Sony has taken the Alpha 77 and added Wi-Fi, an improved screen and given the AF system an overhaul. Callum McInerney-Riley finds out if it is the ‘king of APS-C’. Read our Sony Alpha 77 II review...
Sony Alpha 77 II review – Performance
Image: Focus peaking highlights in-focus areas, ensuring that the focusing is both precise and accurate even in difficult conditions
Over the course of six months, a team of five Sony engineers worked on designing the AF system for the Sony Alpha 77 II. They concentrated mostly on subject tracking, and trialled the system by shooting wildlife and sports. The result is a highly sophisticated AF that uses a new AF algorithm and phase-detection AF sensor module. This allows subjects to be identified and intelligently tracked across the scene.
When capturing fast-moving skaters with continuous AF, I found the focus was accurate and didn’t have any issues with tracking the subjects at speed. Shooting burst speeds of 12fps showed that the vast majority of shots were accurately tracked. With a total of 79 AF points – including 15 cross-type points – covering 40% of the frame, the Alpha 77 II, on paper, trumps much of its competition.
It’s possible to adjust the sensitivity of continuous focus, via the menus, on a scale of 1-5. Knocking the sensitivity back to the least sensitive setting means that, should an unwanted subject appear in shot, the AF will not switch to it. This is reversed when the sensitivity is set to its maximum.
Centreweighted and spot-metering options are present on the Alpha 77 II, with the evaluative multi-segment metering calculated using an advanced 1,200-zone system. When using continuous focus and tracking subjects, I found that spot metering exposed the subject well, even when the focus point was rapidly changing. Also, when shooting landscape images using multi-segment metering, the camera strikes a good balance between highlights and shadows without losing too much detail.
Image: With Sony’s wireless flash functionality, users can not only trigger off-camera flashes, but also use high-speed sync to capture fast-moving action
There are 15 white balance settings on the Alpha 77 II, and for most of these the colour temperature can be fine-tuned via a magenta/green and amber/blue bias control within the settings menu.
I found that the colours produced by the Sony Alpha 77 II are punchy and colour-rich. When shooting in sunny conditions, skies are often rendered as a well-saturated blue, while other tones also have a pleasing level of vibrancy. Of course, if you are not happy with the standard setting, there are various colour options and picture effects, including high-contrast mono, rich-tone mono, water colour and partial colour.
Images are reviewed on the rear 1.23-million-dot screen, featuring WhiteMagic technology. WhiteMagic is the addition of a white subpixel alongside the standard RGB pixels, which boosts the brightness level and reduces the power needed to illuminate the LCD. The advantage of WhiteMagic is particularly noticeable when using the camera in direct sunlight. Although the screen was, as usual, difficult to see in direct sunlight, it was still possible to use it to compose an image and it surpasses the capabilities of many other LCD screens.
Users can also compose images using the OLED TruFinder EVF, which has a resolution of 2.36 million dots and offers a 100% field of view. The manual-focus enlargements that are viewable through the EVF are fantastic and make light work of precise manual focusing. Both the LCD and EVF have an accurate colour rendition and great refresh rate.