Note that because of the similarities between the two models, some elements of this article have been taken or adapted from our in-depth review of the SLT-A65's higher-end sister model - the A77.

The Sony SLT-A65 was launched alongside the SLT-A77 - the long-awaited replacement for the DSLR-A700. Although somewhat overshadowed by its higher-end stablemate at the time of its launch, the cheaper SLT-A65 has more mass-market potential and we believe there's every chance it's the A65 that will have the greater long-term impact.

There can be no doubt on picking up the plastic-bodied A65 that it is a camera intended to compete in a slightly lower class than the A77. The A65 lacks the A77's magnesium alloy construction and new AF sensor (it uses the same 15-point AF sensor that we saw in the original SLT-A55). It also does without the A77's top-plate LCD, rear control dial and uses a simpler hinge mechanism for the rear display, but importantly, it is built around the same 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor and the same 2.4M dot OLED viewfinder.

There are two reasons we believe the A65 has the potential to be the more significant camera in the SLT line-up: firstly because it is aimed at a much more popular segment of the market - many more people buy consumer-level DSLRs than buy enthusiast ones. And secondly, because despite a few missing specifications, the A65 includes many of the A77's core second-generation SLT features but at a lower price point. Unless the current market leaders bring something revolutionary to the party fairly soon, the A65 could just be the stand-out product Sony needs to get a proper foot-hold in the consumer DSLR/ILC market - something that despite impressive ambitions, it has thus far failed to do.

Offering 24MP capture, a 10fps continuous shooting rate, full-time live view and phase-detection AF as well as a raft of other innovative features, the A65 is unique in its market segment. On paper, the A65 is a significantly more interesting camera in some respects than peers like the Canon EOS 600D / Rebel T3i and Nikon D5100.

Sony's SLT design, with its ability to offer DSLR-style autofocus in live view and video, impressed us when the company launched the A33 and A55. However, the A65 takes the technology considerably further, most crucially with the introduction of the high-resolution OLED viewfinder. The 'TruFinder' design offers a 64% increase in resolution and, more importantly, offers progressive screen updates rather than refreshing one color after another, which gives a much smoother, more life-like shooting experience. The viewfinders in the A33, 35 and 55 are excellent, but the new unit in the A65 and A77 is significantly better. Quite an achievement. Read on to find out how all the new features and improvements on the A65 translate into real-life performance.

SLT-A65 and A77 key specifications compared


Sony SLT-65

Sony SLT-A77
Body construction Plastic Magnesium Alloy/Plastic
Control dials 1 2
Maximum shooting rate 10fps 12fps
Auto ISO Fixed at 100-1600 Customizable upper and lower limits
Viewfinder 2.4M dot OLED TruFinder 2.4M dot OLED TruFinder
AF Sensor 15 points (3 cross-type) 19 points (11 cross-type)
AF fine-tune No Yes
Joystick controller No Yes
Top LCD panel No Yes
Flash sync socket No Yes
LCD Articulation Double-hinged (tilt/swivel) Triple hinged (hinge/tilt/swivel)
Video 1080p60 AVCHD 2.0 1080p60 AVCHD 2.0
Maximum shutter speed 1/4000th 1/8000th

Side by Side: A65 and A77 compared

From the front, the difference in overall bulk between the A65 and its 'big brother' the A77 is obvious. The A65 is significantly slimmer, as well as slightly shorter. Notice the A700-style focus mode dial on the front of the A77 compared to the more conventional low-end Alpha AF-MF switch on the A65, and the lack of a dedicated AF assist lamp on the A65 (its built-in flash fulfils this function).

The same general downsizing is evident from the rear of the two cameras as well. The most important differences are a conventional four-way controller on the rear of the A65, compared to a multi-directional joystick on the A77, and the inclusion in the latter of a rear control dial. The A65's single control dial sits on top of its hand grip, on the front of the camera, and its screen uses a less-complex (but still very flexible) hinge mechanism.

The most significant difference between the A65 and 77 when viewed from the top is the omission in the former of a top-plate LCD status screen (and associated backlight button). The A65 still has dedicated advance/self-timer and WB buttons (seen here just in front of the A77's LCD display) but they are positioned on the four-way controller on the camera's rear.