Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sony A77 By-Proxy Impressions (UPDATED)

First impressions of the A77 are hitting the web, and while it's hard to get much from JPEGs, the image quality of the new 24MP A77 and A65 isn't looking good.

I was worried that Sony would be unable to overcome the already-inherent light deficit of the SLT design. I can't remember how much light is lost to the translucent mirror, but I know that it's not insignificant. It was something like 25% of ALL light is lost and never reaches the sensor. This fundamental handicap shows in ISO tests where the Sony trails pretty much everyone in whatever class it's competing. The lower the light levels, the more data that falls beneath the noise floor at any given aperture/shutter combo.

The test images available over at DPReview do little to assuage my worries. As I said, JPEGs are difficult beasts from which to really extract anything useful. Sony has notoriously bad JPEG processing with insanely aggressive noise reduction that smears away fine detail. This made sense years ago, when Sony sensors were the noisiest in the industry, but today, their sensors are the best, so JPEGs tell a poor tale of the sensor's actual ability.

So, as one would expect with Sony, the JPEGs are mushy messes with little fine detail. I hope that it's not the lens, because that would mean it's a terrible piece of glass, and instead hope that the JPEGs really are that bad. I likewise hope that the sensor isn't crap, which I doubt, so I'm not worried. But still, that resolution is just insanity. That gives it a pixel pitch of about 4 microns, which is almost identical to the pixel pitch of the Panasonic GH2. And while the GH2 isn't exactly an Olympian in the world of noise, it's not horrible, either. Still, 24MP on an APS-C sensor? Who the hell needs that?!

It makes one wonder if Sony made this sensor just to show off how stupidly-small they can manufacture pixel sites.


Photography Blog has just posted some test photos and they are equally, if not more so, as mushy and nasty as DPReview's test photos. This might have something to do with the kit lens, which only adds $600 to the price of the camera. And any sensor that is as pixel-packed as the Sony will require top-pro glass else it will reveal every flaw the lens has.


Now that the A77 has sunk in, I'm feeling that the whole package is unsettlingly feature-packed. Feature creep usually happens to hide a lack of fundamentals. I know that the A77 has a plastic body, but does that hide other low-quality bits. I'm not saying that it does! Truly, I'm still very excited. I'm just pondering.

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