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Old May 25th, 2011, 03:25 PM   #1
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Sony Alpha a55...?

Hello,
I've currently got a Canon HV30 for filming with, I (try to) make short films, something I just love doing. I also currently own a Sony Alpha a200 for photography and I'm really intrigued with DSLR video and the depth, etc from these great lenses. Obviously not the only factor to consider but I'm thinking of upgrading to the Alpha a55 which shoots HD video.

Does anyone know of the results? Use one? Recommend one? If not, I'm also looking at the Canon EOS 550D but that would mean swapping my whole kit and starting again and I've spent a bit on lenses already. I'd like a external mic socket so I can continue using my RODE mic, I'm pretty sure the Canon has an external mic socket, but I'm not sure about the a55, although I've only found one website that says it does... Again, can anyone confirm?

So, keeping my HV30 for backup, I'd like to begin shooting on DSLR video. What other advice can anyone give me?

Regards,
Russ
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Old May 25th, 2011, 08:53 PM   #2
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Re: Sony Alpha a55...?

Hi Russ -

I've got the A55 and the A580, so ask away... both have mic in. I'm still trying to get more time in with them, the 580 is of course a more "full body" while the 55 is sorta diminutive. I like the a55, but if you don't mind manual focus (which has some advantages), the 580 is pretty similar spec wise.

I've been happy with what I've shot so far, mostly just playing around with the cameras. You don't have manual control while in video mode, but "auto" seems to do fairly well so far. You do get some lens noise as it auto-focuses (did I mention , so dual audio may be the better part of valor.

If you've already got a selection of lenses, a body is fairly cheap, and that A200 will look like you're chiseling pictures on rock tablets by comparison... so you'd get a good "stills" camera that would be a significant upgrade, no matter what..

Other considerations - the 580 uses the FM550H battery, which I think is also the same as the a200 uses? I don't remember exactly when Sony updated the battery... The a55 uses a relatively hard to find (genuine Sony ones at least) battery, it's smaller, and you'll need a few... The aftermarket and knockoff batteries work, but need to be shimmed.

If you're shooting older Minolta glass, it's noticeably heavier on the A55, again because of the small size.

And now for the "big" fly in the ointment - supposedly with the Steady Shot off these can record up to 29 minute clips, I need to test that theory... BUT, shooting handheld, where you'll want to have that IS "on", these things heat up, and FAST. SO, if shooting in hotter climes is a consideration, you SHOULD NOT consider one of these without a backup. Heat is a problem with many of the DSLR's, but I think it's far worse with the compact A33/A55 body - the heat has nowhere to go...

FYI, there is another small SLT supposed to be released shortly, with the A35 model #, as far as anyone has been able to determine, it uses the 16MP sensor of the A55, doesn't have the GPS, and supposedly improves on the heat issue, albeit we're talking a few minutes more shooting before overheat. Depending on your upgrade schedule, may be worth consideration.

Here's my rationalization for owning these two - we shoot stills a LOT, and have the flashes/batteries (except for those pesky little ones in the A55!)/lenses. SO, it was primarily an overdue BODY upgrade, with the added feature of video.

I plan to use it for short clips, for "glamour" shots where the shallow DoF looks "better", and for the occaisional clip when I've got the "still camera" instead of a small video one handy, I added a fast prime 50mm on the cheap, but my CX550 still beats it in bad light. It will fill a purpose, with understanding of the limitations (most of which apply to any of the DSLR-V's).

The heat thing is one that I'm still trying to find a good answer to, but I've got to do more testing, particularly with the steady shot off, to see how long I've REALLY got... I know I tested an A33 before getting the 55, and (over)heat was a definite issue.

That said, it's a worthwhile update to your A200, any way you slice it, particularly if you have a current investment in a "Sony system". If you "change horses", you've got to budget for all the add-ons.
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Old May 25th, 2011, 11:53 PM   #3
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Re: Sony Alpha a55...?

Some really good info there Dave, thanks. Lots to consider. I've never seen over heat before so I'll be sure to check up on that, and batterbatteries too.

Cheers,
Russ.
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Old May 26th, 2011, 07:22 AM   #4
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Re: Sony Alpha a55...?

Overheating is a well-known problem with the A55: Tested: Sony A33 and A55 Video Overheating Issue | Popular Photography

The only video capable "DSLR" that does not overheat and has no shot length limit is the http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-DMC-GH2-Interchangeable-Free-Angle-Black/dp/B0043VE27Y.

If you want to preserve your investment in Sony lenses, you can mount them on the GH2 with a http://www.amazon.com/RAINBOWIMAGING-Minolta-Adapter-Panasonic-Aperture/dp/B002Z3TDM6 (manual focus and aperture control only, though).

