on June 19, 2012
Five years ago I sold my Sony DCS-F717 which was a great camera for an all in one and decided to get a DSLR. I bought the A100 because of the built in image stabilization and the ability to use Minolta lenses. Five years ago it was easy to find Minolta lenses for very low prices as no one was sure Sony would put such a great effort into making an entire line of DSLR's. I started with a 50 mm f1.7. Then I found a 24-85 mm f3.5/4.5 which has become my favorite lens because it's very sharp, relatively light and offers good range. Then I found the 100 mm f2.8 Macro which is a superb lens and was top rated (same rating as the Leica) by Colorfoto (a German magazine) which ran a test on various macro lenses.
All of these lenses only cost me a few hundred dollars so buying into the Minolta/Sony A-Mount system is a real bargain compared to Canon/Nikon lenses. I also have the Sony 75-300 mm f4.5/5.6 which is a copy of the Minolta lens. Over the course of the last five years I've discovered that the A100 is too large and heavy to drag around for casual shooting and it's low light performance was limited. Also it doesn't shoot video so I used a Sanyo Xacti HD-1010 as my video camera. I had to decide which was more important. Video with poor quality stills on the Sanyo or high quality stills but no video on the Sony.
Recently I started investigating the options. After much research I was all set to buy the new Sony NEX F3. Then I went to look at it and immediately I struggled to read the tiny font and icons. Just about everyone will eventually suffer from Presbyopia which a difficulty to focus on close up objects. This can be easily corrected with reading glasses but I don't want to carry around a set of glasses to take photos. Moreover it means constantly looking up to see distant objects in focus. That's when I decided I still wanted a camera with a viewfinder. But I was still attracted to the size of the Nex which I could use if I bought the optional viewfinder. When shooting videos I loved the accessory microphone input on the Sanyo. Unfortunately the Nex cameras require you to buy one specific Sony microphone. Also NEX cameras use a new E mount lens which means you need an adapter to use A mount lenses. So by the time you buy the viewfinder, the microphone and the mount adapter you've spent twice the price of the camera. Way more than was in my budget. My goal was to sell the A100 and the Sanyo and use the proceeds to buy a new camera.
Enter the Sony A37 with Single lens Translucent technology.
This is really a huge advance over using a camera with a flip up mirror which was invented in 1949. For the first time Sony has also included all of the features of the higher end cameras in their entry level A37. The A37 is a NEX-F3 in an Alpha SLT format.
The size of the A37 is perfect for me. The grip on the A37 has been improved with a deeper groove for your fingers. I tried out the A57. It's much bigger and heavier than the A37. I have to grip really hard to hold it one handed (just like I did with the A100.) The A37 is much lighter and smaller which means that it fits perfectly in a small camera bag together with a couple of spare lenses. The camera and the 18-55 mm lens weighs just a pound and a half.
I mostly use the EVF (which includes diopter correction) but when I need the LCD I have no issues at all with it. Of course, I don't review photos on it. No camera LCD is good enough to reliably do that. The tilt mechanism makes it easy to compose shots that require you to hold the camera above or below you. If you don't use the EVF as your primary composing tool then I would suggest you look at the NEX F3 as it's an otherwise great camera that just lacks the things I want such a built in EVF and support for A mount lenses without an adapter.
For $600 my new A37 does everything I want it to do. Great images and videos are just as good as more expensive cameras. I only shoot mp4 videos so the lack of 1080p AVCHD won't be missed. Standard h264 mp4 video is so much easier to edit than AVCHD.
The A37 has the 3rd generation of the Bionz processor which is also used in all of the current generation of SLT and NEX cameras including the flagship model the A77.
This new processor allows for better low light shot with an ISO range from 100 to 16,000.
In addition the new processor makes possible continuous 15 point phase detection auto focus, 5.5 fps shooting at full resolution and full HD video recording.
Together with a 16mp sensor and a good lens such as the 18-55 you have everything you need to take great photos. Features such as clear image zoom that can digitally extend the range of any lens and a viewfinder with 100% coverage are wonderful.
Anyone can operate this camera which now has two auto settings; intelligent auto and superior auto which makes it possible for even a beginner to take great photos.
Let me know if you have questions and thanks for watching.
I'm not a beginner. I've been a photographer for 4 decades and this is the best camera I've ever owned. The A37 is a major upgrade from my previous camera both in image quality and in handling.
The 3 things to consider are the processor, the image sensor and the lens. I own 3 Minolta lenses and 2 Sony lenses. They are all good to excellent and that includes the 18-55 'kit' lens. With a new 3rd generation Bionz processor, a 16mp sensor and the 18-55 lens you will have everything you need to take excellent photos.
