Sony a37 Review

Sony a37 Review

The Sony SLT Alpha 37 (Sony a37 as it is known by photographers) is aimed at entry-level photographers who want to make use of Sony’s large SLR system.

However, it does not have an oscillating mirror, but a fixed, partially permeable one. The sensor receives two-thirds of the incident light and can produce a live image, while the light reflected from the mirror falls on the autofocus sensor, which can then actively adjust focus at all times, even during video and continuous shooting.

The Alpha 37 easily achieves seven frames per second and videos are recorded in FullHD resolution.

Sony a37 Pros And Cons


  • Class related large equipment range
  • Video recording with very fast and accurate AF
  • Dainty housing with neat ergonomics and folding display
  • Excellent image quality (but with the set lens just good)


  • Digital zoom not very helpful in practice
  • Viewfinder image not stabilized
  • EVF not so well suited for spectacle wearers
  • Very low display resolution

Photographers with professional demands often have to wait years until there is a successor to their top camera. On the other hand, entry-level DSLR models are often renewed after just a few months.

Sony makes no exception and replaces the SLT-A35 (Sony a35) with the SLT Alpha 37. The latter convinced us almost a year ago with a very good image quality, but not with its clearly limited viewfinder comfort.

Sony has now given the current SLT-Sony a37 a much better electronic viewfinder, and the rear display is at least hinged on the smallest scion of the current SLT line-up.

In extensive practical use, the Sony a37 first had to show whether Sony has succeeded in noticeably improving the ergonomics of the graceful Alpha. Then, as always, we tested the device, where we put the image quality and performance of the camera through analysis by the testing software and through the general practice of a standard photographer.

The Alpha 37 also has the professional automatic with the “cheat” details, normal automatic, scene mode programs, effects, etc., but also semi-automatic and manual exposure. By-pixel resolution technology is also used in the so-called clear image zoom, which is a digital two-fold zoom with artificially added details.

The section of the image to be captured is not displayed in an optical reflex viewfinder, but in an electronic one, which is located in the usual place. The resolution is a fine 1.44 million pixels.

The rear display, on the other hand, turns out somewhat economical with 6.9 centimeters (2.7 inches) and only 230,400 pixels of resolution. But at least it can be folded up and down to facilitate shots near the ground and from a bird’s eye view.

Since 2012, the Sony a37 is available at a price of almost 500 dollars. But Sony also offers various sets with lenses. With the 18-55 millimeter standard lens, the price increases by 100 EUR, another 200 EUR, i.e. a total of 800 EUR, are due when the 55-200 millimeter is also to be included in the set.

Ergonomics and Workmanship

Like its predecessor, the SLT Alpha 37 also surprises with a very delicate, almost tiny looking camera body. This is made possible by Sony’s SLT technology: it dispenses with a conventional optical viewfinder, which means that the oscillating mirror is also unnecessary.

With Sony’s SLT technology, the viewfinder image is produced by the image sensor and can be viewed through the electronic viewfinder (EVF) or on the rear display.

In addition to the reduced space requirement, the process has several other advantages: The Sony a37’s viewfinder is significantly larger than that of cameras in its class and covers 100 percent of the image area.

But spectacle wearers were not always happy with this maxi viewfinder: it forces the eye to be pressed almost to the eyepiece, otherwise the viewfinder image cannot be seen in its entirety.

With the Sony a37, Sony has addressed this problem and come up with a workable solution: The EVF can be zoomed out so that the entire viewfinder image can be seen more clearly.

Alternatively, the Sony a37 allows the viewfinder image to be checked on the rear display. Unlike its predecessor, the display is no longer permanently mounted but can be folded upwards by about 90 degrees and downwards by 45 degrees – a welcomed improvement for photos taken close to the ground and overhead shots.

So while Sony is not afraid of the costs for a simple folding hinge on the Sony a37, the manufacturer has made considerable savings on the LCD panel: the monitor only has a modest 230,400 pixels – such a coarse resolution is no longer appropriate for a system camera today. It doesn’t help that the display surface has shrunk, the monitor image simply looks a bit rough with a diagonal of 2.7 inches.


