The A35 takes over from the now discontinued A33 as the junior partner in Sony’s SLT range, with the A55 remaining the flagship model for the time being. That said, the two models are actually quite similar, at least in terms of core specifications. The A55 is a shade faster at 10fps, and also benefits from a hinged LCD monitor. No doubt the A55’s successor will put more distance between it and the A35, but for now these are the two main differences.
At its heart the A35 improves on the 14.2-megapixels of the A33 with a newly-developed 16.2-megapixel APS-C Exmor HD CMOS sensor that’s wired on the non light-sensitive side for better low-light performance, along with Sony’s latest generation of BIONZ image processor. This enables the A35 to shoot at 5.5fps in regular use, or 7fps when using the new Tele-Zoom function (more on this shortly). Sensitivity, meanwhile, stretches from a very credible ISO 100 to 12,800.
With a default aspect of 3:2 the A35 is capable of outputting a maximum 4912 x 3264 pixels at full resolution (plenty enough for poster-sized prints should you wish to make them), with further options to shoot at 8.4MP or 4MP. You can also choose to shoot in 16:9, although given that in order to do this the camera effectively just takes a crop from the sensor, maximum resolution is pegged back to 14MP, with 7.1MP and 3.4MP options also available. In addition to being able to shoot regular JPEGs in a choice of Fine or Standard quality, the A35 can also record lossless Raw images (in Sony’s .ARW format) for enhanced post-production opportunities.
As an enthusiast-level camera the A35 comes with the regular quartet of creative manual and semi-manual shooting modes: Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual. However, should you want to let the camera take complete control there are also a couple of point-and-shoot Automatic modes including Sony’s own Auto shooting mode that allows for automatic scene detection, plus a forced Flash Off mode for when the use of flash is restricted.
Other shooting mode options include eight individual Scene modes and 11 Picture Effect modes that, somewhat bizarrely, are grouped together under one sub-menu. We say this because they are actually quite different tools and therefore probably deserving of their own individual notch on the dial. The Scene modes are the regular selection of Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait and suchlike as found on all digital cameras, while the Picture Effects are essentially a set of digital filters ranging from a Posterization effect, to High Key, Retro and Toy Camera.
In addition to these filter effects, the A35 also offers the regular range of Sony Creative Styles. These are essentially JPEG processing commands that can be used to give your JPEGs a particular look. Preset Creative Styles include: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset and Black & White. It’s possible to tweak the individual contrast, sharpness and saturation levels for each of these presets if you don’t like the default settings.
This being a Sony camera, there’s also a Sweep Shooting option that enables you to create extreme wideangle images by panning the camera in a predetermined direction with the shutter button held. While we’ve championed this technology in previous reviews for the great results it can produce, it does prove slightly more fiddly to operate here than on other Sony cameras, with the sweeping motion itself harder to exact. When it works though, the results are still very good.
Last, but not least, is the Tele-Zoom shooting mode. This is a speed-specific option that enables quicker continuous burst shooting by taking a crop from the centre of the screen equivalent to 1.4x the selected focal length. With it engaged the A35 can shoot at 7fps, although it’s worth noting that images can only be captured as JPEGs and at a resolution of 8.4MP. This means it’s not possible to record Tele-Zoom images as lossless Raw files. Whether this will be a problem will of course depend on how much post-production work you want to carry out on your images.
In addition to being a solid stills camera, the A35 offers some solid, if not particularly numerous, movie-recording abilities. Those looking for maximum all-round quality should be more than happy with the top setting of 1080p Full HD at 50i, with files stored in the AVCHD format. Aside from this though the only other choices are 1440 x 1080 at 25fps, and VGA-quality 640 x 480 at 25fps, both of which are stored as MP4 files. Sound is recorded in mono, however there is an external microphone input should you wish to record in stereo.