Though it's actually lighter than its competitors, the A77V is still a relatively heavy camera, especially when equipped with the also-heavy 16-50mm lens. It's sturdily built: the body is dust- and weather-resistant, with a magnesium alloy chassis and a competitive 150,000-cycle rating for the shutter.
As per Sony's usual design, the mode dial sits on the left shoulder. It has the usual selection of manual, semimanual, and automatic modes, plus a Memory Recall (MR) mode that holds three custom settings; dedicated movie mode, which allows manual adjustment of aperture and shutter speed; Continuous Advance Priority autoexposure mode, which fixes the exposure for a 12fps burst; and Sweep and 3D Sweep Panorama.
On the top right are direct-access controls for ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, white balance, and burst modes, plus a somewhat awkwardly placed button for switching manually between the EVF and LCD. In the center are the excellent built-in stereo microphone and hot shoe. The shutter button has a soft, but not mushy, feel and it's easy to get used to the smoothness of no reflex mirror bouncing while you shoot. Almost of the back controls are reachable via your right thumb. The most important ones--AF/MF override, AE lock, movie record, quick adjustment menu access (Fn), and the navigation joystick--are positioned for easy reach without contortions. Ports and connectors include flash sync and wired remote terminals, a mic jack, and HDMI and USB.
Maybe it's my lack of gaming experience, but I find most joystick navigation controls on cameras awkward and imprecise to use. I've gotten used to them on some cameras, but I never really enjoy using them. The A77V's is no exception. That said, it's functional and I didn't find it excessively profanity-inducing. The placement of the preview button, just below the lens on the right side, is curseworthly, however. I accidentally press it on a regular basis, not while I'm shooting, but while I'm just holding the camera at my side. The focus-mode dial offers manual, single, continuous, and automatic AF options; it's large and prominently placed on the front left of the body, but difficult to operate without looking at it.
I have a love/less-love relationship with the EVF and LCD. The EVF is delightfully large and magnified compared with its dSLR competitors, and this type of electronic-level readout is the most effective I've ever used. It refreshes fast enough for comfortable continuous shooting as well. For the LCD, Sony created a fairly complex mechanism to enable its LCD to tilt as well as swivel. It's really useful, though I can never get it into the position I want quickly because of all the different twists and turns.
However, the OLED screens are almost too good. While the technology makes for great TVs because of the super blacks, they make every scene look higher-contrast than it is and saturate the colors almost surrealistically. Plus, the EVF and LCD don't match each other. We're getting to the point where we really need some gamma and color controls, plus possibly calibration tools, for the displays.
As for features, Sony doesn't provide lots of bells and whistles--the GPS for geotagging is probably the whizziest, along with the ability to register up to eight faces for face recognition--but it has an excellent, subtle set of useful capabilities. For instance, you can perform exposure bracketing in either a continuous burst or shot-by-shot, with up to a five-shot bracket. It offers +/- 5 stops of exposure compensation, as well as Sony's three-shot Auto HDR. For manual focusing it supplies peaking.
It's got some annoying quirks and feature lapses, but the Sony Alpha SLT-A77V is a fast, fluid, fun-to-shoot camera that delivers excellent photos and better-than-competing-dSLR video.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||JPEG shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim light)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)