Sony SLT-A35 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Reliably good image quality at lower sensitivities
- Versatile and capable (for its class) 15-point AF system
- Accurate metering and focus
- Excellent LCD and good EVF, with efficient automatic switch
- Compact dimensions
- Auto+ mode makes the various continuous shooting modes available to novices
- Very good dynamic range
- Good resolution
- Good quality HD video
- Fast and responsive operation
- Very good continuous shooting performance for this class of camera
- Very usable manual focus mode (including up to 15x image magnification)
- Good ergonomics all around, good build quality, nice handling
- Customizable D-Range button
- Useful 'digital helpers' such as multishot NR, sweep panorama, picture effects or HDR mode
- Efficient image stabilization system
- Good battery life
- Attractive price point
Conclusion - Cons
- Higher RAW noise levels than some competitors
- Comparatively strong noise reduction at higher ISOs
- Little control over high ISO noise reduction in JPEG mode ('auto' or 'weak')
- Limited control in 7 fps continuous shooting and movie modes
- No live view in 7 fps continuous shooting mode makes panning very difficult
- Menu system a little confusing (hard to orientate yourself sometimes)
- EVF slightly more prone to RGB 'tearing' than competitors
- Awkward to navigate between stills and movie playback modes
- No articulated screen means shooting video is a little more difficult (compared to A55)
When Sony launched the SLT series in 2010, the A55 and A33 were, with their bright EVFs and full-time phase-detection AF, arguably the most innovative new cameras in an otherwise quite uneventful year (from a camera technology point of view). In comparison the first follow-up model in the new SLT line, the A35, represents only a very subtle upgrade.
The new model replaces the A33 but comes with a modified version of the A55's 16 MP CMOS sensor which has been optimized for reduced power consumption. The sensor also produces less heat which allows you to capture video clips of up to 29 minutes (compared to the A55's 9 min with Steadyshot enabled). However, this improvement is somewhat rendered less relevant by the fact that the A35 has lost the previous SLTs' articulated screen which, for many videographers, is an essential feature.
Other than that, shooting with the A35 feels pretty the same as on the earlier SLT models. At higher sensitivities the sensor is a tad noisier than the predecessors (and some of the direct competitors) but if you can live with its sometimes quite aggressive noise reduction the Sony SLT-A35 offers a very strong feature set for a camera that has been priced to compete in the entry-level segment.
The SLT-A35's imaging sensor is a modified version of the one used in the A55, and while the JPEG output is very close at lower sensitivities, at higher ISOs the new sensor produces slightly more noise. When shooting in JPEG mode this is counteracted by a fairly aggressive noise reduction which results in more loss of fine low-contrast detail than on some competitors in the entry-level sector. That said, with files this big you would need to be looking very close for this to be a major issue in a print or on-screen.
Other than that, the image quality differences compared to the A55 are marginal and you'd struggle to spot any at low ISOs. Like the A55 the A35 has a very wide dynamic range in JPEG mode of almost 9EV, which means that assuming metering is accurate, highlight clipping is not a problem in all but the most challenging of scenes. Metering, AF and Auto WB work reliably - with only a few exceptions our several hundred sample pictures were correctly exposed and in-focus, with well-judged white balance.
Converting your RAW files will only get you a marginal amount of extra detail over the JPEG images, but the additional control over noise reduction can be worth the effort, especially when shooting at high sensitivities. Of course it also gives you better control over white balance, sharpening and, to a degree, even exposure.
In terms of handling the A35's lack of an articulated screen is the only real difference to the previous Sony SLT models. While this is arguably a handicap for video-focused users, the A35's ergonomics work very well for stills photographers. The camera feels, despite its comparatively small dimensions, comfortable in your hand and provides good access to features and settings.
Full-time live view is a necessary consequence of the unique way in which the SLT series is designed, and it works very well, with no perceptible 'lag' and plenty of detail visible on both the LCD and EVF. The latter is crisp and detailed enough for accurate manual focusing using the 15x magnification option. That said, due to this unique concept the A35 sometimes handles more like a 'bridge' camera than a conventional DSLR.
Of course there are some points of criticism as well - the lack of live view refreshes in continuous shooting, except at the lowest 3 fps setting, makes panning very hard to judge. The lack of aperture control in AF-C mode at 7 fps is an inevitable but unfortunate consequence of full-time AF, too.
Compared to the previous generation there have been a few minor tweaks to the user interface. The D-Range button on the top-plate is now customizable, there's an option to have the viewfinder show just the image preview and the AF point (like in an optical viewfinder), and finally there is an option to make the main menu return to the last-used option, rather than always resetting to the top. These are all small changes, but nevertheless very welcome, and help make the SLT series more attractive to serious users who like to customize the settings of their camera.
The Final Word
Like the previous SLT models the A35 is an excellent all-round performer. It gets all the basic stuff right most of the time, and the refined ergonomics make it fun to work with, for both beginners and advanced photographers. With fast continuous shooting, sweep panorama, picture effects, HDR mode and multi-frame noise reduction the feature set is quite impressive (especially given the A35's price point), and the compact dimensions make it a good alternative for those who prefer to travel light.
The A35's EVF is excellent, but whether it works for you depends very much on your style of photography and personal taste. If it does, and if you can live with the slightly higher base noise (compared to some competitors), then with its otherwise decent image quality, good ergonomics and strong feature set the Sony SLT-A35 should be high up on you camera shortlist. It is a strong alternative to the more traditional DSLRs in the entry-level bracket of the market, and earns itself our silver award.
Category: Entry Level Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The Sony SLT-A35 is an excellent all-around performer that gets all the basic stuff right and is fun to shoot with. The feature set is great for a camera at this price point, and if you can live without an optical viewfinder, the SLT-A35 is a very good alternative to more traditional DSLRs.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Sep 20, 2011
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