The Sony SLT-A77 is the long-awaited replacement for the DSLR-A700, Sony’s previous ‘semi-pro’ DSLR. The A77, of course, isn’t actually a DSLR (Sony doesn’t make them any more), despite looking and handling very much like one. Instead it’s an SLT camera with no pentaprism and no moving mirror, these bits being replaced by a translucent mirror and electronic viewfinder.

Sony A77 – sharp shooting

This setup means it can autofocus scorchingly fast, shoot continuous stills at up to 12fps and features barely any shutter lag: press the button and the photo is taken 50msec later. The electronic viewfinder used to be the inevitable downside, but the A77’s is by far the best we’ve ever seen: its huge OLED image is sharp, contrasty and lag-free. We barely noticed that it was electronic rather than optical.

Sony A77 – build and design

Aside from its SLT-derived talents, the A77 feels every bit the enthusiast-friendly camera. Its body is fashioned from tough magnesium alloy, its rotating, tilting screen is beautifully clear and detailed and there’s a truly dizzying array of shooting options at the user’s fingertips – far more than we have space to go through here.

Sony A77 – video skills

As well as the standard manual and priority shooting modes you can capture buttery smooth video at 1080p (with full control over almost every conceivable aspect) as well as sweep panoramas, idiot-proof HDR shots and astoundingly noise-free low light photos. In-body image stabilisation means any attached lens is given anti-shake assistance, while GPS geotags every shot with location data. There’s also a level indicator – an electronic spirit level if you like – to help you shoot straight. Autofocus is as accurate and speedy as a sniper, and tracks moving subjects just as well.

Sony A77 – image quality

And image quality? Well, the 24.3-megapixel shots turned out by the A77 are superb. There’s accurate colour reproduction, fantastic levels of detail and very low levels of noise, even at higher ISOs. And the ISO goes all the way up to 16000, letting you shoot in truly gloomy conditions and still achieve sharp, usable results.

Sony A77 – lenses

The camera is available with a new 16-50mm zoom lens that maintains its maximum F2.8 aperture at any focal length. It’s heavy but focuses near silently and is of a high enough quality to make the ideal partner for this most classy of cameras. We also used it with 90mm macro and 70-300mm zoom lenses and got some great shots and video out of those.

Sony A77 – verdict

If you already own some Sony A mount lenses and accessories and are looking to trade your existing body for a top quality camera, the A77 is your man. We were wary about its use of an electronic viewfinder, but needn’t have worried – it’s almost up to the level of the very best optical viewfinders we’ve used. All in all, this is a top notch DLSR-esque camera that won’t ever let you down.

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Sony Alpha SLT-A77 review

Sony's A77 is an enthusiast’s dream that can kick it with Canon and Nikon’s DSLR equivalents