Sony’s lower-priced SLT-series D-SLR got a bit hidden behind its big brother so it’s been given an update and launched on its own so it can get the attention it deserves. Report by Paul Burrows.

Sony has always been a company that does things a little differently and its SLT-series D-SLRs are a good example of this. Sony inherited its D-SLR platform from Konica Minolta, but has very quickly built its own identity with the subsequent generations of models, gaining a respectable slice of the market for a newcomer. Like everybody else, Sony has also developed a system of compact cameras with interchangeable lenses, but it’s also recognised that people who want a compact D-SLR actually do want a digital SLR. This is where the SLT-series models step in.

Despite its small size, the A35’s grip is very comfortable to hold. This model takes over from the A33 and has been upgraded in a number of key areas (including the sensor) to improve its appeal.

Video start/stop has a dedicated button and so does the dynamic range expansion and HDR processing which makes them easier to access on-the-fly.

These cameras are still D-SLR as they retain a reflex mirror and have a built-in eyelevel viewfinder. They look like an SLR and they retain Sony’s full-size A-mount (nee Minolta) lens fitting so there’s a host of both new and ‘legacy’ lenses that are compatible, including the fabulous optics Zeiss has created for Sony. However, the reflex mirror is fixed and the eyelevel viewfinder is electronic which seems to be a bit contradictory until you understand what’s going on. OK, so EVFs, even the best ones, don’t cut it alongside a purely optical finder, but Sony has a compelling reason for adopting this arrangement.

The fixed mirror employs what Sony calls its ‘Translucent Mirror Technology’ which basically means it’s semi-silvered so some light passes through it and some light is reflected. In a conventional SLR, the reflected light is directed to the viewfinder eyepiece and, in many cases, to the exposure metering sensor. When autofocusing was introduced a small section of the mirror was made semi-transparent so that some light could go to the sensors measuring the subject distance. These are usually located in the base of the mirror box, and a small sub-mirror hanging off the back of the main mirror reflects the in-coming light rays onto them. With the arrival of live view which requires that a conventional reflex mirror be flipped up so light can travel directly to the imaging sensor, none of these systems work any more. The viewfinder is blacked out and phase-difference detection AF is disabled because the sensors are also cut off.