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Sony Alpha A35 SLT / DSLR Review

Sony Alpha A35 SLT / DSLR Review - Joshua Waller reviews the new Sony Alpha A35 SLT / Digital SLR with 16.2 megapixel sensor and 5fps shooting.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Sony Alpha A35
Price : £500
Rating :
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Sony Alpha A35

The Sony Alpha A35 replaces the A33 and differentiates itself from the A33 by featuring a fixed screen (non-tiltable), a higher resolution sensor, high speed 7fps shooting (at reduced resolution) with continuous focusing thanks to the translucent mirror technology.

Sony Alpha A35

Sony Alpha A35 Features

Sony's Translucent Mirror can be seen above - except it can't be seen very easily, as it's not actually translucent, it's actually clear, as in see-through, so a better name would be a transparent mirror, as it's only very slightly reflective (surely if it was translucent it would be producing much lower quality images according to this dictionary definition of translucent: "Allowing light, but not detailed images, to pass through; semitransparent.") The important part to know is that it's slightly reflective and sends an image up to the hole you can just see above the mirror, this is where it focuses the image, letting the rest of the image through to the sensor to take the photo. This means there is no mirror to move out of the way to take the photo, and it also means it can use Digital SLR style phase detection focus while recording videos or taking photos.

Sony Alpha A35

Because there's not the traditional Single-Lens-Reflex (SLR) mirror and the camera is called a Single-Lens-Translucent (SLT) camera, you get a smaller camera, and you don't get an optical viewfinder, you can either use the live view on the back of the screen or view the image through the electronic viewfinder.

Sony Alpha A35

Key Features

  • 16.2 megapixel APS-C Sensor (23.5 x 15.6mm)
  • Alpha A Lens Mount (Konica Minolta Alpha)
  • 3inch screen, 921k dots
  • Electronic viewfinder, 1.15 million dots
  • Full HD video with stereo sound
  • 15 points (3 points cross type)
  • 18-55mm kit lens equivalent to 27-82.5mm
  • 55-200mm kit lens equivalent to 82.5-300mm
  • Shoot at up to 5.5fps, or 7fps in Tele-zoom mode (8.4mp)
  • Preview button
  • ISO100 - ISO12800
  • Remote socket / Microphone socket
  • Multiframe Noise reduction (upto ISO25600)

Sony Alpha A35 Handling


Sony Alpha A35
Sony Alpha A35 - Available as a twin lens kit with the 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 SAM standard kit lens, and 55-200mm f/4-5.6 SAM telephoto zoom lens.

Handling - The camera feels very light compared to a traditional Digital SLR, yet it's got a solid construction and reassuring rubber grip from the back where your thumb rests all the way round to the front where you grip the camera with the rest of your hand. Both the 18-55mm lens and 55-200mm lens have a nice rubber surround around the front of the lens for manual focus. Eye detection viewfinder. The screen on the back can be set to "Sunlight mode" - this sets the screens colours to maximum brightness and saturation giving images an unrealistic look - so it is best avoided. The preview button positioned at the bottom left of the lens is an unexpected feature on an entry level camera. The camera provides a good number of useful buttons including D-Range, Exposure compensation, AEL, and there are a lot easily accessible shortcuts around the 4-way controller with the middle button providing AF check.

Sony Alpha A35
Sony Alpha A35

Menus - The menus are split over several sections with 3 photo screens, 2 config screens, 2 playback screens, 1 memory card screen, 1 clock screen, and 3 setup screens. In the photo taking mode, you can press the Fn (Function) button to get quick access to common settings such as drive mode, flash, autofocus, AF area, face detection, smile shutter, ISO, metering, flash, white balance, DRO / HDR, and creative style with the ability to quickly set the options using the scroll wheel / command dial where your index finger lands.

Sony Alpha A35

Battery Life - CIPA rating 440 shots using the LCD with flash, or up to 480 shots without flash. We managed to take over 420 shots with the battery life still showing as having 24% remaining. Part of the bonus of using Sony cameras is the info-lithium batteries, these show you exactly how much battery life is remaining.

Sony Alpha A35

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras. We have shown the Panasonic Lumix GF3 here as a comparison.


Sony Alpha A35
Panasonic GF3
Shutter Response 0.1 <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response* 0.15
0.2*
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response* 0.15
0.2*
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.7
0.9
Shot to Shot without Flash 1.2
0.6
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.5
1.3
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
5.5fps (11 shots)
4fps (13 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 1.2s (~)
N/A
Continuous Shooting - RAW 5fps (6 shots) 4fps (6 shots)
*Tested with the 18-55mm kit lens at both wide and telephoto.

Focusing and continuous shooting are very good. 7fps. with continuous focusing on the tele-zoom setting (8.4mp) cropped (1.4x), or 5.5fps full size images. Switch on time is excellent. Shot to shot is good, although slower with flash.

Sony Alpha A35 Performance

Here are several sample photos taken in a variety of lighting conditions, click "Hi-Res" to view full size sample photos, there are more sample photos in the equipment database where you can also add your own photos:

Sony Alpha A35 Sample Photos


Great skin tones in the portrait photo with flash, and very little to no red-eye (although the bright flash did cause the subject to blink at times). Good detail across the image, with no signs of distortion or blur in the corners, and bright punchy images.

Sony Alpha A35 Lens test images


The the twin lens kit provides a good level of zoom giving the equivalent of 27mm to 300mm, and the telephoto lens is not much bigger than the 18-55mm lens although it does have a much larger lens hood. Trees show fairly low purple fringing with the 18-55mm lens, and it wasn't noticed in other shots, except perhaps when using the full telephoto zoom of the 55-200mm lens. There was some barrel distortion at the wide angle setting with the 18-55mm lens, but this wasn't noticed in general shots.

