Tell me about the Sony SLT lineup

Discussion in 'Other Systems' started by Promit, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Real Name:
    Promit Roy
    When I came into the market for a high end camera, I crossed DSLRs off the list due to their lack of really usable live view mode. That eventually wound me up here, which is great and all... but lately the Sony SLT range, specifically the A57, A65 and A77, have caught my eye. Live view cameras, with all of the performance of DSLRs at prices comparable to MFT? Hmmm.

    A couple notes before we continue:
    * I have a GH2 and OMD. I'm not a stranger to the top of the MFT lineup.
    * I've never owned an SLR system of any sort, so the "bulk" everyone talks about here is just hearsay to me. I'm not really sure how much difference it makes.
    * I do a fair bit of video work, and the video aspects of the cameras are important to me. Not sure what lenses are video-usable.
    * I don't really care about imaging performance -- it's stellar all around, I already know. It's stuff like AF and the available lenses that caught my eye.
    * The GH2 is the likely candidate for replacement.

    I'm wondering what your experiences have been with the SLT cameras. Are they fun to work with? Are there any major problems? I've read complaints about things like back-focusing, overheating, and lenses being too noisy for autofocus use in video. On the other hand, the monster burst and AF performance is a big point of interest and f/2.8 constant lenses seem to be readily available for reasonable amounts of money.

    And although imaging performance isn't really a big deal, I am curious to hear about it as well. The DXO high-ISO scores are surprisingly low, maybe due to the pellicle? I'm also not sure how well they do with video, since even Vimeo is fairly low bitrate. I do know that the SLTs have AVCHD 2.0 with 1080p/60, which is very attractive to me -- but not so much if there's AF noise.
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  2. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Real Name:
    I have an a77, 16-50 and 70-200 lenses. I can't speak for the a57 as I've never used one and my experience with the a65 is limited. You should have a look at Kirk Tucks blog. He has a few SLTs.

    The a77 has the best EVF in a current camera, bar none. It's spectacular. It's huge and sunningly bright and clear. Plus the information you can overlay is fantastic. An absolute joy to use. And the LCD is more of the same.

    The lenses I have are very very good. Especially the 16-50. It's at least as good as the Canon 24-70L. Maybe a bit better optically. AF is fast and completely silent, even in video. It's not that much faster than a GH2 with a fast AF lens but it is also very good in CAF mode. I have no front/back focus problems and there is focus adjust available if a lens has issues. Focus peaking is brilliant and works just as you imagine it should. Manual lenses on the a77 (and NEX7) are a dream to use.

    Both the a77 and a65 are significant cameras. The difference in weight and size is very noticable to anything m4/3. I had an OwnUser grip on my GH2 and even then the Sony, without a grip, feels bogger and heavier. The a77 is super comfortable to hold. The grip is great. But it is heavy and eats a camera bag. The a77 and 65 feel far more substantial than the GH2 and more like the OMD. Theyre really solid and there are no creaks and squeaks at all. The Sony has better battery life and a functional accessory grip if that's what you prefer.

    I don't like all of the button placements and I miss the GH2's touch screen for AF point selection. Personally I do prefer the twin dials on the Sony over the push wheel on the GH2. The a77 has a standard 3.5mm Microphone plug. You'll need to check that the lower models have this.

    The alphas have a non standard hot shoe. And although I am finding that flash work is more consistent and easier to work with than my Canon 5D2 and 580exII, you'll still need a hot shoe adaptor to put a microphone on the camera. I got one from eBay that works fine for my studio triggers and as a cold shoe for a Mic. The flash system is significantly better than anything on m4/3, mainly because it's so friggin quick. Because it doesn't read flash exposure off the sensor like m4/3 there's absolutely no delay like m4/3 has and you have far more control over things like flash exposure compensation and fill flash (which mostly just doesn't work on m4/3 due to reading off the sensor). Wireless TTL flash is a doodle to set up and use. Really simple.

    I know you said image quality isn't an issue, but it's one of the main reasons I got the a77. I have no idea what DXO thinks of the a77 and personally I don't care. Sony a77 files stomp all over the GH2 files in every way. Compared to the a77, GH2 files look positively anorexic, they're so thin. You may loose 1/3 of a stop exposure due to the pelicle mirror, but image quality is amazing. Better than my 5D2. Astounding detail. A huge dynamic range and spectacularly clean at low ISOs. And a real ISO50, which I missed. The GH2 always had some noise at base ISO which responded badly to extra sharpening. That's non existent on the a77. And although the a77 is not a high ISO champion it's still a stop or two better than the GH2 even before you equalize the resolution.

