Sony A77 II Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins | Posted: 05/01/2014

Record-breaking autofocus. And my, what upgrades they are! From its previous 19-point autofocus sensor, the Sony A77 II has jumped to a record-breaking 79 autofocus points. No other dedicated AF sensor to date has offered this many autofocus points, and Sony is quick to point out that they span around 40% of the image frame, providing more coverage than in many competitors.

Of these 79 points, a total of 15 points are cross-types. Of these, only the center point works up to f/2.8. The new sensor is also more sensitive than before, able to work within a range of -2 to 18EV, where the A77's sensor stopped at -1EV. We're guessing the absence of a dedicated AF assist lamp is a mark of Sony's confidence in that figure, but if you do need to help things out, you can raise the built-in, popup strobe for a burst of assist flash.

Note that upgrading the A77 Mark II's firmware to version 2.00 is said to improve autofocus speed over previous versions, and also adds video features (see below).

Improvements beyond the sensor. As well as the new AF sensor, Sony has tweaked autofocus in other areas for improved performance and versatility. There's a new Eye AF function that recognizes and focuses on your subject's eyes. You can also specify a distance range within which the AF system will operate, and have five-step control over the speed with which the A77 II will react to sudden changes in focus distance.

And you can configure the camera to roam to eight adjacent focus points if you slip off your subject, or choose one of four Lock-on AF modes -- Wide, Zone, Flexible Spot or Expanded Flexible Spot -- which track your subject using color information from the main image sensor. You can even allow the A77 II to choose a balance between focus-priority and release-priority shooting automatically.

The Translucent Mirror advantage. And just like its Translucent Mirror predecessors, the Sony A77 II can take advantage of this sensor not just for still imaging, but also for movies. The partially-reflective Translucent Mirror redirects only a portion of incoming light to the autofocus sensor, with the remainder available for capture by the image sensor. The camera can thus continue to focus at all times, even during live view or movie capture. The downside is that you have to rely on an electronic viewfinder, as there's not sufficient light for an optical viewfinder.

Image sensor. Although its 24.3-megapixel resolution is unchanged, the Sony Alpha A77 II actually sports a new sensor, inherited from the Sony A6000 mirrorless camera. Compared to that in the original A77, the new chip's improvements include gapless microlenses. Sony says its tweaks allow 20% lower noise levels than those of the earlier camera.

Processor. The new sensor is accompanied by the latest-generation BIONZ X image processor, which Sony tells us is three times faster than its previous-generation BIONZ design.

Sensitivity. Together, the upgraded sensor and processor yield a wider sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25,600 equivalents, where the Sony A77 topped out at ISO 16,000 equivalent. As in that camera, the lower end of the range can be extended to ISO 50, but you can also now opt for ISO 64 and ISO 80 extended settings.

The A77 II's high ISO noise reduction options are now Off, Low and Normal, revised from the A77's Low, Normal and High settings. But please note the new Off setting doesn't disable noise reduction entirely at high ISOs as the name implies.

And you can double the upper ISO limit by shooting in Multi-Frame NR mode, which combines multiple exposures to average out some of the noise. As well as allowing you to shoot at ISO 51,200 equivalent, the upgraded Multi-Frame NR mode now allows you to choose a longer burst of shots for a greater effect -- so long as your subject is reasonably static, anyway. Instead of the "Normal" four-shot burst, you can choose a "High" 12-shot burst setting.

Performance. We've already alluded to the fact that the Sony A77 II is an exceptionally quick-shooting camera. That's actually something it inherits from its predecessor, the A77. Like that camera, the A77 II can shoot a full eight frames per second with autofocus ordinarily.

And if you switch to Continuous Advance Priority autoexposure, you'll get a stunning 12 fps with autofocus. The tradeoff in this mode is that the aperture is locked at either f/3.5, or the maximum aperture of the lens, whichever is smaller. This removes the delay that would otherwise be required to set and reset the aperture between shots.

Greatly improved burst depth. But while the burst performance is unchanged despite the more powerful image processor, the burst depth has seen a radical improvement. Previously, Sony said the A77 could shoot just 13 large/extra fine JPEG, 17 large/fine JPEG, 13 raw, or 11 raw+JPEG frames in a burst.

The Sony A77 II absolutely demolishes its predecessor, capturing 53 large/extra fine JPEG, 60 large/fine JPEG, 26 raw, or 25 raw+JPEG frames in Continuous Advance Priority AE mode (12 fps). That means raw shooters can shoot for twice as long, and JPEG shooters will get almost four times as many shots in a burst. Spray and pray shooters, your chances of capturing the crucial moment just increased greatly! In Continuous Hi mode (8 fps), those figures increase to 56 large/extra fine JPEG, 75 large/fine JPEG, 28 raw, or 26 raw+JPEG frames.

