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I had a MILC (mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras) fujifilm camera for six years. When it gave up on life i went into my local camera shop to figure out what to replace it with. The Sony Alpha A55V had just game out that week and i was so impressed i bought it on the spot. Was more that i was thinking of paying but is so worth the money. Time magazine named the camera as one of the top 50 inventions of 2010.
Please bear in mind that I'm not a camera genius, this is not a complete technical review.
This camera is technically a SLT (Single-Lens Translucent) camera. SLT was devised by sony when they introduced this camera range. What's the difference? Full SLR's (single-lens reflex) do not have a digital view-finder that this camera does, they have a view-finder which allows the user to directly view the optical image generated by the lens. The image shown on an A55 is based upon sensor information from the camera rather that a raw 'as is' image. This camera does have an advantage over SLR's though as it uses something called phase-detection autofocus all the time, including during video recording, which is more reliable and faster than SLR cameras. The A55 does not have a moveable mirror built into it like SLR's, it's mirror is fixed, but this is what makes phase-detection autofocus work (Something to do with allowing light to pass through so that some can be reflected on the phase-detection autofocus sensor). Once the technically stuff is out of the way, in terms of what i want the camera for the above information to me is not a problem. The image i see through the viewfinder is the same as the image i get when i put in on my computer and i can still use interchangeable lenses.
The mega-pixels of the camera is determined by the settings you choose based on a combination of image size:
Large - 16M
Medium - 8.4M
Small - 4.0M
You can also change the image quality between Fine ans Standard, however standard compresses the image so you lose some quality. You can also select just the RAW image which just records the sensor data and RAW and JPEG which gives you both the Fine quality photo as well as the RAW file. From what i understand the RAW file allows more options to manipulate the photo after. I have used the RAW and JPEG option for some photos so that i have RAW files to use once I've figured out what to do with them but it does slow the camera down. You can also change the ratio for photos from the standard 3:2 for ordinary prints to 16:9 which is good if you want to view your photos on a widescreen tv.
The camera is capable of 10 fps (frames per second) high-speed continuous shooting. It has a called Translucent Mirror Technology which makes it possible to take very fast photos without losing much quality. Photos are still precise and well focused. It's excellent for things like sport and i got some great images of Soccer Aid recently. I also like to take natural rather than posed photos of people and this is great for that as catches the tiny nuances of facial changes. It does sound a bit like a machine gun when you hold your finger down during continuous shooting mode but you do get ten photos a second (If you are like me you'll end up with hundreds of photos of the same thing so i use cheap 32gb memory cards).
~Ease of use~
The camera is really easy to use, even for a novice (Like me). The menu's all have little messages that show up when you hover over an option telling you what it does. It explains everything for you and I've found it to be a really useful learning tool as well as a camera. I am planning on going on a photography course at some point to learn the technical stuff but in spite of my ineptness the camera can still take amazing photos and it's very easy to use. It does have the functionality of most SLR's though so it will support me as my knowledge of photography grows.
The eleven shooting options are (As far as i know aperture is what is in focus and and what is blurred and shutter speed controls the amount of movement in the photo but please correct me if I'm wrong):
Auto - Is what it says, automatically selects the settings that it things is best for what you are doing.
Auto+ - The setting i use most. It does automatic scene detection (Don't ask me how) so it knows when to change from landscape, to backlit, to macro, to night time and so on. You can also do continuous shooting in this mode.
Scene Selection - can choose a specific type type of environment. It includes portrait, sport, macro, landscape, sunset, night view, hand-held twilight and night portrait.
Flash off - Is the same as auto but keeps the flash turned off. Is great for when you're in places where a flash is restricted.
Sweep Shooting - This is a brilliant option. It allows you to do 3D or normal panoramic shots that it pieces together effortlessly and seamlessly (No more having to take lots of different shots and use software to stick them together). You can change the direction that you move the camera (up, down, left or right) and have two options in sizes. I have gooten some really good photos using this option and if you want to have run get someone to run in an arch along with the camera, you get lots of that person moving along the shot.
