Body & Design

The A37 looks a lot like the A33, A35 and A55, but the hand grip has been redesigned. It protrudes slightly further and the finger grip cuts back deeper into it. The result is a camera that's more comfortable to shoot with for long periods of time, despite making almost no difference to the camera's overall size.

The flip up/down screen is the only obvious step backwards for the A37 - the 2.6" screen is smaller and, at 230k dots, lower in resolution than the A35's. However, because its 4:3 aspect ratio is closer match to the shape of the camera's sensor, the displayed image is actually the same size as it was on the A35. Sadly, given how many other movie-friendly features it has, this change to a squarer aspect ratio means the A37 offers a tiny preview for video shooting.

The A37 will be welcomed by everybody put off by the A57's size - it's essentially as compact as the original A33 and A55 but with an improved, slightly deeper hand-grip, making it comfortable to hold and shoot with.

Maddeningly, for every step forward Sony takes, it also seems to feel the need to retreat a couple. For instance, the A37 allows you to customize the depth-of-field preview button on the front of the camera. It also provides many more options (26 instead of 14) for what you wish to apply to this or the AEL button. Which is great - we welcome a little bit of button customization, as we realize different shooters want quick access to different functions.

However, having changed the A35's 'D-Range' button into a 'Zoom' button, it has also decided that it should no longer be customizable. Which is a perverse decision, not only because it's hardly inconceivable that someone might not need constant access to the camera's different types of digital zoom, but also because as soon as you engage Raw capture, the button loses all function (beyond displaying a message saying it isn't working). This wouldn't be the first time Sony has devoted a well-placed button to a non-essential feature, but it is the first time it has actively removed the option to change it.

Options that can be assigned to the AEL or Preview button:
• Exposure Comp.
• Drive Mode
• Flash Mode
• Autofocus Mode
• AF area
• Smile/Face Detection
• Auto Port. Framing
• Metering Mode
• Flash Comp.
• White Balance
• DRO/Auto HDR
• Creative Style
• Picture Effect
• Image Size
• Quality
• AEL Hold
• AEL Toggle
• [Spot] AEL Hold
• [Spot] AEL Toggle
• Object Tracking
• AF Lock
• Aperture Preview
• Shot. Result Preview
• Zoom
• Focus Magnifier

Body Elements

The A37 features a rather small and low-resolution 2.6", 230k dot rear LCD. On the plus side it is now mounted on a tilt-flip hinge, making overhead or waist-level shooting easier. And this is handy on a camera that doesn't suffer from the DSLR drawback of focus slowing down when you try to shoot in live view.
The A37 uses the same NP-FW50 battery as Sony's NEX-series compact mirrorless cameras. It has a relatively low capacity (for its class) of 7.8Wh, but Sony has managed to squeeze 450 shots out of it when used with the viewfinder (30 up from the A35), and 500 shots when using the rear LCD.

A dual purpose SD/Memory Stick slot sits just behind the battery.
Hidden under a rubber door on the left of the A37 are a HDMI port and a USB 2.0 socket. Images (still and moving) can be played back directly on Sony's Bravia televisions via the HDMI connection.
The A37 is able to offer DSLR autofocus with full-time live view thanks to its fixed, semi-transparent mirror. Early models could be provoked into exhibiting 'ghosting' - a duplicate of bright details. This has been resolved on more recent models so the only cost is around 0.5EV of light (which we've not found to have a significant impact on image quality).
The A37 can't be used with an infrared remote control but there is the option to use a wired remote (also allowing the use of third-party intervalometers).
In a move that's still unusual in this class, the A37 features an external mic socket. (The Nikon D3200 also offers one, but its list price is an extra $100)

First impressions:

The A37 is more interesting camera for the marketing department than it probably was for Sony's engineers - it's essentially familiar parts and technologies assembled in an order that helps make the company's camera line-up make more sense. But this doesn't mean it's not an interesting camera for potential customers. After all, the result of effective marketing is a product that well suits the needs and expectations of a particular group of customers.

The A37 offers access to one of the best sensors on the market, combined with a host of user-friendly features that no other brand offers. Add to this the SLT technology that we think does a great job of providing DSLR capability with a shooting experience that will be immediately familiar to compact camera shooters. The result is an impressively small, well-specified camera at a price that significantly under-cuts most of its rivals.