Sony Intros Speedy A77 II DSLR-Style Camera with 24.3MP APS-C Sensor (Hands-On Preview)

May 1, 2014

It’s been three long years since Sony introduced the A77, an innovative digital SLR-style interchangeable lens camera that used Sony’s then-new Translucent Mirror Technology (SLT). This morning, Sony finally released the sequel to that camera, the A77 II, which, on the surface, seems to be a minor upgrade to that three-year-old model.

The Sony A77 II features a 24.3-megapixel, APS-C sensor, like its predecessor, and will go on sale in June 2014 for $1200 body only, or as a kit with a 16-50mm f/2.8 lens for $1800.

We had a chance to get some hands-on time with the Sony A77 II and shoot a few photos with it (and of it) prior to this morning’s launch and it seems like a solid if not particularly revolutionary prosumer camera. The A77 II, like the previous model, has a slightly curved and sloping build with a comfortable, contoured grip and a magnesium body. It’s sealed against dust and moisture and has a shutter rated at 150,000 shots.

Like the previous model, the Sony A77 II employs Sony’s SLT system, which simultaneously directs light to both the image sensor and the Phase Detection AF sensor to speed up image and video capture. On the new “Mark II” model, Sony has revamped the phase detection-based autofocus system, giving it 79 focal points and 15 cross points for improved accuracy.

I only had a brief time to shoot with an early production unit of the Sony A77 II, but it seems quite responsive, locking on targets quickly as I swung the camera across the room.

As with the previous model, the SLT system allows the camera to shoot burst of up to 12 frames per second, but the A77 II can keep on shooting for up to 60 total frames with continuous AF. During my hands-on time with the A77 II, this was an impressive feature, which makes the camera seem almost as speedy as some pro-level DSLRs.

Because the A77 II also employs a translucent (aka “pellicle”) mirror that doesn’t need to flip up like a traditional DSLR, it doesn’t have an optical viewfinder, just an electronic viewfinder, which may be a turn-off for some photographers. And, it should be noted, there was a slight image lag in the EVF when I fired off 12 fps bursts, making you feel that you’re a half step slow of the action your photographing.

It’s not a bad EVF though: it’s a fairly bright and crispy XGA OLED True-Finder with 236,000 dots of resolution, giving it approximately three times higher contrast and resolving power than the EVF on the original A77. On back, the A77 II has a 3-inch, tilting LCD screen.

The A77 II uses Sony’s later Bionz X processor, which is designed improve still and HD video image quality. While the Mark II has same 24.3MP resolution as its predecessor, Sony says its a new Exmor CMOS chip, giving it 20% greater sensitivity than the A77.

“There’s more horsepower in a similar body design,” Patrick Huang, Sony’s director of Digital Imaging, said about the new A77 II during a press briefing.

While the Sony A77 II doesn’t seem to break much new ground, Sony is using the launch of this camera to emphasize that, contrary to some rumors, the company is still making DSLR-style cameras that use Sony’s A-mount interchangeable lenses. (Recently, Sony has been focusing more on its E-mount, mirrorless style camera systems.)

“Sony’s not giving up on its A-mount products,” Huang stated. “We’re going to continue making these lenses and cameras.”

Sony would not say when or if the company plans to update its professional-level A99 DSLR-style camera, which uses a 24.3MP, full-frame CMOS sensor. The Sony A99 was launched in October 2012.