Sony Alpha 37 SLT: Lab Test Results & Comments

The Sony A37 is an SLT system with a fixed and translucent mirror. Because of this setup it is able to produce a Live View image even while recording still images or shooting video. At the same time, the camera is able to use its Phase Detection AF system because the mirror reflects the image onto the AF sensor. This allows the use of the AF system even in continuous shooting mode. The camera offers a high-speed burst mode of up to 7 frames per second, which is a very high result for an entry-level system.

The A37 is Sony’s newest SLT camera with a fixed and translucent mirror. It offers 16MP resolution, a swivel monitor, a high-resolution electronic viewfinder, and Full HD video capability.

This entry-level camera offers a lot of interfaces: HDMI, USB, remote control, microphone, and a connector for an external DC system are offered.

The camera uses a cursor field and a lot of function buttons to set up all parameters very quickly. The monitor is large (2.7”) but has a resolution of only 230,400 RGB dots.

On the left-hand side of the top you will find the mode dial, which offers standard exposure modes, scene modes, and a special burst mode which allows users to shoot up to 7 images per second.

The camera can record Full HD video with 1920x1080 pixels and in 60i or 24p mode. It uses high bit rates (up to 24 Mbit/s) to create high-quality AVCHD movies. In addition, it can record MP4 movies (1440x1080 pixels) for direct Internet upload. In video mode the camera offers continuous autofocusing, which makes the handling of the A37 as easy as a simple camcorder.

The AF system uses 15 AF sensors (including three cross-type sensors), notable for an entry-level system. The electronic viewfinder shows the currently active AF field and a very brilliant and high-resolution image (1.44 million RGB dots). However, the LCD screen on the back has a very low resolution of only 230,400 RGB dots. The screen size of 2.7” isn’t quite state of the art. The camera offers all standard image modes like P, S, A, and M. In addition, the photographer has access to scene modes for many photographic situations.

The model shot is a little underexposed (standard shot in P mode). The skin tones are fine, but red colors show low differentiation (fabric of the model’s T-shirt). The soft character in the reproduction of this fabric is caused by the anti-noise filtering, which smooths the image.

Image Quality
Color:
The automatic white balance system has some problems with fluorescent light, which is used as the standard lighting setup in our tests. The standard test box shot and the portrait shot show a slight yellowish touch in gray or white areas like the background. Saturation is surprisingly low for a Sony camera, but this 103.7 saturation is one reason for the generally low error level shown in our test chart. Most important, however, is that skin tones are nearly perfectly reproduced.

Sharpness: The Sony A37 showed an average performance in the resolution tests. The sharpness result is reduced by the very intense anti-noise filtering and a very decent USM filtering of JPEG images. The camera gained a maximum of 2668 lines per picture height, which is a low result for a camera with a nominal resolution of 3264 lines per picture height. We noticed a slight softness in the images in our standard test box shot and portrait.

The Sony A37 reproduced the standard test box shot with a slight yellowish touch and was slightly underexposed.

Noise: The camera showed good performance in our noise tests. The luminance noise factor stays under 1.0 up to ISO 3200, which is very good, but this comes as a result of an intense anti-noise filtering, which smooths the images and causes a lower resolution/sharpness test result. Color noise is very unobtrusive—the red, green, and blue pixel curves show nearly an identical shape. With a maximum of 10.6 f/stops the dynamic range is on an average level for SLT and CSC cameras.

The standard test box shot and the portrait shot show a slight yellowish touch in gray or white areas like the background. Saturation is surprisingly low for a Sony camera, but this 103.7 saturation is one reason for the generally low error level shown in our test.

The Sony A37 SLT has a list price of $599 with a kit lens. For more information, visit www.store.sony.com.

Pro
+ Compact SLT design
+ Very fast autofocus based on phase detection and the SLT system (continuously active even in video mode)
+ Nice color reproduction

Con
- Low-resolution LCD screen

Image Tech is where we publish web-exclusive lab reports on cameras. To read the reports please go to the Shutterbug homepage at www.shutterbug.com and click on the Image Tech tab on the top navigation bar. New reports are published frequently, so check Image Tech for updates.

Lab results and test images by BetterNet, our TIPA-affiliated testing lab. Edited by George Schaub.

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