Get an up-close look at Sony's new camera.
Special Shooting Modes
The A55 includes a number of modes previously only found on its compact cameras, including, among others, Sweep Panorama and Handheld Twilight mode. Sweep pano is great fun to have on a DSLR—I found myself shooting far more panoramas then usual, with the added bonus that I didn't have to remember to stitch them myself. They're super easy to make, and come out well as long as you remember to lock your focus and exposure on your primary subject before you start shooting. Your output is a JPEG, though, so if you still want to print a giant pano you might consider doing the old fashioned way with RAW files. The other drawback? The camera goes into full auto mode while shooting, so you leave your settings up to the camera, which can occasionally mean a higher ISO or a wider aperture than you might otherwise have chosen.
Because of its continuous phase detection autofocus, this camera should be able to keep a moving subject in focus during burst shooting, even when the subject's moving rapidly toward the camera. I was impressed with the sharpness of my burst shots from the concert, which had the added challenge of being a low light situation. We're looking forward to putting this feature to the test, both in burst shooting and in HD video, when we have a production camera to test. The continuous AF during normal video recording was very good.
Auto+ shooting mode, which chooses among all the camera's special modes was promising but also frustrating. It's cool that the camera will do, for example, an auto HDR when it thinks the situation demands it, but that requires more processing. It was annoying to find that the camera was hung up in processing when I was ready to take my next shot.
GPS worked like a charm—I imported my photos into Apple Aperture and immediately saw them placed on a map. Note that if you get this camera, take it outside and let it get a signal before you start shooting. Date and time are set automatically by satellite, and won't be correct until the camera gets its initial signal. A bonus of the GPS: you'll never have to correct for time differences when you return from a far-away journey.
Despite the slightly awkward button placement, I enjoyed shooting with the A55, particularly when I got used to shooting with the EVF. I did have some issues with the camera overheating after 45 minutes or so of shooting bursts and video, but hopefully those issues won't carry over into the production sample. We're looking forward to see how this camera does in the Popular Photography Test Lab.