    The othe reasons I got the alpha were aspect ratio and lenses. Personally I prefer 3:2 over 4:3 and I always had my GH2 in either 3:2 and 16:9. And the lenses. Finally there's a fast native zoom for m4/3 but a tele equivalent is still at least 6 months away. Plus there are the Zeiss lenses. I have my rangefinder for my primes but I have been tempted by some of those Zeiss native lenses for the Sony. The 135 1.8 is a stunning lens.

    And did I mention how good the EVF is?.....

    From my limited time with it, it seems that the E-M5 is a mini a65. It just needs those fast zooms to be readily available. I'd still give a slight advantage in image quality to the Sony but the Sony is also twice as big and twice as heavy. The lenses are here now for the Alpha and that's what made me get one. It will be a tougher choice when the fast zooms are all here.

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  3. littleMT

    littleMT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 8, 2012
    Real Name:
    Lucille Sanchez
    the A65 is a wonderful camera, I have captured some nice images with it, easy to use, and just great at pitch darkness shots...

    I loves me some 24 megapixel magic..



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  4. robertmwilliams

    robertmwilliams Mu-43 Regular

    I have a SLT-a57 and had a SLT-a33, SLT-a55 and SLT-a65.
    I think the Sony SLT excel at what they are designed to do best, great photo quality with fulltime anytime PDAF coupled with a Gatling gun burst rate.
    If you are interested in shooting video with a DSLR the control you have with the SLT based systems are the way to go.
    Having had both I have to say the a57 has a better noise profile in high iso/low light than the a65 (my bias is detail over noise however so others may disagree).
    However while the EVF on the a57 is better than the a55 was, the EVF on the a65 is world better still.
    I second the previous comments on the benefit of being able to use these cameras with some outstanding and inexpensive Minolta Maxxum AF glass (beercan FTW).
    Having said how much I like the SLT cameras they do have some issues.
    On the a33 and a55 ghosting was an issue for me but this seems to be have been fixed in the 2nd generation SLT cameras (a57, a65 and a77).
    Also there is an impact to low light/high iso due to the light loss from the translucent mirror hitting the sensor.
    That is the reason I just bought a Pentax K30 and am selling my a57.

    Sample shots:
    Dragonfly - Blue Dasher -45 - SLT-A57 - DT 50mm F1.8 SAM by Robert M. Williams (Thanks for 100,000+ views!), on Flickr

    Paper Kite Butterfly - 5 - SLT-A57 - DT 55-200mm F4-5.6 SAM by Robert M. Williams (Thanks for 100,000+ views!), on Flickr

    Durham Museum of Life and Science Shoot - July 07 - 9 - SLT-A57 - 75-300mm F4.5-5.6_ by Robert M. Williams (Thanks for 100,000+ views!), on Flickr

    Dragonfly - Blue Dasher - 5 - SLT-A57 - 75-300mm F4.5-5.6 by Robert M. Williams (Thanks for 100,000+ views!), on Flickr

    More available here :
  5. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    What do you shoot, and in what ways do your current mft cameras limit your ability to get what you want? You talk about "DSLR performance," but don't define what you mean by that. Will the benefits of the SLT cameras (faster burst rate, etc.) resolve those limitations?

    What lenses do you like to shoot with? Are there high quality equivalents for the SLT?

    How much gear to you like to carry around, and how much time do you spend carrying it? The more gear, and the longer you carry it, the more bulk and weight matter. I'd suggest visiting a good store and playing around with a DSLR (if you can't find an SLT, then try equivalent Canons and Nikons -- they'll be about the same size and weight) and, hopefully, similar lenses. Based on my Canon gear, I suspect an A77 and several lenses is a LOT bigger and heavier than your m43 gear.

    FWIW, I don't have any experience with the SLT line, but do have many years of experience with DSLRs, including Canon's mid-range APS-C bodies and their 1D line. I've gotten rid of most, but not all, of my Canon gear. For me, m43 has become good enough that the only times I feel the need to drag out a DSLR is for shooting action (sports, etc.), or moving subjects in dim light.

    C-AF still isn't up to snuff for photographing things like soccer, auto-racing, track & field, fast moving children, etc. Yes, it can be done, and I have done it, but m43 gear limits you in ways that the better DSLRs don't. With m43, I'll generally shoot the action moving parallel to the camera, and pan. With a DSLR, I have more flexibility to shoot the action coming toward me. The EVF isn't quite there, yet, for following action in burst mode. Finder lag makes it much harder to track the action accurately. And shutter lag (the time between when you press the release and the camera captures the image) is still longer on m43 cameras than on good DSLRs. It's not terrible, but it could be better. In dim light, the EVF is a trade-off. The light amplification makes it much easier to see, but the frame rate (in the finder, not the shutter) slows down and the image gets very grainy, and lag as you track moving subjects is even worse than in daylight.

