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Sony Alpha A37 DSLR / SLT Review

Sony Alpha A37 DSLR / SLT Review - Joshua Waller reviews the new Sony Alpha A37 - the latest entry level Digital SLR / SLT from Sony with translucent mirror and high speed continuous shooting.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Sony Alpha A37
Price : £9
Rating :
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Sony Alpha A57 Body And Lens
The Sony Alpha A37 replaces the A35 and differentiates itself from the A35 by featuring a tilting screen, a higher resolution viewfinder, high speed 7fps shooting (at reduced resolution) with continuous focusing thanks to the translucent mirror technology.

Sony Alpha A57 Body

Sony Alpha A37 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 A37 Body And Lens

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 A57 Body And Lens

Key Features

  • 16.2 megapixel APS-C Sensor (23.5 x 15.6mm)
  • Alpha A Lens Mount (Konica Minolta Alpha)
  • 2.7inch screen, 230k dots
  • Electronic viewfinder, 1.44 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 A37 Handling


Sony Alpha A57 Body

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 A57 Body And Lens

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 A57 Body And Lens

Battery Life - CIPA rating 450 shots using the LCD, or up to 500 shots with the EVF. We managed to take over 500 shots with the battery life still showing as having 50% 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 A57 Body

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.

  Sony Alpha A37 Sony Alpha A35
Shutter Response <0.05 0.1
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.15 0.15
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.15 0.15
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.9 0.7
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.5 1.2
Shot to Shot with Flash 0.8 1.5
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
6fps (11 shots) 5.5fps (11 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 0.7s 1.2s (~)
Continuous Shooting - RAW 6fps (7 shots) 5fps (6 shots)

Focusing and continuous shooting are very good. The camera will shoot at 7fps with continuous focusing on the tele-zoom setting (8.4mp) cropped (1.4x), or 6fps shooting full size images. Switch on time is excellent. Shot to shot is good, although slower with flash.

Sony Alpha A37 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 A37 Sample Photos


Great skin tones in the portrait photo with flash, and very little to no red-eye. Good detail across the image, with no signs of distortion or blur in the corners, and bright punchy images. Although the camera did struggle with studio lighting with auto white balance, so they use of manual white balance would be beneficial in this situation.

Sony Alpha A37 Lens test images


Trees show fairly low purple fringing with the 18-55mm lens, and it wasn't noticed in other shots. There was some barrel distortion at the wide angle setting with the 18-55mm lens, but this wasn't noticed in general shots, and the lens performs well for a kit lens showing good levels of detail.

The 18-55mm gives good macro performance when used at the telephoto end. 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 A37 ISO test images


ISO Noise performance: At ISO100, ISO200, and ISO400 the camera shows 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, with a decrease in image quality, but should provide usable images at full size. At ISO12800 you may want to use additional noise reduction or resize the images as noise increase and image quality suffers. ISO16000 is best avoided and shows the highest levels of noise.

Sony Alpha A37 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 fluorescent presets can be customised to be warmer or cooler.

Sony Alpha A37 Other sample images


DRO / HDR options: Dynamic Range Optimisation (DRO) takes one photo and adjusts the levels to bring out more detail in shadow areas. High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode takes three photos at different exposures and automatically combines them in camera to produce images with extended dynamic range.  DRO can be set to auto or Level 1 to 5 depending on how strong you want the effect to be. Similarly HDR can be set to auto or EV1 to 6 giving you control over the effect.

Sony Alpha A37 Panoramic Standard DSC00505 | 1/200 sec | f/10.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
Panoramic Standard | 1/200 sec | f/10.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100 - Panoramic mode allows both vertical and horizontal panoramics. Options are wide or standard, depending on how much you want to capture.

Sony Alpha A37 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 £419 with 18-55mm kit lens, the Sony Alpha A37 offers excellent value for money, this prices it only slightly above other entry level Digital SLRs by about £20, compared to the Nikon D3100 (Full HD Video) and Pentax K-r (6fps shooting), and roughly £160 below the Nikon D5100 and Canon EOS 600D.

Sony Alpha A37 Verdict

The Sony Alpha A37 adds a tilting screen compared to the A35, although unfortunately it's smaller and a lower resolution than the A35 - this is partially made up for by the increase in viewfinder resolution, which is now 1.44million dots.

