|Camera Reviews||Camera Awards||Camera Stats||Lenses||Accessories||Directory||News||Features||Techniques|
Compare up to four cameras by clicking on the icons next to them. They will be stored up here.
|The camera has been added to the comparisons bar at the top of the page|
|Don't show this message again|
Sony Alpha 55 review
|DATE REVIEWED: 20th Apr 2011||Add Camera To Comparison Chart|
|Camera Type||DSLR||Shutter Speeds||30 - 1/4000 sec|
|RRP||£800||ISO Range||100 - 12800|
|Megapixels||16||Focal Length||By lens|
|Dimensions||124 x 92 x 83mm (WxHxD)||Focus Distance||By lens|
|LCD Size||3 inches||Zoom (Opt)||By lens|
|Zoom (Dig)||None||Storage||SD / SDHC / MS Pro Duo|
|Max Resolution||4912 x 3264||Battery Type||Li-Ion|
Introduced as Sony’s new single lens translucent (SLT) camera, the A55 smashes the mould of common DSLR design – in place of the traditional moveable mirror we find a fixed see-through mirror. Set to cause a stir, this revolutionary design allows 70% of the light to pass straight through to the sensor, providing the photographer with continuous autofocusing through burst and movie modes. This means shooters can fire a succession of ten frames per second, which thus far has only been achievable with high-end, heavy price-tagged units.
Thanks to this new and unique design the camera presents a considerably lighter frame than its DSLR counterparts, and perhaps pits it against the market’s best hybrid micro-four thirds models. Offering dimensions of 124 x 92 x 85mm and a weight of 441 grams, the A55 is incredibly comfortable in the hand, providing a stable and rubberised grip for extra support. On top of the unit we find a flash, hotshoe, mode dial, menu button, on/off switch encasing the shutter button, a D-range control, Viewfinder and LCD command, a movie record button and exposure controls. The lack of a fixed mirror means that the A55 is kitted with an electronic viewfinder which won’t suit everyone’s taste – particularly traditionalists’ – but it does deliver a 1.15 million-dot resolution and 100% frame coverage for an enhanced image preview. The rear is dominated by a neatly stowed 3-inch widescreen LCD, but what’s particularly attractive about this 921k-dot monitor is its ability to tilt and swivel to 180 degrees making shooting overhead, around corners or from the ground a piece of cake.
Sitting squarely above Sony’s entry-level DSLRs but edging just beneath its pedigree range of prosumer models, the SLT A55 and its launch brother the A33 can be found jam-packed with feature goodies intended as ways of tempting step-up users to the next echelon of photographic self-development.
As well as its fixed opaque innards, we find that’s not all the new Alpha has to boast about in its arsenal, as elsewhere there’s the incorporation of a built-in GPS function, enabling photographers to consistently and immediately geo-tag images – the first in its series to do so. This is sure to be a deal-clinching asset for keen landscape photographers or travel-shooting veterans, as well as the novice family user who wants to document holidays and events with their clan.
The A55 sports a large 16.2MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor and is capable of shooting at ISO 12800 with improved noise reduction technology. As featured in other models in Sony’s camera range, the brand’s Sweep Panorama function has also been adopted, but here support for 3D has also been integrated. A 15-point phase-detection AF system has been installed on the new model and exhibits three cross sensors for rapid focusing.
Movie-making fans also won’t be disappointed with the feature set on offer, as the A55 provides Quick AF Full HD movie shooting, which enables shooters to capture footage in AVCHD 1080i or MP4 format with enhanced AF tracking thanks to its translucent and fixed mirror. What’s more, the unit incorporates several creative movie functions such as aperture control and selectable styles.
When it comes to handling the A55, most photographers with a basic knowledge of using a DSLR or micro four thirds should feel quite at home with the controls supplied on the device. The menu system is fairly logical and straightforward and the on-body commands make quick and light work of otherwise tedious menu exploring.
The first issue we encountered with the A55 is the electronic viewfinder. Granted, it does deliver 100% field of view, but most photographers will agree that it can’t beat the real thing and, as with many other EVFs, Sony’s does feel as though you are viewing the world through a portable television screen from the Eighties. Using the LCD, which is obviously larger and some would say more comfortable to shoot with, was a more enjoyable experience that rendered stronger compositional results. Another nice feature is the on-screen spirit level that can be deactivated on command, and that’s found alongside the usual grids and guidelines.
Shooting in single drive mode quickly becomes a painful experience with the shutter lag reaching nearly three seconds. Thankfully, the continuous mode relieves this annoyance, and action fans will appreciate the A55’s ability to continuously autofocus throughout exposure bursts. The 15-point autofocus system is effective, yet its shallow width can be quite restrictive, forcing photographers to lock focus and recompose as necessary. The Panorama Sweep feature is great fun to exploit and in 2D the results are comparatively strong in relation to the A55’s competitors that host similar facilities. To execute crisp sweeps in the 3D mode photographers should ensure they use a tripod to pan smoothly, as we discovered the results could be rather hit and miss. Battery life was strong, powering out over 300 images before the icon revealed the first signs of depletion.
On the whole, the image quality produced by the A55 was unquestionably good. Colours were fairly accurate and details crisp enough to please. However, it is fair to say the unit failed to produce any punch in terms of colour, and instead we were presented with a slightly muted, washed-out version of reality – even shots taken in optimum lighting conditions were not as exciting as in real life. Details lacked the vivacity needed to make images stand out, failing to replicate the richness seen elsewhere in the brand’s line-up. These problems were amplified when shooting at either end of the kit lens’ aperture scale, with significant softening before f7 and after f13. Noise, however, wasn’t as damaging as many may have expected, with subtle distortion creeping in at around ISO 800 and only really becoming an issue at the heights of ISO 1600.
Overall, the A55 is a trailblazer, set to lead the way in introducing a new league of units in Sony’s DSLRs. There are some minor issues here over shutter lag and exposure but these aren’t so detrimental that the A55 should be written off. In fact, the A55 provides a satisfactory shooting experience backed by an impressive feature set capable of producing some modest to strong results. Furthermore, its ability to continuously autofocus combined with its wide range of shooting modes will certainly provide step-up users in particular with a solid grounding in development.
Ignoring the shutter lag issues and dampened colours it produces, the A55 is a great piece of kit. Its ideal for those looking to graduate from an entry-level DSLR
|SHARE THIS ARTICLE|
|How good is it for...|
|Design & Handling|
|Value For Money|
|Ignoring the shutter lag issues and dampened colours it produces, the A55 is a great piece of kit. Its ideal for those looking to graduate from an entry-level DSLR|
Backed with a journalism degree, Natalie has worked in the magazine industry for over five years. Since joining DP she has reviewed a plethora of cameras, gadgets and accessories, and is never afraid of telling it like it is.
|Total Camera Reviews||21|
|Average Camera Rating||2.4|
|Natalie's Last 5 Reviews|
|Casio Exilim TRYX||3 / 5|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ18||4 / 5|
|Sony Alpha 55||4 / 5|
|Fujifilm FinePix Z700EXR||3 / 5|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1||3 / 5|
|Click here to view Natalie's profile »|