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Sony Alpha - looking to get more MP and a bit better autofocus.


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Hi All. Currently using an SLT-A35 with a gaggle of mostly fairly low end lenses. The kit 18-55, Sigma 12-24 (which I think is quite old), Tamron 70-300, and a Sigma 85/1.4. I have produced lots of images with the kit that I am truly happy with. I am looking to add another body to the kit list for two reasons. My 16.2MP A35 doesn't leave a great deal of room for cropping. Certainly, given that I review on a 5K monitor, any sort of crop starts to deteriorate the quality of the images. I borrowed an A65 (24MP) and can actually notice the added clarity the extra MP bring when looking side by side with images taken on the A35 (same lens on both). I'm also looking for improved AF. Love my A35 but the AF struggles with moving subjects. I've managed some great photos of birds with it through sheer determination and machine gunning, but I feel I could have had quite a lot more keepers. It's an entry level camera so I think what it has given me up to this point is reasonable.

 

I will be keeping the A35 but planned to add something along the lines of an A65 or A77(ii), I would ideally like it to be at or around 24MP and want to carry on using my lenses. I am so outdated when it comes to what is good and what is not, as you know the A35 is around 10 years old. I like the specs of the A77ii, but does anyone have any hands on experience with the later Alpha bodies and can offer advice? If I want half decent AF is it as simple as I need to move to either Canon or Nikon? I am brand agnostic but have always been led to believe for AF accuracy Nikon wins.

 

Decent ISO performance in the 1600-3200 range also wouldn't hurt. 3200 is rather stretching it for QC here on the A35 even with heavy NR.

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Hi Callum, I used to own the first generation A77 and it's very good. Sony has moved away now from the SLT technology and are just concentrating on mirrorless, but if you want to carry on using your lenses and to have 24MP this is a very good camera. I particularly liked the swivel screen, 12 fps shooting and the electronic viewfinder was very good for the time. The A77ii has even better specs than the first generation, but doesn't seem to come with GPS whereas the previous model did?? (you might want to check that). I can't really say about the ISO performance - it will be better than the A35, but nowhere near as good as the modern mirrorless cameras. But I didn't have a lot of experience shooting in low light.

 

I never had a problem with the focusing if I used a good lens. I generally try to buy native glass now because they tend to work better with the camera body than 3rd party lenses.

Steve

Edited by Steve F
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My used A55 (of which the A35 is a cutdown) went ping in 2016 and I replaced it with a used low-count A58, which I still have. It's good in all respects and usable up to 3200ISO. I downsize at 3200 but only need to use NR from 800 up. I can't speak for the AF as I've nothing to compare it with, but it works for me. I would say, if memory serves, that I have fewer misses than with the 55. It's 20MP.

It has a tilting viewfinder as well. You shouldn't be paying much more than about £200 second-hand, but watch the shutter count as I haven't found my Sonys particularly durable- my A55 only manages about 35000.

Steve, I think Sony dropped GPS after the A55 but OP won't miss it as the 35 didn't have it either.

The 77 is a lot more money of course.

Edited by spacecadet
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Just now, spacecadet said:

Steve, I think Sony dropped GPS after the A55 but OP won't miss it as the 35 didn't have it either.

I had GPS in the A77 and it was great for when I was on holiday etc. But it's not in the A7iii (omitted as a means of keeping a full frame camera below £2,000) so we're now stuck with some rubbish app for geo tagging photos. Although to be fair, the app seems to work quite well as a remote trigger for taking pictures.

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3 minutes ago, Steve F said:

I had GPS in the A77 and it was great for when I was on holiday etc. But it's not in the A7iii (omitted as a means of keeping a full frame camera below £2,000) so we're now stuck with some rubbish app for geo tagging photos. Although to be fair, the app seems to work quite well as a remote trigger for taking pictures.

Yes I miss it as well. But then LR dropped map support, so I wouldn't have it now anyway!

I have to say I wouldn't be spending A77 money on an SLT when its days are so obviously numbered. I'm only in for two kit zooms, but the OP has quite a bit of A-mount glass.

Edited by spacecadet
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13 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

Yes I miss it as well. But then LR dropped map support, so I wouldn't have it now anyway!