Continuous Shooting - Back to the 10 photos a second thing but with a lot more setting control. Again, if you want to play around with settings it explains them all for you.
Manual Exposure - Adjust aperture and shutter speed (Bit beyond me until i do my photography course)
Shutter Priority - Adjust the shutter speed.
Aperture Priority - Adjust the aperture.
Program auto - Automatically sets aperture and shutter speed but all other settings are programable.
It really does depend on usage. I spent most of today taking photos but not always continuosly and my battery is still around 50%. One battery will do you for general use but if you're going to be doing contuos shooting and video, etc, you will need another battery. The camera uses Sony's own battery (The camera comes both with a battery and a charger) which is a pain as you can't jusrt grab some double AA's whilst your out but i found a replica battery on play.com for £10. I keep them both charged up when the camera is not in use and I've never had a problem with both batteries dying whilst i'm out (And i take a lot of photos).
My camera came with the 18-55mm SAM lens, which is great for people shots and lanscape and can zoom a little but is not great at this. It is really good if you want to capture a lot of the landscape and is really light and does all the basics. I have also purchased the 55-200 SAM lens (Around £100) which allows you to zoom in a lot more and is great for close ups from a distance.
I have taken some amazing videos with my camera and it's quality is better than a lot of video cameras I've seen. You can change the video output from AVCHD (TV) to MP4 (Computer) and have two options for movie size.
The camera does not have any internal memory. It takes SD cards and i've used ones up to 32gb without any issues.
*In-body stabilization - Which works really well. I don't have steady hands (Especially now with tremors) which has always been a problem with other cameras.
*The Camera knows where you're looking - If you move your eye to the viewfinder the LCD display turns off and the viewfinder comes one. The same happens in reverse when you move your eye away. If your picture on the LCD screen disappears check that your finger or strap isn't covering the viewfinder.
*The LCD screen - It can tilt and swivel giving much more than the average viewing angles. It can also twist completely so you can view what the camera sees when you do that thing where you hold the camera in front of you to get shots (There's not always a random stranger around to take the photo).
*Remote control - I bought one for a couple of pounds on Amazon and can take one shot or two shots, but functionality will depend on the one you get. The camera works really well with the remote.
*GPS tracking feature - I've only recently discovered this feature so i haven't used it much. You can import GPS information for each photo if you connect your camera to a computer via the USB cable supplied (I generally just take out the SD card and get the photos that way so I've missed this option in the past.
*it feels nice when you're holding it and you can easily walk around with it on the strap (Provided) around your neck with too much discomfort.
~The Technical Stuff~
Type Single-lens translucent camera / DSLR
Sensor APS-C CMOS Sensor
Maximum resolution 16.2 megapixels
Lens Interchangeable, A-mount
Flash GN 10 at ISO 100
Shutter Electronically controlled, Vertical-traverse, Focal-plane Shutter
Shutter speed range 30 - 1/4000 sec, bulb
Exposure metering TTL full aperture exposure metering system
Exposure modes Programmed AE (AUTO, AUTO - Flash Off, P), Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Scene selection
Metering modes Multi-segment, Centre-weighted, Spot
Focus areas 15-point (12 line, 3 cross) phase-detection AF system
Focus modes Single-shot AF, Automatic AF, Continuous AF, Manual Focus
Continuous shooting 10 FPS / 6 FPS
Viewfinder EVF, 100% coverage, 1.10× magnification
ASA/ISO range ISO equivalency 100 to 12,800 in 1.0 EV steps, boost to 25,600 in Multi-Frame Noise Reduction mode
Custom WB Auto / 6 presets / Colour Temperature/Colour Filter / Custom WB
Rear LCD monitor 3.0" TFT LCD, 921k dot resolution, variable-angle tilt/swivel
Storage SD/SDHC/SDXC/Memory Stick Pro Duo
Battery NP-FW50 Lithium-ion battery rechargeable battery
Dimensions 124 × 92 × 85 mm
Weight 441 g (15.6 oz)
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.