by: Kevin Go
Sony has really hit it off with their NEX line of digital cameras, naturally, next on the spot is the entry-level A35′s successor — the SLT-A37 DSLR which boasts a mile-long list of features for something that’s priced at under Php34,000.
Design and Build
The A37 (like the A35), features a matte plastic body covered in an interesting pattern which improves the grip. Both the sub-command and mode dials feel really sturdy and give off a reassuring click when twisted, soft buttons surrounding the live view display are really easy to press and feel well put together but the shutter release feels a little wobbly at times, nothing serious, it still clicks solidly and is easily noticed when the button is half-pressed.
The power switch seems very plasticky but just like the rest of the camera, feels like it’s built to withstand continuous abuse, same with the ‘squishy’ lens release button. Nothing to worry at all.
The A37′s LCD display is alright, it does the job but doesn’t necessarily stand out among its competitors and it’s certainly nowhere near the clarity of the A57′s 921k dot display. It feels tight when moved but it can only be positioned vertically, thus, it can’t be twisted to the left or right. This feature helps a lot when taking macro shots without having to kneel or when taking videos below the chest area (taking footage of a bee on a flower for example) without straining our backs, we recommend not to using it too often since ours started too feel a little loose after just a few uses.
We actually find the electronic viewfinder much better to use, colors are more accurate and gives us a better look at how the images are gonna turn out instead of ‘guessing’ and firing away with the main display.
Not much to say here other than using the A37 felt like using a Sony Cybershot point-and-shoot cam, it’s a very good thing. The user friendliness is amongst the best we’ve seen on entry-level DSLRs no doubt, every twist of the mode dial gives you a brief description of the scenarios where a certain function is best suitable, it even extends to some of the camera’s core options… there’s even a beginner’s guide in there to let you unleash the DSLR’s potential better. User’s don’t need the manual/user’s guide included in the box, almost everything’s found within the A37 itself. We were very impressed.
The intelligent auto mode basically did everything for us, it’s not as flexible as the Manual or Aperture/Shutter modes of course (one of the main points of purchasing a DSLR) it’s one of those features that DSLR newbies will be glad to use. We’ve actually used the A37 in taking pictures of our Lenovo A65, P700 and Huawei Y200 reviews, we just set it to intelligent auto mode whenever we’re too lazy to fiddle with various settings since it works so well.
The camera also intelligently creates portrait shots from the original ones we’ve taken just by using face detection, it worked pretty well but we doubt if most of you will be using it. It’s still a pretty nifty feature to have though.
Performance (Speed, Accuracy, Focus)
Tha A37 takes advantage of Translucent Mirror technology which means there’s no mirror to flip just so light can reach the imaging sensor, thus, letting the camera take blazing fast burst shots of up to 7 frames per second while showing an uninterrupted preview in live view mode. It also features Sony’s BIONZ image processor which lets users take high-resolution photos with very low-noise even at ISO 16000, the revamped BIONZ processor also lets the A37 take regular or 3D panorama shots via the Sweep Panorama mode which can be viewed on an HDTV via the built-in mini HDMI output port. It’s worth noting that the 7fps burst shooting option is only available in speed priority mode and only takes 8.4-megapixels stills so there are some sacrifices needed to achieve such feat, albeit it does work well.
The A37′s phase-detection autofocus system boasts a plethora of options but the highlight is its 15-point array (mostly center-weighted) 3 cross sensors which locks quite quickly in favorable conditions (bright to average ligthing) and is very impressive mostly when taking videos while in live view, activating the camera’s continuous AF impressed us even further since most DSLRs within this price range does not have it, it proves to be an essential feature when taking photos of distant [or moving] subjects without a tripod or in compromising situations.
Unfortunately, the fun ends once the light disappears. The camera does not have an AF-assist lamp so it relies on the built-in flash which can take toll on the battery when taking shots at night, even then, locking on subjects proves to be a hit-and-miss for the A37 in the dark which can be very annoying. Definitely something to keep in mind.
We’ve already told you that we like the bright, saturated EVF a lot, resting our eyes near the viewfinder automatically deactivates the main display and the 1.4 million-dot EVF springs to life almost instantly. Using it for taking pictures makes more sense since it’s clearer than the live view panel but for some reason, it stutters a lot when pressing the shutter button, even if we didn’t, the stutters would still occur just when panning.
We soon found out that this phenomenon is a known issue with SLT DSLR cameras: “In SLT cameras, refresh rate is limited by the time it takes the sensor to form an image; in low light this causes severe stuttering of the viewfinder image when panning (e.g. if it takes 1/4 sec for the sensor to gather enough light to form an image then the EVF updates at 4FPS)” -Wikipedia
We will let the sample photos we took as testament of how good the camera is. There are some instances that the quality is really impressive and in other cases where the lens could not really focus well and take blurred shots, especially in low-light conditions.
Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, we lost some footages and photos after we returned this review units so these are the only ones we can share with you.
Given that Sony is still relatively fresh in the DSLR market, its lenses, accessories and services are still not as extensive compared the ones offered by Nikon and Canon.
There’s not much to say regarding the A37′s performance from a newbie’s perspective. Everything works and every function is accessed easily which is the main point of purchasing a starter DSLR, the A37 nurtures your skills and guides you throughout the process. Top-notch user-friendliness and high-end features for an entry-level price? What’s not to like?
Sony A37 specs:
16.1MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Translucent Mirror technology
Built-in SteadyShot image stabilization
7fps burst mode
3 cross 15-point AF system
Tilting 2.7″ LCD screen
1080/24p and 1080/60i video recording (MP4 and AVCHD)
What we liked about it:
• Fast overall performance/burst shooting mode
• Good shots even in ISO 16000
• Zippy 3 cross and 15 point autofocus system
• A ton of features for an entry-level DSLR
• User friendly
• Very light
What we didn’t like:
• Autofocus can get troublesome in low-light situations
• EVF stutters/corrupts randomly
• Low-resolution live view display