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Sony SLT Alpha A55 In-depth Review

August 2010 | By Barney Britton and Lars Rehm

Review based on a production Sony SLT Alpha A55V with firmware version 1.0

Sony's latest interchangeable lens cameras, the SLT Alpha A33 and A55 represent a significant technological milestone - not just for Sony but for the enthusiast camera market as a whole.

The company has rejected the traditional DSLR design and instead created a hybrid that, like a compact camera, is from the ground up built around live view, but one that is also capable of offering full-time DSLR-style phase-detection autofocus. The combination means they can offer features such as phase-detection AF during movie recording and extremely fast continuous shooting rates (10 frames per second on the A55), previously unthinkable at this price.

This is made possible by adopting an approach that has more in common with a mirrorless camera (like the Panasonic G2, for example) than an SLR by removing the bits that pretty much define such cameras: the optical viewfinder and moving mirror.

The designation 'SLT' stands for single lens translucent and it's the 'translucent' bit that's the key to what differentiates these new models both from conventional DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. The SLTs do have mirrors, but they're mirrors that let the majority of the light pass straight through to the sensor, rather than having to swing out of the way to allow exposure. As a result they are fixed in position, always reflecting a portion of the light emerging from the back of the lens onto a phase-detection AF array housed in the top of the camera. (A newly-developed 15-point array in the case of these two cameras).

The A33 features the same 14 million APS HD CMOS sensor as the NEX-3 and NEX-5, but the sensor in the A55 is brand new, with 16.2 million effective pixels - Sony's highest-resolution APS-C format sensor yet. In another first for Sony's large-body interchangeable lens models, both cameras can shoot movie files as well, at 1080p HD resolution. Technically this review was conducted with a SLT A55V: the GPS-enabled variant of the camera that will be sold in most markets - only in a handful of countries (notably Japan), will a non-GPS version of the A55 be sold.

Sony A55 - key specifications

  • 16.2MP (effective) APS HD CMOS sensor
  • Fixed, pellicle-type semi-translucent mirror
  • Maximum ISO 12,800 (with a quasi-ISO 25,600 'Multi-frame NR' option)
  • 15-point phase-detection AF array with 3 cross-type AF points
  • Electronic viewfinder with 1.15 million dot resolution
  • Built-in GPS
  • Electronic level in EVF/LCD with pitch/roll indicator
  • Dual-purpose Memory Stick/SD card slot
  • 10fps continuous shooting rate
  • 1080p AVCHD movie mode with continuous AF
  • Articulated 3in 'TruBlack' LCD with 912k dots
  • socket for external microphone
  • 2x magnification mode in live view
  • Face-detection AF (focus via nearest phase-detection AF point)

Sony A33 and A55 - differences


Sony Alpha A33

Sony Alpha A55
• APS-C 'Exmor' APS HD CMOS sensor
• 14.6 million total pixels
• 14.2 million effective pixels
• RGB (Primary) color filter array
•APS-C 'Exmor' APS HD CMOS sensor
• 16.7 million total pixels
• 16.2 million effective pixels
• RGB (Primary) color filter array
Continuous shooting
• Continuous Advance Priority AE: max 7fps
• Continuous: 6fps
• Continuous Advance Priority AE: max10fps
• Continuous: 6fps
• Built-in - records orientation and elevation data.
Buffer in continuous shooting
• JPEG Fine: 16 frames
• JPEG Standard: 20 frames
• RAW: 7 frames
• RAW + JPEG: 7 frames
• JPEG Fine: 35 frames
• JPEG Standard: 39 frames
• RAW: 20 frames
• RAW + JPEG: 20 frames
Battery life (approx - CIPA)
• EVF: 270 images
• LCD: 340 images
• EVF: 330 images
• LCD: 380 images
Weight (body only)

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y, and Z and ideally A, B, and C.

This article is Copyright 1998 - 2015 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Total comments: 7

I can only confirm that at least the first generation model is totally unreliable.
As others described often enough the camera would just turn off mid shooting, with only the first half of the shutter sound (shutter count 32k).

Sony insists on charging you for replacing the Shutter unit, which will likely die again within the next 15-50k.

Design flaws can happen, but Sony Customer Service is just terrible. Definitely not going to buy into their systems.


It seems Sony A55 is very unreliable camera.

While I was taking photos, camera suddenly went black Fully dead. I verified battery is 100% charged.

I tried to contact the repair centre and no feed back. I am very much frustrated as my friend who took Cannon at the same time with me has had no issues with his and I have many other friends ho use Nikon never had issues with their cameras. I feel sorry for my decision to go for SONY DSLR.

1 upvote

I think that the fixed mirror means the cameras are relatively small -- 23 per cent smaller and 26 per cent lighter than the Sony Alpha DSLR-A550, to be precise. They're very light, but with a solid and comfortable rubberised grip.


It does, or rather, did. Strangely, Sony decided, presumably for sound commercial reasons, to delete this body shape when they released the current model, the A58, which is bigger than the A55, 33, 35, and 37 which were all this shape. I like my cameras small (as well as light) so this shape definitely interests me more than the A58.

1 upvote

I love it. It is easy to use and I have never had any mechanical issues with it. I especially love the rapid shooting feature. My grandchildren never stay steady for a second. With this feature, I can go back and delete the frames I don't like. I also used it at professional sporting events at a great distance using the zoom lense with great success. I've also used the portrait function for stills. Great camera!


I have not had a good time with this camera. Just over a year after buying it the camera stopped working and SONY charged me £117 for the repair. Now just 7 months later the camera has a different fault and will not focus or take photos. Sony want a further £117 for repairs!! I feel this is not what i expected from a camera at this price and SONY are not interested in the fact that possibly I have a poor quality camera. I would NEVER recommend a Sony camera to anyone

1 upvote

hey, sorry for your bad luck. Sony manufactures good, but sometimes quite unreliable cameras, I agree.

Total comments: 7