Here's a nice, unemotional side-by-side comparison of the two cameras: http://soundimageplus.blogspot.com/2...-sony-a55.html

P.S. If you decide to go with the GH2, you'll need a http://www.amazon.com/Hosa-GPM-467-Analog-Audio-Adaptor/dp/B000QU3JN4 for your Rode. Panasonic uses a non-standard mic jack.
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Old May 26th, 2011, 10:12 AM   #5
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Re: Sony Alpha a55...?

Good links Bill!

Russ - FWIW, if you can deal with the manual focus, the 580 might be your better step up. It does shoot video (manual focus only, but in some ways for "mini-movies" where I presume you could set focus and do a few "takes" if needed, this is not as much of a problem?), and I believe it will run longer without hitting the overheat problem - more mass and a larger body to dissipate heat! Will have to double check the manual for that!

The A55 got all the "press" because of the "new" translucent mirror tech, but the A580 is no slouch, has gotten good reviews, and may well be the last of the "traditional" SLR line, as Sony appears committed to the SLT in the future. You get the same sensor and processing, about 1/3 extra stop according to reviewers, and a more traditional size camera... You lose the option of the a55's EVF and auto focusing, which is handy for video under bright conditions, but that may or may not be an issue for you.

That said, I do like my A55 quite a bit...will have to run more detailed tests with the SS off and see if it's workable - they say if you don't use the SS, it will run the 29 minutes without trouble, and using a monopod or tripod would be easy enough! Short handheld clips have been fine, but I did hit the overheat sensor with the A33 when using it for a longer series of clips...

Like any other camera, the new SLTs are a "tool" - I've planned for what they CAN do, and just accept the limitations. In my estimation, it's just handy to have another option to use for acquiring video, but it doesn't replace something like your HV30 (or my CX550!).
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Old June 4th, 2011, 08:16 AM   #6
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Re: Sony Alpha a55...?

Sorry for the delay, thanks for the info. There's loads to take in there. I was going to ask if the overheating really is a problem but the links will answer that one. I've also been thinking about the canon 600d but there's no autofocus in video mode? I can be easily led, and a friend says if I'm serious about video to with canon or nikon, sony are no comparison and no proper photographer will touch a sony. I can't believe that and surely an a55 would be just as good for someone who doesn't scour photos or video for imperfections id never notice. And I'm not a pro. I have to do what's right for me financially. The sony seems a logical choice, but I'm worried about this overheating.

Keeping my hv30 for normal use and shooting one or two short films every few months is what id do, only short clips. I reckon the longest clip is shoot would be 2 mins. Doing that would cause overheat?

Should I worry or should I just stick with my hv30 and alpha a200?
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Old June 4th, 2011, 01:22 PM   #7
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Re: Sony Alpha a55...?

Hi Russ -

CaNikon owners tend to sneer at Sony, don't let it worry you - Sonys do fairly well in testing and reviews, this years models keep up nicely.

Generally the "true" SLRs don't have AF in video, the A580 included - it's a technical limitation of having to have the mirror up and using live view as opposed to the translucent mirror and EVF of the A55. This was the reason Sony came "late" the video in an SLR party... they felt the need for a better user experience, which for Sony means the "auto" functions work as expected.

Yes, I've triggered the heat warning. A33, stabilization on, indoor shoot in comfortable temps, series of short clips shot sequentially, I'd have to go back and check, but I'd say it was about 10 minutes in, roughly what they tell you to expect... camera continued to work fine, but was flashing a warning, at which point I switched to another camera as my battery was dying anyway...

IIRC the manuals give a chart with expected times - if you're shooting handheld, stabilization is of course rather important, but if you can shoot from a monopod or tripod, they say the camera can shoot for 29 minute clips with the stabilization "off".

The A35 is supposed to be announced officially this Wed, so might be worth seeing what the specs are before you pull the trigger, A33's are already dropping in price a bit, but I do recommend the camera with the higher rez sensor, both from using both the A33 and 55, AND having had the A200, which had a smaller sensor than the A350 of the same era, and the 200 really didn't cut it, IMO, when compared side by side. The A35 is supposed to have the 16.2 MPixel sensor, no GPS, and a pretty decent price, plus supposedly they improved the heat issues a bit.

One thing that you SHOULD do before buying is try the smaller SLT body on for "size" - I love it, but many users seem to struggle with how tiny it is! It is a bit smallish when you put some big heavy old Minolta lens on it!

I don't think the heat issues will be a problem if you're thinking ahead, and Sony isn't the only one with heat issues, so it's just a function of pumping a lot of bits through a big sensor, must create some serious friction at the molecular level!


