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Review: My Experience with Sony Alpha SLT A77 at F1

Sony Alpha SLT A77

I had the opportunity to try out the Sony Alpha SLT A77 during the SingTel Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix race in Singapore. I’m not the technical kind of photographer reviewer that will go down into the details of the specifications of the camera, but I’ll just write about my experience with using the Sony Alpha SLT A77.

The Body

This is the first time I’ve ever used a Sony Alpha camera for more than reviewing, so it comes to a surprise to me that the Sony Alpha SLT A77 is actually pretty decent. The grip is well formed with a good size and fits firmly in my small asian hands. This might not be good for larger hands, but I find the mold and the material used provides a comfortable fit. The body is well balanced to hold with 1 hand without being too heavy on one side, especially when using with the kit lens.

Sony Alpha SLT A77

The 3-inch adjustable LCD display proved to be very useful when taking photos at the F1, especially when I had to raise up the monopod to an obscenely high place. I needed to get used to the positions of the dials and buttons, but it feels natural after a while. I especially like the position of the dial in front because it just fits into your hands so naturally.

Using the Sony Alpha SLT A77

Although the electronic view finder (EVF) uses a 0.50″ XGA OLED with 2,359k dots, a huge improvement from the older Sony Alpha SLT models, I still felt it could have been better. During low-light conditions, the EVF display still becomes noisy (not as bad as the previous models) in order to compensate for the photographer to “see” the scene. However, the actual photo taken isn’t that noisy. The inability to provide a 1-to-1 representation of the actual scene in low-light conditions still leaves much to be desired. With that said, I like how I can view my photos, all the on-screen information like color balance, ISO, menus, etc. right in the EVF without taking my eyes off the EVF to view the LCD display.

I couldn’t get the ISO too high without getting too noisy photos, but I assume it is the beta firmware and will be fixed in the final release. I could only get up to ISO 800 without getting the obvious noise in darker conditions, and only up to ISO 1600 for the F1 shots.

I’m very much a manual mode guy, so many of the additional features of the Sony Alpha SLT A77 didn’t quite apply for me. But one feature that stood out was the continuous auto-focus, which is great for moving objects like people walking. However that proved little help for F1, so I finally gave up and reverted to manual focus instead.

The 24 megapixels gave me enough pixels for the F1 to crop, especially if you’re not using a good enough zoom lens. Well, I used a 300mm prime lens, so I didn’t have to do much cropping.

Using to take video

Those who don’t know me, I usually use my DSLRs for taking videos. Of course, I took some videos using the Sony Alpha SLT A77. It still has the same problem as the Sony A55 with the overheating sensor. I could only take about 5-7 minutes worth of video. So if you’re planning to use the Sony Alpha SLT A77 for video, you shouldn’t. Once it overheats, you’ll have to wait for some time before it cools down to be ready again for the next shoot. Above was a short video I took during the start of the Championship of the F1 in Singapore.

Summary

The Sony Alpha SLT A77 is a great improvement from the previous Sony Alpha SLT models. If you’re a fully manual guy looking for a professional camera with video functionalities, this might not be the one for you. However, if you’re looking for a feature-packed professional camera and just don’t want to think about how to manually set your camera for great photos, I think the Sony Alpha SLT A77 is a good camera.

+ Adjustable LCD display is great at many angles, especially when raising the camera up high
+ 24 megapixels, lots of pixels to use for cropping
+ Love the EVF, because I didn’t have to take my eyes off the view-finder while reviewing my photos
+ Body and grip are well-balanced and well-fitting
– The EVF could have performed better in low-light conditions
– Photos taken above ISO 800-1600 become obviously noisy in low-light conditions (hopefully it’s fixed in the final build)
– Couldn’t take more than 5-7 minutes videos due to overheating

Photos from SingTel Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix

Here are some of the photos I took at the SingTel Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, using the Sony Alpha SLT A77 together with 70-200mm Sony lenses with F/2.8 and 300mm Sony prime lenses with F/2.8.

[coolEye search=SingTelFormula1SingaporeGrandPrix how=album puser=114930105671090223466 source=picasa rows=1]

About Justin Lee

4 comments

  1. Thank you Justin for your review.
    – Do you know if the Alpha 77 is now available in S’pore and where we can get it.
    – Is the package lens the 16-50mm F2.8?
    – Do you have any idea of the price?
    Thanks for your help.
    Claude Berger
    Bangkok
    clberger33@me.com

  2. Thanks for your review i have a55 so i know that overheating problems. I use a55 special for video shooting but is immposible to make a longer video. I buy a NEX cam is better solutions for video then Sony DSL, with same chip inside.

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