Sony A35 Review

August 31, 2011 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


Since stepping into the DSLR market in 2006, Sony have become possibly the most progressive company around. They've built on the existing reputation from Minolta and turned the cameras into something unique. In 2010, they took it one step further and introduced the SLT cameras. SLT stands for Single Lens Translucent and the major feature is the mirror that stays in position during an exposure. This leads to much faster shutter speeds on lower specification cameras. One such camera is the new SLT-A35, which boasts a 16.2 megapixel sensor, Full HD AVCHD video, 3D Sweep Panorama, 5.5fps continuous shooting, an ultra wide 3.5 inch screen as well as the more frequently seen Minolta A mount and SteadyShot Inside. The Sony A35 SLT camera starts at £520 / $600 body only and is also available in single and twin lens kits.

Ease of Use

Despite its historic roots, the Sony SLT-A35 has changed a lot from the blocky Minolta SLRs, or indeed the early Sony DSLRs. The camera has a curvier look to it with smooth bulges and sweeping edges. There's lots of buttons on the A35 to keep you occupied. Newcomers to photography thinking about this camera might be a bit bewildered at first. There are 5 buttons on the top plate alone. Funnily enough, though the camera isn't cluttered. There's even enough space for a contoured thumb rest area next to the function menu button.

Pressing the function menu will open up a quick access menu on the screen which can then be accessed using the navigation pad on the back. The 3.5 inch LCD only uses the equivalent of a 3 inch screen for shooting, the black sides are used for the function menu options which are constantly displayed. It sounds an unusual way of doing things but it serves as a constant reminder of what settings the A35 has. General shooting information is displayed across the top of the screen such as shooting mode, file type, pictures left and battery power which is shown as a percentage. In the bottom right corner are the picture styles. The 6 options are standard, vivid, portrait, landscape, sunset and black & white. Within these settings, you can also manipulate the contrast, saturation and sharpness. The exception is black & white which can't adjust the saturation for obvious reasons.

The screen features a TruBlack coating which is a gel coating that sits in between the LCD and the glass. It removes the traditional air gap making images clearer, contrasts harder and the actual screen more durable. The resolution of the screen is 921,000 dots, which is around 307,000 pixels. The viewfinder is electronic and doesn't come on as a default. It's activated by the small sensors on the bottom of the eyepiece that detect when you've moved the camera up to your eye. The screen then switches off and the electronic viewfinder (EVF) comes on. One of the 5 buttons on the top plate is to switch between the two, but it's not a permanent thing. If you switch it to EVF by pressing the button, as soon as you take your eye away again, it switches on the screen.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Front Rear

Getting back to the translucent mirror, Sony aren't the first company to have such a feature. Canon had a pellicle mirror from as early as the mid 1960s and released one every decade until the Canon EOS 1n RS in 1994. Nikon also released 2 models called the F2 HS and the F3 HS. There are distinct advantages to having a mirror that doesn't move for a number of different styles of photography. For example, the lack of mirror movement means a quieter function because of the lack of mirror slap. However, the Sony is still loud in its operation. No movement also means a still camera which is great for macro or fine detail photography where even the slightest movement can produce a blurred image.

The Sony A35 has a continuous shooting capability of 5.5fps or 7fps when the command dial is in the telezoom mode (this reduces the resolution to 8.4 megapixels and sets the compression rate to medium). It also allows continuous focusing in Full HD video using the 15 point TTL phase-detection instead of settling for the slower contrast detect AF system. This is the reason behind having the translucent mirror. You see, the camera operates in a similar way to mirrorless cameras such as Sony's own NEX series. However, those cameras have to use a contrast detection AF system. The mirror reflects part of the image onto the phase-detection AF system which is in the roof of the mirror chamber. phase-detection is much faster than contrast detect and a lot more precise with less hunting.

There are downsides though, such as an amount of light loss because the light is split between the sensor and the viewfinder or in this case the EVF. The mirror has to be kept as clean as possible as well because unlike a DSLR, any dust on the mirror will affect the end result.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Front Top

The Sony A35 is an intermediate level camera designed for users who want the advanced features and manual control of a high end camera with the small size and ease of use of an entry level model. The body is a polycarbonate shell and is covered in the mottled paintwork associated with higher end models.