The impression the camera gives in the hand is anything but crude. The dainty housing is neatly finished, ready for use and equipped with the DT 3.5-5.6/18-55 SAM set lens, the Sony a37 weighs in at just a good pound.

Sony has shaped the bulge on the front of the camera more strongly than in the predecessor, as well as the thumb rest on the back.

The compact camera nestles surprisingly firmly in the hand, even when shooting in portrait format. However, the narrow camera back simply lacks space for controls. Sony has only accommodated a four-way rocker and three additional switches on the back.

More space for dedicated controls would have been on top of the housing. But on the right side of the top plate, there is a yawning emptiness, which is not filled by four more buttons that are too small.

In addition, the buttons for starting video recording and for exposure correction are so close together that in practice the camera repeatedly started filming when only the exposure should be corrected. As is typical of its class, the Sony a37 has to make do with a single dial, which can be adjusted far too easily – and therefore inadvertently. The camera compensates for this with a generously dimensioned mode dial in the upper left corner.

Typical for system cameras from Sony, the main menu of the Sony a37 is also clearly structured in tabs so that every setting option can be accessed without a lot of guesswork.

You can specify whether the menu is to jump to the last selected entry or the first command in the list when the menu is called up again. However, it is rarely necessary to go to this main menu – the most important parameters are displayed by the “Fn” button, where they can be changed quickly and easily using the four-way rocker switch.

The Sony a37 even offers a depth-of-field preview button so that the depth of field can be assessed in the viewfinder in advance. As with the AEL button, it can be assigned a different function (such as ISO setting or AF mode) as needed, allowing this handy camera to adapt to the photographer’s preferences and needs.

The memory card and battery compartments are concealed under a common flap at the bottom of the camera. The space there is only enough for a rather small battery with a somewhat meager capacity of 1.080 mAh. This allows a maximum of 500 photos or 180 minutes of video recording.

The tripod thread is located in the optical axis and far enough away from the cover of the battery compartment so that the energy dispenser and memory card remain accessible even when the tripod plate is mounted.

Equipment And Features

While Sony has visibly reworked the Sony a37 on the outside, less has happened under the hood. The predecessor already offered pretty much everything you need in daily recording practice – and a few specialties in addition.

No longer entirely new, but still impressive is the Sony a37’s ability to visibly improve image quality by cleverly calculating an entire series of shots.

For example, if desired, it can capture very high-contrast scenes with an exposure series, which the camera’s image processor then computes into a convincing HDR image.

Or she combines a series of high-ISO shots to create a photo that has amazingly low image noise. The Sony a37 even selects the corresponding programs fully automatically when operated in “superior automatic” mode.

In addition, there is still the classic automatic scene control, which leaves out special programs but otherwise adapts the Sony a37 quite reliably to the respective shooting situation.

Also on board are the face and smile recognition, the possibility of taking a panorama by panning and the inevitable effect programs that “creatively” alienate the photo.

Those who do not want to place themselves and their image results entirely in the hands of the fully automatic system can also operate the Sony a37 classically as a program, time or aperture control – or control the exposure completely manually.

The Sony a37 also takes exposure series, but only with three photos at a maximum of 0.7 EV increments – too little for taking HDR series. The small camera compensates for this with cleverly devised flash exposure options and a rather brisk continuous shooting rate, which Sony specifies as 5.5 frames per second (fps) at full resolution.

The on-board flash is not very potent with a guide number 10 but can be switched off in the fully automatic mode. The small flash not only serves to brighten up the subject – but it also flickers obtrusively to help the autofocus in adverse lighting conditions.

As with all SLT cameras, the autofocus system of the Sony a37 works according to the rapid phase comparison method. 15 AF sensors, three of which are cross sensors, ensure that the camera produces a sharp image. For this purpose, an almost transparent foil in the beam path reflects some light and directs it to the autofocus module.


This construction shows its advantages especially in video recordings: During filming, the focus is adjusted almost without delay, but above all safely and without pumping.