The 18-55mm gives good macro performance when used at the telephoto end. The 55-200mm lens less so, although the inclusion of a lens hood for the telephoto lens is welcome. Unfortunately the 18-55mm does not come with a lens hood, which means that flare or ghosting is more likely, and was noticed in some shots.

Sony Alpha A35 ISO test images


ISO Noise performance: ISO200, 400, 800 really low noise, and it's at ISO800 that noise just starts to become noticeable. ISO1600 shows some coloured noise but it is very low so should be very easy to remove if you feel the need. ISO3200 grain is increased but results are very good. ISO6400 shows more noise again, but should provide usable images at full size. It's just at ISO12800 that you may want to use additional noise reduction or resize the images.

Sony Alpha A35 White-balance test images


Auto white balance: AWB produces a warm image under tungsten lighting, and using the tungsten preset produces a more neutral image with good detail. AWB under fluorescent light produces a good result, and the presets can be customised to be warmer or cooler.

Panoramic:
1/250 sec | f/6.3 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100
1/250 sec | f/6.3 | 55.0 mm | ISO 100 (Wide) - allows both vertical and horizontal panoramics. Options are wide or standard, depending on how much you want to capture.

Sony Alpha A35 Digital filters


Digital Filters / Effects: Picture Effect gives you 11 creative modes that let you alter your photos when you take them. The Red/Yellow/Blue/Green highlight modes work best on strong shades of each colour (needing quite bold colours). The camera features 8 scene modes, including a handheld twilight mode that takes a number of shots in quick succession and combines them for a better shot.

Video

Full HD video with stereo sound. The new picture effects can be used on videos with very little or no noticeable drop in frame rate. The video options are: AVCHD 1920x1080, MP4 1440x1080 or VGA.

Value For Money
Priced at £444 (at Warehouse Express) with 18-55mm kit lens, the Sony Alpha A35 offers excellent value for money, this prices it only slightly above other entry level Digital SLRs by about £40, compared to the Nikon D3100 (Full HD Video) and Pentax K-r (6fps shooting), and £160 below the Nikon D5100 and Canon EOS 600D.

Sony Alpha A35 Verdict

With a higher resolution sensor, but lower specification body than the model it replaces (the A33), the A35 should give a more accessible product through a lower price. It's a shame that the 7fps is now at a reduced resolution (8.4mp) whereas the A33 could shoot at 7fps at the full 14 megapixels. 5.5fps is still good at full 16 megapixels, and the camera's ultra fast focusing speed and responsiveness is impressive. Video quality is very good recording full HD video with continuous focus and stereo sound.

Image quality is excellent, and the camera feels great, working as expected with a good number of controls and buttons giving quick access to settings. The camera's small size works in it's favour as well by making the camera easy to pick up and take with you. The Sony Alpha A35 delivers excellent images with low noise and great colour making it a great camera for someone looking for a fast compact Digital SLR (sorry SLT).
The Sony Alpha A35 provides high image quality and excellent speed.

Sony Alpha A35 Pros

Good handling
High speed shooting and focus
Compact for a DSLR/SLT
Full HD Video
Steadyshot inside
Excellent ISO performance, low noise
Printed manual!
Good battery life

Sony Alpha A35 Cons

Lens hood not provided with 18-55mm lens

FEATURES  
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Sony Alpha A35 Specifications

ManufacturerSony
Lens
Effective Magnification1.5x
Image Sensor
CCD pixels16.2Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4912
Pixels (H)3264
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.6mm
Sensor Size (height)15.8mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921k dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Face Detection
  • Spot
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest30sec
Shutter speeds longest4000sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
Metering
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
  • Centre-weighted - Average
ISO sensitivity100 - 12800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Bracket
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting7fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080
Video FPS25
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Interface
HDMIYes
USBUSB 2
Storage
Card Type
  • Memory Stick
  • SD
  • SDHC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeNP-FW50
CIPA Rating440
Box Contents
Box ContentsBattery charger (BC-VW1), Power cord, Rechargeable battery NP-FW50, USB Cable, Shoulder strap, Body cap, Eyecup, CD-ROM, Printed Instruction manual (202 pages), Sony A35K, DT18-55mm Zoom lens with Lens cap.
Dimensions
Weight415g
Width124.4mm
Height92mm
Depth84.7mm

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Photographs taken using the Sony Alpha A35

ParrotLittle River DonLondon at sunriseSinging for the forcesAvaFriendsBy candlelightCadair IdrisDerwent ReservoirTime travelFather and SonJust splashingCatch me if you can!Black Clough WaterfallButterfly
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Comments


7 Oct 2011 5:14PM
Very honest review. Accurate too - having used this camera for almost a month I agree with the findings in all respects. This is an ideal camera to step up to from a compact whilst also satisfying the needs of many more experienced photographers. Very easy to get good results with this unit. Shame about losing the articulated screen from the previous model but there are enough improvements in other areas that more than make up for this. Like the accurate EVF too - one of the best I've come across.

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14 Oct 2011 3:31AM
Thanks for a valuable review. BTW, I believe the mirror transmits 60 or 70 percent. At one time, I knew Sony's spec for the A55 and calculated the loss to the sensor. It came out 0.51 stops. (It's not as simple to calculate as you'd think; it requires a logarithm to base 2.) DxO recently tested the A77 and concluded that the new, high-density sensor gave up very little in signal-to-noise ratio relative to the 16 MP APS-C sensor. The A77's most significant loss of sensitivity was due to the mirror, according to DxO. Assuming that 70 percent is correct, you'd have to crank an 800 ISO up to 1143 to make up the loss of light. It's not a huge hit, and it won't matter most of the time, but the translucent mirror is no free lunch.

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