The battery door has a lock on to stop it opening by accident and the battery is a Sony Infolithium NP-FW50. Alongside the battery sits the memory card. The A35 has a dual slot for either Memorystick PRO Duo, PRO-HG Duo or SD/SDHC/SDXC.
On the left side of the body are the ports for plugging in the USB or HDMI cables and there's also MIC and Remote ports. The covers are bendy rubber and it would be nice to see hard covers here.

The SLT A35 sample that we received came with the standard 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM lens. It's a typical kit lens with a plastic lens mount and standard optical ability. We found we got the best results from around 35mm while at an aperture of f/8 or f/11. This is usual for any lens but the Sony still manages to produce some crisp shots. There's an AF/MF switch on both the lens and the body and this is because not all lenses that are compatible with the camera have an AF/MF switch. Bear in mind that not only can you fit Sony A mount lenses, you can also fit Minolta A mount and Carl Zeiss A mount lenses.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Top Pop-up Flash

So the Sony A35 is driving technology forward and there's fear that older functions could be lost. The exposure compensation button has already started to disappear from digital compact camera backs. It's refreshing then, to see a small depth of field preview button on the underside of the lens.

Because the Function menu is always displayed it's easy to get used to where the options are and speed of use will increase steadily as you use the camera. The main menu is a lot bigger with 6 sections, each having 2 or more pages with the exception of the memory card section which has 1 page. It's interesting that Sony have removed the resolution from the function menu and placed it in the main menu. This could be an indication that they don't consider resolution to be that important anymore (though given the ridiculously high pixel ratings lately, that's unlikely). The menu is scrolled through using the navigation pad on the back. It's not the easiest one to use because of the bowl design of the pad and because the right side has a small lip around it. It's there because the body drops away and without this lip, it would leave a big wedge of the pad showing on the side. However, it gets in the way when pressing right which is annoying.

Apart from the fast continuous exposure, the A35 also has a fast start up time. We managed to get the camera on, focused and taking a picture in less than a second (0.965sec to be precise). Our shutter lag timings came up at 0.08 seconds which is around the same as a compact camera with the pre-focusing. Without pre-focusing, the camera responded in around 0.15 seconds. In video, the focusing uses a smoother focus routine and doesn't have to hunt through the focal plane in the same way a digital compact camera does. So it's a pretty quick camera in all fields. It's just unfortunate that the processing time takes what seems like an age.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

There's not a great deal to do in the playback menu which is simply fine by us. Putting editing functions in there to make it an all-in-one module would sully the professional outlook that the A35 has. There's a provision to make a slideshow, adjust the image index and specify pictures for printing among other more frequent options such as deleting pictures or protecting them. There is a 3D view option if you have any 3D Sweep Panorama pictures on the card but this is only available with a compatible television.

Within the box, you get the camera body and the standard 18-55mm lens if you get it in a kit. There's a battery, charger and USB lead for camera to computer connection. Most computers come with a built-in card reader these days and if not, a dedicated card reader will work faster than the camera and a decent one costs around £20.

Hoping you'll love the A35 so much that you want to invest, there's a brochure on lenses and accessories which makes interesting reading. A full manual is also included while the CD is reserved for the RAW converter and Picture Motion Browser (PMB) software.

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 Alpha A35 takes great photographs. It's one of the few cameras that we've been comfortable raising the sensitivity above ISO 400 knowing that we'll still get good results. All sample images were taken in RAW/JPEG mode except the file quality test for lower settings. The average RAW file comes out at around 16Mb. A large size JPEG records at about 4.6Mb while a normal size file records at around 3.1Mb with no noticeable loss in image quality.

Noise performance on the A35 is very good. At ISO 100, the lowest setting, there's absolutely no indication of noise whatsoever. Edge definition is excellent and this trend continues through the stages to around ISO 1600 where salt and pepper noise is starting to become distracting. However, this is a type of noise that is tolerable at normal viewing distances and certainly on the A35. Colour noise starts to seep into the pictures at ISO 3200 and while edges are starting to get a bit fuzzy, it's very mild. By the end setting of ISO 12800, the image quality takes a drastic downward turn and while colour noise has taken over the darker areas of the picture, the camera still garners decent results. To compare with a digital compact camera, the results at ISO 12800 are similar to what we'd expect at ISO 800. Obviously there's a big difference in sensor size, but it still bodes well.