Optics. The Sony A77 II sports a Sony Alpha lens mount for which the company currently offers a selection of 32 Alpha mount interchangeable lenses, all compatible with the A77 II. The camera will also accept historic Minolta or Konica Minolta Maxxum lenses.

Stabilization. As with its predecessors, the Sony A77 II includes the company's SteadyShot sensor-shift image stabilization system. The current iteration of the system is said to be good for a 2.5 - 4.5 stop correction, and is available with any mounted lens, regardless of focal length.

Dust reduction. The Sony A77 II takes a two-pronged approach to dust abatement and removal. First, a charge-protection coating on the low-pass filter aims to prevent dust adhering in the first place. Second, the sensor shift mechanism that's used to provide SteadyShot image stabilization also doubles as a shake mechanism to try and free stubborn dust particles that settle on the sensor cover glass. (But at much lower frequencies than the vibration induced by cameras using a piezoelectric element.)

Even better viewfinder. We mentioned previously that the main limitation of Sony's Translucent Mirror design -- beyond the fact that it steals a little light from the image sensor, thereby slightly increasing noise levels or exposure times -- is the fact that it's not possible to include a true optical viewfinder, despite the SLR-like form factor. There's simply not enough light to provide a reasonable viewfinder image, and so like its Translucent Mirror predecessors, the Sony A77 II relies on an electronic viewfinder.

It's a development of the viewfinder used in the original Sony A77, which so impressed us that we devoted almost 3,000 words to its coverage in our review of that camera. It's based around a 0.5-inch Organic LED panel with an extremely high 1,024 x 768 pixel (2,359,296 dot) resolution, 1.09x magnification, 100% coverage, and an eyepoint of 22mm from the eyepiece frame.

Sony says it has further honed the design to increase contrast and resolving power by a factor of three. The company has also added a finer-grained brightness adjustment, as well as the ability to tweak the viewfinder's color temperature.

And an improved monitor. As well as the new viewfinder, Sony also showed some love to the A77 II's LCD monitor. It's still mounted on a double-hinged articulation mechanism that allows viewing from most angles, and is selfie-friendly, able to be seen from in front of the camera. (So long as you don't use the popup flash or hot shoe, anyway.)

Resolution is still 640 x 480 pixels, but the dot count has increased by one-third to 1,228,800 dots. The reason for the increase is that this is a Sony WhiteMagic LCD panel, supplementing the red, green and blue dots of most LCD panels with an additional white dot. This extra dot can be used to increase brightness for better outdoor visibility, or to allow the backlight strength to be reduced for better power consumption when shooting indoors.

Info LCD. As well as its built-in color LCD panel, the Sony ILCA-A77 also retains its predecessor's top-deck info display, a small monochrome LCD info panel that provides camera setup information. An adjacent button enables its backlight, so you can read the display without a flashlight.

A new shoe for you. We mentioned the Sony A77 II's flash hot shoe blocks visibility of the articulated LCD monitor from in front of the camera, and that was true of the A77 as well. However, it's not the same proprietary shoe as in that camera, and so you're more likely than ever to want to use it.

The reason? Sony has switched to its newer Multi-Interface Shoe design. Although it looks a lot like a standard ISO hot shoe, it's still proprietary, adding 21 data contacts. These allow it to provide compatibility not only with external strobes including non-dedicated units, but also with accessories such as electronic microphones, monitors and more.

More flash improvements. Sony has also increased the range of flash exposure compensation available to Alpha A77 II shooters. Where the earlier camera was limited to a +/- 2EV range, the A77 II now allows +/- 3EV of flash exposure compensation. And flash exposure lock is now possible, too.

The fastest flash sync speed is still 1/250 second.

Exposure. Sony has tweaked its selection of exposure modes in the A77 II. Gone are the Auto+ and 3D Sweep Panorama modes from the Mode dial, replaced by two additional User modes for quick recall of settings groups. These substitutions are likely to be welcomed by most enthusiast photographers.

The Auto+ mode is replaced by a Superior Auto mode accessed through the menu system, while 3D functionality is gone altogether.

Metering. Just like its predecessor, the Sony A77 II meters exposures using a 1,200-zone evaluative metering system that operates from the image sensor. Metering modes include Multi-segment, Center-weighted and Spot. The Metering system operates from -2 to +17 EV at ISO 100 with an f/1.4 lens.