The specs are awesome because this is one awesome camera. Sure Sony has to offer some 'step up' features in other models but they are really nothing essential.
You will also have spent less which you can use to buy accessories such as an extra battery, a fast SDHC card and some great used Minolta lenses.
These reviews are helpful; [...] Rated Essential.
[...] 'I know it seems like I'm "Mr. Sony is perfect" but honestly there is very little not to like about this camera at its price point. It is so exciting to watch Sony announce cameras that trounce the competition.'
[...] Editors Choice. 'The camera's small size works in its favour as well by making the camera easy to pick up and take with you.'
I recently had the opportunity to test the Sony Alpha A37 (SLT-A37) with the Sony 18-55mm lens. As an avid life-long Nikon Shooter, I welcomed the opportunity to try another "non-pro" brand, specifically the Sony Alpha series, which seems highly regarded by amateurs and even advanced amateurs. My review and rating of the A37 is based on the camera within its own class as opposed to an unfair comparison to a Nikon D300s or D800 for example, which are priced much higher and target a different shooter group with different needs. Please note Sony's designation of SLT indicates replacement of the optical viewfinder with an electronic one and relies upon a translucent mirror. This is a major differentiation to DSLR's.
The Sony Alpha A37 is best described as an advanced entry level DSLR camera. At $600 (I expect a minor 5% price drop in the future) with the Sony 18-55mm lens, it represents a great way for shooters to enter into the DSLR range or expand from lower ranked DSLR camera and is priced lowest in the Sony Alpha line. But, as with most brands, you are committing to specific branded lenses; in this case, Sony and Minolta "A-mount" lenses. This is not necessarily bad because you will save thousands of dollars when compared to Nikon or Canon. I am not aware of any converters allowing use of Nikon or Canon branded lenses. But, out of the box, you get everything you need including the 18-55mm lens, which would provide most people most of the focal length they need in day to day use, as well as on-camera flash, charger (wall type), battery, strap, and Sony Software. At the wide end of the included 18-55mm lens, the end most used by casual shooters, you have the ability to get creative out of the box- a big plus in today's economy.
Highlights of the A-37 Feature Set
-New 16.1 mp CMOS Sensor
-100% viewfinder coverage
-Intelligent pixel upscaling
-Onboard picture effects processing
-1080p 24/60i HD AVCHD format video
-Dedicated stereo microphone and mic input
-7 frames per second burst rate (reduced 8.4mp resolution rate)
-On camera stabilization
For prior Sony A35 shooters, Dpreview notes: "the changes are subtle - the A37 gains the A57's improved viewfinder optics, and it becomes the only SLT not to shoot 60p video - instead offering 60i and 24p as its highest frame rate options, both at 24Mbps. The A35's continuous shooting rates are unchanged, with the camera offering 7 frame-per-second bursts at reduced resolution (8.4MP) in a mainly automated mode." I felt it important to include this information as I did not own any other Sony Alpha cameras for comparison."
I tested the camera in controlled indoor conditions as I first test all my Nikon cameras prior to field use. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. I found the camera very ergonomic and well balanced, thus easy to hold at about a combined 25 ounces with the 18-55 attached. Of course, it does not have the build quality of a Nikon D300s or D700. But, that's not the point at a $1,200 to $2,200 difference. Of particular note to existing Sony Alpha line shooters is the significant size difference between the much larger A57 ($800) and the A37. This lends the A37 more ergonomic to women with smaller hands. The manual controls on the camera, primarily within range of the right thumb when shooting, are mostly easily accessible and intuitive, providing a higher degree of non-menu driven manual exposure control.
Impressive with this camera is the 100% electronic viewfinder coverage at 1.09 magnification, a differentiation among pros-level cameras as I know very few serious shooters willing to shoot with less than 100% viewfinder coverage, myself included. Live-view (no virtual horizon on this model), available on the Sony A37, is a much hyped feature. However, as a portrait photographer, I never found practical use for it on any of my Nikons though landscape and macro shooters will undoubtedly use such a feature. The camera's 15-point autofocus system is arranged towards the center in sharp comparison to my Nikon usage. The autofocus system can be set to single, continuous or automatic - a hybrid of the two that responds only when it senses subject movement. Thanks to the design focusing is very fast, especially for an entry level camera at this price point. On continuous autofocus, the A37 really shines. Image quality is superb with adequate detail in shadows. Of incredible importance, though understated in the literature is the RAW shooting ability of the camera that translates will with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) if needed. The A37's ISO 100-16,000 equivalent range is exceptional at lower ISO settings and still good OK at ISO 1600. At ISO 6400 detail becomes smudged and process-sharpened edges show as artifacts. ISO 12,800-16,000 do not have practical use in my opinion except for emergency situations with no other alternative.
