When Sony acquired Minolta several years ago and released the Alpha A100, it sent a strong signal to other camera manufacturers that they aren’t playing games. In fact they have been changing it – being the first to include in-body stabilization in a DSLR. Now, years later, they’ve released the ground-breaking SLT A33 and A55. These cameras have several notable features that make them stand apart from the rest of the crowd:
Sony Alpha SLT A55 © The Imaging Resource
Phase-detect autofocus in live view and video mode. This will make shooting in both modes easier than ever. Video and live-view continue to improve in DSLRs and Sony is pushing the envelope. New SLT mirror design (Single Lens Translucent). This means the mirror doesn’t need to move to allow light to hit the sensor, and is what makes phase-detect autofocus possible. Truly innovative. Big bright EVF (electronic viewfinder) – we have to admit the idea of an EVF does not appeal to us, however DP Review states that “their large, bright EVFs are at least a match for conventional optical finders in many situations (and better than the finders in the majority of entry-level DSLRs)” 10 frames per second. This is unheard of in a consumer model. Although it’s AF cannot match higher end cameras. Other headline features include a new 16 megapixel sensor (the largest of Sony’s APS-C models), built in GPS, 1080p HD video, ISO range up to 25,600 (!), newly developed 15 point autofocus array, and more. All at a price point of only USD $750.
The Alpha A55 was recently reviewed by DPReview, and it came away with their highest “gold” award. Several things caught our eyes from the review:
- “The Sony Alpha SLT A55 and A33 are completely new designs which offer several key advantages over ‘traditional’ DSLR technology.”
- “JPEG image quality is promising, and – for normal viewing magnifications, remains useable up to ISO 12,800 in a pinch”
- “It’s full-time phase-detection AF in movie mode is a revelation compared to the slow, clunky contrast-detection focusing that we’ve become used to in live view from some other cameras.”
- “Because the A55’s EVF is so large, it easily matches most optical viewfinders for clarity, and outclasses most of Sony’s own Alpha DSLR range.”
- “With the Alpha SLT A55 (and its near-relation the A33) Sony has thrown down the gauntlet to the other major manufacturers. These new cameras are both genuinely innovative, and very capable.”
All in all, looks like a darn good camera for someone on a budget looking to get into photography, or even those already invested and looking to move on to some great new photographic technology. Here’s the product page from Sony. Here’s a review from CNET. And we’d like to direct you to this excellent analysis of the Sony A55, written by Matthew Saville. His CameraTalk blog is surely one to follow if you are a camera geek like we are.
On a final note, check out this amazing photo essay: Remembering Katrina – 5 years later, from the Big Picture at boston.com