    I prefer my m43 equipment for most things, but like everything else in this world it embodies compromise. As does the SLT. You need to figure out which set of compromises works best for you, or perhaps maintain two systems, as I do.
  6. brutto

    brutto Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 17, 2011
    Thank you Flash for a very helpful post. If the OP doesn't mind I'd be very interested to hear a bit more about how you find the A77 compares to your 5d2. I'm just about to buy a big camera again and I'm down to choosing between a 5d2+24-105 (UKP2,255) and an A77 (UKP1,399). I've owned a 5d2 but the A77 is a bit of an unknown quantity.
  7. gdourado

    gdourado Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 23, 2012
    Lisbon - Portugal

    I have to say the SLT interests me also.
    I really like the fact that sony has the native Zeiss Glass with full Phase Detect AF.
    Great lenses out there like the 16-35; 24-70; 85 1.4; 135 1.8; 24 2.0...
    Also, they technology of semi-translucent mirror and EVF with their 2.4 Mdot OLED finder sounds really great!
    I must say I am kind of hopping for a new Full-Frame SLT, like the rumored SLT A99 to be one hell of a camera! We already know that sony knows how to create great sensors! Combine that with the Zeiss for optics and a full frame SLT sounds like a real winner...
    The size might be the big turn off, but with the rx100 to fit the pocket, a full frame SLT and a rx100 is sounding like a good setup to me...
    Would have to sell all my m43 gear though... ;)

  8. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Real Name:
    I'm another one who's fascinated by the SLT system. Since I already have a Pentax K-5, I already have access to the 16mp sensor that's in the A37 and A57. While I really don't need 24mp, I really love the EVF in the A65 and A77 (same one in both cameras). I could possibly justify an A65 body but I don't know that I want to get into the lenses that its 24mp sensor would demand. That's what's holding me back.

    But, for the OP, I might suggest Promit take a close look at the A37. It has the same sensor (or a mild variation thereof) that's in the Pentax K-5 and Nikon D7000. But the camera is about the size of a GH2. Yes, the APS-C lens will make the overall package a bit larger than the GH2 but not by much - certainly not in a practical sense. The EVF isn't as good as the one in the A65/A77 but it is as good as the one in the GH2.

    I think if one is unsure about the SLT system, the A37 would be an excellent way to find out for sure. It is packaged in a kit with an okay but not fantastic 18-55mm kit zoom. I suggest picking up an A37 body-only for $499 and adding Sony's 35mm f/1.8 pancake prime for $200 or less.
  9. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Real Name:
    I went from a 5D2 and 24-105 to the a77 and 16-50. But there was a year in between.

    AF is better on the Sony. Much better. Especially since most of the outer points are cross type. The EVF on the Sony is easily the match of the Canon, for me. Others may have a different opinion. There are no issues seeing detail and focus in the SOny EVF and being able to have a histogram or electronic level overlay are brilliant.

    The handling is better on the a77. There is one button I keep pushing as it sits under my thumb. But the grip on the camera is better and almost every button is customisable. You can even set the flash up to either be tied to the normal exposure compensation or completely seperate. Fantastic.

    At low ISOs the Sony files are better than the Canons. I have a real use for ISO 50 and the Sony is much better than the Canon. At high ISOs (>1600) the Canon is slightly better, but the Sony doesn't have banding in the shadows. The Sony sensor has more detail AND more dynamic range.

    The menus are much better in the Canon. Sony has awful menus and while the alphas are better than the NEX they're still not great. Things like putting the format function right in the middle so it always takes ages to get to it. And unlike the Canon there's no 'my menu" function on the Sony. If they added that it would remove my only real complaint about the camera.

    The 16-50 is a better lens than the Canon 24-70 and the 24-105, optically although I prefer the range of the latter. Its really sharp and stabilised through the body.

    The flashes are quirky, but I like them. They work as well as the 580exII and Nikons. You'll need a cheap adaptor to put on a trigger for studio strobes though. That's just something else to loose. Order two.

    I can't wait to see what's in the FF SLT body coming out later this year. Imagine the EVF of the a77, the sensor in the Nikon D800 and the Ziess AF lenses. WOW...

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