“Sony’s Mid-Range SLT Has Just Gotten Faster and Better”
After looking at the fact that Sony had announced a range of E-mount cameras and discontinued the NEX line, many observers thought that the company would also stop making their SLT (single lens translucent) A-mount cameras. However, in the Sony Alpha 77 II, the SLT is not even close to death. As you may have guessed, this enthusiast-level model replace the Alpha 77 which has been discontinued.
Sony has certainly not shirked away from being ambitious about the Alpha 77 II. The company has called the camera the “King of APS-C” – a title which puts it above both the Nikon D7200 and Canon EOS 7D. Lofty ambitions indeed.
On paper, the A77 II is a very impressive camera. One single glaze at the specs proves that it is much more than just an iterative upgrade. The device is built around a new AF module which has 79 focus points – the highest number in its class. There are plenty of other features which make it attractive as well.
Price starts from $1,199 and it looks well-equipped to make its mark in the highly competitive prosumer segment. Let’s take a deeper look at it.
The Alpha 77 II is designed similarly to its previous version. There are only two major differences – the front AF assist light has been removed and the Alpha brand has been changed to red from silver. The camera uses a joystick to control the menu and also has two scroll wheels. There are plenty of individual buttons for various settings and a few of them can be customized.
Like other cameras in the class, the top-plate has a second LCD which shows important information such as image settings and battery capacity. Like the higher-end Alpha 9000, the A77 Mk II has a Quick Navi Pro menu feature which allows you to quickly access menu functions.
The chassis is made using a strong magnesium alloy which gives the camera an air of solidity. It weighs 647g, which isn’t so heavy, and has dimensions which are comparable to the Nikon D800. The A77 II is weatherproof and the body is resistant to dust and moisture. This makes it a great option for those who are interested in a high-quality outdoor photography.
Apparently, Sony spent almost six months in developing and refining the auto-focus system in the A77 II, and I have to say, the time was worth it. The new AF module (with 79 points of which 15 are cross-type) is a pleasure to use and performs extremely well. Even when using burst mode or shooting fast-moving object, the focus stays accurate. The sensitivity of the tracking can be controlled on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 allows the AF to change to a brand new object and 5 forces it to stay on the initial subject.
The OLED viewfinder covers 100% of the frame, has a great refresh rate and a resolution of 2.3million dots. When shooting at the maximum burst rate of 12fps, the buffer can capture up to 25 RAW images. This is much better than the original A77 which could only manage 11. The camera’s CCD produces less “noise” than earlier models and thus improves low-light performance.
The 3” display has a 3-way tilting feature and is much brighter and less power-hungry than the A77’s because of Sony’s new WhiteMagic technology. It also makes the screen a bit easier to see in bright sunlight – but not a lot.
Image Quality and Video
The A77 II has a 1200-point evaluative metering system which helps the camera take good quality, well-exposed images. Even when the camera is taking pictures quickly, the spot-metering mechanism delivers good results. Other than Spot, it also has Center-Weighted and Multi-Segment metering modes.
Even without changing the settings around, the A77 II produces images with bright and vibrant images. It has a wide range of white balance settings, many of which are well-tuned.
ISO sensitivity is quite good and the camera manages to capture a decent amount of detail. At ISO 400, images start looking a tad overexposed and at 800, there is a bit of coloration in darker areas. The effects become noticeable after ISO 6400, but are manageable. The A77 II has an in-built noise reduction mechanism which could lead to a loss of detail in some cases.
Video performance is much better than many competing DSLRs. The A77 II can use full-time phase detection AF in video mode allowing it to track a subject easily during recording. There is a stereo mic which performs well without a lot of clipping. A mic-in port is provided as well.
- 3MP EXMOR APS CMOS Sensor
- 12fps with continuous AF in burst mode
- 79-point AF with 15 cross-type points
- 1200 zone metering system
- ISO 100 – 25,600 (ISO 50 – 51,200 using multi-image combination)
- Maximum shutter speed – 1/8000
- 1080p videos @ 60fps with AF
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Stereo microphone
- 4million dot OLED viewfinder
- LCD in the top plate
- 3-inch 1.23MP LCD with a three-hinge swivel
- Good build quality
- Excellent AF with fantastic tracking
- Brilliant image quality
- Fantastic LCD
- No GPS tagging
- ISO performance could be better
- Menus are a bit complicated
The Sony Alpha 77 II is a well-built camera with a great AF system and is an excellent alternative to mid-range DSLRs from Canon, Nikon and the like. Moreover, it is loaded with plenty of features like a quick burst speed, excellent LCD, in-built W-Fi, NFC, etc. which should make it a compelling proposition.