Colours are recorded nicely on the Sony A35. Primary colours are punchy while darker, earth colours are rich. The camera saturates JPEG images satisfactorily and the adjustment options in the picture styles helps quite a bit. Some of our samples have been adjusted: for example, the black & white image of the bench had a contrast value of 3 and a sharpness value of 1 while the sensitivity was raised to ISO 1600 so that the noise would resemble grain.

The standard kit lens produces some decent results for what it is. Kit lenses are pretty much seen as a stop gap before purchasing better glass. That's important with DSLR style cameras where the lenses are interchangeable. However, we only used the kit lens to test how they collaborated together and we're happy with the results. It suffers from chroma and has a poor build quality but it's good enough to start with if you're new to the Sony system.

We tried a few shots with the lens on backwards. Without an adapter, we had to hold the lens to the body and the example is the extra close up shot of the small pine cone on the next page. It was around the same size as a 10p piece. The normal macro capability of the 18-55mm lens wouldn't manage it. We got a little light leaking through but it's to be expected and we think it adds to the appeal of that type of photography. The advantage of having a zoom lens means that operating the zoom while holding the lens backwards to the camera body increases and reduces depth of field.


Below are the noise results for the Sony Alpha A35. Noise results are great on the A35 and we're comfortable using it up to and including ISO1600.


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)



While the pictures produced from the A35 are sharp, we found that a bit of sharpening in Adobe Photoshop CS4 proved to improve the edge definition to a more pleasing result.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Sony A33 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.

14M Fine (4.62Mb) (100% Crop) 14M Standard (3.15Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The lens is only a standard kit lens so does suffer from chromatic aberration. Upgrading the lens will help to avoid the problem although it can still occur from the microlenses found on the sensor.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The macro mode of the kit lens isn't all that good. We managed to get in to a reasonable degree but for proper macro photography you need to invest in a macro lens. However, taking the lens off the body and turning it round gives near point blank macro with very shallow focal planes. Adapters can be bought from Ebay but we simply held the lens up to the mount. You need to program the camera to take a picture without a lens attached which is done in the main menu. It's a lot of fun and the more abstract sample images are done with this technique.


Macro (100% Crop)


The built-in flash on the Sony Alpha A35 gives very good portrait results. At wide-angle there is a distinct amount of light fall off towards the edges but this doesn't happen at the full telephoto of the kit lens. Red-eye isn't a problem for the flash but a pre-flash can be set up if you want to be safe. However, this adds a delay of around a second from pressing the shutter button and the camera taking a picture.

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)


We found that taking pictures in the night scene mode still used a relatively high ISO 1600 but using the manual modes obviated the noise issue because we controlled the ISO levels. The A35 has a long exposure noise reduction facility because heat from long exposed pixels can add a type of noise to neighbouring pixels.

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.


Level 1
Level 2 Level 3
Level 4 Level 5

Creative Styles

There are 5 Creative Style preset effects that you can use to change the look of your images.









Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony A35 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Sony A35 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Sony RAW (ARW) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920 x 1080 pixels at 25 frames per second. Please note that this 22 second movie is 45.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Sony A35

Front of the Camera

Sony A35

Isometric View

Sony A35

Isometric View

Sony A35

Isometric View

Sony A35

Pop-up Flash

Sony A35

Rear of the Camera

Sony A35

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Sony A35

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Sony A35

Rear of the Camera / Shooting Mode


Sony A35

Rear of the Camera /D-Range Optimiser

Sony A35
Rear of the Camera / Function Menu
Sony A35
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Sony A35
Rear of the Camera / Panorama Mode
Sony A35
Top of the Camera
Sony A35
Side of the Camera
Sony A35
Side of the Camera
Sony A35
Front of the Camera
Sony A35
Front of the Camera
Sony A35
Side of the Camera
Sony A35
Top of the Camera
Sony A35
Top of the Camera
Sony A35
Memory Card Slot
Sony A35
Battery Compartment


There's a lot to say about the Sony A35. Considering that it's the baby of the range, it certainly packs a punch. The 16 megapixels should produce moderately good pictures, but they're stunning. The build quality should be noticeably lower at this price point, but it's solid and the camera is nicely styled. Sure, the small size means you have a little finger curled under the base plate but is that a bad thing considering the weight reduction?

The amount of buttons could be reduced on the top plate and back of the A35, but DSLR users generally appreciate buttons over touch screens. The screen is lovely and bright and works very well in direct sunlight. If you decide to get the kit lens, don't expect too much in terms of build quality but it produces sharp pictures which is the important thing.