The Sony Alpha A37 is an extremely capable Digital SLR / SLT that produces excellent images with bright saturated colour and very good detail. The camera may have a few short comings, and it's a shame that the high speed shooting mode is cropped to 8.4 megapixels, instead of shooting at the full resolution, however the quick focusing and excellent value for money quickly make up for this. The camera has an abundance of features, including built in image stabilisation, Full HD video with stereo sound and a microphone socket, as well as a tilting screen - features not normally seen on budget DSLRs.

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 its favour as well by making the camera easy to pick up and take with you. The Sony Alpha A37 delivers excellent images with low noise and great colour making it a brilliant choice for anyone looking for a fast compact Digital SLR.

The Sony Alpha A37 is a great budget Digital SLR with features and performance well beyond what's expected.

Sony Alpha A37 Pros

Excellent image quality
Excellent value for money
High speed shooting and focus
Compact for a DSLR/SLT
Full HD Video
Steadyshot inside
Excellent ISO performance, low noise
Good handling
Improved resolution viewfinder
Microphone socket
Good battery life
Tilting screen

Sony Alpha A37 Cons

Lens hood not provided with 18-55mm lens
Low resolution 2.7 inch screen
Non-standard flash hot-shoe

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Sony Alpha A37 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 Monitor2.7in
Screen resolution230k dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Face Detection
  • Spot
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
Metering
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
  • Centre-weighted - Average
ISO sensitivity100 - 16000
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Bracket
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting7fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080
  • 640x480 VGA
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 Rating450
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 A37K, DT18-55mm Zoom lens with Lens cap.
Dimensions
Weight506g
Width124.4mm
Height92mm
Depth84.7mm

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Photographs taken using the Sony Alpha A37

Chloe @ Kellie's CastleThe ChildrenToyota MR2 MK2 1990SPINBALL In action (Green)Up and OverIn a spinA1 Stevenage SpeedSPINBALL In actionI See you...Don't lose your head...Forgot the anti-wrinkle cream again...We're tired, Mum!Why did the rhino cross the road?View from Stanley Park IV, Vancouver BCMacro Shot - Green Leaf IV
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Comments


Fred_Bear 11 24 United Kingdom
25 Jul 2012 4:54PM
No GPS so I will stick with my A55, I find it really useful when I get my holiday photos home or have been out in the country.

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kodachrome 2 473
6 Sep 2012 3:59PM
Josh

Excellent review and pretty amazing camera for the price. I think it has better user control and direct action buttons than the Nikon D5100 and better placed as well. What is your opinion on the over agressive noise control affecting definition and sharpness, or is this only detectable at higher ISO ? if so where would you think it starts to appear. Were you concerned that there was very little user adjustment over noise control which seems to be a common feature on all Sony SLT and NEX cameras.

Thanks
3 Jan 2013 7:15PM
I absolutely agree with Josh that this is an amazing little camera. Finally a really small DSLR (allright, SLT) with a proper grip, pretty full specs and everything important accessible by direct buttons, and most of the rest via the function menu (except for quality - a strange omission, Sony!). Well built too, it feels neither cheap nor restricted, unlike certain other manufacturers' entry level offeringsWink.
One thing that kept me from considering sony until this was the EVF, but it is actually very good, and once you get used to all that information in the viewfinder a DSLR seems quite obsolete. So much in fact that I sold all my nikon gear, and bougt another sony, an a65. A very good camera too, but I like the a37 better, except for when I really need that high res., or the larger buffer.
Another thing that kept me off was the violent sony noise reduction. And I must say, even at low ISO and low nr jpegs look somewhat overprocessed at 100%, and very much so at high ISO. However, that heavy handed noise reduction also means that small and medium sized prints (or even pretty large ones at low ISOs), and any web sizes, look extremely sharp and smooth. I don't know if that's what sony intended, but it suits me fine because that's all I ever use jpegs for, anything larger I always process from RAW files anyway, the a37 producing some of the best ones off a 16MP sensor that I have seen.
Oh yes, I almost forgot - I also bought this camera for the video, which is excellent, and easy to use because of the flip-out display.
kodachrome 2 473
8 May 2013 5:06PM
I know this comment is a bit late in the day, but I should have mentioned my thoughts on the published test pictures. The high resolution shot of Thorsby Hall is quite honestly the best shot I have ever seen from any camera. Just 'crop' the brickwork and see that they remain clear and well out lined. The balance of colours from grass to sky are just spectacular without being over the top and all this with the basic kit lens. The Pop art picture of the hall is equally spectacular and my hat is off to Sony and our reviewer for giving us a superb set of test pictures. I've seen worse pictures on 1000 + cameras.
Can't wait for the rumoured mirrorless Alpha mount bodies next year.

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