB/sec with buffer clearing in 4 seconds, see

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Benx75PFB4E

1 upvote
dougster1979
By dougster1979 (Oct 25, 2011)

Sony nex 5n better iq, better sensor, better iso...

6 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 25, 2011)

The 24MP sensor is no worse at high ISO and outresolves the 16MP sensor at lower and medium ISO's as a bonus.
The pellicle mirror takes about half a stop in noise performance in the case of the A77.

4 upvotes
Joe Ogiba
By Joe Ogiba (Oct 25, 2011)

The A77 jpeg @12800 looks like crap compared to the 5N @12800.

8 upvotes
ARTASHES
By ARTASHES (Oct 25, 2011)

TrojMacReady
It's not about sensor but about camera, who cares if the it's duo to camera's specific SLT system that a77 isn't any better than nex5n D7k K5 or even old 7D at high ISO, about lower and medium ISO all those 16mp cameras are 1/3 stop better than a77 all the way long even when all samples are downsized to 8mp and compared to each other (a condition in favors of a77 with more mp) and I am not talking about a whole step advantage of D7k/K5 over a77 at 100% magnification

1 upvote
Peter McNeill
By Peter McNeill (Oct 26, 2011)

Funny though I see more small detail from the various A77 shots at low/mid ISO than the so called better 16meg cameras (and seen some comparisons to FF cameras where low iso equals ad even betters in spots). It's not a huge difference but it is there and if you print large ... like say 8x10 is considered a small print, you'll notice it. Like some of the photos out on the net taken by photographers with the A77 not DPR or pixel peepers, blow all of the DPR/PixelPs samples away. milage varies as always.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 26, 2011)

It's not like anyone is ever going to notice 1/3 of a stop difference at equal print size. And at higher ISO's it's about half a stop still if you equalize processing (take different Adobe baseline processing out of the equation).
And more pixels often allows for more NR for a given amount of detail, which helps at high ISO too when you do your own processing.

2 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (Oct 26, 2011)

I have the feeling it is largely NEX-5N owners who are knocking the A-77/NEX-7's sensor. My feeling in most situations I'd rather have the extra resolution (and better feeling body) than perhaps a 1/3 of a stop better high ISO performance. At low ISO's the A77/NEX-7 images look extraordinary.

0 upvotes
thx1138
By thx1138 (Oct 26, 2011)

The noise above ISO 1600 is very poor; even down rezzing it to NEX-5N size, does not save it's bacon and it's clearly worse than competitors. This camera would have been far better sticking to 16MP. The NEX-7 is better, but not much and I've pretty much ruled that out now. 24MP was a stupid headline act.

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 26, 2011)

You do realize the 5N sensor performs the same as the A55 sensor (before taking the pellicle mirror into account) and that it would have made no difference? Even Dpreview states the A55 and A77 perform the same for a given display or print size. The 5N and NEX7 (hello again 24MP sensor) peform the same in this area too.

2 upvotes
sensibill
By sensibill (Oct 26, 2011)

Troj, you REALLY need new glasses. The A77 vs 5N at ISO-3200 is like night (a very starry, colorful one) and day. Look at your favorite spool section and tell me you think the A77 is no worse... Are you kidding me? You really do see those comparo shots through tinted lenses.

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 26, 2011)

Bill, it's you that needs new reading glasses. I was talking about the sensors. You're comparing 2 different types of cameras, one without a pellicle mirror, plus one of them shot at a slower shutterspeed (5N) on top of that.
Besides that, you're also comparing Adobe baseline NR between 2 cameras.
DXO already told us how the 16MP and 24MP sensors compare and those that don't trust the numbers can verify here:
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1042&message=39650370

0 upvotes
sensibill
By sensibill (Oct 26, 2011)

You said 'The A77 is no worse at high ISO', which is obviously false looking at the DPR images. That the cameras are 'different types' has nothing to do with it - it's just the sensor we're talking about, remember? And you also said the difference wouldn't be visible at print (depends on the print, I'd say) and that it's just 1/2 stop owing to the pellicle... Well, if that's only 1/2 stop, you may need more than new glasses... Maybe new optic nerves. I can see that blobby nasty chroma noise across the room, and it's not going to respond well to NR.

0 upvotes
sensibill
By sensibill (Oct 26, 2011)

By the way, DxO gives the A77 a score of 78 and the 5N a 77, well inside their 5pt margin of error, especially given how they weight in favor of base ISO performance. At higher ISO, their test reveals the 5N has better SnR and DR at higher ISO than the A77. So yeah, they do verify -- that the A77 IQ is inferior.

