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Sony SLT Alpha A55 In-depth Review

August 2010 | By Barney Britton, Lars Rehm
Buy on Amazon.com From $404.64


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
Sensor
• 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
GPS
N/A
• 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)
433g
441g

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our 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 author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. 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 also A, B and C.

 
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Comments

Total comments: 2
hrbaca

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!

1 upvote
MARMITE

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

0 upvotes
Total comments: 2