The format of this review has been slightly shortened as the Sony SLT-A35 is in terms of operation and image output very similar to the Sony SLT-A55 that we reviewed in August 2010. To learn everything about the SLT-A35 we recommend reading not only this review but also the full review of the SLT-A55.
The Sony SLT-A35 marks the second wave of Sony's radical SLT design, and does so in a way that offers to put the technology into more people's hands. This entry-level model incorporates almost all the features of the original A33 and A55, but includes what Sony promises is an improved 16MP sensor and handful of extra processing options. The only real losses are the articulated rear screen and $50 from the MSRP of the 18-55mm lens kit, compared to the A33, taking it down to $699.
Almost from the moment it bought Konica Minolta's DSLR division, Sony has been working on offering DSLRs with truly usable live view. Rather than clumsily adding live view to a conventional DSLR design, Sony has tried to offer it while retaining one of the key features that make DSLRs so desirable - their fast autofocus system. Its first attempts, using a secondary live view sensor built into the viewfinder prism, were promising but often resulted in cameras with distinctly different behavior depending on whether you were shooting in live view or optical viewfinder mode.
The SLT design has an electronic viewfinder, rather than an optical one, and as a result it doesn't need a movable mirror to direct light up to the viewfinder. Instead it used a fixed, semi-transparent mirror to provide light to a focusing sensor, allowing the rest through to the imaging sensor. The result is a full-time live view camera that can offer fast, DSLR-style phase-detection autofocus and complete consistency of behavior regardless of whether you're using the eye-level viewfinder or the rear screen for viewing. The fact that this is all available in a small, relatively inexpensive enthusiast camera made the A55 one of our favorites in its class.
The A35 represents a gentle refresh and reshuffle compared to the existing models, rather than any radical redesign. The A35 gets a redesigned version of the 16MP CMOS chip featured in the A55, with Sony promising improved power consumption. This improvement should not only improve the camera's battery life compared to its predecessors, but also offer improved heat characteristics - extending the duration of videos the camera can capture before any risk of overheating occurs. It can now record for up to 29 minutes per clip, rather than the 9 that the A55 can manage with SteadyShot switched on (most DSLRs are limited to 29 minutes or fewer to avoid attracting duty at the higher rate applied to camcorders).
Beyond that, the changes are subtle - the main difference being that the A35 gains a series of image processing filters (such as the de rigueur 'Toy Camera' option), that are becoming a standard feature at this level of camera. The high-speed shooting speed is the same as the A33's 7 frames per second, but no longer gives full-resolution images. Instead, to reduce the amount of data being processed (this slower rate and the lack of GPS emphasizing that this is an A3X camera, rather than an A55 replacement), the A35 takes a 8.4MP chunk from the middle of the frame, giving a 1.4x crop. This has the effect of giving the long end of the kit zoom a field of view equivalent to a 116mm lens in film terms, rather than the usual 83mm.
Sony A35 specification highlights
- Revised 16.2MP CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-12800
- ISO 100-25600 in multi-frame NR mode
- 15-point AF sensor (3 cross-type)
- SLT design offering full-time live view with phase-detection autofocus
- 1080i60 HD video in AVCHD format (from 30fps sensor output)
- Auto+ mode giving easy access to the appropriate multi-shot shooting modes
- Picture Effects processing options