Most of the attention heaped on Sony these days is directed at their compact mirrorless cameras. But there is still plenty of interest in those other members of the Alpha family, those larger A-mount DSLR style bodies. The a77 Mark II brings some long awaited updates to the table.
The original a77 came out way back in 2011 as Sony's prosumer DSLR option, leaving quite a bit of folks to wonder about what its successor would have in store. The a77 Mark II, which will arrive in June for $1200 (£710) body only, and $1800 (£1066) with a 16-50mm f/2.8 kit lens, has plenty of upgrades. The APS-C sensor is a hefty 24.3 megapixels which is the same as the old version, but this is a newer generation, very similar to the sensor found on the a6000. It will be a good deal more sensitive in low light, with an IS0 range of 100-25600. It's also outfitted with Sony's crown jewel of processing, the Bionz X chip, which enables all kinds of speed and functionality to be squeezed in.
The a77 Mark II isn't technically a DSLR. It's got an XGA OLED viewfinder and a semi-translucent mirror that bounces light to an separate focus sensor. That enables it to have a robust focus system, with 79-point phase detection—the most phase detection points on any camera, even though only 15 are cross-type. This makes the A77 a better choice for complex focus tracking scenarios that small mirrorless cameras with on-sensor phase detection aren't the best at handling. Squirmy children and flying animals—do your worst. You'll have a number of additional tools for focusing, like eye detection and an option to choose a specific focus range for the lens to hunt within.
One of the most impressive upgrades is the continuous shooting mode. The frame rate is the same as the old a77, firing off at 12 fps. But the old camera had a 20 frame buffer, whereas the a77 Mark II has a 60 frame buffer with continuous autofocus. Unfortunately this only applies to JPG shooting. RAW shooters will have to settle for a smaller 28 frame buffer.
Other upgrades over the original a77 are a higher resolution 1.2 million dot LCD, Wi-Fi/NFC, and a standard hot-shoe. You will also be able to engage magnification inside the viewfinder to help you fine-tune focus, something you couldn't do on the old camera.
On the video side of things, you will be able to shoot at all the standard Full HD frame rates, with 60p tacked also tacked on. Audio level monitoring is another new feature that video shooters will definitely appreciate.
All in all, there's nothing too surprising here. It's just Sony swapping out the guts pretty much! And that's OK. If you prefer the feel of a beefy DSLR with great focus system, loads of customisable buttons (the a77 Mark II has 11), and a wider range of lenses than some mirrorless systems, then this new camera should be able to compete with the best of them. These things are always a hard sell over the dominant Canon and Nikon bodies, but those guys are dragging their heels in the innovation department lately, so don't discount cameras like the a77 Mark II.