Another impressive feature that worked in my tests is the "Steady Shot INSIDE" (like Nikon VR or Canon IS on their respective lenses). Unlike the larger DLSR makers, Sony built stabilization inside the camera as opposed to lenses. This provides stabilization regardless of the lens type and ultimately at reduced cost. The A37 also incorporates Sony's proprietary Translucent Mirror Technology, eliminating the need to raise and lower the mirror, providing fast continuous shooting at speeds of up to 10 fps in Continuous Priority AE mode. This speed really pushes Sony out ahead in its class and price range.
Not impressive is the rear 2.7 inch screen at 230k resolution. While most pro's don't rely on the rear screen to check exposure, most amateurs do. Such a small screen at this resolution does not provide a good method in this regard. But to be honest, even checking a Nikon rear screen in broad daylight can be difficult. Also not impressive, though not unexpected, is Sony's continued reliance on its proprietary hot shoe and memory cards. Not a big deal if you stay vested in the line/ brand.
As for video performance, I will have to leave a detailed review to other reviewers since I rarely shoot video.
In conclusion, the Sony A37 hits the mark for the intended audience. It will provide good performance in typical shooting scenarios of amateurs. However, as you move into the creative realm of photography (think fashion and fine art), you will encounter some difficulty pushing the gear envelope. At higher ISO's you will experience significant noise and will need to move to prime or fast lenses and flash to get the ISO down. Frame rate bursts are reduced when shooting RAW and the rear screen leaves a lot to be desired in terms of resolution. The camera also tends to underexpose, which is no big deal really- except to die hard exposure fanatics. But once again, at this price point the camera is a very solid buy for amateurs and allows expansion into more advanced Sony Alpha cameras.
on September 9, 2012
So, I decided to purchase the a37 because of its wonderful dimunitive size. I mean its advertised that it has the same sensor, advertised that the Bionz engine is the same as the a77 and the only thing it seems to fault on is the lower rear screen and speed buffers and speed of fast shooting. I am here to tell you with the same Sony 35mm f1.8 Alpha lens, it is NOT EQUAL in speed of focus and function based on my night time shooting. Look, I am a HUGE Sony fanboy and I was willing to sacrifice the rear screen as well for the size. BUT, once you've gotten use to 950K screen resolution and you go down to 230K, FORGET ABOUT IT. So dim and viewing angles are SO POOR, you wonder WHY Sony even put the tilt screen on it. YOU CANT see it in the other angles! Then there is the viewfinder which the reviews and specs say its the exact same one as the a57, advertising the TrueView, something, well I had read on Cnet that she thought the view finder looked dim and SURE ENOUGH...IT IS NOT Bright as the a57! This is huge for me to get over. Also, NO horizontal or verticle axis balance meter and that is another HUGE deal. If you've gotten use to it in the a57 it takes the guess work out of if your pictures are balanced and most of mine I had to adjust afterwards but you never can really be sure IMO. Ok, so back to the focusing. IT WAS NOT GOOD compared to the a57. Daytime, NO problem, my daytime pics looked GREAT as usual but I am into nighttime photography and IMO, it did not focus OVER HALF the time. It would hunt and just be all off! I HATE that I have to write this but IF you decided you dig the SLT Sony's PLEASE, upgrade to the a57 and you will be set! It's got to be something they did in memory or something to cheapen the product. If you read all the reviews from the a57, they all say ITS QUICK as hell, SNAPPY, FAST to focus. I think sure they say its the same Bionz engine but if the fast frame shooting is lower by many frames and supposedly everything is the same, WHY is it slower? Could it be to save the battery, voltage has been reduced and that's why focusing was way down? Could that be the reason why the viewfinder is noticeably dimmer? Build wise, its SOLID, but again, that rear LCD screen can not be dismissed. ITS AWFUL! and you know how on the a57, you can even flip the screen completely around so that the back of the screen is solid black plastic, well you can't do that on the a37. Yes I also know the argument that you don't need to be looking at the screen to compose or check for pics but I am telling you, it sure IS NICE to have and the cheapness when I compare it to my a57 is IMO, I can't live with. Again, if it were just that I would be ok, but I don't know in seconds or official conditions as to why I sense it is slower but IT IS SLOWER ANd I CANNOT see any reason for you to chose this over the a57! It's not worth the $100 savings. Performance and speed is essential to me. Now, I guess, if your just going to sit around taking pics of wall flowers...I guess this works and FYI, the a57 is not that bad in size and weight. It's just I was an idiot and am searching for the holy grail of SIZE but ease of lens. I LOVE SONY but this product shot too low and is a disservice to the lineup.