I have to say I wouldn't be spending A77 money on an SLT when its days are so obviously numbered. I'm only in for two kit zooms, but the OP has quite a bit of A-mount glass.

Think we're talking slightly at cross purposes. The A77 is a single lens-translucent A mount APS-C camera. Yes, Sony have abandoned the technology. I haven't checked recently, but I'm also wondering if the big camera manufacturers are just concentrating on bringing out new lenses for the mirrorless full frame bodies now rather than for APS-C bodies. I don't think Sony has brought out much in the way of A mount lenses recently. But OP wanted to carry on using his lenses so should be fine buying an A mount APS-C Sony camera.

Edited by Steve F
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57 minutes ago, Steve F said:

Hi Callum, I used to own the first generation A77 and it's very good. Sony has moved away now from the SLT technology and are just concentrating on mirrorless, but if you want to carry on using your lenses and to have 24MP this is a very good camera. I particularly liked the swivel screen, 12 fps shooting and the electronic viewfinder was very good for the time. The A77ii has even better specs than the first generation, but doesn't seem to come with GPS whereas the previous model did?? (you might want to check that). I can't really say about the ISO performance - it will be better than the A35, but nowhere near as good as the modern mirrorless cameras. But I didn't have a lot of experience shooting in low light.

 

I never had a problem with the focusing if I used a good lens. I generally try to buy native glass now because they tend to work better with the camera body than 3rd party lenses.

Steve

 

Thanks. I have looked at the 77 and just realised that it too is almost 10 years old. The 58 is not as old but maybe doesn't quite have the MP count I'm looking for. I'm tempted to consider a 65 as well given I used one and was so pleased with it, but it too is old. I think the only Alpha cameras that aren't old are the very expensive top end and full frame models which I am not in the market for, so if I want to stay with SLT I will have to accept that I will be buying an old camera. In principle that doesn't bother me, as long as it is in good condition.

 

I'll have to have a think and consider my options. Hanging on with what I've got for now and planning to switch to another type has been a consideration in the back of my mind for a while.

Edited by Cal
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Just now, Cal said:

 

Thanks. I have looked at the 77 and just realised that it too is almost 10 years old. The 58 is not as old but maybe doesn't quite have the MP count I'm looking for. I'm tempted to consider a 65 as well given I used one and was so pleased with it, but it too is old. I think the only Alpha cameras that aren't old are the very expensive top end and full frame models which I am not in the market for, so if I want to stay with SLT I will have to accept that I will be buying an old camera. In principle that doesn't bother me, as long as it is in good condition.

 

I'll have to have a think and consider my options. Hanging on with what I've got and planning to switch to another type has been a consideration in the back of my mind for a while.

Yes, they're all old now. But better than the A35.... You might struggle to get a new version, so you can save some money and go second hand as Spacecadet suggests. I think upgrading from 16 to 24MP is a good step.

 

What is your overall budget approximately?

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1 minute ago, Steve F said:

Yes, they're all old now. But better than the A35.... You might struggle to get a new version, so you can save some money and go second hand as Spacecadet suggests. I think upgrading from 16 to 24MP is a good step.

 

What is your overall budget approximately?

 

I wouldn't be buying new I don't think, second hand was always what I was going for.

 

Budget probably no more than £350. I like most of the the specs of the A58, I just don't quite think 20MP is enough. I'm kicking myself because there was a used A77ii (yes ii) for sale for something absurd like £350 a few days ago and I never snapped it up.

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I'd go 24MP if you can - it seems to be good enough for almost anything, although some shots I feel I could use more MPs. You're going to use the camera for a few years hopefully, assuming you don't upgrade again (or it breaks!), so maybe wait until you see one of the A77s again at a reasonable price. Lowest I can see is £375 on Amazon.

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58 minutes ago, Steve F said:

Think we're talking slightly at cross purposes. The A77 is a single lens-translucent A mount APS-C camera. Yes, Sony have abandoned the technology. I haven't checked recently, but I'm also wondering if the big camera manufacturers are just concentrating on bringing out new lenses for the mirrorless full frame bodies now rather than for APS-C bodies. I don't think Sony has brought out much in the way of A mount lenses recently. But OP wanted to carry on using his lenses so should be fine buying an A mount APS-C Sony camera.

