Ten frames per second with continuously active AF is no mean feat, especially in a camera costing £700. Whether it is worth the loss of the optical viewfinder is another matter
Although the Alpha 55 has an unmistakably Sony Alpha exterior, what goes on inside the camera is very different. Sony has made a brave attempt to offer something new and in many respects it works.
The decision to use a fixed translucent mirror and phase-detection AF has paid off, especially when used with the unrivalled frame rate. This 10fps feature offers a good starting point for those wanting to learn how to photograph action, and some may buy the Alpha 55 just for this feature. However, it is important to note that image quality is more equivalent to an entry-level DSLR. and having to sacrifice aperture, white balance and ISO control to gain the required continuous AF is frustrating.
Phase-detection AF makes video easier to use on the Alpha 55 than on rival models. I look forward to using TMT in Sony’s higher-specified Alpha camera, which the company previewed at the photokina show in September.
In the main, there is little to choose between the Alpha 55 and 33. The former offers a higher resolution, as well as a faster frame rate of 10fps and GPS. These features merit the extra £100, especially considering the likely buyer.
Sony Alpha 55 key highlights
To the right of the high-resolution EVF is the dioptre correction wheel, which has ±4 adjustment
External microphone socket
Underneath a rubber cap lies a socket for an external microphone, and there are two clip-on Sony microphones available, although any can be used
Video enthusiasts will not only appreciate the Full 1080i HD video mode, but also the fact that an external microphone can be used for improved audio quality.
SteadyShot Inside enables up to 4EV extra of safe handholdable shutter speeds, which can result
in sharp shooting at up to 1/8sec.
Multi-frame noise reduction
By taking a number of photos and combining them together, the Multi-frame NR mode offers
expanded sensitivity of ISO 25,600.
Digital level gauge
The three-axis digital level works by indicating whether horizons are level, but also if the camera is tilted forwards or backwards.
Plenty of key operations can be accessed directly through the Fn button, including metering, colour mode, drive mode and AF area
Movie record button
The Alpha 55 and Alpha 33 are the first in the range to feature a video mode, which can be activated directly via the movie record button