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Sony a55 - Professional Quality MidRange MDSLR

Updated on September 5, 2011

Sony Releases a55

Sony released news on the Single Lens Translucent (SLT) A55 and SLT A33 in August 2010. These cameras use a new translucent mirror design. The design mounts a fixed partially mirrored surface between the film-plane and the light meter. By mounting a semi-mirrored surface the mirror does not need to move; indeed it is fixed in place. With this design light through the lens hits both the image sensor and the light metering circuitry.

The a55 (pronounced alpha 55) is built around a 16.7 megapixel. The a33 features a 14.7 megapixel sensor.

Both cameras include a swiveling three (3.0") inch LCDs with a rotation of 180° horizontally and vertically. The cameras will record full HD (1080p) video. They both have an ISO sensitivity of 100 to 12,800. The A55 also has built-in GPS for geotagging.

a55 | Source
a55 with tilt and swivel LCD
a55 with tilt and swivel LCD | Source
a55 Top View
a55 Top View | Source
a55 translucent mirror technology
a55 translucent mirror technology | Source

a55 Specifics

This article covers the higher end a55.

With the translucent mirror light metering is continuous and ongoing. Using this method The Sony a55 is capable of recording HD quality motion capture with continuous autofocus and light metering. Imaging can be viewed while recording either on the three inch LCD screen or through the "Tru-Finder" (electronic viewfinder). By using translucent mirror technology the camera can record still or motion images while retaining sharp focus.

The other benefit of the translucent mirror is the simplified design which, in turn, enables Sony to put the same amount of technology in a smaller body.

10fps With Continuous Autofocus
The a55 can record images at up to ten frames per second (10fp/s) (the α33 at 7fp/s) in the continuous auto exposure mode. This is the first DSLR to attain a continuous burst rate of ten frames per second while maintaining autofocus.

Quick Autofocus
The translucent fast focus technology also allows the α55 (and α33) to record AVCHD movies at 1080i with continuous phase detection and rapid auto focus. Because the mirror does not move the camera allows real-time video image preview while shooting; a feature all other motion cameras lack due to the mirror having to be moved out of the way for light to fall on the sensor.

Fast Composition and Image Viewing
The three inch (3") diagonal LCD tilts and swivels allowing a maximum two hundred seventy (270°) degree viewing angles. At a resolution of 921,600for comfortable framing at any shooting angle, the bright 7.5 cm (3.0") (16:9) Xtra Fine LCD offers superb detail and contrast.

There’s also a precision electronic viewfinder with 1.15 million dot resolution that delivers a clear, bright image with 100% frame coverage. Adjustments to exposure, depth of field and colour can be previewed instantly, either in the viewfinder or on the LCD. Effortless composition is aided further by switchable grid line in the finder and LCD screen, plus a new digital levelling gauge.

Enriched creative possibilities
The α55 and α33 are compatible with the full range of over 30 A-mount interchangeable lenses and offer SteadyShot INSIDE. This in-body image stabilisation system provides up to 4 exposure steps of anti-shake correction when shooting handheld.

Both cameras also feature 3D Sweep Panorama, allowing photographers to capture detail-packed extra-wide panoramas with a huge field of view. 3D panoramas can be enjoyed on any compatible 3D HD television. The SLT-A55 is also the first α camera by Sony with integrated GPS, allowing automatic geo-tagging of images and video clips.

The new-generation Exmor™ APS HD CMOS Sensor inside both cameras supports a sophisticated range of digital image compositing and processing functions. This gives even greater artistic possibilities to beginners and photo enthusiasts alike.

Auto HDR is now refined further compared with previous-generation α models. Data from a burst of three frames at bracketed exposure values is automatically combined, creating a single image with extended highlight and shadow detail Multi-frame Noise Reduction ‘stacks’ a high-speed burst of six frames, creating a single low-noise exposure that boosts effective sensitivity as high as ISO 25,600.

The new cameras accept both Memory Stick PRO Duo™ (including Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™) and SD (including both SDHC and SDXC formats) media (all sold separately). Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX 30MB per second transfer rate offers the best performance during cameras' continuous shooting mode or when transferring the data to another media.

The new α55 and α33 Single Lens Translucent mirror cameras by Sony have been available since September 2010.

To date, prices are at about the $800 mark with listed prices of $749 and the a33 for $649 respectively; this is for the camera body only, no lens.

For a full list of specification see the table below.

Sony a55
Camera Type
Digital Interchangable Lens
23.5 x 15.6 mm (3.66 cm x 2)
16.7 million total pixels
16.2 million effective pixels
Sony/Minolta Alpha mount
ISO 100-12,800 (25,600 push)
Movie mode
AVCHD with continuous autofocus
1920 x 1080p 60fps
1920 x 1080i 30fps/50fps
White Balance
Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent
Florescent / Color temperature setting
Exposure Control
Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual, Auto
Auto + / High Speed Mode / Sweep Panorama / Flash Off
Light Metering
1200-zone multi-segment
Still Image Modes
Portrait / Sports Action / Scene / Macro / Landscape
Sunset / Night View / Hand Held Twilight / Night Portrait
Movie Image Modes
Portrait / Sports Action / Scene / Macro / Landscape
Sunset / Night View / Hand Held Twilight / Night Portrait
LCD monitor
3.0" TFT LCD monitor
Multi-angle swing and tilt (180 swing, 180 swivel)
921,600 dots
Approx 100% frame coverage
external (optional) Dolby Stereo
4.89 x 3.62 x 3.33" [124.4 x 92 x 84.7 mm]
Weight (body only, no card/battery)
15.5 oz (441 g)
Standard Accessories


Sony, like Nikon D7000, Olympus PEN E-PL2, Canon EOS 60D and Pentax K-5 are all rushing to create a hybrid camera that is great for both still image and movies.

The a55 is no exception, but the translucent mirror technology is a new wrinkle in this "arms race" of high quality multi-purpose cameras.

The camera, as purchased, includes the a55 body, shoulder strap, CD-ROM (with software), battery charger, battery, and USB cable.

Amazon currently sells this kit with all of the accessories above plus an 18-55mm zoom lens for $850.00.


The author was not compensated in any way, monetarily, with discounts, or freebies by any of the companies mentioned.

Though the author does make a small profit for the word count of this article none of that comes directly from the manufacturers mentioned. The author also stands to make a small profit from advertising attached to this article.

The author has no control over either the advertising or the contents of those ads.


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