The new Sony Alpha A65 is the "little brother" to the Sony Alpha A77. The cameras feature built-in GPS and as per usual with the Sony Alpha range of Digital SLR / SLTs all feature built in "anti-shake" / Super steady shot sensors, as a continuation of the Konica Minolta DSLR heritage.
The Sony Alpha A65 features a 24.3 megapixel APS-C sized sensor that is shared with the Sony Alpha A77 and Sony NEX-7. Full HD video with continuous auto focus is also available. 10fps shooting is possible at the full 24.3 megapixel resolution with continuous auto focus, while 12fps shooting is possible with the A77.
Sony Alpha A65 Features
The A65 sits under the top of the Alpha SLT range A77, with the A65 above the A55, and the recently new A35 the entry level model.
Both the A65 and A77 share a lot of features such as the high resolution 24.3 megapixel sensor, high speed shooting, high resolution OLED viewfinder, and lens shading and aberration compensation but they also differ in a number of ways. Here's a table showing the main differences between the two new models:
1/250 flash sync speed, wireless (IR transmitter),
Front / Rear dials / AF dial, rear joypad, and other buttons
Not vertical grip compatible
Vertical grip compatible
No top LCD
Top LCD (illuminated)
Tilting / rotating rear screen
Tilting / Rotating / Floating rear screen
510 Battery Rating
470 Battery Rating
18-55 SAM Kit lens
16-50mm SSM Kit lens
Size 132.1 x 97.5 x 80.7mm
Size 142.6 x 104 x 80.9mm
Price: £799 Body Only
Price: £1149 Body Only
Sony Alpha SLT-A65 Mirror
Sony Alpha A65 Handling
Build Quality: With a rubber hand grip that is contoured to the shape of your hand and a large thumb grip on the back, the A65 feels good to hold and it's possible to get a firm one or two handed grip of the camera. The A65 feels solidly built but without the magnesium alloy body isn't as reassuringly solid as the A77.
Electronic viewfinder (electronic level)
The new OLED EVF: The A77, A65, NEX-7 and NEX-5N EVF all use a new OLED electronic viewfinder developed by Sony, with a 2.359 million DOT resolution. The new OLED technology, compared to traditional LCD EVFs, does not show chromatic aberrations at the pixel level, as the pixel level does not have to show RGB at each level, while traditional EVF do (for example, the Sony OLED can leave red and green off, if it only needs to show blue). The camera has an eye-sensor that will automatically switch to the EVF when your eye is near it, however it is quite sensitive and switches quite often.
Sony Alpha SLT-A65
Menu System: The menu system is well laid out with the menus starting with photo options and then spread over a number of pages are the playback, setup and more advanced options. As the camera has a number of external controls you rarely needed to access the menus, but when you do it is easy to find the settings you want.
Controls: The A65 provides good access to the majority of controls, making it easy to set ISO, exposure and other settings, with the Fn button providing access to a large number of controls on the back live view screen.
Sony Alpha SLT-A65 Battery
Battery Life: With 510 shots per battery charge (CIPA rating, viewfinder, 560, LCD), we were able to take over 500 shots before the battery went flat.
Speed - We tested each camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot to shot time, continuous shooting etc and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average, so that consistent results were produced, we also made sure to test all the cameras at the same time to ensure the cameras were being tested under the same conditions.
*10fps mode dial. The camera has extremely fast focusing and shutter response and combined with the extremely quick continuous shooting mode this camera is extremely rapid in operation, only slowing down when you want to use the flash.
Despite using a standard kit lens, the telephoto end of the lens lets you get close to the subject and can produce good macro results. In combination with the 24.3 megapixel sensor the camera resolves a lot of detail in the photo of the wasp above. This can then be cropped showing impressive levels of detail.
Sony Alpha SLT-A65 Lens test images
There is some purple fringing visible in the photo of the trees. The lens gives good wide-angle performance, with slight softening in the far corners and noticeable barrel distortion (distortion correction can be switched on in the camera). The lens performs well at the telephoto end and is free from pincushion distortion. The lens gives good macro performance for a kit lens.
Sony Alpha SLT-A65 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - ISO100 to ISO400 show low noise from JPEG images. At ISO800 noise starts to become more apparent. At ISO1600 noise grain appears to be very similar, but chroma noise increases. ISO3200 noise grain increases, but still produces usable images. ISO6400, shows a strong increase in noise with noticeable degradation in detail. ISO12800 and ISO16000 show stronger noise again with areas of colour becoming blurred and losing edge detail, particularly in darker colours and these two last ISO settings would be best used resized. Long exposure NR can be switched off, and there are three settings for High ISO NR: High, Normal, Low.
Sony Alpha SLT-A65 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Warm under tungsten / incandescent lighting, better results using the preset. The auto white balance does a better job under fluorescent lighting, although the image is still warm. The fluorescent preset gives a better image, but is a little too cool.
Panoramic - 1/200 sec | f/9.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100 - The camera will automatically stitch together panoramic photos and has a 3D panoramic mode for viewing on a compatible 3DTV.
Sony Alpha SLT-A65 Digital filters
Digital Filters - The camera offers a wide range of picture effects and creative styles, a number of the picture effects are shown above. The creative styles let you setup and customise contrast, saturation, sharpness.
Video Sample - The camera records Full HD video, with continuous auto focus available while recording. Wind noise reduction and optical steady shot is available as well as a number of compression options, including AVCHD, MP4, 50i, 50p, 25p. ISO can be set to a maximum of ISO1600 for video recording.
Value For Money: The Sony Alpha A65 is available for £775 with 18-55mm kit lens, while the A77 is £1650 with 16-50mm lens (or £1099 body only), alternatives available include the 21.1 megapixel Canon EOS 5D Mk II, £1500 body only, 21.9 megapixel Canon EOS 1DS Mark III, 24.5 megapixel Nikon D3x, other alternatives from the compact system camera family with high resolution include the 20.3 megapixel Samsung NX200 £499 and 24.3 megapixel Sony NEX-7 £1200.
Sony Alpha A65 Verdict
For a similar price to mid-entry level cameras from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, instead of a 16-18 megapixel camera and 7fps shooting, you can get a 24.3 megapixel camera with 10fps shooting, built in anti-shake sensor, GPS and electronic level. What you also get with the Sony Alpha A65 with the translucent mirror is extremely quick live view and focusing.
I started this review by asking whether this camera could be the bargain Digital SLR of the year, and in many ways the camera out performs every other SLR available at this price, and for this reason I think it is in fact the case that this camera is the Digital SLR bargain of the year. It will be difficult for other companies to offer this level of features and performance at a similar price point.
The camera has good battery life, and although there is no optical viewfinder with SLT cameras, the new OLED EVF is simply stunning and makes the view through the camera look excellent. Although it is difficult to show on the web, it would be well worth viewing for yourself if you still have doubts about switching from an optical viewfinder to an electronic viewfinder. Highly Recommended.
The Sony Alpha A65 is an excellent camera with impressive speed and image quality at a great price.
Sony Alpha A65 Pros:
Built in GPS
Extremely fast performance
Stunning OLED EVF (has to be seen to be believed)
Excellent image quality
Info-lithium battery lets you know exactly how much battery life is left
Continuous focus during videos
Sony Alpha A65 Cons:
Some JPEG artefacts visible when shooting JPEG
Can not upgrade to a battery grip with the A65