Sony A77 - User Experience - Part 2 - First Use

Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8
All pictures Sony a77 16-50mm f/2.8

There was some nice light late yesterday afternoon, and after charging up the battery for the a77, I was able to go out and give it a short "real world" test.

Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8

Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8

In terms of use, a few things became apparent.

I really like the AF system. Its very "intuitive" if thats possible. Seems to know what I want to focus on. Some of these multi-point AF systems are often way off in terms of what I want. The a77 works very well however. Its also pretty fast.

There's a built in spirit level, which is the best I've seen. Very useful indeed. I'm not particularly good at getting things straight, and it will save me having to correct the file later.

The shutter is very positive and I can't detect any delay. Because there is no mirror slap its unlike a DSLR. Quiet (ish) and a bit "wimpy" Though nice to use.

By accident I had selected a 3-shot bracket. It does this with one press of the shutter. Excellent.

Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8

Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8

Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8

Colours are nice and warm, and in terms of overall image quality its very good. The images, with the 16-50mm, aren't ultra-sharp, but then I never expected them to be. With this amount of pixels on an APS-C sensor, I imagine there is a pretty strong AA filter. However the files look much the same as my Nikons, and indeed look very similar to those from the a850 I had.

One thing that is very impressive, is the dynamic range. Like the 16MP Sony sensor in the Pentax K-5, Nikon D7000 etc. its possible (At low ISO's) to recover dramatic amounts of shadow detail, without adding lots of noise.

Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8

Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8

The OLED viewfinder worked fine. I can wear my polarised sunglasses with no problem. In good light it looks just like an optical viewfinder to me. It has eye recognition, like the Panasonic GH1/2 and switches automatically between the two. However this is a bit sluggish. Something Kai at Digital Rev picked up on when he did his review. Its also a bit slow to present the file for viewing after pressing the shutter. I imagine the large files are responsible for this.
Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8

Sony A77 16-50mm f/2.8

A couple of things on how the images look on the screen. I've now had 3 cameras that produce images this size. D3X, a850 and now the a77. All of them produce slightly softish files on the screen. For example images I took recently on my Olympus E-P3 look a lot sharper. However, when I downsize the a77 images to E-P3 size, they are just as sharp, and if I upsize the E-P3 images up to a77 size, a lot of the sharpness disappears and all sorts of artefacts start to appear. 

Some of this I'm sure is down to the AA filter, and some to the way in which monitors display images. From the samples I had seen from the a77, I'm getting more or less what I expected. However I'm tempted to swap the 16-50mm lens for a Zeiss 16-80mm, which is a much more useful lens for me anyway.

The images are very "clean" though in common with virtually all of the Sony cameras and lenses I've used, there is a fair amount of CA. Having said that all of the large sensor cameras I've ever used are pretty merciless on lenses. Nikon provided a nice set of lens "correction" presets for Photoshop ACR, but there are only a few for Sony. I will have to put together one of my own.

A couple of other things on the "bells and whistles" which I'm getting round to slowly. When the drive is set to high burst, its incredibly fast, yet because of no mirror, much quieter than most DSLR's. Wedding snappers will love that.

Finally the articulated screen is just amazing. Its a bit "Heath Robinson" at first, and it can be moved into some amazing positions. It is quite a complicated mechanism, and I do have concerns about its long term robustness and the possibility of damage because it does extend some distance. However its an amazing contraption and I can't imagine any situation it isn't able to cover. Here's a video I found showing some of the possibilities.

Finally, finally, It may sound callous to say this in the light of what has caused the situation, but I may have made the right move to buy the a77 rather than wait for the NEX-7. Apparently the Sony factory in Thailand is under water and has been described as having "No prospect of recovery". SonyAlphaRumors speculated yesterday that the NEX-7 may not arrive until after Christmas. South-East Asia has had an appalling year for weather-related disasters, and it is to be hoped that the situation improves soon.