Sony A55 Review

4.5
February 17, 2011 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 16.2 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Sony A55 produced images of excellent quality during the review period. The Sony A55's has an extensive and very usable ISO range of 100-12800. ISO 100-800 is noise-free, whilst ISO 1600 and 3200 produce more than acceptable results, and even ISO 6400 and 12800 are OK for emergency use. Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled, only appearing in areas of high contrast.

The effective Dynamic Range Optimizer function extracts more detail from the shadow and highlight areas in an image, without introducing any unwanted noise or other artifacts. The High Dynamic Range mode combines two shots taken at different exposures to produce one image with greater dynamic range than a single image would produce. It only works for JPEGs and for still subjects, but does produce some very effective results.

The 16 megapixel images are a little soft straight out of the camera using the default creative style and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera sharpening level. The built-in flash worked well indoors with no red-eye and good overall exposure. The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and the Bulb mode offering lots of scope for creative night photography. The built-in SteadyShot anti-shake system works well when hand-holding the camera at slower shutter speeds.

Noise

There are 8 ISO settings available on the Sony A55. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

JPEG RAW  

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

 
 

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

File Quality

The Sony A55 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

16M Fine (4.43Mb) (100% Crop) 16M Standard (3.18Mb) (100% Crop)
   
16M RAW (23.8Mb) (100% Crop)  
 

Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony A55's 18-55 kit lens handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with limited purple fringing mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)

Flash

The flash settings on the Sony A55 are Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow sync, Rear flash sync. and High Speed sync., with Red-eye reduction available in the Main Menu. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (82.5mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (82.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Neither the Auto setting or the Red-eye reduction mode caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red-eye reduction

Red-eye reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Sony A55's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds and there's also a Bulb mode for even longer exposures, which is excellent news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 20 seconds at ISO 100.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Dynamic Range Optimizer

D-Range Optimiser (DRO) is Sony's solution to improve shadow detail in photos taken in contrasty light. There are 4 different levels and an Auto option.

Off

Auto
   
Level 1 Level 2
   
Level 3 Level 4
   
Level 5  
 

High Dynamic Range

High Dynamic Range Optimiser (HDR) is Sony's solution for capturing more contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining two exposures into one image. There are 6 different EV settings and an Auto option.

Off

Auto
   
1EV 2EV
   
3EV 4EV
   
5EV 6EV

Creative Styles

There are 6 Creative Style preset effects that you can use to change the look of your images.

Standard

Vivid

   

Portrait

Landscape

   

Sunset

B/W

Sweep Panorama Mode

The Sony A55 allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and even successfully compensates for moving subjects. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution.

Download the Full Size Image

3D Sweep Panorama Mode

The Sony A55 also offers a 3D Sweep Panorama mode. If you're lucky enough to own a compatible 3D HDTV, download the sample below to experience the full 3D effect.

Download the Full Size Image

Entry Tags

hd video, hd, 3 inch LCD, review, 16 megapixel, hdmi, sony, DSLR, tilting, 1080i, 10fps, alpha, slt, Sony A55, slt-a55, a55

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