BY CHONG JINN XIUNGbytz@thestar.com.my
It may be small but the Alpha SLT-A35 is an entry-level DSLR that's packed with features.
SONY'S latest entry-level DSLR, the Alpha SLT-A35, is the size of an ultra-zoom compact camera but features a larger 16.2-megapixel sensor.
It's designed to look like a classic Alpha camera with a predominantly black body with a slight splash of orange around the base of the lens mount.
The A35 also has nicely shaped rubberised grips that make it easy to hold the camera comfortably.
For composing shots, the camera has an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a 3in LCD. A dedicated button makes it easy to switch between the two modes.
However, we missed the articulated display found on the A33 and A55 which is handy for snapping photos at high and low angles.
Like other Alpha cameras, the A35 features a number of effects. The newest one is the Picture Effect mode which was first featured on the NEX-C3.
Picture Effect has fun filters like selective-colours, posterising, pop art and toy camera for stylising pictures. However, unlike the NEX-C3, the effects can't be layered on top of one another.
The Auto HDR effect simulates a high dynamic range shot by taking three photos in quick succession while the Handheld Twilight combines six exposures into a single noiseless image and is best used at night.
There's also the self-explanatory sweep panorama mode which works both vertically and horizontally.
Also, the modes work faster now which makes it more effective.
The camera features an improved 16.2-megapixel EXMOR APS-C CMOS sensor just like the NEX-C3. It also retains the 15-point autofocus sensor of its predecessor.
Sony's Translucent Mirror design allows the A35 to autofocus incredibly fast when shooting both still photos and videos in Live View. We found it exceptionally useful for snapping moving subjects during events.
The camera's EVF is nowhere nearly as good as a traditional optical viewfinder but images appear sharp and with high contrast.
The EVF's image quality is the same as the 3in screen and suffers from the "jelly effect" when the camera is panned too fast.
Performance wise, the A35 is a speedy little camera that's ready to shoot in just under a second the moment you flick the power switch on.
For an entry-level camera, the A35's standard continuous shooting speed of 5fps is better than most other cameras and is ideal for capturing moving subjects. The speed can be bumped up to 7fps although this will reduce the image resolution to 8-megapixels.
The A35 has a relatively wide ISO range of 100 to 12,800.
The high ISO sensitivity definitely helps when you want to record HD videos in dimly-lit environments.
Pictures are mostly noise free up to ISO 400. Noise starts creeping in at ISO 800 and the images become quite noisy and soft at 1,600. We wouldn't recommend shooting above ISO 1,600.
On the whole, the A35's ISO performance is not as good as a mid-range DSLR.
In terms of battery life, we managed to shoot about 400 still photos and a few videos on a single charge.
Nowadays video recording is equally important as capturing still photos for most DSLR owners. Sony is on the right track - it has included a dedicated movie button on the A35 which makes it easy to record at a moment's notice.
The A35 can record 1080i videos in AVCHD format and at a slightly reduced resolution of 1,440 x 1,080-pixels in MP4.
The continuous autofocus is lightning fast and is almost on par with a camcorder.
It easily switches focus between background and foreground when recording moving scenes.
Unfortunately, the lens motor is so loud that it can be heard during playback.
It's no surprise the AVCHD quality videos looked more detailed and sharp than the MP4 videos we shot.
It is cool that you can apply the same picture effects available for still photos to videos as well to give each of them a different look and feel.
Surprisingly, for an entry level camera it has a microphone input on the side which is better for recording sound.
Another plus is that the audio is recorded in stereo. However, there's no easy way to mount a microphone as the A35 uses a proprietary hotshoe.
The Sony Alpha SLT-A35 is a compact and light DSLR with plenty of features. It has a fast autofocus, decent continuous shooting capability and lots of modes.
Modes such as Auto HDR, Handheld Twilight, Picture Effect and Sweep Panorama will appeal particularly to beginners.
The camera is also good for recording HD movies. Its continuous autofocus is fast and accurate, and there are plenty effects for spicing up the videos.
However, the camera is let down by poor ISO performance - there are visible noise and softness starting at ISO 800.
Also, it's also not a huge upgrade from the previous model and has lost one handy feature - an articulated screen.
Nevertheless, the Sony Alpha SLT-A35 is a compact DLSR that has enough functions to appeal to both beginners and seasoned photographers.
Pros: Compact and lightweight; 5fps continuous shooting mode; fun effects; 1080i HD video recording.
Cons: Unimpressive ISO performance; fixed screen; noisy autofocus motor.
SENSOR: 16.2-megapixels (4,912 x 3,264-pixels)
VIEWFINDER: Electronic view finder, 3in LCD (921,000 dots)
LENS: 18-55mm (35mm equivalent) f/3.5 (wide) - f/5.6 (telephoto)
SHUTTER SPEED: 1/4,000sec - 30sec
ISO RANGE: 100 to 12,800
SHOOTING MODES: Auto, Auto+, Program, Aperture and Shutter Priority, Manual, Sweep Panorama, Scene Modes, Picture Effect, Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority
VIDEO MODE FORMAT: AVCHD (1,920 x 1080i at 25fps), MP4 (1,440 x1080-pixels at 25fps)
INTERFACE: USB 2.0, HDMI mini out, external microphone (3.5mm stereo mini jack)
OTHER FEATURES: Auto HDR, Handheld Twilight, Steadyshot
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D): 124.4 x 92 x 84.7mm
WEIGHT: 433g (body only)
PRICE: RM2,399 (with 18-55mm kit lens)
RATING: 3.5 stars
Review courtesy of company Sony Malaysia Sdn Bhd, 1-300-88-1233