The A65's built-in flash is a little less powerful than the bigger model SLT-A77's (GN10 vs GN12 at ISO 100). However, considering the A65 is not competing in the same bracket of the market this is still a pretty standard specification for a camera at this level. Like most built-in flashes it is powerful enough for close-quarters shots and occasional service as a 'fill in' unit but for more serious work you will have to invest in one of Sony's external flash guns. If you do so, you might be pleased to learn that the A65's built-in flash can act as a wireless trigger, making it possible to easily create off-camera flash shots which would traditionally have required a cable.
|Like most built-in flashes the 65's doesn't give you any control over lighting direction or diffusion but it is easily powerful enough for close-range portraits like this. As you can see the camera's metering system has done a good job here as well.|
Overall image quality
At 24MP the Sony SLT-A65's pixel count is currently, together with the SLT-A77 and NEX7, the highest of all APS-C sensor cameras on the market and significantly higher than than that of competing models such as the Nikon D5100 or Canon EOS 600D. In theory this would make the A65 the ideal for budget-conscious photographers with higher than usual needs for image detail.
However, if you've read the previous pages in this review you know by now that if you want to get the full potential out of the camera's 24 million pixels you need to shoot and convert raw images. With some careful sharpening in the conversion process at low ISOs you can get image results with excellent image detail that rivals the output we've seen from full-frame cameras such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark II or Sony Alpha 900. That said, if you increase the sensor sensitivity to ISO 1600 or higher it becomes progressively more difficult to deal with the increased chroma noise levels in the A65's raw output.
When shooting JPEGs noise is pretty well under control until you hit ISO 800-1600, mainly thanks to Sony's fairly heavy-handed noise reduction. However, if you like to view your images at a 100% magnification, what's more likely to bother you is the mushy output of the A65's JPEG engine, which really doesn't do the sensor justice. You are basically shooting massive 24MP files that don't contain obviously more detail than images from other cameras with a significantly lower nominal resolution.
|ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/640sec||100%|
|ISO 6400, f/5.6, 1/100sec||100%|
The images above are indicative of the A65's JPEG performance in different conditions. In good light, like the shot of the buildings, the 24MP sensor provides a lot of of detail but, as you can see, the camera's mushy JPEG rendition reduces detail in low-contrast areas of the image, even at base ISO. Noise reduction is starting to introduce smudging in areas of plain tone even in this ISO 100 shot, above. In poor light, like in the second shot that was taken in the dim light of an art museum, the A65 struggles a little more. This image was taken at ISO 6400, with high ISO noise reduction set to default. When viewed at a large magnification it becomes clear that detail has been smudged and colors have been blurred. That said, you'll have to view your images at 100% to spot these imperfections, and image quality is perfectly acceptable for small prints and web display.
GhostingThere was a lot of discussion when the A55 was released of an issue known as 'ghosting'. This was evident in early SLT cameras, and took the form of faint 'ghost' images of bright highlights in some images. Most of the time ghosting was completely invisible, but we did find a few examples amongst our thousands of test shots which exhibited the phenomenon - caused by internal reflections inside the SLT mirror.
|ISO 100, f/8, 8 sec, +1EV exposure compensation (tripod mounted)||100% crop|
We're pleased to report that the SLT-A65's images are essentially free from ghosting. Even in situations like the scene above - a nighttime street scene, there is no ghosting to be seen at all. Sony's claims to have improved the SLT technology in its newest generation cameras are borne out in our testing.