Sony has chosen to release a subtle update to its Alpha range of SLR-style cameras. We say SLR-style, as this camera (like the A33 and A55 before it) uses what's called translucent mirror technology, which allows it to shoot faster and generally have more effective phase-detection autofocus than regular SLRs.
Design and features
The design cues have hardly changed a lot since the A33 we reviewed last year, with the same body design and textured grip on the right-hand side. All in all, the design makes for a comfortable, if conservative, shooting experience.
Unfortunately, Sony has done away with the flip-down screen found on the A33, making do instead with a fixed version at the back of the camera, though it's still the same resolution at 921,600 dots. Thanks to the translucent mirror, the A35 uses an electronic, rather than optical viewfinder — it's a love-it or hate-it affair. However, the refresh rate is pleasing and it does give full coverage of the scene through the lens.
The A35 has image stabilisation built into the camera body, meaning that any lens mounted on the front will automatically be stabilised. It can also capture images in either the 3:2 aspect ratio or 16:9. At the top, a mode dial provides access to all the functions one would expect from an SLR of this class; full PASM control, two automatic modes, a flash off mode, scene and picture effect modes, panorama (standard and 3D), as well as tele-zoom continuous priority. This last mode captures images continuously at the maximum speed the camera can take them at (7fps), by capturing the centre portion of the picture. There is no RAW shooting in this mode, just JPEG, and images are taken at 8.4-megapixel resolution at a fixed aperture of f/3.5, or the maximum aperture of the lens being used.
External connections include a mini-HDMI and USB port, as well as room for a remote and external microphone. The A35 takes SD/SDHC/SDXC cards as well as Memory Stick Pro-HG Duo cards.
Any entry-level SLR worth its salt these days comes with an array of picture effects or creative filters to make images pop. The A35 contains the following effects:
- Toy camera
- Pop colour
- Posterisation (colour and black-and-white)
- Retro photo
- High key
- Partial colour (red, green, blue and yellow)
- High-contrast monochrome
An example of the picture effect menu on the A35. (Credit: CBSi)
These are the same picture effects as what's found on the Sony NEX-C3, the company's interchangeable lens camera. Don't feel too left out if you have already bought an A55 or A33, though, as Sony will make available a firmware update to add the picture effect function and revised menus, amongst other improvements.
|Nikon D3100||Canon 1100D||Sony A35|
|14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor||12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor||16.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor|
|3-inch, 230,000-dot LCD||2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD||3-inch, 921,600-dot LCD|
|Full HD video (1080p, 24fps)||HD video (720p, 30/25fps)||Full HD video (1080i, 30fps)|
|11-point AF||9-point AF||15-point AF (phase detection)|
|3fps||3fps||7fps (tele-zoom mode)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Nikon D31000.40.810.4
- Canon 1100D0.30.51.70.2
- Sony A3220.127.116.11.3
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Nikon D31002.9
- Canon 1100D3
- Sony A335.5
Sony rates the battery at 440 shots (with LCD use) and 420 (with viewfinder use). The A35 has a variety of continuous shooting modes, from continuous high (5.5fps), continuous low (2.3fps) and tele-zoom continuous.
Unfortunately, Sony only provided us with the 55-200mm lens for testing purposes, so all image and video samples were taken with this lens. We found it less impressive than the kit 18-55mm lens, which also comes with the camera (and which we tested the A33 with).
On default settings, the A35 delivers consistent images with natural colours and accurate exposures. The autofocus is quick and effective, with the A35 outperforming equivalent SLRs in its price range particularly during autofocusing in video. This is to be expected given the mirror technology. As the sensor and image processor are the same as found on the NEX-C3, please also consult that review for further discussion of image quality.RAW vs. JPEG
A comparison between the RAW and JPEG processing of the A35. Unfortunately, RAW processing can only be performed with the included Sony software (at the time of writing, programs like Camera Raw will be updated in due course). (Credit: CBSi)
Low-light performance is generally good, and the A35 copes well at high ISO levels. The highest sensitivity the A35 can achieve is 12,800, although we only recommend using this as an emergency measure in order to ensure a shot. The one thing that the A35 doesn't do so well at is automatic white balance when using the flash — images appear rather warm in these situations.
A shot taken with flash (right) and without (left) showing the distinct warm white balance when the flash is fired. (Credit: CBSi)
Video quality is good and audio from the internal microphone performs well, but in quiet situations it is possible to discern the sound of the lens focusing. There's no manual exposure control for video, apart from exposure compensation.
Exposure: 1/60, f/4, ISO 1600
Exposure: 1/60, f/4, ISO 1600
Exposure: 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 500
Exposure: 1/100, f/4, ISO 100
The A35 is a subtle update to the Alpha range of SLRs and while it won't be a game-changer, it's certainly good at what it does.
The A35 is available as body only (AU$749), a single lens kit (AU$949) or a twin lens kit (AU$1199).