Picture Effects

The SLT A35 comes with a series of image processing options and special effects, called 'Picture Effects' in Sony parlance. These options work in stills and video mode and have also been made available to SLT A55 and A33 owners via a firmware update.

This sort of effect has become very popular in recent years, having first appeared in Olympus DSLRs and finding mass appeal via the plethora of processing apps for the iPhone. It's now unusual to find a camera at this level without the option to subvert the quality of its optics and image output but applying the heavy vignetting and muddy color rendition associated with 'Toy' cameras such as the Diana.

Sure enough, Toy Camera is one of the options in the Alpha armory. In addition these latest Sonys offer most of the favorites that you'd expect to find:

Picture Effects
• Toy Camera
• High Contrast Monochrome
• High-Key
• Partial Color (Red, Green, Blue or Yellow)
• Retro
• Pop Color
• Posterization (Black & White or Color)
- exaggerated colors and darkened corners
- stark black and white image
- bright, washed-out tone curve
- leaves only a single color in the scene
- gives a faded color film look
- creates highly vivid colors
- produces a heavily stepped image with a reduced palette

Shot with SLT-A35:

Toy Camera High Contrast Mono High Key Partial Color (R) Partial Color (G)
Partial Color (Y) Retro Pop Color Posterization (B&W) Posterization (Color)

We tend to like this sort of feature on cameras simply because, although they're all relatively easy to recreate in post-processing, there's a value to having the option when you're shooting. We tend to find it encourages you to start thinking about presenting the scene you're shooting in a non photo-realistic manner, which can be a useful prompt.

As is usual with these options, we prefer some over the others. Because there's no way of adjusting the selected tone (or tolerance of similar colors) in the Partial Color modes, their effectiveness often comes down to luck. Equally we're not particularly smitten with the Posterization options but, overall, Picture Effects are a welcome addition.

Sweep Panorama and 3D Sweep Panorama

The SLT-A35 comes with the same sweep panorama and 3D sweep panorama modes as previous SLT and NEX cameras. Conventional Sweep Panorama works well on static subjects but has its limitations if things move while you're sweeping the camera, as evident in the second sample panorama below.

Sweep Panorama ('Normal'/'Left', 8192 x 1856 px, 18-55mm lens) - still scene
Sweep Panorama ('Normal'/'Left', 8192 x 1856 px, 18-55mm lens) - moving subjects
50% crop

In 3D mode you get the same limited exposure controls as before, but the camera will only allow you to pan left-right (or vice versa). The feature essentially creates a stereo pair of panoramic JPEGs which can be played back on Sony's 3D Bravia TVs. The camera records both a conventional panoramic JPEG, and alongside it an 'MPO' file (Multi-Picture Object - sometimes known as 'Multi-Picture Format', proposed as a standard 3D file format in 2009 by CIPA) containing the stereoscopic image pair that's precisely double in size.

We really like the feature as a time-saving alternative to stitching software for those who don't require perfect quality and resolution. You can read our conclusions on the system in the relevant section of the NEX-3/5 review here. If you have a Bravia television or other compatible viewing device, you can download a .MPO file in our A55 review.

Auto HDR

The SLT-A35 offers the' Auto HDR' feature that we've seen on previous SLT models. It takes three shots of the same scene at different exposures, then combines them to produce a single image that incorporates a larger range of tones than would be possible from a single exposure. The breadth of the exposure gap between these three shots can either be chosen automatically by the camera or set manually. Here, we've shown you an example of the +6EV HDR effect. You can find more detailed information about this feature in our A55 review.

The shot on the left was taken with all dynamic range enhancement features disabled. The dynamic range of the scene, with the bright sunlit areas and the shadow portions, would be a challenge for any metering system and sensor. The A35 does a decent job exposing the scene but the contrast between the bright and darker portions of the scene is very strong. This is an image of the same scene, taken with the A35's HDR mode at the maximum +6EV setting. As you can see the result is slightly flat and showing low contrast (an inevitable result of trying to squeeze greater tonal range into an image) but there's visibly more shadow and highlight detail.

Multi-frame NR

Multi-shot NR is another feature that we've already seen on previous SLT models. It is effectively an 'extension' ISO setting available in JPEG capture mode. When set to multi-shot NR, the A35 takes 6 frames in a fast burst, then automatically aligns them to cancel out any camera shake, and blends them together to produce a final image.

Please note that the sample below has been taken from the Sony SLT-A55 review as the multi-frame NR mode is identical on the A35.

ISO 25,600 (using Multi-Shot NR). Click the magnifying glass for the full size original (opens in a new window). 100% crop of ISO 25,600 (top) and 12,800 (bottom). Click the magnifying glass for the full size original (opens in a new window).

Because high ISO noise is random, blending multiple images together it is possible to 'cancel out' the worst of it. If you have some time on your hands you can do the same thing in Photoshop, but as you can see here, the Sony does an excellent job. Assuming that your subject is static and your hands don't shake too much, JPEG image quality at ISO 25,600 using multi-shot NR is slightly superior to ISO 12,800.