However, the glass is most important and this is a key factor when deciding on a new camera. If you're looking at the A35, you might want to look at this instead as a body only and with the money you save, buy a good quality lens. The sensor on the A35 will do its job and give excellent images.

The area that we're most impressed with is the noise performance. It's a pet peeve so we were gushing over the higher ISO settings which showed little or no noise at all. The EXMOR sensor gives punchy primary colours but not so much that they look unrealistic. In fact, in some cases, we preferred how the Sony recorded the colours to what was in front of our eyes.

We don't like the RAW converter much. It doesn't batch process and we had to sit for an hour converting by hand, near to 100 pictures we took in the test. But that aside, if you're looking for a camera that's small, good value for money, produces brilliant photographs and records Full HD video with fast focusing, then the Sony A35 is for you.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Sony A35 from around the web. »

While attention is naturally drawn to the super-fast AF and continuous shooting abilities of the A35, what really impresses is overall image quality. Sony has made great strides with its Exmor sensors, and the result here is a camera that performs exceptionally well in low light, producing images with plenty of contrast and punch straight from the camera. The big question is whether you can live with the EVF and its inherent flaws. If you can then the A35 remains worthy of serious consideration.
Read the full review »


Lens Mount
Sony A-mount YES
Lens Compatibility
All types of Sony A-mount lenses YES
Minolta & Konica Minolta α/MAXXUM/DYNAX lenses YES
Image Sensory
Image sensor type CMOS Sensor
Image sensor colour filter R, G, B, Primary color
Size (mm) 23.5 x 15.6mm (APS-C size)
Total sensor Pixels (megapixels) Approx. 16.5
Effective Pixels (megapixels) Approx. 16.2
Automatic White Balance YES
White balance: preset selection Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash
White balance: custom setting YES
White balance: types of color temperature 2500 - 9900 k with 19-step Magenta / Green compensation
White balance bracketing 3 frames, Selectable 2 steps
ISO Sensitivity Setting ISO100 - 12800 equivalent
SteadyShot INSIDE
System: Sensor-shift mechanism YES
SteadyShot INSIDE scale (in viewfinder) NO
Camera-Shake warning (in viewfinder) NO
SteadyShot INSIDE capability Approx. 2.5 EV - 4 EV decrease in shutter speed (varies according to shooting conditions and lens used)
SteadyShot INSIDE compatibility All Sony DSLR lenses and A-Mount bayonet lenses from Minolta and Konica Minolta
*SteadyShot INSIDE was previously known as Super SteadyShot  
Charge protection coating on Low-Pass Filter and electromagnetic vibration mechanism YES
Auto Focus System
TTL phase-detection system YES
Contrast AF system NO
Sensor 15 points (3 points cross type)
Sensitivity Range (at ISO 100 equivalent); EV -1 to 18
Eye Start AF System (on off selectable) NO
AF Area: Wide focus area YES (auto with 15 areas)
AF Area: Spot YES
AF Area: Local focus area selection YES (15 local areas)
AF Area: Multi Point NO
AF Area: Center Weighted NO
AF Area: Flexible Spot NO
AF Modes Single-shot AF, Automatic AF, Continuous AF
Predictive Focus Control YES
Focus Lock YES
AF Illuminator YES (with built-in flash)
AF Illuminator range (meters) Approx. 1-5
Auto Exposure System
Light metering type 1200-zone evaluative metering
Light metering cell Exmor™ CMOS Sensor
Light metering: Multi segment YES
Light metering: Spot YES
Light metering: Center weighted YES
Exposure: Automatic YES
Exposure: Program Auto YES
Exposure: iAUTO NO
Exposure: AUTO+ YES
Exposure: Shutter priority YES
Exposure: Aperture priority YES
Exposure: Manual YES
Exposure: Scene selection YES
Sweep Panorama YES (2D, 3D)
Anti Motion Blur NO
Exposure compensation YES (+/-2.0 EV, 1/3 EV step)
AE Bracketing With 1/3 EV / 2/3 EV increments, 3 frames
