Sony SLT-A77 II Review
|When shooting in Movie mode, hit the 'Fn' key on the back of the camera to bring up the quick menu. Here, you'll find most of your core settings.|
The a77 II is a very robust video camera. In-body image stabilization allows users to shoot handheld, without too much jarring movement. The stationary semi-translucent mirror also allows for full-time continuous AF. This gives the a77 II an obvious advantage over most DSLRs, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and EOS 70D being the exceptions with their on-sensor Dual Pixel PDAF points.
Using AF-C During Video Capture
No moving mirror means the Sony a77 II can use its phase detect points full-time during video capture. This is an extremely useful feature, and one we found works quite well. In the video below, we used a single center point, with continuous AF, to see how well the camera would adjust focus, as we moved from subject to subject.
|Shot using a 24mm (35mm equiv) lens.|
It's worth noting that when using AF-C in video mode, you also loose control over your aperture and shutter speed; exposure compensation and ISO are still left to the shooter to toggle though. You also can not shoot in AF-S mode during video capture. If you have the a77 II set to AF-S and switch into movie mode via the mode dial, the camera will automatically switch you to AF-C mode.
This can make pre-focusing video a bit challenging. But there is an easy work around: First set the 'AF/MF' button on the back of the camera to 'AF/MF Ctrl Toggle.' This can be done in the 'Custom Key Settings' of the menu. Once this is set, the 'AF/MF' button can be used to toggle AF-C on and off during video capture. Switch it on to acquire focus, then switch it off to hold that focus before starting video capture.
|AF-C during video capture is very useful for many real world scenarios. In the above video, I had the camera set to AF-C with the center point being the main focus point. The camera focuses so quickly, that as I move from face to face, it refocuses on the background, before focusing on the next face.|
The a77 II can also subject track during video capture, using center lock AF (not to be confused with lock-on AF). A subject, once placed within center of the frame, is identified by pressing the joystick on the four-way controller inward. The camera then attempts to stay with that subject throughout video capture, as they (it) move around within the frame. It's not the best way to keep focus on a subject, as the camera has a tendency to get tripped up, and hunt, but for slow-moving subjects, with non-distracting backgrounds, it can be effective.
Using IS During Video Capture
|Field of view with IS Off||Field of view with IS On|
When using IS during video capture, the field of view will be cropped in. The above image shows what the a77 II will record with IS off, using a 24mm lens (35mm equiv). Toggle the left side of the caption to see the affects of turning IS on. The field of view is significantly more constrained.
Cropping in aside, IS is quite useful during handheld video capture. The a77 II does a good job smoothing out sudden movements. The below video was shot using at 24mm (35mm equiv) at our test target. We cropped in the 'IS off' sample to match the field of view of the 'IS On' sample, for comparisons' sake. Both were shot in XAVC S 60p, with an exposure of 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200.
|We cropped the non-IS portion of the frame in for the sake of comparison.|
Real World Samples
|All of the clips were shot with the following settings (except for the panned shot at the end): XAVC S 60p 1/125 sec, f/14 Auto ISO. The panned clip was shot at: 1/125 sec, f/11 ISO 100. Download original file samples here and here.|
The a77 II holds its own in both bright and low light video shooting scenarios. Colors are pleasing and artifacts are minimal. Moiré does tend to be an issue from time to time, but that is the case with many DSLR and mirrorless cameras that are optimized for stills. The low light samples below were shot at a variety of ISO sensitivity settings (noted in the video captions), including ISO 3200, 6400 and 12,800. Even at 12,800, the footage is usable, which is impressive for an APS-C camera.
Overall, video quality from the a77 II looks good and the continuous AF capabilities are very useful in real-world scenarios. The stereo mic located in front of the hotshoe does a decent job of picking up audio, without clipping. Of course, there is a mic port, should the need arise. Unfortunately, though, the a77 II has no earphone jack for monitoring levels, which is a shame.
|The majority of the clips here were shot using a 70-200 f/2.8 lens. Download original file samples here, here and here.|
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