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 26, 2011)

I'll repeat, pull out those reading glasses.
I said:
"The 24MP sensor is no worse at high ISO", in reference to the 16MP sensor. As evidently displayed in the link I gave, or the review even, page 19.
Add the exposure difference to the pellicle mirror and you're looking at almost a stop in favor of the 5N already. And that near stop has zero to do with the sensor being better. QED.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 26, 2011)

And for those still not capable of reading, this is what I originally replied to:
" better sensor", as posted by dougster1979.
To which I replied that it's not a better *sensor*.

1 upvote
thx1138
By thx1138 (Oct 26, 2011)

Yes, but it is worse and it's needs down ressing to get close. So what's the point of 24MP? Canon were hammered for bring in 18MP in the 7D and here we are 2 years later and backlit sensor still can't improve on it and is worse at high ISO.

1 upvote
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 26, 2011)

The point is that below ISO 3200 you can have more resolution, without sacrificing high ISO performance compared to the 16MP sensor. So unless your computer and memory cards can't handle the extra filesize (we've had 24MP consumer cameras for over 3 years now...), there is no downside, only a bonus.
The sensor is better than the 18MP one (especially in deep shadows), but remember the half a stop penalty due to the mirror.
And FYI, the 24MP sensor is NOT backlit. You're confusing EXMOR with EXMOR R.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
sensibill
By sensibill (Oct 26, 2011)

Waxing snark doesn't bestow you any authority. How you conclude that the rest of us are blind and you alone see the superiority of the 24MP sensor is a marvel of distortion that would make August-Jean Fresnel himself quite proud. For the record: 5N sensor = better high ISO. 5N camera = better high ISO. A77 high ISO = bad. The pellicle loss being part of the process doesn't change anything. We're not talking about the NEX-7.

Since downsizing will never cure that blobby chroma noise and there's no detail advantage with above 800, the 5N is the better high ISO camera, period. As I said before, I expected more out of Sony. It'll be interesting to see if the NEX-7 is more or less than that 1/2 stop better.

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady
By TrojMacReady (Oct 26, 2011)

Ofcourse, keep the straw men coming.
The 24MP sensor is no worse at high iso than the 16MP one as also found in the 5n. The A77 performs equal to the A35 at high iso. Comparisons posted ad nauseam, measurements too. If you knew how to normalize output and read exif info, you would know and understand that too. Page 19 of the review just confirms it again. As do Imaging Resource samples.
Those chroma blobs are not sensor noise levels, but an Adobe baseline profile no one uses to begin with. But that seems a bit hard to grasp for some.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Sosua
By Sosua (Oct 26, 2011)

Ummm... if you want to shoot at stupidly high ISOs and demand the best, buy a D3S.

Some of us would gladly trade (arguably) 1/3 stop noise at very high ISO for more resolution at low ISOs.

0 upvotes
tkpenalty
By tkpenalty (Oct 25, 2011)

Although everything isn't about noise performance, I find it somewhat astounding that the RAW noise level of this camera is outright the worst even at base sensitivities even when compared to old CSCs like the NX100. And the resizing theory does not really hold that well as programs don't know what to bin as noise.

Everything else about the camera is good however, but I'd love to see a better sensor inside it; possibly a camera thats more focused on image quality than features which alter, but not really improve the shooting experience.

Landscape photographers will be very happy with this though.

2 upvotes
wildbild
By wildbild (Oct 25, 2011)

since I am a landscape photographer I was very pleased when the camera was anounced given its 24mpx sensor—but what I can see so far the panasonic gh2 with its smaller sensor can even capture more detail… (not even talking about the sony glass here..)

0 upvotes
Aaron MC
By Aaron MC (Oct 26, 2011)

Yeah, but the dynamic range and color depth of the Sony sensor leave the Panny in the dust.

1 upvote
wildbild
By wildbild (Oct 26, 2011)

my current sensor is called kodak portra 400 4x5". beats them all;-)

0 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Oct 26, 2011)

GH2 outresolves the A77 at low ISO? No way. You must be looking at selective crops at 100% and perceived sharpness.

The NEX-7 will be better again, anyway.

0 upvotes
wildbild
By wildbild (Oct 26, 2011)

just read carefully:

but neither the A77's JPEG nor raw output contains much meaningful detail beyond 3600 lp/ph.

vs.