MY take was that to replace all the nice Minolta glass I've got, plus flashes, etc, etc, I'd end up really having to put out a huge amount to switch horses... the A580 is quite nice, even with MF only, and the A55 makes a nice backup with dedicated video. It is a bit tough to find genuine FW50 batteries, and the knockoffs have to be shimmed to work, but that's easy enough!
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Old June 5th, 2011, 12:13 PM   #8
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Re: Sony Alpha a55...?

Dave, there's some really great info in there so thank you very much. My heart says stick with Sony, because I'd be foolish to want to start all over again. I've only got basic lenses, no pro versions, but it's still an expensive outlay to start again if I went Canon.

I'll be waiting anyway, I've got to save up a bit first, so it'll be August before I can buy, so I'll have plenty of time to play in my camera shop and certainly have a look at that A350, perhaps let that get established with the reviewers first to help me out a bit more.

Thanks!
Russ
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Old June 5th, 2011, 01:59 PM   #9
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Re: Sony Alpha a55...?

It's a bit confusing, it's actually SLT-A35 I believe for the "newest" SLT camera - sort of a cross between the A33 and the A55... (SLR-A350 was an older camera, contemporary with your 200).

If as I suspect it uses the same CMOS as the A55 and A580, it'd be a good "compromise" if you don't care about GPS (I'd have gone for it if that were the case, but the A55 was what was available).

I wouldn't call any of my lenses "pro", but they are quite good "vintage" glass, and I really notice how good the old Minolta lenses seem to make pictures look when compared to these newer plastic Sony lenses, and of course they feel like 100x "better", because of heft and construction. I keep wanting to switch to the 18-200 Sony for light weight and overall lens range, but lately I've got the old 24-105(D) mounted most of the time.

As a practical matter, in both video and still captures, there's not a "huge" amount of difference between the "big three" (which are different in the two disciplines!). Sony's sort of the odd man out as a company that makes a lot of various "stuff", and that happens to include the still imaging lines and video... but they've been reliable for me, consistently "good enough" for what I want, often times are on the leading edge of certain features (and sometimes horribly behind, like with video in a SLR...). I like the fact that the older Minolta glass, which is typically a bargain can be used, and I picked most of mine up at bargain prices over time on eBay... so for me it's a matter of picking up a body now and then to "upgrade".

This of course could change if they suddenly abandon the "A" mount for the "E" mount, but that doesn't seem to be happening as of yet, and I have to wonder if they are going to abandon the "SLR" as it appears for the "SLT" - as much as the A55 is well accepted, some people just don't want a EVF and that extra slice of glass in the image path (I like the EVF, and don't see enough difference by having the translucent mirror in there...).

I can say if you've got even "decent" lenses, you should be quite happy with the upgrade from the A200 to the A580 or the A55/35, the difference in images will be fairly significant. And if you turn off the steady shot and use tri/monopod to steady, or can work with shorter clips, you should find the video capabilities to be satisfactory. They do what I want, which is allow me to get nice DoF shots in short clips, along with good stills. That's all I really expected of them, and they are a complement to the "video" camera, not a replacement.

Terrifying truth be told, anymore I'm shooting more with small P&S Sonys because they "go with" everywhere, and shoot both stills and video with "pretty good" quality... for "general use", they do frighteningly well, so there's less reason to lug a bigger camera around!
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Old June 8th, 2011, 02:53 PM   #10
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Re: Sony Alpha a55...?

The official announcement of the A35 is out - it's now on the Sony site for preorder. On the plus side, it does appear they tamed the heat somewhat, BUT I'm not sure by how much as a manual isn't available for download - one review site said it'll do a full 29 minutes, I doubt that... BUT.... They also improved the battery life significantly (apparently 20-30%!), so considering that heat is an indication of energy use/waste, it does appear they got that whole angle under much better control over the last few months, as well as managed to tweak more performance from the sensor... or it "could" be a newly redesigned sensor...

On the down side, they went to a fixed LCD, instead of one on a pivot, to save $$, greatly reducing the utility IMO... win some lose some I suppose! Personally I prefer the articulating screen they've used on the SLR's, or a side rather than bottom pivot, and the "fixed screen/no pivot at all" is a deal killer!


They also announced firmware updates for the 33/55 to add the features of the 35, have to wonder if it will help in the heat/power consumption department... will know in a couple weeks when it's available (Jun 20).


Along with this announcement, there are rumblings of a A55 "replacement" being announced in the near future that may be rather interesting given the A35's basic entry level design and the now fairly well documented feature set of the A77 "pro" translucent they've had in the works for some time - rumour is that there will be a "55" class (16Mp sensor) in the A77 body (which will be a 24Mp sensor!)... hmmm.

Many possible choices for those of us with Alpha gear coming down the road!
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