Camera Test: Sony SLT-A35
The A-35 is based on the Sony SLT system, which means the camera uses a translucent mirror system. The mirror is fixed and therefore the camera doesn’t offer an optical SLR viewfinder; instead, it uses a high resolution electronic viewfinder and an LCD monitor – just like a CSC (compact system camera).The ELV of the Sony A35 has a resolution of 1.15 million RGB dots and shows a very crisp and clear image.
The mirror system has an important benefit: the camera can use a standard AF system within the light path of the “viewfinder” system. This means it has a special CCD/AF-sensor for focusing instead of using a contrast system on the electronic viewfinder image, creating, in essence, a combination SLR/CSC. The AF system of the Sony A-35 is very fast (and noticeable faster than CSC cameras). The AF system detects sharpness very quickly without any back and forth motion of the lens system.
The integrated stabilizer (CMOS shift) can be used with every lens attached. In our tests we were able to shoot images with longer exposure times, which correspond to 3 EV-stops. Sony specifies the stabilizer effect with up to 4 EV-stops, but that statement seems a bit optimistic. Taking images with an exposure time of down to 1/6 s (focal length of 50mm) seems to be realistic.
The camera has a large LCD screen with 16:9 aspect ratio, yielding a large viewing area for images and menus, but it also helps to record video, because the camera is able to record Full HD video with 1920 x 1080 pixels in AVCHD format, the standard format for Full HD camcorders. While the LCD screen of some other SLT-A-cameras are designed as swivel monitors, the A35 LCD has a fixed position.
The camera has all standard exposure modes--P, S, A and M. It also offers scene modes and some creative effect filters. To enhance image quality the camera has additional features; for example, the HDR mode will take 3 images with EV bracketing and combine these images to a HDR image with very high dynamic range. Even in standard mode the camera showed very good performance in our dynamic range tests. The camera can also take six images of a still scene to reduce image noise. These images are combined to one single image to segregate statistical noise results. Using this technique the camera is able to record images with an ISO equivalent of 25,600.
The A35 also features Sony’s very easy-to-use panorama system. In this mode the camera will take an image series while the photographer is panning the camera. The camera indicates the necessary speed and direction of the panning and combines the shots to a panorama image of 7152 x 1080 pixels maximum.
Comments on Image Quality:
The camera showed good performance in our color tests. Like nearly all Sony cameras it creates images with very highly saturated colors. The average saturation level is 109.7 percent, which would be high even for a compact camera. Some red and blue nuances are overemphasized. The skin tones are fine and colors show only a minor shift into more orange and yellow color areas, noticeable in our portrait test shot.
The white balance system shows a shift into more bluish or greenish color areas, which is also noticeable in the portrait shot. But this effect is on a very, very low level.
The automatic exposure system of the Sony A35 did a very good job. All images including the portrait and standard test box shot are perfectly exposed.
The camera has a nominal sensor resolution that is 2 MP higher than the resolution of the Sony A33 (14 MP). But the A35 results are disappointing. The camera reproduced the ISO 12233 chart with 2537 lines per picture height, which is very low for a 16 MP camera with 3264 pixels in picture height. Due to the low resolution the test images had a slightly soft look. You will notice that in the portrait shot, especially in the hair of the model and the red fabric of her t-shirt. The standard test box shows similar effects. Sharpness decreases to the corners of the image. The low-resolution result may also be a result of shooting with the kit lens, which seems to create chromatic aberrations in the image corners, while the center of the image looks good.
The noise results of the A35 are on a excellent level. Luminance noise stays below 1.0 up to ISO 3200. Color noise is on a very low level. Our results show identical graphs of the RGB and luminance channel under “pixel noise”, especially for images with higher ISO speed settings. This is a result of the very intelligent anti noise filtering of the Sony A35.
The A35 showed very good performance in the dynamic range tests. It showed a good performance between ISO 100 and 800; even at higher ISO speed settings dynamic range decreases only slightly.
+ very fast AF system
+ integrated stabilizer system for all lenses
+ high resolution LCD
+ Full HD video in AVCHD format
- somewhat disappointing results in resolution tests
- missing swivel LCD