As a direct replacement for 2011’s A35, the Sony SLT-A37 takes its place at the base of Sony’s pioneering SLT range and is aimed at those upgrading from compact cameras. Although at first glance it may appear relatively unchanged in design, there have actually been some significant changes made from its predecessor.
Features & Build
From the front the A37 looks almost indistinguishable from the previous two models. Sharing the same dimensions as its predecessors, the only noticeable difference (besides its badge) is that the rubberised hand grip now adopts a more attractive faux leather look, as opposed to the patterned effect seen on the A33 and A35. The paintwork and buttons have also received a slight revamp, now sharing a slick matte black finish throughout. It’s not until the camera is turned around, however, that the real changes become apparent.
On the back, the A37 features a smaller 2.7in, 230.4k dot LCD screen which, compared to the previous A35’s 3in, 921k dot monitor, is a bit of a downgrade. To compensate, this time around, rather than the monitor being fixed to the back of the body, the smaller screen is able to pull away and tilt approximately 135° to aid with both high and low shooting. Directly above the screen sits an improved 1.44 million dot Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) that provides a 100% field of view, allowing you to see exactly what the sensor will record.
Inside, the A37 houses a 16.1Mp, APS-C sized CMOS sensor, that produces 4912x3264px images in either RAW or JPEG (or both) at a native aspect ratio of 3:2 (16:9 also available at a lower resolution). Working alongside the sensor is Sony’s BIONZ image processor, allowing continuous shooting at 5.5fps, or a blistering 7fps when switched to Telezoom Continuous Advance Priority AE shooting mode, albeit at a reduced 8.4Mp resolution with the latter. The ISO range has also seen a slight improvement, now spanning from 100-16,000 (compared to 100-12,800 on A35).
While many cameras feature image stabilisation (IS) within their lenses, Sony’s A37 features a built-in, sensor-shift type, which works with any lens you attach and boasts the ability to capture sharp shots with shutter speeds up to four stops slower than usual, while also working in Movie mode.
Performance & Handling
Anyone who’s previously used either the A33 or A35 will feel at home with the A37, as the position of all the buttons and dials is left virtually unchanged from the previous designs. Despite being almost 100g heavier in weight than the A35, it still manages to feel light and well-balanced in the hand, and this continues to the grip. Featuring a deep handgrip and protruding thumb-rest on the rear – all of which is covered in a rubberised coating – the camera fits snugly in the hand and provides a superb amount of purchase, allowing the index finger to hover comfortably over the command dial, on/off switch and shutter release button.
All of the buttons and dials respond with a satisfying click, with the vast majority of them located close to the thumb-rest for quick and easy access; the only exceptions being the Menu button and Mode Dial which are found at the opposite end of the top-plate.
Raising the camera to eye-level activates the EVF, switching the view from the rear screen to the eye-piece and although this resolved a pin-sharp image and displayed lots of useful shooting info, there was a short but still rather frustrating delay as it swapped over. It’s not a big problem, but makes you feel less connected with the shooting process than with an optical version. There’s also the option to overlay a rule-of-thirds grid and digital level to aid with composition, both of which we found useful.
The A37’s rear screen has been reduced in size and resolution from the A35, and disappointingly the settings menu and icons looked small and pixellated as a result, while reviewed images looked less clear thanks to the lower resolution. We also noticed a subtle but off-putting flicker on our test sample’s LCD screen.
Setting the camera’s Drive Mode over to High Speed Continuous Shooting, we were able to rattle off an impressive 36 Large Fine JPEGs before the buffer slowed, though this dropped to just 7 shots when shooting RAWs. Write speeds proved rapid, too, taking an average of 2.2secs to record a single RAW file and 1.4secs for a JPEG.
One of the main advantages of the SLT system is that the camera’s phase-detect AF is always active, thanks to the translucent mirror splitting the light path between the imaging and AF sensors. As a result, the A37 is able to offer full-time continuous AF which, when teamed with the camera’s full HD video capture – activated at any time by hitting the dedicated Movie button – allowed us to focus accurately during recording without altering any settings.
We also found its Face Detection AF helpful when tracking moving people, while the IS worked well to counteract any jerky movements for smooth, professional-looking movies.
Our only gripe would be that the whirring of the kit lens’s AF motor was picked up by the camera’s built-in mic. The AF system performed equally well with stills capture, quickly locking-on to targets with no hunting evident, even when shooting in low light.
Aside from the standard M, A, S, P shooting modes, the A37 also offers Sweep Panorama which allowed us to capture panoramic images by simply panning across a scene, leaving the camera to stitch the images and offering a maximum resolution of 8192x1856 px in Wide mode. This is great for a quick effect, but can’t be used in RAW, so it doesn’t allow much editing and won’t replace the traditional route.
There’s also Auto Portrait Framing which crops portrait shots in an attempt to improve the composition. This clever feature works well, cropping images so that the subject’s face sat on the third of the frame, improving the composition.
Value for money
Priced at £439 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM kit lens, or £409 for the body only, the A37 is an impressive £110 cheaper than Nikon’s D3200 (£549 with 18-55mm), though £65 more than Canon’s older 1100D (£374 with 18-55mm). Though it lags behind the D3200 in terms of its 3in, 921k-dot screen and 24.2Mp sensor, the A37’s rapid 7fps shooting and Full-time Continuous AF certainly mean you’re getting some impressive features for your money.
- Kit price: £239 (Secondhand price as of June 2016)
- Resolution: 16.1Mp (4912x3264px)
- Sensor: APS-C Exmor CMOS
- Lens mount: A-Mount
- Autofocus system: TTL phase-detection
- AF points: 15 (3 cross type)
- Focusing modes: Manual focus, Single-shot AF, Automatic AF, Continuous AF, Multi-area, Selective single-point, Face Detection, Tracking focus
- Metering: Multi segment, Spot, Centre-weighted
- Burst rate: 5.5fps (16.1Mp), 7fps (8.4Mp) Flash: Yes
- ISO range: 100-16000
- Shutter range: 30-1/4000, Bulb
- Viewfinder: EVF (1.44M dot)
- Monitor: 2.7in LCD (230.4k dot)
- Video: Full HD (1920x1080
- @ 25p/50i) Write speed: 2.2sec (RAW), 1.4sec (Large Fine JPEG) Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC/MS Pro Duo/Pro HG Duo
- Dimensions: 124.4x92x84.7mm (WxHxD)
- Weight: 506g
- Visit: www.sony.co.uk
This review was first published in the September 2012 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.