Shutter. The A77 II offers shutter speeds from 1/8,000 second to bulb, just as did its predecessor. An optional electronic first curtain shutter function is available; ordinarily exposures are started and stopped with a vertical-traverse focal plane shutter. The shutter mechanism has an expected life of around 150,000 cycles, just as in the A77.

Creative. The Sony A77 II adds several new picture effects and effect options not found in its predecessor. These include Rich Tone Monochrome, Watercolor, Illustration (Hi / Mid / Low), and Toy Camera (Warm/ Green/Magenta). These last supplement the previous Toy Camera (Normal / Cool) settings of the A77.

The A77 II also adds Sony's Auto Object Framing function, a development of the Auto Portrait Framing feature of earlier models, which crops and resamples a duplicate of your photo based on rule-of-thirds algorithms.

Also new are a Smart Zoom function providing a 1.4x zoom at 8.4 megapixels, or 2.0x at four megapixels. And finally, there's a pattern-matching 2x Clear Image Zoom function, available both for still and movie capture.

Wireless connectivity. Another very important change in the Sony A77 II is the addition of built-in Near Field Communications and Wi-Fi wireless networking.

NFC is used to establish a connection with a compatible smart device automatically, simply by touching the two devices to each other briefly. Once paired via NFC, the camera and phone / tablet will negotiate a much faster Wi-Fi connection automatically, without the need to manually select a network or enter security information.

Once connected, you can control your A77 II remotely from Android or iOS devices, which shows a remote live view stream courtesy of a free app. The same app is also capable of transferring images and video to get them on their way to social networks and more.

If your smart device doesn't support NFC -- which is sadly true of all Apple devices, as well as older or less expensive Android devices -- you'll still be able to pair via Wi-Fi manually. But you're missing out: NFC really couldn't be much simpler to use. You're liable to break out in a silly grin at the sheer technological wizardry of it the first time you try it. (Or maybe that was just our reaction. We're a bit geeky like that!)

Video. While the Sony A77 II's basic video features are unchanged -- you can still shoot MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 (AVCHD v2.0)-compressed, .MP4-contained Full HD video at up to 60 frames per second with AC3 Dolby Digital stereo audio, there are a couple of important changes. For one thing, there's now a zebra stripes function that helps you ascertain whether or not your exposure is correct. There's also a finer-grained volume adjustment with 16 steps, and the A77 II can also output clean, uncompressed footage over its HDMI connection.

Firmware version 2.00 adds higher-bitrate XAVC S format support at 60p/30p/24p (NTSC mode) and 50p/25p (PAL mode), but requires the use of an SDXC card with Class 10 or faster speed.

Connectivity. Speaking of its wired connectivity, the Sony A77 II sports some changes in this area, too. The HDMI port now supports 4K displays, and the camera is also compatible with Sony's Triluminos displays. It also changed from a Mini (Type-C) to Micro (Type-D) connector.

And the data port -- still a USB 2.0 High Speed type -- now uses a Micro-B connector, rather than the Mini-B connector of the earlier camera. And it can now be used now only for data transfer, but also remote control of the camera.

Power. The Sony A77 II still draws power from a proprietary NP-FM500H InfoLithium rechargeable battery pack, just as did its predecessor. However, battery drain has increased, leading to around 10% shorter battery life from the lithium-ion cell. You should be able to manage 480 shots with the LCD monitor, or 410 frames with the electronic viewfinder, to CIPA testing standards. Movie battery life is 120 minutes of capture with the LCD, or 110 minutes with the EVF.

The optional VG-C77AM vertical battery grip that was released for the A77 is compatible, doubling battery life with a second battery installed.

Other sacrifices. A couple of features didn't make the cut in the Sony A77 II's design. Most notably, it no longer includes a built-in GPS receiver, and so isn't location-aware. Also gone is the 3D sweep panorama mode, which compared subjects as they passed across the frame while panning, then used some clever math to generate a pseudo-3D effect that could, with the right subject, be reasonably convincing. Only the standard, two-dimensional sweep panorama mode remains in the A77 II.

Storage. Just like its predecessor, the Sony A77 II accepts Sony's proprietary Memory Stick PRO Duo and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo flash cards or Secure Digital cards. The latter include not only the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, but also the higher-speed UHS-I compliant cards. Eye-Fi's Wi-Fi capable Secure Digital cards are also compatible, although there's no real reason to use these given the camera's built-in Wi-Fi connectivity.

Images can be saved either in Sony ARW 2.3 12-bit raw format, or as standard JPEG files (DCF Ver. 2.0, EXIF Ver. 2.3, MPF Baseline compliant).


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