This week DCR is in San Diego testing out Sony's new Alpha, NEX and - seriously - binocular releases. Today we're coming at you with a first look at the SLT-A77, the newest flagship translucent mirror camera. In the interest of preserving everyone's sanity, we've downsized these samples to a web-friendlier format from their original 24 megapixels. Other than that the sample images below haven't undergone any post-processing.
A few months ago when we first got our hands on an A77 pre-production model, we were impressed with the quality of the OLED viewfinder. That impression hasn't worn away with several hours worth of use. It's the best EVF we've used to date - seamlessly fluid, bright and sharp. What you see in the viewfinder isn't a distorted approximation of what you're going to get - it is exactly what you're going to get.
Our production-ready A77 didn't let us down speed-wise either. The 12 fps speed priority mode has its own special spot on the mode dial, making it easy to access quickly. In other shooting modes, Hi and Lo bursts are available. In some situations I opted for the 10 fps Hi or stepped down to the Lo option. But when it's imperative to catch that decisive moment, like when you're tracking a dog on a surfboard (really) then 12 fps will more than have you covered. The sequence below of the dog running was shot at 10 fps and the camera does an admirable job of holding focus through the series.
When dealing with scenes of great contrast, the SLT-A77 tended to produce darker images rather than clip highlights. Shooting in Aperture Priority with default evaluative metering, I found some of the shadow detail was lost in images like the one below, but some minor adjustments in-camera or in post-processing could correct the exposure.
They produce huge image files, but all of those 24 megapixels are your friend when it comes to cropping. Provided that you're using a low enough ISO setting to avoid any unwanted noise artifacts from becoming too obvious, the A77 user can crop aggressively to tweak images in post-processing. See example - dog on man on surfboard.
I shot Fine JPEGS for this first look, and the SLT-A77 didn't seem to do much out of the ordinary to them processing-wise. Greens and reds are a little punchy, but not over-saturated. Sony provides Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape and Black & White processing modes. Auto white balance mode tended to warm up images a bit by default.
We've just scratched the surface with the Alpha A77, stay tuned for a full review in the near future.
Additional Sample Images