 

Yes, I looked it up when replacing the 55 four years ago but it was too much money, that being my point. I meant that if sticking with A-mount, I wouldn't spend the price of an A77 on any SLT. Hence the A58. But as I only have two kit zooms, I'm not committed.

FWIW I find 20MP more than adequate for stock. I venture that the difference is quite slight. I don't recall noticing much difference when going from 16 to 20MP but I might be the wrong person to ask- all I can say over the last few years is that  I do wonder how some of my A350 images ever got through QC.

Edited by spacecadet
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31 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

Yes, I looked it up when replacing the 55 four years ago but it was too much money, that being my point.

 

I do wonder how some of my A350 images ever got through QC.

I see, got you!

 

My first proper digital camera was an A300, but I wasn't doing stock then!

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20 hours ago, spacecadet said:

Yes I miss it as well. But then LR dropped map support, so I wouldn't have it now anyway!

 

By the way, I'm using the map page on LR at the moment, but its for old photos from several years ago (finally got round to putting some of my back catalogue on Alamy). Map seems to work ok, what's not supported? Just curious!

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1 hour ago, Steve F said:

 

By the way, I'm using the map page on LR at the moment, but its for old photos from several years ago (finally got round to putting some of my back catalogue on Alamy). Map seems to work ok, what's not supported? Just curious!

It no longer works on LR5 which is what I have.

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25 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

It no longer works on LR5 which is what I have.

Ah ha, I see. I reluctantly signed up to the monthly subscription, but I have to say that getting Photoshop with it has been useful.

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54 minutes ago, Steve F said:

Ah ha, I see. I reluctantly signed up to the monthly subscription, but I have to say that getting Photoshop with it has been useful.

Still on CS2, although rarely used except for birthday cards.

It's simple for me. If I don't get income every month, I don't want bills, however small,  every month.

Edited by spacecadet
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13 hours ago, Olivier Parent said:

If you want better AF, I suggest you go for a camera that has AF micro-adjustment for a start (and also have a look on the forums wether your lenses are compatible with AF micro-adjustment depending on the camera you choose because they are not equal), which means, as far as I know, A77, A77ii, A99, A99ii if you are looking into the A-mount lineup. If you are looking for a good high ISO performance, a full frame camera will of course be way better than any APS-C. I switched to FF something like 11 years ago with the A850 and A900 bodies and I could never go back to APS-C although I still have an A77 that I sometimes use for macro work. I now use the A99ii which is a fantastic camera but comes at a cost! It also requires the best lenses to get the best out of it. Whatever, if you are interested in an APS-C camera, the A77 and A77ii remain attractive I think but do not expect premium high ISO performance (as with any APS-C camera from any brand). Some software might help in that area and be more efficient than Lightroom for example.

 

The problem with going to full frame is a) it's bloody expensive and b) I'd lose a lot of the reach I've come to love for my recent foray into birding. There is also a c) that is the lenses I use aren't the greatest and FF would probably really show at least two of them up (edge sharpness/falloff). For me to upgrade to FF, while it is something I've considered, would just be prohibitively expensive to do properly at the moment. I'm not looking for "Nikon D3 when it was new" levels of jaw dropping high ISO performance, just something somewhat better than what I have now. Have used FF once briefly in the past - Canon 1Ds - camera weighed half as much as me.

 

I will take on board what you have said about micro adjustment, I didn't know the A77 had this, I expected it to only be the ii so I will look. I can't tell whether I have slight focus issues with one lens on my A35 as I end up with a LOT of duffers from it all with the same symptom - focus about 2-3 inches in front (towards me) of where it should be - that's enough at 300mm to make a lot of the bird photos I've taken just a tiny bit soft. That said, I'm not sure at this point if it is the equipment or just me being crap, because I've got into the controversial habit of focus and recompose, mainly because if you give the A35 a choice of which focus area to use, it will almost always choose the wrong one every time. Today I got brave while photographing some ducklings and selected a focus point while using continuous AF and got a surprising number of keepers, so I suspect the blame lies largely with me.