When taking photos, the autofocus is on average fast: The Sony a37 took a maximum of 0.33 seconds in our test with the test software.

Little has changed under the hood of the Sony a37, but two innovations have been added: On the one hand – rather unusual for a DSLR camera – a digital zoom.

And secondly, the Auto Portrait Frame function cuts portrait photos to an attractive detail as soon as they are taken. The digital zoom extends the focal length once by sheer cropping, so the actual resolution decreases.

Additionally, it can also enlarge the resulting image section. The bottom line is that this results in a maximum 8-fold extension factor, so a 50-millimeter normal lens apparently becomes a 400 tele – with all the risks and side effects for image quality!

So the Sony a37 is quite generous with the recording functions, but it’s a bit tighter when it comes to the playback functions or the possibilities for subsequent image editing: Rotating pictures and a simple slide show, that’s basically what the Sony a37 offers.


The Sony a37 again shows its generous side when it comes to video functions. It films in full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at a maximum frame rate of 25 full or 50 fields.

For video recording, either an aperture or a shutter speed can be set, alternatively, the exposure can be controlled manually or by the program automatically.

Fast autofocus adjusts the focus as long as the aperture is set to F3.5 or wider. Another nice feature is that a whole range of recording and image processing parameters can also be specified for video recordings, such as ISO sensitivity, white balance or the correction of lens aberrations.

And so filming with the Sony a37 is very good quality, and the stereo sound is also good. For higher demands on sound quality, the camera even has a socket for connecting an external stereo microphone.

In general, the Sony a37 is quite easy to connect. It connects to a computer via USB and makes contact with the TV set via HDMI.

In addition, Sony has provided a socket for connecting a cable remote control.

As usual with the Alpha family, the Sony a37’s image stabilizer is based on the sensor-shift method. Unlike an optical stabilizer, this method works with any lens. Unfortunately, the stabilizer is only activated when the shutter release button is fully depressed.

The electronically generated viewfinder image is therefore not stabilized, although this would be technically possible and was also implemented by Sony in the first generation of SLT cameras.

The zoom lens SAL 18-55, which is available with the camera in the set, is mainly made of plastic and is therefore light and handy. It covers a focal length range of 27 – 82.5 mm in relation to 35 mm images.

The zoom ring is a little bit choppy to operate, a smooth zoom drive during filming is hardly possible.

The focus ring for manual focusing has a very short translation and is smooth-running, so that it was less convincing in practice. It is a pity, because the Sony a37 offers a clever function with the optional edge enhancement, which makes manual focusing much easier. It marks contrast edges that lie in the focal plane in color. There is also an electronic focus magnifier.

Image Quality Of The Sony a37

Even the predecessor of the Sony a37, the A35, was able to impress us during our review about two years before this review. There was hardly any room for improvement. Sony apparently also sees it that way and has essentially taken over the sensor and image processor from its predecessor in the current Sony a37.

Thus, with an impressive 16-megapixel resolution on an image converter in APS-C format, but also with the handicap that the SLT technology diverts approximately 30 percent of the light and does not allow it to reach the sensor.

In other words, the sensor has to get by with about half an aperture stop less light than the lens allows to pass.

How the Sony a37 overcomes this hurdle and how the overall picture quality is, we have meticulously measured with the test software and using the camera myself for two days.


Fears that the partially transparent film in the beam path might cause the Sony a37 to rustle are dispelled at first glance by the signal-to-noise ratio measurement curve: Up to ISO 400 sensitivity, the signal-to-noise ratio is a good 40 dB, and then decreases gradually as the sensitivity level increases.

The critical limit of 35 dB is only reached at a high ISO 3,200. Up to this ISO level, the camera can be used in everyday life without any disturbing restrictions in image quality – this is also confirmed by the images taken in practice.

The measurement of the texture sharpness shows that the noise suppression has to work hard for this.

Although it decreases considerably beyond ISO 1.600, it is only beyond ISO 3.200 that the noise reduction makes the finest image details disappear with the interfering pixels.

