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Sony Alpha dSLR system

NB. I Don't sell cameras or lenses, prices here are just to help you plan your system and although accurate at writing may change.


  • Sony digital SLR cameras are based on the Sony / Minolta lens mount and flash system and thus are generally ONLY compatible with lenses and flashes designed for these systems - but the new cameras have a new flash mount.
  • fortunately for Sony users, Sony has partnered with Carl Zeiss to provide high quality lenses and Sony, being one of the largest electronics manufacturers, is at the forefront of digital sensor design and indeed sells its sensors to other dSLR manufacturers such as Nikon.
  • a big selling point is reasonably affordable full frame dSLRs with built-in IS
  • This system has essentially been replaced by the Sony NEX E-mount camera system and Sony NEX FX full frame mirrorless cameras which will also use the Sony Alpha lenses via a lens adapter and in 2021 it seems Sony may be discontinuing this range
  • Sony announced in Feb 2022 that it is discontinuing A-mount lenses for these cameras

Sony dSLRs:



  • Sony Alpha A77 II:
    • 24mp APS-C sensor with CDAF and sensor-shift IS
    • fixed semi-transparent mirror
    • 79 phase detect points including 15 central cross points plus central sensor for apertures up to f/2.8
      • this sensors are mainly in the middle 1/3rd of the frame and optimised for landscape view of most sports
    • Expanded Flexible Spot mode maintains focus even if the selected AF point loses track of the subject, activating eight surrounding AF points that recognize the subject.
    • Lock-on AF mode lets users select one of four AF area modes (Wide, Zone, Flexible Spot or Expanded Flexible Spot), and can recognize and track a subject’s form based on its color and its position within the frame, automatically selecting the appropriate AF point
    • can select AF subject-tracking duration
    • Eye detection AF
    • AF range control
    • Balanced Emphasis mode that provides the ideal balance between focus and release timing
    • 12fps up to 60 jpeg frames with C-AF
    • same BIONZ X image processor as in the A-7 and A-7R - detail reproduction, diffraction-reducing and area-specific noise reduction
    • 2.36Mdot OLED EVF
    • 3“ 1.2Mdot 3-way tilting WhiteMagic TFT LCD
    • 11 customizable buttons with up to 51 assignable functions
    • shutter 30sec to 1/8000th sec and rated at 150,000 shots
    • 1080 60p/24p AVCHD video with AF, stereo mic, zebra function and audio level metering
    • WiFi / NFC for smartphone remote control or tethering, but no GPS
    • built-in flash, flash x-sync 1/250th sec
    • weather sealing, AF micro adjust
    • 647 g (1.43 lb / 22.82 oz)
    • 143 x 104 x 81 mm (5.63 x 4.09 x 3.19″)
    • RRP $US1200 body only
    • discontinued in 2020


  • Sony Alpha SLT-A58 DX:
    • replaces both A37 and A57 models
    • mid-range, 20mp DX, 8fps, 1080/50i, 800x600pixel OLED viewfinder
    • new lock-on focus mode and Auto Object Framing mode - an extension of the auto portrait mode in the A57


