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Sony Alpha A77 Digital Camera Review$1,999.99
Sony deserves a high-five for the A77, even without thinking about performance. It’s a familiar design packed with fresh, useful, well-executed new technology that enhances the shooting experience without really changing the traditional feel that photographers love. It’s a reward for loyal A-mount shooters, and temptation for others to enter the system.
The chief reason to buy the A77 over any other DSLR is pure speed. The fixed, translucent mirror is a brilliant design. It's ready to fire at any time in any scenario, and the 12fps burst shooting is amazing—and those are crisp, in-focus frames, too.
Image quality is strong. Dynamic range performance is a highlight, and the 24-megapixel sensor can resolve a heck of a lot of detail, mostly useful for cropping. Colors are mostly accurate right out of the box, and the in-body stabilization is very effective.
Alphas used to have a reputation for clunky interfaces, but the SLT series turned that around. The A77 is a charm to handle and just fun to use. The button layout is comfy and the menus make sense. The quality of the OLED viewfinder and articulating LCD can’t be understated; for the first time ever, we felt comfortable using manual focus with a live-view system.
If there’s a weakness, it’s the JPEG quality at higher ISO settings. By enthusiast DSLR standards, details are pretty sloppy at ISO 1600. Raw files suggest that the sensor is noisy, but the JPEG processing isn’t doing itself any favors. Even at the lowest intensity, noise reduction muddles details to the point where the 24 megapixels seem a bit wasted.
At low and mid sensitivities, shots look great. Downscaling helps too. But current standards have led us to expect crisper, cleaner JPEGs than what the A77 produces. We know it can be done; the mirrorless NEX-7 uses the same sensor with better JPEG results. Raw developers have plenty of room to work with.
We knew that the A77 was great while we were testing it, but we didn’t realize just how well it would rank until we finished filling out its scoresheet. It blows away all of the other mid-level DSLRs that we've tested, and holds its own against the pro-level Canon 5D Mk. III.
The A77 really is a complete package. It has the features and performance that camera fans value in a modern system. It's fast, it's fun, it infuses new tech into a familiar design, and it takes great photos. The only place where it really falls short is low-light photography.
It’s exciting to see Sony carve a path for the A-mount rather than just follow in the stream created by Canon and Nikon. There's room for improvement, but the A77 is good enough to buy right now. Also take a look at the A65, which shares many of the same specs, packaged for less-serious users. We haven't tested it, but at $999 with a kit lens, it should be a great value for those who don't mind giving up a chunk of user control. With a full-frame SLT heavily rumored to be in the pipeline, the Alpha system is looking like a good place to be.