 

I also ventured up to ISO 3200 and did what spacecadet suggested which was to downsize the images somewhat. I can't believe I never considered this before, but it sounds a lot better than simply using so much NR the subject turns to plastic. Time will tell whether it's enough to pass QC, but basing on what seems to pass QC noise wise they will go through. 

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Your existing lenses might not actually cover FF.

I routinely downsize ISO3200 images to 3250px long side which is just over the minimum. In fact some would pass QC full size but I don't take the risk. They still get some NR in LR as well, on a preset.

Edited by spacecadet
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37 minutes ago, spacecadet said:

Your existing lenses might not actually cover FF.

I routinely downsize ISO3200 images to 3250px long side which is just over the minimum. In fact some would pass QC full size but I don't take the risk. They still get some NR in LR as well, on a preset.

 

3264 was what I used on the long side IIRC, total image size turned out just above 7MP. All in QC now, so we will see.

 

The 12-24 and 85 will cover FF and I think the 70-300 is an FF lens as well. FF not 100% ruled out yet. Head tells me it doesn't make sense though as I'm often at the 300 end.

 

Interestingly I had a look on dpreview and did various comparisons of high ISO noise with other cameras that came out roughly the same time as the A35. It turns out the A35 is actually as good as if not slightly better than some of the other sony crop bodies at high-ish ISO due to electronic trickery and probably comparative lack of megapixels. I couldn't find any crop body that I'd be considering within my budget on dpreview that offered realistically any better ISO performance. Bearing in mind Olivier's comment I put some FF bodies into the comparison and was reminded just how much better it is for high ISO performance. The a99 looks usable up to 12800.

 

So this morning's research has taught me a few things. Forget the ISO performance with APS-C; whatever I buy if it is APS-C will likely be just as good as the A35. If I decide I do need good high ISO perf, I've no choice really but to go FF. If I stay with APS-C, I live within its limitations and concentrate on just getting a body with more MP and better focussing system. Tiltable screen be a plus for candids, but they almost all have that anyway.

Edited by Cal
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Then may I repeat the suggestion of a low-count A58. You won't be out much if you don't like it- it can go back on ebay. Or a 77 for a fair bit more.

Though a 12-24 on FF would be lovely and wide.

Edited by spacecadet
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I switched from a 16MP Sony NEX-6 to a Sony A6000 awhile back, and 24 MP makes a big difference when it comes to having lots of leeway for cropping and correcting verticals. Mind you, I still like using the NEX-6 sometimes as the smaller image files are faster to process. The A6000's 24MP sensor is excellent with high ISO noise control. Don't know if it's the same sensor as the one in the A77, though.

Edited by John Mitchell
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Thanks John. I don't think they are the same sensor, but if they are from the same (roughly) generation I'd expect performance to be broadly similar, with perhaps a smidgen more high ISO noise on the A77 due to slight light loss through the SLT mirror.

 

At the moment I am still deciding from the various choices what's best for me. I have the megapixel department sussed out and plenty to choose from there. I have decided firmly that I will be sticking to 24MP+. Whether I actually need a better AF system is still undecided, as it could be me that is the issue. Some days I go out and miss nearly every shot, others I get a high rate of keepers. Higher light gathering ability would be nice as I often use the 70-300 at f/11 which means that at 1/1000 I'm into ISO 1600+ territory even on bright days. The A99 would excel at this but its AF system, being borrowed from the A77 is clustered in the centre of the VF and the sudden lack of reach would I suspect be an annoyance. My head is continually trying to talk my heart out of even considering the A99; it's a lot of money for an old camera that on paper isn't even that good.

 

I'll dither some more then make a decision and see what happens.

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22 minutes ago, Cal said:

I'll dither some more then make a decision and see what happens.

 

Taking your time is good. You often lock yourself in once you've spent a lot of money on a system.

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19 hours ago, Cal said:

Thanks John. I don't think they are the same sensor, but if they are from the same (roughly) generation I'd expect performance to be broadly similar, with perhaps a smidgen more high ISO noise on the A77 due to slight light loss through the SLT mirror.

