Sony a77: My New Keeper Camera

Oh me. Oh my.

I gifted myself a with a Sony a77 — that’s a whopping big slt camera, for those not in the know — as they’d finally come down from the stratosphere in price. I’ve been using an a55.

I got the camera Saturday. As soon as the battery was charged, I fired it up and took a few shots. Oh wow. I used the same lens I’d been using on the a55 — a 17-50 f2.8. It was supposed to be a good lens, but it had always underwhelmed me on the a55.

On the a77, it’s like … I can’t even describe the difference. People have been underselling this camera. Either that, or the a55 is a point and shoot in disguise. I hated to put it down to go to mass. In fact, I thought about taking it to mass and annoying my pastor by snapping him during the homily. He’s a good sort and could probably surf through the annoyance. He is also already accustomed to my weirdnesses.

I have a plan that I’m going to record a year of a legislative session from the inside with this camera; that and take a full set of the people of District 89 as they go about their business.

I think these are worthwhile projects because not many people have the vantage that I do for recording either of these things.

I love cameras. It’s more than the gear, more even than the photos. It’s the ability to look through a viewfinder and, by changing a few things here and there, capture something more than is there. The camera can, once in a while, when you get lucky, capture the meaning of things.

My camera obsession goes all the way back to a Brownie I bought with my allowance when I was a little girl. When I got my first real job, I bought a 35mm film camera with 3 prime lenses (35mm, 50mm and 100mm) and a teleconverter that I used for decades. I was stubborn about not going to digital. I liked the plain and simple methods of setting the aperture and shutter by turning the dials. I even thought I liked using a light meter.

Then, on a trip to Hawaii, I watched as others used their new-fangled cameras, and converted in one afternoon to the its-all-in-the-box complicated simplicity of digital. I’ve been looking for a berth in the digital world that really fits me ever since.

My first jump into digital was a point and shoot Leica D-Lux2. I did good, buying that camera. It’s ten years old and I have no quarrels with it whatsoever. I’ve taken it all over the world and shot tens of thousands of photos with it. It will shoot raw or jpeg and offers fully manual control all the way through to fully automatic, all alongside a lot of pre-sets that I’ve never bothered to use. It has a fast lens that gives a lot of shooting leeway and tends toward a soft clarity that flatters both people and art. I love what it does with light.

I have no desire to replace the Leica. I may never replace the Leica.

But I had a lot harder time replacing my 35 mm. I really hated the digital dslrs I tried. They felt wrong in my hand, for starters. And they seemed limiting in a way that the film camera with its stark simplicity just didn’t. The Sony a55 was my first turn to the digital dslr (or, as purists like to point out, slt) world.

I bought it because — you guessed it — it felt right in my hand. Also, it could use my old lenses. Even though I liked the a55, I couldn’t seem to get the alive quality in my photos that I got with film. Then, I unboxed the a77 and that changed in one snap.

The a77 isn’t a perfect camera. But it’s pretty close. It’s water sealed, which may mean no more wrapping it in plastic on gnarly days. But the main thing is the detail and the aliveness of the photos.

With the Leica and the a77, I may just have found two cameras that I will never want to replace.

Oh me. Oh my.

  • SisterCynthia

    Have fun with the new camera. :) I’m about due for a new cell phone and am debating about what to get, based on the camera offered rather than brand. Practically, it’s probably the best way to insure I can take pictures when I’m out and about. Not as cool as a real camera like this, tho. :)

    • hamiltonr

      I use my cell phone to take photos all the time. It’s the camera that’s always there. :-)

  • FW Ken

    Thirty years ago, I was going to get a real camera, but didn’t get around to it. If I had, I might know what you are talking about. My best friend is fluent in camera; not me, alas.

  • peggy-o

    The switch to digital is always hard at first. With video, I couldn’t stand the crushed black and the contrast noise. When Cd’s first came out they were flat compared to the full range of vinyl. My daughter is looking at canon rebels…enjoy your new camera…your photo projects sound interesting!

    • hamiltonr

      Thanks Peggy. I equate noise with what we called “grain” in film photography. It was also a function of low-light photography and the things you did to get the image under those conditions. High speed film is more contrasty than high iso digital, but it’s still the same thing to my uneducated eye.

      There’s a new Canon that’s supposed to be the smallest dslr ever made. Tell you daughter to give it a look as she’s considering. It may be too stripped down for her, but the small size sounds appealing.

      • peggy-o

        Thanks we’ll be looking and researching for a while longer. It’s so funny howany film effects there are now for video editing to add grain and hair and others… former defects that are now styles.

        This fall we rigged up a go pro with a stabilizer on a drone and got amazing footage of Ozark forests, rivers, old mills and springs…amazing stuff! This was for a starvation series showing off outdoor adventures in our state.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Very nice. I love cameras as well and used to take way more pictures than I do now. I’ve always been a Nikon person though. I keep both a point and shoot and DSLR handy. I could use an upgrade on both but right now there are other priorities.

    • hamiltonr

      Once you get a few lenses, you become committed to a system. It’s really expensive to change at that point.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        Yes, I agree.

  • pagansister

    Enjoy that camera! I love taking pictures, Someday I will treat myself to another one.

    • hamiltonr

      What camera do you use?

      • pagansister

        I have a simple Sony Cybershot, which is now a few years old. Nothing fancy. I wish to upgrade to one that has better close up abilities. Many times I have gotten frustrated trying to get a close up of something. I have managed, however, to get some good shots with it.

        • hamiltonr

          The nice thing about a camera like that is that you can take it anywhere and always get the shot. That can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.

          • pagansister

            The small size is an advantage, I agree.

  • pagansister

    I just scrolled again over the camera pictures you have above and I think I had that little Brownie at one point! It looks familiar! :-)

    • hamiltonr

      I had so much fun with that camera. It started a lifelong interest in photography.


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