At is approaches Nyquist (3456lph) the GH2 isn't quite as good as the Olympus E-5 at describing true detail, but some image structure can still be discerned even at 3600lph and beyond (at this point it's technically 'false' detail, but in real-world images it can contribute to the impression of texture and fine detail).

1 upvote
Lea5
By Lea5 (Oct 25, 2011)

Raw images look very good to me.

2 upvotes
Ernest M Aquilio
By Ernest M Aquilio (Oct 25, 2011)

This may make some Sony fan boys cry

4 upvotes
Juraj Lacko
By Juraj Lacko (Oct 25, 2011)

I cant help it but I don't like the way this camera looks. Sorry sony, try again.

6 upvotes
Tlipp
By Tlipp (Oct 26, 2011)

Yes, too bubbly.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
arhmatic
By arhmatic (Oct 26, 2011)

Manufacturers do all this innovations inside, but exterior design is still the same boring one. And a better plastic/metal shell seems easier to manufacture than a 24mp sensor - 24 that I really could not care less about.

Just do something cool like Fuji X10, charge $100 more if you need to, and I am getting one. Until then, don't even bother releasing new stuff.

Maybe it's just me, no idea...

1 upvote
IcyVeins
By IcyVeins (Oct 25, 2011)

How can it get 81% but only a silver? When there are 73% gold ratings for other cameras? Which is better, a high number silver rating or a low number gold? This is the second highest rating you have ever given to an ASP-C sized camera and it's only a silver?

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Oct 25, 2011)

The gold/silver awards are not automatic on attaining a certain score. It's all explained on the conclusion page...

4 upvotes
IcyVeins
By IcyVeins (Oct 25, 2011)

Okay, I am pretty confused about the scoring system because you claim that a camera is only scored compared to other cameras in its class, yet the full frame cameras always score highest, APS-C always get second highest, and small sensor compacts always get lowest scores, etc. If most or all of the full frame cameras are in the 80s shouldn't the best compacts or M4/3 also score in the 80s?

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Oct 25, 2011)

There is no perfect way to score, and quite honestly we'd prefer it if you read the review fully before getting hung up on the number at the end :)

6 upvotes
Robsphoto
By Robsphoto (Oct 26, 2011)

I can see both sides of this "gold vs silver" award debate. The Nex-5N got 79% and a "gold" and the A55 got 76% and also a "gold". The A77 comes in at 81% and only gets a "silver" even though the A55 is nowhere near as technologically advanced as the A77. The review commented that the low light performance of the A77 is about the same as the A55, so because the resolution of the A77 is so much better than that of the A55, I can see why some people expected the A77 to also get gold.

I can understand why image quality is so important in whether or not a "gold" is awarded, but is the A55 image quality really all that much better than that of the A77?

Rob
www.robsphotography.co.nz

1 upvote
photo nuts
By photo nuts (Oct 26, 2011)

If Phil Askey reviewed the camera, the A77 would have received something like 70% in rating, with no accompanying award (bronze/silver/gold) whatsoever.

Yes, image quality is HIGHLY IMPORTANT.

4 upvotes
macky patalinghug
By macky patalinghug (Oct 26, 2011)

I still have to see a bronze awardee here. I think it's only Gold and Silver that the reviewers give.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
neo_nights
By neo_nights (Oct 26, 2011)

Phil would've said: RECOMMENDED (JUST) :o)

0 upvotes
Sosua
By Sosua (Oct 26, 2011)

And the A77 has the highest RAW image quality possible from APS-C (of course until the NEX-7 is reviewed).

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Nic Walmsley
By Nic Walmsley (Oct 26, 2011)

One thing that might help explain this is consistency. One camera scores very high in most categories but is let down by one or two areas - overall it has a high score, but the let downs lose it the Gold. Another camera has a slightly lower overall score, but earned high marks in every category. It gets a Gold. Seems reasonable.

Likewise I think it's fair to factor in the class of camera. A small cheap camera comes up with a ground breaking lead in technology and design, gets reasonable to high scores all over (but not a combined total in the 80s) and earns a Gold. Another camera scores in the 80s, but is expected to do so as it is large and expensive, and earns a Silver. Makes sense to me.

The medal allows for a qualitative assessment that recognises the whole package, beyond the raw quantitive score. Seems fair.

3 upvotes
Zoowatch
By Zoowatch (Oct 26, 2011)

So would it be possible (in theory) to correct the ISO noise issue just with a firmware update?

0 upvotes
Jet Guy
By Jet Guy (Oct 26, 2011)

simple, NEX-7 gonna be gold...

0 upvotes
Total comments: 225
12