Features Handling Performance Verdict Specification
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 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.
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.
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)
ISO100 - ISO12800
Remote socket / Microphone socket
Multiframe Noise reduction (upto ISO25600)
Sony Alpha A37 Handling
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Excellent ISO performance, low noise
Improved resolution viewfinder
Good battery life
Sony Alpha A37 Cons
Lens hood not provided with 18-55mm lens
Low resolution 2.7 inch screen
Non-standard flash hot-shoe