The many ‘world firsts’ on the Sony Alpha 77 include a 24.3-million-pixel APS-C sensor and a 2.4-million-pixel XGA OLED electronic viewfinder. In fact, there’s much to be excited about
Build and Handling
A true test of a camera is not necessarily in its impressive features, but rather in its handling and performance. Well, as an enthusiast-level model (professional-level in Sony’s words), the Alpha 77 includes a tough magnesium-alloy chassis and a dust- and moisture-sealed body, much like the Pentax K-5.
Weather-sealing also features on the 16-50mm f/2.8 kit lens (24-75mm equivalent), VG-C77AM vertical grip (£279) and HVL-F43AM flashgun (£242) accessories, all announced at the same time as the camera. Those buying into the system should now find it capable of handling tough environments.
The fixed mirror allows the body of the Alpha 35 and 55 to be considerably smaller than a DSLR. However at 142.6x104x80.9mm, the Alpha 77 is virtually the same size as the Alpha 700 and most of its competitors.
A rubberised grip completely covers the handgrip surface area and extends to a small section on the left side of the camera for a firm hold. From this natural and comfortable grip, there are many controls to hand. In fact, the Alpha 77 has a potentially confusing number of buttons and direct controls. Many can be customised, including the shooting mode dial custom setting (MR) for quick access to up to three exposure settings.
My main bugbear about the navigation of the controls is that most scrolling is achieved using the little joystick on the rear of the camera, which I find at times fiddly and much less enjoyable to operate than a four-way pad or control wheel.
The ‘peaking’ control is found deep in the main menu and is primarily used to display overexposed areas in the frame so the user can adjust the exposure to eliminate blown-out highlights. Usually this type of function is available for review only, not preview. Another trick of this function is that it aids critical manual focusing.
Peaking indicates the area of focus in one of three user-defined colours (red, yellow or white). In this regard, I really appreciated its help in ensuring that the eyes remained in focus in a studio portrait where the depth of field was extremely shallow.
Unlike the Alpha 65, the Alpha 77 records GPS information in the image’s metadata. Sony has acknowledged that its GPS system last time round was not very effective, and has now refined it. One usual downside to using GPS is the drain on battery life, although here it is still impressive, being able to take more than 1,000 images during the course of a couple of days, with GPS on, from a full charge (well above the company’s specification). GPS can be deactivated, too.
Processing speeds for a raw + JPEG file capture take around 3.5secs to clear the buffer, while a 12fps, 1sec burst takes 29secs. Another, shorter burst is possible while the buffer is being cleared. Shutter lag is now 0.05secs, thanks to an electronic first curtain, which makes it approximately 30% faster than the Alpha 700 and, at the time of writing, the fastest in the market. This is a responsive camera.