Can this scaled-down Sony Alpha A55 be more than a miniaturized facsimile? The Sony Alpha A35 review follows...
Design and Performance
Sony Alpha A35 review – Design
There’s a uniformity to the Alpha SLT
range and the A35’s black plastic frame with Sony styled orange trim
looks the part. The A35’s body is small in size, though about the same
depth as a DSLR. The top of the camera has a large surface area but it’s
height where size differs the most: as the camera isn’t as tall as a
DSLR there’s little room around the LCD screen for extra control
buttons. Instead the d-pad is given a number of secondary functions such
as ISO and white balance control. The camera’s menu system also holds a
fair amount of the functionality, meaning only a handful of buttons –
including a one-touch movie button – adorn the frame.
control dial is present to change the likes of shutter speed and
aperture, meaning a secondary button needs to be pressed before changing
the aperture (or shutter speed) when shooting in Manual mode.
A35’s main mode dial is quite substantial, sitting a fair distance proud
of the camera body and holding the usual priority modes as well as a
few extras. The 7fps 1.4x crop burst rate can be accessed instantly from
the mode dial setting, as can the Sweep Panorama and Scene modes.
Shooting-related functions are accessed via the Fn (Function) button,
which opens up an opaque menu on the rear LCD screen that leaves the
background preview visible.
The entire grip section of the A35 is
coated in a rubberised surface, making it slip-resistant without
resulting in sweaty hands. The thumb rest is similar but is granted more
of a pronounced form for the digit to rest on. As a result the A35 is
quite comfortable to hold for prolonged periods and sits well in the
hand, as well as keeping the balance central when a long lens is
Even though a couple of the buttons aren’t particularly
well placed, such as the Finder/LCD control being out of visible range
when either one is being used, the A35 handles well and keeps the
majority of the controls in a sensible location.
Sony Alpha A35 review – Performance
element that the Alpha A35’s SLT technology offers over the chasing
pack is rapid, continual autofocus (C-AF). Traditional DSLRs use phase
detection autofocus but rely on the mirror returning to position before
continuing to feed light to the focusing sensor. In live view (real time
LCD preview) they rely on a slower sensor-based contrast detection
system. By contrast the A35’s translucent mirror system means the camera
can utilise phase detection for the entire period of its operation, as
it’s able to deliver light to the imaging and focusing sensors
simultaneously whether shooting using the viewfinder or rear LCD for
On paper there are a few apparent downsides to SLT
technology. However, as light needs to pass through a translucent mirror
prior to hitting the sensor there is a slight drop off in the light
level and the camera has to adjust for this in processing. A traditional
DSLR provides an unobstructed passage from the rear element of the lens
to the sensor, so has a ‘cleaner’ signal. The A35 does everything
possible to match up to this DSLR standard, however, and Sony claims
that the translucent mirror has little impact on final quality. In our
tests exposure and general image quality is comparable to that of
similar level DSLR cameras.
The A35’s video mode is excellent, so
long as autofocus is left to make only minor changes or the manual mode
is used. Turning out around 17mbps AVCHD files makes the end quality
impressive, with a wide colour gamut and acceptable sound quality
through the main microphone. There’s also an external 3.5mm mic port
which is an unusual yet very welcome feature for this level of camera
(though you’ll need to buy your own microphone). The only manual movie
control comes via exposure compensation, so regardless of the manual
values present the camera auto-adjusts all settings as it sees fit.
Focusing for stills shooting is also quick and accurate, with the A35’s 15-point array laid out in an intelligent manner.
A35’s two primary display methods, the LCD screen and EVF, are
electronic and therefore dependent on their resolution to ensure a
decent quality preview. The 921k-dot rear screen is perfectly usable,
giving a sharp, bright representation, and the 1.15m-dot viewfinder may
not offer quite as impressive a contrast level but at least gives a
Having the EVF capable of showing the same
information as the LCD screen is something of a double-edged sword, as
there’s only so much information that can be comfortably displayed. The
eye sensor just below the viewfinder automatically switches between the
two displays, or pressing the Finder/LCD button offers manual activation
between the two.
Both of the A35’s main menus are simple and
straightforward to use, with the Fn button making the symbols around the
screen into active options. The main menu button accesses the less
frequently used features, meaning most of the important settings are
within close contact. The d-pad offers rapid access to plenty of
functions, meaning there are few ergonomic issues in spite of there
being a limited amount of one-touch buttons elsewhere on the body.