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In this final Part 3, I’ll show you additional examples of some of the innovative and easy-to-use features that make the Sony Alpha A55 my recent favorite camera.

You can read about the “standard” features of the Sony Alpha A55 in Part 1 of my review. And in Part 2, I describe my experience using several of the A55′s unique features.


D-Range Optimization

When shooting a scene that has high contrast, you may notice that the shadow areas are likely to lack detail and/or the highlight areas are overexposed.

To counter this tricky lighting, the A55 offers D-Range Optimization that compresses tones to preserve detail in both shadows and highlights.

This feature is not unique to the A55; Canon offers a similar feature which it calls Auto Lighting Optimizer and Nikon uses the moniker Active D-Lighting.
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Unique Features of the Sony Alpha A55

The Sony Alpha A55 has a long list of features – some of which you may find in a few other cameras and others that are unique only to the A55. But taken together they they make the A55 a very compelling piece of equipment.

In Part 1, I talked about the “standard” features of the A55.

In this part of the review, I’ll key in on several of these features that are both unique and innovative.

The first three features are possible because of the A55′s translucent mirror.


Electronic Viewfinder

The first time I used the A55, I was surprised when I put my eye up to the viewfinder. In place of a conventional reflex viewfinder used in DSLRs, the A55 has an electronic viewfinder (EVF). The resulting image is somewhat similar to what I might see on a miniature television.

A big advantage is that the image in the EVF can be overlaid with a variety of information as you can see below.


viewfinder displaying the level gauge in the center


viewfinder displaying histogram at bottom right

viewfinder showing changeable settings

Having used a dozen or more DLSRs extensively, it took me about a week to get used to the EVF. As a wearer of eyeglasses I was able to set the built-in diopter adjustment correctly for my vision. The image is bright and clear owing to the 1.1 megapixel viewfinder screen, a high refresh rate (60fps). The EVF also has 100% field coverage. I especially like the level gauge that helps to align the horizon.

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A New Breed of Camera

I first laid my hands on the Sony Alpha A55 (and the smaller, less expensive Alpha 33) at the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City last September.

What interested me in this new camera was its fixed translucent mirror. In a conventional DSLR, the reflex mirror reflects the image into the viewfinder and then swings out of the way when you press the shutter to send the image to the “film” light sensor. In the Alpha 55, the translucent mirror sends a small portion of the incoming image to the viewfinder and the remainder to the “film” light sensor. This stationary mirror gives the camera several unique features that I’ll describe shortly. This technology isn’t new. In the early 1960′s Canon made a model called the Pellix using a similar scheme with a pellicle mirror. My uncle bought this camera back then, one of the first to have Through The Lens metering (TTL) and it served him well for many years.

The A55′s translucent mirror eliminates the reflex mechanism providing a space, weight and cost savings. Removing this mechanical assembly also allows for a higher frame rate. Next, the electronics measuring the auto exposure remain uninterrupted from frame to frame giving instant responses to varying changes in lighting. Similarly, the auto focus system stays 100% available – a very important consideration for high speed continuous shooting.

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