There's a lot to like about the Sony Alpha a37 upon reviewing the images on a computer screen.
Colours are bright and punchy, and are represented well in the majority of cases. In the past, Sony cameras, and certainly Konica Minolta cameras, have been known to suffer from cyan skies, but we found landscape colours to be accurate.
In bright conditions, the AF points can lock onto a subject very quickly and accurately, however in lower light situations, such as in the shade, it does struggle noticeably. This is likely to be because the amount of light reaching the sensor is restricted by using a fixed, translucent mirror.
The Sony Alpha a37 has two fully automatic modes, including one, Superior Auto, which is represented by a '+' sign on the mode dial. According to Sony, this enables a wider range of shooting settings than Intelligent Auto to include automatic scene detection, auto HDR and continuous shooting.
Unfortunately, we found that on occasion the camera got confused by what was in front of it. When attempting to shoot a portrait, it deployed landscape continuous shooting mode. If you find this happening frequently, you have the option to select your own Scene mode from the Scene Selection area of the mode dial.
Sweep Panorama is a mode first introduced by Sony in its compact camera line. It works by shooting a number of still frames as you sweep the camera across the scene. With a noise reminiscent of a machine gun firing as it clatters off the images required, it's not the most discreet of modes. It is effective however, and the processing required to merge the images is pretty speedy too.
Image quality when shooting with the Clear Zoom function is very good, albeit noticeably worse than the equivalent optical focal length when examining the images at 100%. While image resolution remains the same, noise is introduced and there is a definite loss in quality. That said, it is a very useful function, and when viewing the images at printing or web sizes the quality is more than usable.
One big problem with using the zoom function however is that shooting in raw format is not available, a big shame for those looking to manipulate images further in post-production.
There are three metering modes available, which can be accessed via the Fn button. These are Multi Segment (general purpose), Center Weighted and Spot Metering. In practice, Multi-Segment metering works well in the majority of cases, and switching to centre weighted or spot is a great option to deploy when faced with tricky or mixed lighting conditions.
On the whole, Auto White Balance works well, producing mostly accurate colours and adjusting appropriately under different lighting conditions. On occasion, it does have the tendency to err on the warm side when shooting under artificial lighting, but if you find it to be inaccurate, setting the appropriate white balance can be quickly achieved via the Fn button.
More and more camera manufacturers are including a wide variety of digital filters on devices nowadays as they try to compete with smartphone apps such as Instagram. Here on the Sony a37 there are a few available to have a play with, such as Retro Photo, Toy Camera, Soft Focus and Miniature.
While some will inevitably be used more than others, down to personal preference, it's nice to have a variety of choice. What is disappointing, however, is that once again, the Picture Styles aren't available to use when shooting in raw format. It would have been great to have a raw version of the image where you could remove, or swap, the art filters.
If you do want to be a bit more creative when shooting in raw format, a few Creative Styles can be applied. These include Vivid, Landscape and Black and White.
Another key feature Sony is keen point out to its target demographic is the Auto Portrait Framing feature, which was first introduced on the Alpha a57 earlier in the year. This works by cropping into an image to provide what the camera considers to be a better composition for portraits.
Once again, image quality is maintained through By Pixel Resolution technology, and helpfully both versions of the image are saved should you wish to make your own crops down the line.
The only options with this feature are to turn it to auto, or turn it off altogether. There is no way to force it to always engage with a portrait, and we found that it only activated a couple of times when shooting a series. It's also another feature that can't be used when shooting in raw format, which would have been nice to see.
Unlike some other entry-level cameras from rival brands, the amount of in-camera editing available on the Sony Alpha a37 is extremely minimal, with the only option to rotate an image. Since images can be set to auto-rotate for playback anyway, we can't see this being a particularly useful feature, and it's a shame not to have more in the way of options such as cropping, or adding star ratings, available.