While Sony has been pushing hard on its mirrorless, E-mount camera system, it hasn’t abandoned its larger DSLR models. The new A77 Mark II, Sony tells us, represents its commitment to the DSLR sector, Translucent Mirror Technology, and A-mount lens system. The A77 II isn’t a complete makeover from its predecessor, but, according to Sony, it has the highest number of autofocus points of any camera in its class, in addition to a fast continuous burst mode.
Available in June for a body-only price of $1,200 ($1,800 with a 16-50mm f/2.8 kit lens), the A77 II is pro-level camera targeting hobbyist/enthusiast and professional photographers. It has a large, heavy magnesium alloy weather-resistant body that’s common to this type of camera, but it’s slightly less heavy than the previous A77 (not that anyone would notice). Indeed, in some ways it’s very much the same camera, using the same 24.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor. However, it uses the newer Bionz X image processor that allows for enhanced image quality with an increased ISO range of up to 25,600; the processor also gives the camera improved video capture (Full HD 1080 at 60p and 24p, in AVCHD format – same as previous A77).
The major upgrade is the new autofocus system, which uses 79 phase detection focal points and 15 cross points, which Sony claims to be the most of any dedicated AF sensor currently in the market (compared to 19 in the A77 and Canon EOS 70D, and 51 in the Nikon D7100). When used with the Translucent Mirror Technology (the mirror stays fixed, instead of flipping up to let light hit the sensor), Sony says “metering data from all 79 focus points is processed by a brand new AF algorithm that predicts the subject’s movement,” allowing for quick and accurate AF tracking of fast-moving objects. When used with wide-aperture lenses, the AF sensor maintains maximum AF precision. It can also be adjusted in five steps for various shooting conditions, from slow-moving objects to objects at different distances, an there are other new AF functions like Expanded Flexible Spot for maintaining focus even if the system loses track of an object, and Lock-on AF selecting the right AF points to recognize and track a subject’s form based on color and position. Other new features include Eye AF for detecting subject’s eyes, AF Range Control, and Balanced Emphasis for “ideal balance between focus and release timing.” All 79 points are available in video capture too.
Another improvement is with continuous shooting. The A77 II can shoot 12 frames per second of up to 60 full-resolution JPEG images, while maintaining fixed autofocusing. If you enjoy shooting action, the A77 II will most likely capture the type of action shots you crave. When we played with the A77 II’s burst mode, it was impressive to hear the camera fire off continuously without seemingly ever stopping.
The A77 II has a brighter electronic viewfinder by employing XGA OLED with a 236k-dot resolution – three-times higher contrast than the A77. In our brief hands-on time, we found the EVF to be highly responsive, as it should be in this type of high-performance camera. Like the flagship A99, the A77 II uses a 3-inch LCD (improved resolution at 1,229k dots) that positions in three ways, including all the way up for selfies. Like many new high-end cameras, the A77 II offers Wi-Fi and NFC (near-field communication) wireless connectivity to smartphones, tablets, and computers. The camera also uses Sony’s newer Multi-Interface (MI) hot-shoe, a universal system of sharing accessories across all Sony cameras and camcorders. A clean HDMI-output not only lets you view HD video, but Sony touts 4K stills on a compatible 4K display – that is, if you own one.
While the A77 II isn’t completely revolutionary, it offers several new and improved features over the original, and keeps Sony in the DSLR game. Stay tuned for a full review when it becomes available.