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 at a glance:·
- 24.3-million-pixel CMOS gapless Sensor
- ISO 100-25,600 (extended settings of ISO 50 and ISO 51,200 with multi image noise reduction)
- 2.4-million-dot resolution OLED Viewfinder with 100% F.O.V
- Articulated 1,230,000 Dot resolution White Magic LCD Screen
- 12fps shooting speed for 64 Fine JPEG or 25 raw+JPEG files
- 79 AF points including 15 cross-type AF points
- Wi-fi and NFC
- Full HD 1080p movie recording at 60p
- Continuous focus in video mode
A flurry of cameras has been released by Sony in the past year. These range from full-frame CSCs right through to entry-level compact cameras. However, one area that has gone very quiet is the A-mount range of SLTs, which has left many people asking the question “Are Sony quitting the A-mount?”
When we met Shiori Katsumata for the Sony Alpha 77 II briefing, she gave us a succinct answer to that question: a resounding ‘No’.
Superseding the Sony Alpha 77, the new Sony Alpha 77 II is a significant update upon its predecessor. Boasting a 24.3-million-pixel-resolution APS-C-sized Exmor CMOS sensor at its heart, and a host of other class-leading features, the Alpha 77 II has been hailed by Sony as ‘the king of APS-C’.
As we’ve seen in many recent Sony releases, the Alpha 77 II sports Sony’s Bionz X processor. This allows the camera to shoot at an impressive speed of 12fps – the same speed boasted by its predecessor.
However, the big improvement to speedy shooting comes from the stepped-up buffer capacity. Sony claims that when the Alpha 77 II is shooting full resolution Fine JPEG images, a speed of 12fps can be sustained for a total of 64 images, compared with just 18 images on the the original Alpha 77.
Also, it’s claimed a total of 25 consecutive images can be captured when shooting raw+JPEG simultaneously, which was limited to just 11 images on the previous model.
With a newly developed phase-detection AF sensor module with a centre weighted algorithm, the autofocusing should be vastly improved. A total of 79 AF points are featured, which cover 40% of the frame.
There are 15 cross points in the central area and nine group-AF zones. Compared to the 19 AF points and 11 cross-type points we saw on the Alpha 77, it’s fair to say the Alpha 77 II has had a radical overhaul in the autofocusing department.
Additionally, Sony says it has dramatically enhanced the AF algorithms to be significantly more intelligent, particularly when tracking subjects.
In continuous AF, subjects will be tracked and followed with more advanced predictions of movement. The Alpha 77 II’s focusing system was developed by a team of five engineers who worked for six months trialling the system on capturing football, trains, motor sports, wildlife and more. Sony has claimed it is capable of tracking objects at speeds up to 50km/h.
Sony has also given the user more customisable AF settings. These includes flexible AF areas and controllable AF tracking duration sensitivity to better match subject motion.
When I tested the tracking, using passing cars and cyclists as my subjects, the focusing was very fast. Using the AF tracking sensitivity settings, adjustable on a scale of 1-5, allowed me not only to track the subject with precise focus but also to make the system ignore new objects that intruded into the frame.
The Bionz X processor brings with it benefits of more advanced noise reduction, better sharpening and diffraction reduction technology.
Interestingly, the GPS mapping feature that was present in the Alpha 77 is not carried over into the Alpha 77 II. For some users who like to track their movements on a shoot, this may be a deal-breaker, however, the Alpha 77 II does now features Wi-fi and NFC, which I suspect for many people will prove a good deal more useful than GPS ever did.
Viewfinder and LCD
An increase in resolution has been made from the previous Alpha 77, with the Alpha 77 II now boasting a 3-inch, 1.23-million-dot RGBW LCD screen. This has a three-way tilting system, which allows the LCD to be moved in different directions for low/high-angle shooting
Comparing the pre-production sample of the Alpha 77 II that we used to the older Alpha 77, the advantages and improvements of the newer model were self-evident. The screen has fantastic clarity, and significantly more true-to-scene colour rendition than that of its predecessor.
In addition to the LCD, the Alpha 77 II features an Electronic Viewfinder. This is an OLED Tru-Finder EVF with 2.34-million dot resolution, and it boasts 100% coverage of the scene. As you might expect, it’s excellent – wonderfully bright and clear. I particularly like the manual focus enlargement options that allow precise focusing.
Build and Operation
In terms of looks, you could put the Sony Alpha 77 II beside its predecessor and be hard-pressed to spot many differences. If you look at the pair front-on, you’ll notice that the somewhat garish red dot that is the Alpha 77’s AF assist beam has been removed for the Mark II version. This AF assist function is now handled by the Alpha 77 II’s flash instead.
In body and styling they are near-identical, which isn’t a bad thing. The original Alpha 77 impressed us previously, and we found very few faults with its overall handling. The size of the Alpha 77 II is comparable to that of a Canon EOS 5D Mark III or a Nikon D800. The body is constructed from magnesium alloy, so it’s fairly heavy, but it does have the advantage of being weather-sealed, which should please wildlife shooters and other outdoor types.
Like the Sony Alpha 6000, the Alpha 77 II features a Quick Navi Pro function menu, which allows users to quickly change all of the main shooting settings with their right hand while remaining in a shooting position. This is just one of 11 customisable buttons featured on the Alpha 77 II. A total of 51 assignable functions are offered, allowing users to truly personalise the camera for their style of shooting.
For the amateur sports or wildlife photographers the spec sheet of the Alpha 77 II is very exciting indeed. With its 12fps shooting speed, it’s offering the kind of continuous shooting you would expect from flagship Canon or Nikon DSLRs.
My initial impressions of the new autofocus system are very good, and the Alpha 77 II looks like it could be a great camera for those who regularly need to track fast-moving subjects.
Personally I’m thankful that the build and handling has been tweaked rather than overhauled – the Sony Alpha 77 handled beautifully and its successor does much the same. If it ain’t broke, as they say.
With all its bragging rights, and at a cost of £1,549 (with a kit lens included), the Sony Alpha 77 II will certainly appeal to wildlife and sport photographers who are on a budget.