Speed shooter from Sony

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Sony has come out with a new camera, called the Alpha A77, about which the manufacturer claims it is the world’s fastest continuous shooter.  The claim covers the 12 full size frames which the Alpha A77 can rattle off every second.  Now that is an unbelievable speed, where most other digitals are stuck on 3-5 frames per second.

Sony describes this new camera as being in the “prosumer’ class, and those who have tried it say the speed claimed is no ad-speak.  It really does manage 12 frames a second, complete with shutter and mirror noises.  And if megapixels excite you, then the Alpha A77 does not disappoint with its 24.3 Mp.

The camera achieves its speed by virtue of two hardware additions: a powerful new Bionz image processor and, more importantly, Single Lens Translucent (SLT) technology, which features a see-through mirror.  It is, however, not a DSLR.

The use of this see-through mirror lets this camera use the more accurate phase-detection autofocus technology, allowing it to deliver sharper images even in high-speed mode or when capturing video.

In practice, this means that at a car racing event, you let the autofocus lock on to the body of the car and shoot away at 12 frames per second. Alternatively, you can use the Focus Peaking mode which will show you when the edges of your subject are sharp in manual focus mode.  The technology in the Alpha SLT also works to deliver sharp focus when capturing videos.

This camera will really suit fast-action photographers, and this fast-focusing, fast-shooting camera is incredibly useful for people interested in taking photos of their baby, open-zoo animal pix, or the children’s sports day.

The Alpha A77’s fixed translucent internal mirror makes the difference. Because it doesn’t reflect the light coming through the lens to an optical viewfinder as in an SLR, the camera doesn’t meet the ‘reflex’ requirement of the ‘digital single lens reflex’ (DSLR) name.

The light passing through the A77’s lens is partially redirected to the camera’s autofocus sensor.  The translucent mirror means that the Alpha A77’s phase-detection autofocus system works when the camera is shooting video or is in burst mode, neither of which is the case with a DSLR.  In a traditional DSLR, the mirror is flipped up and remains up during video and in burst shooting mode, and the DSLR’s through-the-lens, phase-detection autofocus system uses the camera’s less effective contrast-detection autofocus system.

The speed-shooting 12 frames per second burst mode at full 24.3 megapixel makes it the first camera to shoot images at a resolution of greater than 20 megapixels with a speed faster than 5 fps.

The A77 is also the first interchangeable-lens camera to support the AVCHD Progressive format when shooting video, meaning that it can capture 1080p video footage at a higher frame rate and at a higher bitrate, with continuous autofocus employed.

Last year, Sony’s Alpha A55 and Alpha A33 offered Translucent-mirror technology but the Alpha A77 with 24.3 megapixel sensor (up from 16 megapixels in the A55), the new Bionz image processor (which has to be powerful to process huge image files and all of those AF adjustments simultaneously), a faster burst mode despite the significantly higher-resolution images, and video capabilities that appear to be second to none when matched up against consumer DSLRs.

So what don’t you get?  The first and main loss for many photographers is the optical viewfinder.  Instead, you get a 2.5-million-dot OLED eye-level viewfinder – which Sony claims is the first OLED EVF in the world, and is currently the sharpest and brightest in the field.  And it provides a crisp, bright, full-coverage view, and you get the benefit of better low-light visibility, a histogram display, and detailed data through the eyepiece as you’re shooting – all advantages over an optical viewfinder.

The Alpha A77 may not be a DSLR, but you get a versatile interchangeable-lens camera with high-speed capture, video capabilities, autofocus sharpness, creative in-camera filters, and fun-to-use modes.

The Sony Alpha A77 is slated to be available in October for $2000 as a kit with a 16-50mm/F2.8 zoom lens, or for $1400 for the body only.