Operations and controls
Top of camera controls (right)
The A77's top plate controls are conventional, and fairly standard in arrangement compared to both its predecessors and competitors. Here you'll find the combined on/off switch and shutter button, as well as direct access buttons to control drive mode, white balance, exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity. The 'Finder/LCD/ button to the left of the LCD screen allows you to switch manually between the A77's electronic viewfinder and the rear display. The top-mounted LCD screen marks the A77 out as a high-end model (its sister model the A65 does not feature a top-plate LCD and neither did the original SLT-A55), and serves simply as a status display for key functions and shooting parameters.
Top of camera controls (left)
On the opposite side of the A77's top plate is an equally conventional exposure mode dial. As well as the standard PASM and scene modes this is where you'll find the A77's special 12fps continuous shooting mode, 3D and conventional Sweep Panorama modes and 'MR' - Memory Recall. Memory Recall allows you to save and select up to three combinations of frequently-used modes and settings. Useful, for example, if you have your camera set up in one way for portraiture, another for sports and another for landscapes. If you want to take full manual control over movie recording you'll need to move the dial to the video mode position, at which point you can shoot in aperture priority, shutter speed priority, manual or program AE modes (with manual focus).
Rear of camera controls
The real excitement is to be found on the rear of the A77, in the various buttons and control points clustered around its articulated LCD screen. On the rear of the A77 are ranged the main menu and playback buttons, a help '?' button and 'DISP' display mode toggle. The 'Fn' button activates a useful quick menu for easy access to key shooting parameters and just beneath it a Smart Teleconverter button activates a toggling 1.4x or 2x digital zoom. Sadly, Smart Teleconverter is not available when shooting video, and depending on how you plan on using the camera, you might find it more useful to re-assign this button to become a 'focus magnifier'. Set up in this way, the smart teleconverter toggles a magnified view of the focussing area, to aid critical focussing. The AF/MF button at top left can be assigned to one of 28 different functions, including activating AF in manual focus mode.
On the right of the A77's rear you can see the thick rubber which coats its handgrip, and the similarly rubberized rear control dial. To the left of the dial is a useful manual/automatic focus clutch, for quickly disengaging AF in older 'screw-drive' lenses. To the left of this, there's an AEL exposure lock button and a direct movie recording button. Beneath this button cluster is the A77's joystick - the main control point for menu and function navigation.