  • SLT alpha a57:
    • 16.1mp APS-C sensor with 10-12fps burst
    • sensor-shift IS
    • articulated LCD
    • 15pt AF with 3 X-type sensors
    • peaking for MF assisted video
    • Picture Effects
    • 'Auto Portrait Framing' mode that will try to re-crop images containing faces, if it thinks there's a better portrait image to be had from it
    • 'Clear Image Zoom' digital zoom mode
    • AVCHD 1080 60p/50p video
    • 1/4000th sec shutter, x-sync 1/160th sec
    • no built-in GPS like the a55
    • much larger than the a55 allows for larger battery but still short battery life
    • 618g
  • SLT alpha a99 full frame:
    • 1st fixed mirror, Translucent Mirror Technology full frame dSLR (ie. Sony SLT design)
    • world's lightest full frame dSLR
    • the 1st Sony dSLR to have an ISO-standard hotshoe instead of the crazy Minolta legacy hotshoe but uniquely, the additional pins for TTL, etc are not placed on the hotshoe surface as with other brands but under the front lip of the shoe
      • you will be able to buy an adapter to still use your old Minolta flashguns
    • 24mp 14bit RAW full frame sensor with 102 point on-sensor phase detection for hybrid AF optimised for videographers
    • ISO 100-25,600 in still mode but range reduced to 100-3200 in auto movie mode
    • EVF - this is perhaps the most controversial aspect - most other full frame dSLRs use large optical viewfinders and the EVF may alienate many users
    • 19pt phase detect AF with 11 cross sensors working full time courtesy of the SLT design
      • NB. the on-sensor Phase Detection system currently only works with six lenses, the SAL2470Z, SAL2875, SAL50F14, SAL300F28GII, SAL70400G, and SAL50050F4G. Other lenses will require firmware upgrades to be able to take advantage of this new system.
    • depth-map assist continuous AF
      • “A new AF range control allows photographers to manually select foreground and background distance to which the AF system will not respond, especially useful for shooting fast moving sports or animals through a nearby wire mesh or in front of a complex background that commonly distracts camera AF systems”
      • a dedicated rear button allows user to select the focus range
    • appears to have a medium strength AA filter which limits sharpness and detail
    • AF microadjust
    • GPS
    • sensor shift IS
    • electronic first curtain shutter for decreased shutter lag
    • 3” articulated screen
    • shutter 30sec - 1/8000th sec
    • no built-in flash
    • flash x-sync 1/250th sec
    • 6fps
    • 1080p 60/24fps HD video stereo mics and real-time Full HD video output via HDMI
    • weathersealed
    • optional vertical grip
    • multi-interface shoe provides balance audio input for the optional XLR-K1M adaptor kit for external XLR mics
    • 733g, 147 x 111 x 78 mm (5.79 x 4.37 x 3.07“)
    • this could be a great all-round full frame dSLR for those who shoot sports and video
    • BUT a critical issue is that NONE of the phase contrast AF detectors are in the area where you want you subject to be according to the Rule of Thirds composition - so it may be great if you are happy to compose with your subject in the centre of the frame - see dpreview's image showing the AF point distribution


  • SLT alpha a37:
    • 16.1mp APS-C sensor with 2.5-5.5fps burst
    • 15pt AF
    • 1/4000th sec shutter, x-sync 1/160th sec
  • SLT alpha a65:
    • 24.3mp APS-C sensor with 10fps burst
    • “The 'AE' in Continuous Advance Priority AE mode stands for 'automatic exposure'. Unlike continuous Lo and Hi, Continuous Advance Priority AE can only be accessed via the exposure mode dial. As we saw in the A55, which offered a maximum frame rate of 10fps in the same mode, there are some downsides to this maximum capture rate. The A65 can still autofocus continuously, but in order to be able to do this, aperture is either fixed wide open, or limited to f/3.5 if the maximum aperture allows it. You can take full control over aperture in Continuous Advance Priority AE mode, but only if you select AF-A or manual focus. The reason for this limitation is the same reason why you cannot combine AF with manual aperture control in movie mode - at apertures smaller than f/5.6 the A65's AF system receives essentially no light, so cannot function. ”
    • “it isn't possible for the A65 to maintain a live view feed in its fastest 8fps and 10fps continuous capture modes”
    • not usable for 25sec after a burst sequence
    • issues with AF tracking accuracy remain!
  • SLT alpha a77:
    • 24.3mp APS-C sensor with 8-12fps burst
    • 19pt AF
    • 1/8000th sec shutter, x-sync 1/250th sec


  • alpha 560:
    • 14mp DX with 7fps, live view, movie.
  • alpha 580:
    • 16mp DX with 7fps, live view, movie.
  • SLT alpha A33:
    • SLT 14mp DX with 6-7fps, full time live view, movie, fixed mirror
  • SLT alpha A55:


  • alpha 230:
    • 10mp 1.5x crop entry level;
  • alpha 330:
    • 10mp 1.5x crop
  • alpha 380:
    • 14mp 1.5x crop
  • alpha 500:
    • 12mp 1.5x crop;
  • alpha 550:
    • 14mp, 1.5x crop, CCD shift IS, dual live view as with the alpha 350
    • 7fps if focus and exposue locked, otherwise 5fps
    • auto HDR mode
    • up/down articulating 3” 920K LCD
    • no mirror lockup or DOF preview buttons
    • 599g w/o battery; no movie mode;
    • jpeg output not the best, need to shoot RAW; limited customisation options;
  • alpha 850:
    • “budget” 24.6mp full frame; RRP $US2000; IS but no live view or movie;


