It’s been a while since Sony refreshed its DSLR-lookalike SLT range (Single- Lens Translucent) for its ambitious amateur audience, but borrowing its 24MP APS-C sensor and autofocus features from its higher-spec a77 II stablemate, the new Sony a68 looks to be a key contender in the midrange market. Certainly looking the part, the a68 presents the aesthetics of a DSLR but instead incorporates Translucent Mirror Technology; a fixed see-through mirror that allows light to pass straight through to the sensor, enabling for faster shooting with continuous use of its phase-detection AF. For a camera at this price point consumers would be forgiven for thinking the a68 would be lightweight and uncomfortably small, yet it actually exudes a sturdy presence and sports dimensions akin to more advanced models such as Sony’s own a77 II. The concession here is that there is obviously no magnesiumalloy chassis and instead the model is crafted from plastic, but it feels solid nonetheless and a chunky indented grip and rubberised areas are there for improved control. A light-up LCD perches on the camera’s top plate presenting all the key need-to-know values, a welcome addition to the midrange sector.
When it was launched this spring, the a68 offered the highest density of AF points: 79, 15 of which are cross-type – a boast which has now been exceeded by Nikon and Sony itself, but nonetheless equates to a fast AF system that offers greater frame coverage, continuously holding focus while shooting up to 5fps full resolution or reduced at 8fps. We found the focus easy to control, and tracking the subject regardless of how quickly they moved consistently proved effective, making it a tempting buy for photographers of an action, sport or wildlife persuasion.
On the whole the a68 offers a comfortable handling experience and there are only a few problems that could deter shoppers. The first is that the shutter is extremely sensitive, so much so it can be painstakingly problematic to judge the focus half-way point, often firing prematurely. When the shot is fired there is a noticeable lag between processing and being able to adjust settings for the next frame. The last point of contention is the low-end LCD. It’s tiltable, but only in two directions and it’s noticeably lower res (461K) than the market average (921K) we’ve come to expect.
Despite its few flaws the camera is capable of consistently producing high-quality imagery. Touting specs of ISO 25600 we were wary of how well the intermediate unit would fare with noise, but first signs of spawning weren’t obvious until ISO 1600 for JPEGs. In terms of metering, there is evidence to suggest that the a68 natively underexposes, favouring to save the details in the highlights, but the in-built D-Range Optimizer function can rectify this. Finally, thanks to the plethora of AF points and in-body image stabilisation, detail sharpness was not an issue, and when the a68’s features, design, performance and results are weighed on balance, the SLT undeniably makes for an exciting budget-busting buy.