Sony Alpha SLT-A37

A good option if you're looking for something fast with a viewfinder and tilting LCD, the Sony Alpha SLT-A37 is a solid, but not outstanding, SLR-style camera.

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Compact interchangeable-lens cameras (ILCs) are cute, but sometimes you want the heft of an SLR-style body, full mode dial, electronic viewfinder and a lot of direct-access controls.

The Sony Alpha SLT-A37, the latest entry-level model in Sony's line of SLR-style cameras with phase-detection autofocus systems, but fixed mirrors, fits in that niche, along with SLRs like the Nikon D3200, and the Canon EOS 600D. The EVF and faster performance make it more suited to action shooting than its ILC sibling, the NEX-F3, and more compatible with a wider variety of lenses. And while it's a relatively uninspiring update to the A35, it's not a bad camera — in fact, it's one of the fastest models in its price class, and is capable of producing very nice photos up through ISO 800.

Design and features

Its design remains pretty similar to the other SLT models: SLR-like, but with an electronic viewfinder. It's relatively lightweight for its size, with a functional, if somewhat uninspiring, design. This generation picks up the habit of the NEX series interface, telling you why an option is greyed out, rather than simply disallowing it.

The control layout is the same as the A35's: direct-access buttons for drive mode, ISO sensitivity, white balance and display options, plus a function button to pull up access to frequently used settings like drive mode, flash, focus area and mode, metering and ISO sensitivity.

Sony puts the mode dial on the left shoulder of the camera. It's a good location, since it frees up the right side for controls better operated by that hand. In addition to the typical PASM modes and a couple of auto modes, the mode dial has a Tele-Zoom high-speed shooting mode (a digitally zoomed 8.4-megapixel 7fps burst mode), 3D and Sweep panoramas and a handful of scene and special effects modes. Unlike some competitors, Sony's Superior Auto adds on some more automation, like Auto HDR, as well as control over tracking autofocus and face detection, rather than making it auto, plus some exposure controls.

As with the F3, the camera adds an Auto Portrait Framing feature; in Superior Auto mode, when you frame a picture of a person in landscape (wide) orientation, it can automatically create a crop that more attractively positions the person in the photo, and save both it and the original (though it seems to randomly choose between portrait and landscape orientations). This is a clever and useful idea for newbies.

After it crops the photo, though, Sony feels compelled to unnecessarily bloat it back up to 16 megapixels. At ISO 200, and when viewed at 50 per cent, Sony's Clear Image Zoom interpolation technology used for uprezzing does produce a photo that looks sharper than simply cropping the original, if somewhat over-sharpened. However, at higher ISO sensitivities (in other words, in any indoor portrait you'll take), it simply exacerbates the other artefacts in the photo. And even at ISO 200, the interpolation mushes up detail that looks sharp in a regular crop.


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
    Canon EOS 600D
    Nikon D3200
    Pentax K-x
    Sony Alpha SLT-A35
    Sony Alpha SLT-A37

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in FPS)

  • 5
    Sony Alpha SLT-A35
  • 4.3
    Pentax K-x
  • 3.9
    Sony Alpha SLT-A37
  • 3.9
    Nikon D3200
  • 3.4
    Canon EOS 600D

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The A37 generally performs faster than the A35, and that camera was quite fast. That's not just in our lab tests; it feels quite fast and responsive for non-burst shooting. It powers on, focuses and shoots in about 0.8 seconds, which is a little slower than other cameras. But in good light, it can focus and shoot in 0.2 seconds, and, in dim light, it's a mere 0.3 seconds — both excellent showings. It takes approximately 0.5 seconds for two consecutive shots, which rises to 0.7 seconds with flash enabled.

We found continuous shooting to be a bit wonkier. While it's rated at 5.5fps with a buffer of 14 shots, our lab tests showed that it slowed significantly after 10 shots, bringing the average down to 4fps. So the burst performance will depend significantly on the length of the burst.

Also, while the autofocus works quickly and accurately for single shots, the tracking autofocus lagged the subject quite often during our testing.

The 18-135mm lens does work well for manually focusing, though, especially in conjunction with the peaking function (edge enhancement) in the camera. At night, especially, we found that combination more accurate than relying on the AF; the viewfinder is notably dim, even in good light.

Image quality

While we got a few shots that we liked from the A37, we weren't blown away by the photo quality — it's pretty typical for an entry-level model of this class. That may be due, in part, to the new 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, which we tested because we think it will be a popular choice. It's got a good focal-length range, and its aperture range is no slower than the shorter 18-55mm option. However, it doesn't seem terribly sharp.

This photo accurately represents the general quality of the A37's low ISO-sensitivity photos. It was taken at ISO 100.
(Credit: Lori Grunin/CNET)

The camera's JPEGs look reasonably good at ISO 100 and 200; then you start to see more softness at ISO 400, with increasing artefacts up through ISO 3200, which we would consider to be the top of the usable range for JPEGs. Colours are saturated, without getting shifted, and the exposures are generally on target. See more image samples in our photo gallery.

You can see the noise and JPEG-processing artefacts here, but they're not too obtrusive. Taken at ISO 800.
(Credit: Lori Grunin/CNET)


The A37 is a solid, entry-level, SLR-class camera that will serve anyone on a tight budget who's looking for something with which to shoot active kids and pets.

The A37 is available in a single-lens kit with 18-55mm for AU$699, a twin-lens kit with the 18-55mm and 55-200mm for AU$899 and an enthusiast kit with 18-135mm for AU$899.


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BrentD posted a comment   

I think it's a bit patronising to assume that those on a tight budget only want to take happy snaps of pets and kids. Not everyone on a budget has a limited imagination of what to photograph, whether as a hobby or a holiday.

An idiot with a hasselblad is still an idiot if they dont know how t take photos.

You can still take some mighty fine photos of what every you desire with whatever you desire; I have an a300 that has taken photos no worse than a more revered a900 and mine received an editors choice.

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  • BrentD


    "I think it's a bit patronising to assume that those on a tight budget only want to take happy snaps of pets and kids. Not everyone on a budget has a limited imagination of what to photograph, wheth..."

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