Sony Alpha A35 digital SLR camera

A good-but-not-great compact digital SLR camera

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Sony Alpha SLT-A35
  • Sony Alpha SLT-A35
  • Sony Alpha SLT-A35
  • Expert Rating

    3.25 / 5

Pros

  • Compact
  • Excellent live view
  • Built-in IS

Cons

  • Poor button ergonomics, no flip-out LCD
  • Kit lens feels plasticky and cheap

Bottom Line

The Sony Alpha A35 is a viable alternative for its entry-level Canon EOS 600D and Nikon D3100 competitors. It doesn’t have any special surprises in picture quality or usability, although we think the build quality of the bundled lens isn’t great and the buttons could be easier to press. The A35 is very compact and has effective built-in image stabilisation and excellent Live View.

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The Sony Alpha SLT-A35 is an entry-level digital camera. It’s half-way between a digital SLR camera like the Canon EOS 600D and a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera like the Olympus E-P3, because it has a ‘pellicle’ mirror — it can focus as fast as a digital SLR while showing a live view image on the rear LCD screen like a mirrorless camera. In theory it’s a good compromise between convenience and image quality but for all intents and purposes the Sony Alpha A35 is another good-but-not-great camera in an already-crowded market.

Read our selection of the top digital SLRs for August 2011.

Sony Alpha SLT-A35: Design and layout

The Sony Alpha SLT-A35 is laid out like a traditional digital SLR camera, with an electronic viewfinder above a 3in rear LCD screen and a large finger-grip on the camera’s right-hand side. This layout isn’t anything special, but what caught our attention was how about half the buttons are slightly recessed into the camera’s body. Another puzzling feature is the lack of articulating LCD screen that the earlier Alpha A33 had (which also appears on the competing Canon EOS 600D and Nikon’s step-up D5100). The body of the Sony Alpha A35 is compact for a digital SLR, but its ergonomics aren’t seriously compromised by the smaller size.

The Sony A35 accepts Sony A-mount lenses, with the camera available in single- and twin-lens kits. We tested the A35 with the kit 18-55mm lens, which is a general-purpose wide-angle zoom. Disappointingly, it’s cheaply built with scratchy plastics, and doesn’t zoom smoothly across the entire range. It’s also quite loud when focusing (which it does admittedly do reasonably quickly) — we’d opt for a different lens if possible.

The live view on the Sony Alpha SLT-A35 — the live video feed on the rear LCD and through the electronic viewfinder, in lieu of a through-the-lens view like on a regular SLR camera — is excellent.

Sony Alpha A35: Image quality, video and performance

The Sony Alpha SLT-A35 has image quality that’s comparable to other entry-level and mid-range consumer digital SLR cameras — it’s in the league of the Olympus E-P3, Samsung NX11, Canon EOS 600D, Olympus E-5, Nikon D3100, [artnid:376753|Panasonic LUMIX GH2]] and LUMIX GF2 and so on. We thought its JPEG images suffered from a little too much noise reduction, robbing sharpness and making captured photos a little smudged when viewed at full size on a computer monitor.

The Alpha A35 has an ISO range of 100 to 12800, so it’s versatile enough to use in low light situations (although we’d match it up with a lens better than the kit 18-55). We’d shoot the Alpha A35 in RAW mode if possible and process the images ourselves, but at the time of writing only Sony’s proprietary software supports the Alpha A35’s RAW files — we expect this will change within the month. The built-in image stabilisation, which floats the camera’s sensor to eliminate any hand shake or vibration from pressing the shutter button, works effectively.

The Sony Alpha SLT-A35 is able to record video at the full 1080p 25fps rate. It takes up a fair amount of space, so you’ll need to buy a large SD card if you’re going to be recording for more than a few minutes, but the video quality is generally good with clean and clear frames and reasonably good low-light performance. The in-built image stabilisation also means video is generally shake-free.

The Alpha A35 is reasonably quick to start as cameras in general go (it’s much quicker to start and use than a compact camera, for example), but it lags slightly behind its peers on start-up speed. It takes 0.9 seconds from flicking the switch before the camera is ready to take a photo, which is around twice the time of the Canon EOS 600D. There is neglible shutter lag though, and the A35 is able to capture 5.5 frames per second in continuous shooting mode — around as fast as the semi-pro Nikon D7000.

Sony Alpha SLT-A35: Conclusion

The Sony Alpha SLT-A35 is a small and feature-packed camera. We wish the kit lens was better built and the buttons were more finger-friendly, because those differences would have made the Sony Alpha A35 superior to its competitors. As it stands, it’s merely on par.

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