How well the Sony a37’s image processing maintains the balance between noise reduction and image detail is shown by comparing RAW and JEPG files shot at ISO 6,400 in parallel.

Adobe Camera Raw 7.1 did not always manage to extract the same level of detail from RAW photos as JPEG images.

This excellent result is certainly also due to the fact that the Sony a37 has the particularly annoying color noise up to ISO 6,400 firmly under control. If at all, the images show a soft brightness noise, which is visually much more pleasant than colored interference pixels.

The Sony a37 processes a dynamic range of around 10.5 f-stops (EV) up to ISO 1,600, while at ISO 3,200 it barely scratches the 10 EV mark. So the camera does not shy away from high-contrast subjects.

However, the output tone value curve is tuned very steeply. On the one hand, the Sony a37 delivers appealingly crisp images, but on the other hand, it undercuts fine tonal gradations in the dark areas of the image. As long as the photos are printed on paper, this is not a bad thing; alternatively, the tonal value curve in RAW images can be adjusted precisely.

The Sony a37 cheats a little in terms of color reproduction. Red and orange tones are reproduced quite strongly, cyan and blue tones are shifted a little towards red.

Apart from this small peculiarity, the color reproduction of the Sony a37 is perfectly acceptable. This is especially true for color differentiation, the actual color depth of the images is very high.


The so far very pleasing test result is somewhat clouded when the DT 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 SAM lens comes into play. The fact that the price-optimized zoom shows a slight drop in sharpness towards the edges of the image at a large aperture is still forgiven.

Because at the latest from F8 everything is back to normal. It’s not so easy to get over the fact that the zoom-in wide-angle position is very powerful. After all, this problem can be solved afterwards in the image processing – or immediately with the lens correction of the Sony a37.

However, there is a poor resolution performance of the lens. Let me explain to you why, please. At best, it achieves a resolution of 33 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) at medium focal length and F8.

At the long end of the tele, however, it already fails at the not very demanding mark of 30 lp/mm. Even good compact cameras can do this much better! Shots taken with the DT 18-55 mm are thus far from being as detailed as they could be thanks to the formidable sensor – as comparison shots with the Sony SAL 70-200/2.8 G SSM impressively demonstrate.

Conclusion: Is The Sony a37 Worth It?

With the SLT-Sony a37, Sony delivers a petite system camera in which the ergonomics have been improved in comparison to its predecessor. The folding display and the optimized electronic viewfinder contribute to this, as does the more concisely shaped housing. Only the small buttons, some of which were close together, were not entirely convincing in practice.

Thanks to its opulent range of equipment – based on its price of around 500 euros – the Sony a37 is also suitable for more demanding photographers.

For those who like it more comfortable, the Sony a37’s clever automatic functions, be it Sweep Panorama, noise reduction by multiple exposures or the effective HDR automatic.

When shooting video, the Sony a37’s SLT technology gives the Sony a37 an unrivaled fast and accurate autofocus.

Although Sony’s sensor and image processor of the Sony a37 has apparently hardly changed from its predecessor, the image quality is still convincing, especially the balancing act between noise reduction and image detail preservation is mastered by the Sony a37.

However, this praise only applies if the Sony a37 is equipped with high-quality lenses. The price-optimized kit zoom is not one of them; it does not even come close to exploiting the resolution potential of the formidable 16-megapixel sensor.

The bottom line is that the Sony a37 is a reasonably priced system camera with a good range of features and great potential for excellent image quality.


