- Good image and color quality
- Good video and quick AF
- Pro-level burst shooting
- Somewhat slow to power up
- Low battery life
Sony diverted from the standard DSLR script with the a55 and created an incredibly fast camera with good image quality, solid video capture and pro-level continuous shooting.
Announced this past August for a September debut in the market (along with the Alpha a33), the Sony Alpha SLT-A55V is the higher resolution and faster continuous shooting half of this duo. DCR.com Editor Allison Johnson shot the a55 at a Sony function in Jackson and Yellowstone, Wyoming, and came away impressed with the camera’s speed. Fast continuous shooting rates and a capable autofocus combined with good image and color quality to create a very good first impression.
A production a55 has found its way to my door, with a slightly longer shooting window of opportunity than that afforded Allison, so we’ll get to explore this camera’s ins-and-outs a bit more extensively. In her first look, Allison alluded to “…some interesting new technology going on inside the a55…” That might be “Translucent Mirror Technology” and would seem to be at least partly responsible for the shooting speed of the a55, along with claims of fast and efficient autofocus for still or movie capture.
In a traditional film SLR or DSLR, light enters the camera through the lens and is reflected by a mirror to the viewfinder screen. When the shot is taken the mirror flips up to allow the light to strike the film or sensor, then flips back down for the next shot. In the a55 the light strikes the mirror, but some of it is reflected to the viewfinder while the rest passes through the mirror to the sensor. The mirror never moves in the a55, which produces a continuous shooting rate of up to 10 frames per second (fps). For video work, this means you can use the viewfinder for capture.
Canon’s EOS 1D Mark IV shoots at 10 fps and Nikon’s D3/3S goes 9 fps with standard mirrors, so obviously Sony’s translucent mirror is not a requirement for high speed shooting rates. But when you consider the Mark IV body alone will set you back $5,000 while the D3S runs the tab out to $5200, the a55 is an outstanding bargain on shooting speed alone at $750. But the a55 packs a lot more features than just a pro-class shooting speed.
You can capture video in AVCHD or MP4 HD 1080i formats and the 3.0-inch LCD monitor articulates. The sensor is a Sony Exmor APS HD CMOS with 16.2 megapixel resolution. Sensor size is 23.5×15.6mm, (same as the Exmor APS-C CMOS models in the other non full-frame Alphas) and provides a 1.5x crop factor. There are the requisite full manual exposure controls along with a very functional 16:9 panorama mode that can capture regular or 3D images and 8 scene-specific shooting modes including macro. An integrated GPS allows for automatic geo-tagging of stills and videos. Memory Stick PRO Duo/PRO-HG Duo or SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media are compatible. The camera is available as a body-only or packaged with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens, as was our review model. Here’s the focal range offered by the kit lens:
Lens compatibility includes over 30 A-mount interchangeable lenses and the body is stabilized with Sony’s SteadyShot INSIDE system, reported to offer up to 4 stops of anti-shake correction. Sony includes a body cap, charger and battery, shoulder strap, USB cable and CD-ROM software with each camera.
Our review model a55 has to be back in Sony’s hands a week from today, so let’s not waste any time putting it to work.