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- Sony Alpha SLT-A55V
- A new spin on the SLR, with a translucent mirror to let light through, so it can shoot and focus at the same time.
Sony SLT-A55 Digital Camera Review$899.99
The Sony SLT-A55V has two compression options for recording video: AVCHD and MP4. The AVCHD mode captures Full HD video at a 1920 x 1080 resolution and a 17Mbps bitrate, which are similar to the specs you'll find on Sony's consumer camcorders. The MP4 mode has two quality settings: a 1440 x 1080 HD mode and a 640 x 480 standard definition setting.
The advantage of having both AVCHD and MP4 compression options is that it gives you more versiatility when recording video. AVCHD clips can be difficult to work with on a computer, but they look great when viewed on a high definition television. On the other hand, MP4 clips are easy to play back on a computer and upload to the internet, but they won't look as good on a TV (especially considering the MP4 modes on the A55V use lower bitrates to record video). Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content
Since the SLT-A55V doesn't really have any manual controls in video mode, you must rely in the camera's automatic settings for everything except focus and exposure. This lack of aperture and shutter speed control will probably not please Sony fans who are looking for a more versatile DSLR to record video, but it does make things simple.
The A55V does expose video quite well during recording and its autofocus mechanism is one of the best we've seen from a video-capable DSLR. The focus doesn't work quite as quickly as what you get on a consumer camcorder, but it is close.
Zoom on the SLT-A55V is entirely determined by the kind of lens you have attached to the camera. The kit lens we did our testing with was a traditional 18-55mm lens, which is close to a 3x optical zoom. Zoom is adjusted by rotating the lens ring.
Focus is an area where the SLT-A55V has an advantage over other video-capable DSLRs, most of which do not have the ability to autofocus during video recording. Wit Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology, however, the camera can perform a continual autofocus during recording (or before recording) without the need to press or hold a button.
The focus is fairly quick, but it is a bit noisy. If you want to record clean audio, you may want to stay away from the live autofocus feature, or use an external mic with the camera (and hold it far enough away so it doesn't pick up the clicks and motor noise caused by the autofocus mechanism). Of course, you can also manually focus using the camera's outermost lens ring.
Of the controls listed above, only exposure can be set manually in video mode on the Sony SLT-A55V. You can set the exposure by rotating the control dial on the front-right of the camera after pressing the +/- exposure button.
Confusingly, you can adjust aperture and shutter speed on the camera, but once you press the record button the camera reverts to automatic settings (for everything except exposure).
Just like aperture and shutter speed, you cannot adjust the ISO manually in video mode. If you select a specific ISO before beginning your video recording the setting will revert to auto ISO after you press the record button.
The "Creative Style" color settings on the SLT-A55V can all be used in video mode, as can the camera's various white balance presets and manual settings.
The SLT-A55V has a built-in stereo mic and a 3.5mm mini mic jack for connecting an external mic. Since the built-in mic is tiny and located on the top of the camera, we don't recommend using it if you want to capture clean audio. It will pick up a lot of extraneous noise like the camera's autofocus system or the adjustment dial if you choose to adjust exposure during recording. You can even turn audio recording off in the camera's menu if you don't want to deal with that function.