  • alpha 700:
    • 12.2mp, 11pt AF with a single double cross centre point, 4EV IS, aluminium chassis, weatherproof, 3“ VGA LCD, HDTV output, wireless remote control, CF and Sony memory,
    • 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6 (24-160mm) kit lens
    • vertical grip.
    • doesn't match the Olympus E-3 dSLR on the following:
      • build quality
      • weatherproofing - you can pour a bottle of water on the Olympus E3
      • IS - Olympus is 5EV
      • AF speed, low light performance and action performance - Olympus uses all double cross points not just one.
      • kit lens - the Olympus is a beautiful 24-120mm eq. f/2.8-3.5 lens - a much faster lens optically and in AF.
      • live preview - Sony decided not to include live preview
      • articulating LCD screen - with no live preview, the Sony didn't have use for one
      • remote TTL flash system
  • alpha 350:
    • 14mp version of the alpha 300
  • alpha 300:
    • now this is a unique camera following on from the now extinct revolutionary Olympus E330 dSLR in that it offers fast AF in live preview mode via a second sensor in the viewfinder and it has a tiltable LCD screen to make the most of this, but in addition it also offers 2.5-3.5EV image stabiliser and 10mp and a sensor dust cleaner, all of which are the main features of the nice Olympus E-510 dSLR albeit that the 510 has marginally better IS and unless Sony have changed their sensor cleaner, a better sensor cleaner.
    • unfortunately it is much heavier than the Olympus E-510 dSLR and does not have a good range for AE bracketing which will limit its utility for HDR work.
    • like the E330, it has a small viewfinder image but should be brighter than the E330 due to its different design.
  • alpha 200:
    • 10mp, 2.5-3.5EV IS; 2.7” LCD;
    • 532g w/o battery;
    • no live preview;
    • does not have the feature set to match the Olympus E-510 dSLR or Canon 450D.
  • alpha 900:
    • 24.6mp full frame; 9pt AF; 850g; IS but no live view or movie;


  • alpha 100:
    • 10mp, IS

Lenses for the Sony dSLRs:

Carl Zeiss lenses for Sony

  • Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 24mm F2 SSM
  • Carl Zeiss DT 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 Vario-Sonnar T:
    • 24-120mm range but a bit slow optically - the Olympus ZD 12-60mm f/2.8-3.5 at the same price is a faster lens.
    • RRP $A1249;
  • CZ 85mm f/1.4 Planar T:
    • 128mm eq; nice portrait lens but pricey - you could get a Canon 85mm f/1.2L lens for that sort of price!
    • $A2299
  • CZ 135mm f/1.8 Sonnar T:
    • 202.5mm eq. focal length, could make a great astrophoto lens but have not tested it 
    • much more expensive than a Canon 135mm f/2L lens, can it be that much better?
    • $A2499

Sony DT lenses designed for digital

  • Sony DT 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6:
    • 16.5-27mm; $A1149;
  • Sony DT 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens:
    • 27-105mm; $A299;
  • Sony DT 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3:
    • 27-375mm eq.; $A899
  • Sony DT 28-70mm f/2.8 SAM:
    • introduced late 2012
  • Sony DT 35mm F1.8 SAM:
    • consumer level quality introduced in 2010; only 170g;
  • Sony 85mm F2.8 SAM:
    • consumer level quality introduced in 2010; only 175g; full frame

Sony legacy lenses from 35mm Minolta days

legacy macro lenses

legacy Pro G-Series

legacy specialty lenses

  • Sony 500mm f/8 Reflex mirror lens:
    • 750mm eq; $A1299
  • Sony 16mm f/2.8 fisheye:
    • but is this fisheye on 1.5x crop cameras??
    • $A1399
  • Sony 135mm f/2.8 Smooth Trans Focus:
    • 200mm eq; soft focus portrait lens;
    • $A2099; now largely redundant with digital imaging and Photoshop
photo/sonyalpha.txt · Last modified: 2022/02/11 08:27 by gary1

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