Although the external design on the Sony A55 body looks very similar to conventional SLR cameras, it is noticeably smaller and lighter than similar cameras, weighing only 441g.
Sony has managed to achieve this without compromising the build quality on the Alpha 55 body. Although the Sony A55 body is constructed from high-quality plastics, they are rigid enough and feel as though they could take a decent amount of use and abuse. Soft rubber has been fitted to the rear and the finger grip on the front, which makes handling the camera a pleasantly tactile experience.
Using an electronic viewfinder (EVF) rather than a pentaprism may not be to everyone's taste but it is one of the better EVFs around, with a resolution of 921,600 dots providing a clear view of the scene. Even though the view is clear, it is no substitute for a conventional optical viewfinder when it comes to confirming focus. Rather annoyingly the rubber eye-cup, doesn't remain fitted for long, deciding to go off for a wander every time something brushes up against it.
Helpfully, a proximity sensor under the eyepiece automatically switches between the 3-inch swivel screen and the EVF, making the change from one to the other virtually seamless. The placement of the Sony A55 sensor means it is sometimes possible to accidentally trick the camera into switching to the viewfinder when adjusting the screen, or operating some menu functions.
Despite its diminutive stature, the Sony A55 body controls are well-laid out and don't feel at all cramped with most common controls such as ISO and exposure compensation being within easy reach. As the camera is optimised for live-view, the layout has been optimised for use with one hand, which is made more than possible by the lightweight Sony A55 body.
The menu system is simple to follow, with photographic functions such as flash compensation and picture styles being separated from general camera settings like image quality and GPS settings. Autofocus has its own dedicated button in the centre of the control pad, which speeds selecting one of the 15 focusing points.