Using the video function is very straightforward; one press of the movie button, which is easily reached without leaving the viewfinder, starts recording and another press ends it. The camera picks up the following settings from the current still mode and uses them in video mode:
- Exposure Compensation
- White Balance
- AF Area
If the camera is put into A mode, the chosen aperture is also applied to the video, giving shallow depth-of-field possibilities with a lens such as the Sony 35mm f1.8. Although these adjustments don’t equate to full manual control, I think they are pretty good for a camera in this price range.
Either the EVF or LCD can be used when shooting video and the camera detects whether your eye is to the viewfinder and moves the image accordingly – and gets it right too.
I had thought I’d find the lack of an articulated LCD a loss as I’ve previously found these very useful on cameras such as the Canon G6. But having used the A35, I’ve changed my view on this; an LCD, whether it articulates or not, is much less usable in sunlight than a good EVF.
Shooting video using the EVF works really well as long as you have some control over camera shake, and I’ve found the ideal accessory for this is to carry a monopod. If you are doing mountain walking it’s possible to find one that doubles as a walking pole, and in snow or soft ground it can be staked to give as much stability as a tripod.
The A35 has an external microphone socket, which I haven’t tried. An external mic to be connected on top of the camera would have to be carefully chosen not to protrude past the viewfinder. The manual says that the stereo mics on the top of the camera may pick up noise of the autofocus motor, but I haven’t noticed that yet.
The autofocus operates better than other video-enabled SLRs I’ve tried, and if switched to manual focus, the chosen autofocus point acts as focus confirmation.
There’s little control over how the video is recorded; either AVCHD at 1080 50i (for PAL regions) or MP4 at 1440×1080 or VGA (remember VGA?). I’ve stuck to the former. The A35 says ‘works with iMovie’ on the box, and once I’d figured out that ‘import from camera’ was the command to use even with a card reader, iMovie found the files, imported them and played them without issue.
Previous models had short limits to video recording because of overheating. The manual claims significant improvements, but I haven’t wanted to go anywhere near the stated limits of the A35, which are 29 minutes regardless of settings at the temperature I’ve been working at – about 20 degrees C maximum.
In summary, I’ve found the A35 video to be competent and more intuitive than the competitors I’ve tried, which is how it should be given the lack of a moving mirror. If the A77 can also provide a video-optimised lens, without the autofocus noise, plus some more control over shooting and format, that will be even better.