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Sony SLT-A55 Digital Camera Review$899.99
Buttons & Dials
The SLT-A55 has no shortage of dials and buttons on the body: we counted 19 buttons and switches plus the control dial on the camera body. That is a somewhat bewildering selection for the novice, but it does put the options to hand for more experienced users. We do find some of the choices a little unusual, though; the presence of a dedicated button for the D-Range setting, but no secondary control dial for controlling aperture in full manual mode seems like an odd set of priorities.
The menu of the SLT-A55 is divided into two parts: the function menu that appears when you press the function button and the main menu that is accessed with, appropriately enough, the menu button.
The function menu is designed for on the fly changes, such as changing ISO or auto focus mode quickly. There are 12 options in total, arranged in groups of 6 down the left and right sides of the camera screen. You navigate by using the directional pad, then select an option by pressing the center button.
The screen for the function then opens, with the options presented in a list that you can scroll up and down through and select the option by pressing the center key. A text explanation of the function is also shown on the right side of the screen. Some of the major functions (ISO, display, white balance, AF and drive mode) are also available more directly from buttons on the camera body. When these are used, the camera jumps straight to the control screen, skipping the function menu. The function menu works pretty well, but it can involve some button mashing by having to scroll up and down to reach the option you need.
The main menu contains all of the options from the function menu and a lot more, arranged in a tabbed structure, with just a single screen of options per tab. Again, this involves quite a lot of scrolling around to find specific options, especially as you can't from the bottom of the list of options to the top or vice versa.
Our review model was supplied without documentation, but we were able to review a PDF version of the instruction manual, which covers both the A33 and the A55. We found this manual to be well written and generally easy to use, with plenty of illustrations. Some aspects of the camera are not discussed in any great detail: the image stabilization of the camera only gets a single page.