The Sony Alpha A55 sits in the middle ground between SLRs, such as the 600D and D5100, and compact system cameras, like the G3 and NX11. It is a single-lens translucent (SLT) camera, with a mirror mechanism that enables rapid autofocus at least in theory. The Alpha A55 also has the fastest maximum continuous shooting speed of the five cameras on test, at 10fps. That is a figure only matched by professional sports photographers’ kit. It requires skill and luck to achieve pro-quality results though, as the viewfinder can’t keep up with the images, leaving you shooting blind.

With the 18-55mm kit lens mounted the Alpha A55’s autofocus system is also very twitchy and indecisive in anything other than perfect light.

It’s a shame, because the Alpha A55’s still images are of a high quality; there’s little sign of image noise and you get a fairly high level of detail at low ISO settings. Stick to the camera’s default settings and images tend to look soft so it’s advisable to turn up the in-camera sharpening.

Like the Nikon D5100, the Alpha A55 also has a great image-combining HDR mode that enables you to capture far more detail in shadows and highlights.
Video, taken at 25fps 1080i is also above-average in quality. Rear in mind, you will need an external microphone because the whirring mechanical sound of the lens attempting to focus automatically is clearly audible otherwise. Generally speaking, it’s best to focus manually when shooting video, as this ensures better, less noisy, results.

The fast shooting and features impress, but the twitchy autofocus keeps the Sony Alpha A55 from producing the quality results of the other cams on test. The design looks tired too.