Type Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane type
Shutter Speed Range (seconds) 1/4000 - 30 and bulb
Flash Sync Speed; second 1/160
Flash Sync Speed (With Steady Shoot On); second 1/160
Built-in-Flash Guide Number (in meters at ISO 100) 10
Flash Metering System ADI / Pre-flash TTL flash metering
Flash Compensation +/-2.0 EV (1/3 EV steps)
Built-in-Flash Recycling Time (approx. time in seconds) 4
Flash Mode Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow sync, Rear flash sync. High Speed sync.
Wireless flash mode YES (with optional compatible accessory flash)
Red-Eye Reduction YES
Flash Popup Auto
Type Electronic
Focusing Screen NO
Field of View (%) 100
Magnification (with 50mm lens at infinity) 1.10x
Eye Relief Approx. 19mm from the Eyepiece lens
Diopter Adjustment -4.0 to +4.0 diopter
Live View
Live View YES
LCD screen
Screen Size 7.5cm / 3" Wide
Monitor Type Xtra Fine TruBlack LCD
LCD Total Dot Number 921.600
Brightness adjustable YES
Tilting screen NO
Rotating screen NO
Drive Mode Single, Continuous, 10 seconds and 2 seconds Self-timer
Continuous-Advance Rate (approx. frames per second at maximum) max. 7 fps (approx. 1.4x magnification), Continuous mode: max. 5.5 fps
Number of Continuous Advance JPEG (L size, Fine): 18/4 images, RAW: 6 images, RAW+JPEG: 6 images
Recording Media Memory Stick PRO Duo™, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™, SD, SDHC, SDXC memory cards
Recording Format JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver. 2.3, MPF Baseline) compliant, DPOF compatible, RAW (Sony ARW 2.2 format), RAW + JPEG
Image Size L - JPEG (pixels) 4912 X 3264 (16M)
Image Size M (pixels) 3568 X 2368 (8.4M)
Image Size S (pixels) 2448 X 1624 (4M)
Panorama size:Max. degrees of sweep angle(focal length 16mm/18mm) Image Size: Std Horizontal: 8192 x 1856 (15M) , Vertical: 2160 x 3872 (8.4M). Image Size: Wide Horizontal: 12416 x 1856 (23M) , Vertical: 2160 x 5536 (12M)
3D Panorama size:Max. degrees of sweep angle(Focal length:16mm/18mm) Wide: 7152 x 1080 (7.7 M), Standard: 4912 x 1080 (5.3 M), 16:9: 1920 x 1080 (2.1 M)
Still Image quality RAW, RAW+JPEG, Fine, Standard
Movie Recording Format AVCHD / MP4
Video Compression MPEG-4 AVC, H.264
Audio recording Format Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 AAC-LC
Movie recording mode - AVCHD AVCHD: 1920 x 1080 (50i recording, 25 fps image sensor output/ Average bit rate 17 Mbps)
Movie recording mode - MP4 YES, 1440 x 1080(Approx.25fps, Progressive), Approx.12Mbps(Average bit-rate) (PAL) / VGA(640 x 480, Approx.25fps, Progressive), Approx.3Mbps(Average bit-rate) (PAL)
Noise Reduction (Long exp.NR) On/Off, available at shutter speeds longer than 1 second
Noise Reduction (High ISO NR) YES
Noise Reduction (Multi Frame NR) YES
Color Space (sRGB) YES
Color Space (Adobe RGB) YES
Color mode/DEC/Creative styles Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, B/W
Dynamic Range Optimizer Off, Auto
White/Black Out Alert YES
Index Playback YES
Enlarge (Maximum magnification) L size: 11.8x, M size: 8x, S size: 6x
Image Rotation YES
Auto Image Rotation YES
InfoLITHIUM Battery Indicator YES
Histogram Indicator YES
Exif Exif Ver.2.3
Exif Print YES
PictBridge NO
Menu Language English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Greek, Turkish
Zone Matching NO
Depth-of-Field Preview YES
PRINT Image Matching III YES
Remote Release Terminal NO
IR Remote Control NO
DPOF(Digital Print Order Format) YES
Indicator of remaining memory space (CF) YES
Beep Sound On/Off selectable
File Number Memory On/Off selectable
Folder Name Mode Standard and Date
Operating Temperature (degrees C) 0 - 40
Video Out NO
USB 2.0 Hi-Speed YES
USB Mode Mass Storage (PC connection) / PTP
Battery System NP-FW50
Supplied Battery NP-FW50
Stamina (battery life in CIPA condition) Approx. 420 shots with finder, approx. 440 shots with LCD monitor (CIPA standard)
Weight (g) Approx. 415
Width (mm) 124.4
Height (mm) 92
Depth (mm) 84.7

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