By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Selected as Popular Photography's camera of the year for 2010, the A55 brings together the best features of traditional DSLRs, the electronic viewfinder found on interchangeable lens compacts and the revolutionary phase-detection autofocus that enables the tracking of subjects throughout the frame resulting in way better video.
Out of the box, one could be fooled into thinking that the A55 ($849.99) is one of those super-zoom point-and-shoots. It is extremely light and the plastic exterior isn't as heavy or as imposing as your typical consumer grade DSRL. Upon closer inspection, you realize that Sony's outfitted this camera with more gadgetry and gee-whiz features than you can count.
For one thing you have a 10fps continuous shooting rate which in unheard of in this segment. You also get 10800 AVHD movie mode with the much coveted continuous auto focus. The main challenge posed to DSLR cameras today is that when they shoot video you need to manually focus on the subject, not so with the A55. Using Sony's prodigious stock of patents, this camera sharp-focuses on anything that is moving in the frame.
The Alpha A55 also features a built-in GPS, an electronic level, the useful articulated 3 inch TruBlack LCD screen with 912k dots plus a socket for an external microphone (crucial for shooting HD video with proper sound. The A55 is also capable of low ISO of 12800 which is the realm of premium DLSRs and will help when taking low light photography.
You also get a superb 15-point autofocus system that helps towards getting sharp shots in most settings. we found this to make taking sudden photos ( works well for events, and situations were quick focusing is imperative but falls short in sports where intense motion may overwhelm the system).
The camera's light weight and plastic exterior belies the extent of the A55's range of technology, what you are looking at here is a DSLR but one that's advanced numerous aspects of the technology so that taking photos and videos is a mucn more cohesive experience. You're getting Sony's video and CyberShot expertise plus all of Konica-Minolta's digital camera and imaging smarts all in one device.
For users new to DSLRs and who value video as much as they do stills, the A55 is a great camera. The current model with the kit lens should be more than ample for most uses and will, with some practice, make beautiful images and videos. Users invested in other systems might be enticed to try what Sony Alpha has to offer in this range as well but should consider the range and availability of A-mount lenses to suit their needs (Sony and Minolta).
Looking like a traditional DSLR, the Sony Alpha A55 is actually a forward thinking camera that incorporates a large number of new features and capabilities that enable it to perform above its mid-range prosumer price point. As with most cameras, we always advise buyers to try them for size, comfort and ease-of-use. Camera's after all, are personal tools and an extension of the photographer's imagination.
Having said that, we're pretty convinced that both experts and novices will be impressed with the Sony A55 in most aspects of its build, performance and feature set.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5