 

At the moment I am still deciding from the various choices what's best for me. I have the megapixel department sussed out and plenty to choose from there. I have decided firmly that I will be sticking to 24MP+. Whether I actually need a better AF system is still undecided, as it could be me that is the issue. Some days I go out and miss nearly every shot, others I get a high rate of keepers. Higher light gathering ability would be nice as I often use the 70-300 at f/11 which means that at 1/1000 I'm into ISO 1600+ territory even on bright days. The A99 would excel at this but its AF system, being borrowed from the A77 is clustered in the centre of the VF and the sudden lack of reach would I suspect be an annoyance. My head is continually trying to talk my heart out of even considering the A99; it's a lot of money for an old camera that on paper isn't even that good.

 

I'll dither some more then make a decision and see what happens.

 

Although I like Sony DSLR's, I decided to pass on the SLT cameras as it doesn't look like Sony plans to continue developing them. Mirrorless is the way to go now IMO, but of course that means buying new e-mount lenses or expensive adapters so that you can continue using your A-mount glass. I ended up selling all my A-mount lenses and putting the money towards Sony mirrorless (APS) equipment. I sympathize. It's a big decision, especially if you're happy with your current gear and, like me, don't have a big budget. Good luck.

Edited by John Mitchell
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17 hours ago, John Mitchell said:

 

Although I like Sony DSLR's, I decided to pass on the SLT cameras as it doesn't look like Sony plans to continue developing them. Mirrorless is the way to go now IMO, but of course that means buying new e-mount lenses or expensive adapters so that you can continue using your A-mount glass. I ended up selling all my A-mount lenses and putting the money towards Sony mirrorless (APS) equipment. I sympathize. It's a big decision, especially if you're happy with your current gear and, like me, don't have a big budget. Good luck.


Budget isn’t the issue per se, more the realisation that spending oodles of money on something would probably end up in wasted potential. I’ve mulled over switching to E-mount and more recently read reviews of the A7iii. The high iso performance looks phenomenal, but it raises the question of being “too good”. The reviewer was demonstrating the capability by mostly re taking pictures that they had already taken at reasonable ISO like 6400. It seemed that at the lower ISO setting the images were already free of blur and were well exposed, so the fact that the camera could also take them at ludicrous numbers like 256,000 was purely academic. As an experiment I attached the sigma 85mm f1.4 to the A35 and took some shots around the room lit only by two small table lamps. One setting was at the far end round a corner and would be classed as not far from darkness. At 6400, f/1.4 and 1/30s (which is dicy, but doable with the Sony steady shot) I could reasonably take the picture. It was a completely unreasonable situation which I just couldn’t see myself ever needing to practically shoot in - the light from a street lamp would be magnitudes higher than what I gave myself to work with. I’ve worked out that even with my slow 70-300 the most I should need is 6400 for almost anything non-tripod I will shoot. With a better AF system, I’ll also not feel the need to play it safe and always use f/11 or higher. 
 

i’ve said on another thread already that it’s easy to fall into the trap of just acquiring fancy gear because of the numbers. I fell into this trap terribly once when I was younger - I spent more time looking at what to buy and spending money pointlessly on kit than shooting. I went full frame once because I felt I had to do it - by buying an ancient canon 1Ds mark 1. I bet the person who unloaded that boat anchor onto me felt lucky that day. The thing weighed as much as the moon and had a max ISO of 1250. Yes 1250! I still have some of the images I took on it and if I convince myself and squint a bit I can maybe see that there’s a certain something about the images - or more likely it’s just my imagination. 
 

anyway. It’s not a trap I’ll be falling into again so my decision since posting last has been made and I’ll be getting an a77ii once one comes along at the right price. The A99 really did the devil on the shoulder thing but with second hand prices being almost double what they are for the a77ii there was no logical thought process to being lured in by it, and it was contrary to the original goal of better AF. I know if I’d have bought one it’d be another 1Ds moment - a millstone round my neck. How the heck does anyone take well composed images with that pitiful AF point layout?!

 

if there’s only one thing ken Rockwell says that I agree with, it’s to stop worrying and just get out and shoot. I tried that today and got soaked head to toe - thankfully the kit bag is waterproof. Thanks for the suggestions and input everyone; A77ii soon to be on the way. 

Edited by Cal
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