Manufacturer Sony
Model Sony Alpha 37 (called also Sony a37)
Price approx. 540 dollars* at market launch
Sensor Resolution 16.7 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.912 x 3.264
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens Sony DT F3.5-5.6/18-55mm SAM
Filter thread 55mm
Viewfinder electronically
Dioptre compensation -4 to +4 DPT.
Resolution 1.44 million
Enlargement 1.1fold
Image field coverage 100 %
LCD monitor 2,7″
Resolution 230.400
rotatable yes
swiveling yes
as Viewfinder yes
Video output HDMI (PAL/NTSC)
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene mode programs
Portrait yes
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
More 4 additional scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection System hot shoe
Remote release yes
Interval recording
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC, MemoryStick Pro Duo
Video mode
Format AVCHD or MP4
Codec MPEG-4 (AVC)
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
Frame rate (max.) 50p
automatically ISO 100-3,200
manually ISO 100-16,000
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadow, flash, manual color temperature selection
Manually yes
Number of measurement fields 15
AF auxiliary light Strobe Flash
Speed approx. 0,25 s
Languages English
More 16 additional languages
Weight (ready for operation)
448 g (housing only) 527 g (with lens*)
Zoom adjustment manually on the lens
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Triggering during storage possible. yes
Battery life
450 images (with EVF)
500 pictures (with LCD)
(each according to CIPA)
– = “not applicable” or “not available
* with lens Sony DT 3.5-5.6/18-55 SAM

This test of the Sony Alpha SLT-Sony a37 with Sony DT 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 SAM was created with DXOMARK Analyzer.

Brief assessment


  • Class related large equipment range
  • Video recording with very fast and accurate AF
  • Dainty housing with neat ergonomics and folding display
  • Excellent image quality (but with set lens just good)


  • Digital zoom not very helpful in practice
  • Viewfinder image not stabilized
  • EVF not so well suited for spectacle wearers
  • Very low display resolution

Sony Alpha SLT-Sony a37 Datasheet


Sensor CMOS sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)16.5 megapixels (physical) and 16.1 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 4.8 µm
Photo resolution
4.912 x 3.264 pixels (3:2)
3.568 x 2.368 pixels (3:2)
2.448 x 1.624 pixels (3:2)
Panorama Sweeping panorama
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.2), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 p
1.440 x 1.080 (4:3) 25 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 25 p
Maximum recording time 29 min
Video format
MPG4 [codec MPEG-4]


Lens mount
Sony AF


Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 15 sensors
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Sharpness control Live view

Viewfinder and Display

Display 2.7″ TFT LCD monitor with 230,400 pixels
Video finder Video viewfinder available, dioptre compensation (-4.0 to 4.0 dpt)


Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 1,200 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (Automatic) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, step size from 0.3 to 0.7 EV, HDR function
Exposure Compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 3,200 (automatic) ISO 100 to ISO 16,000 (manual)
Remote access Remote triggering
Scene modes Landscape, Macro, Night Portrait, Portrait, Sunset, and Sports/Action,
Picture effects eleven image effects, six creative styles
White balance Clouds, sun, shade, fluorescent lamp, incandescent lamp, manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 5.5 fps at highest resolution and max. 6 stored photos, 14 JPEG or 6 RAW or RAW JPEG
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Recording functions Live histogram

Flashgun Of The Sony a37

Flash built-in flash (flip-up) Hot shoe: Sony Alpha (also Minolta)
Flash code Guide number 10 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-in flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, red-eye reduction

Equipment And Features

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
Memory Stick (Duo Pro)
GPS function GPS internal
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Sony NP-FW50 (lithium-ion (Li-ion), 7.2 V, 1,240 mAh)180 images according to CIPA standard
Playback functions Image index
Face recognition Face recognition, smile recognition
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast
Special functions Live view
Connections Data interfaces: USB USB type:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous Semi-transparent non-moving mirror on the image sensor Optical
image stabilizer (sensor shift)
Multiframe NR with ISO 25,600Sensor
cleaning function and antistatic coating Optional
noise reduction from ISO 1,600Contrast
, saturation, sharpness and brightness adjustable (-3 to 3)
Zone matching (-1 to 2)
Additional color space AdobeRGBDynamic
Range Optimizer with five levels AF
Sensitivity -1 to 18 EV Prediction AF

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 124 x 92 x 85 mm
Weight 506 g (ready for operation)


standard accessory Sony BC-VW1 Special Battery ChargerSony
NP-FW50 Special Battery ChargerUSB Connection CableAV CableStrapBeltImage Editing SoftwareSony Software Package for Windows (XP/or higher) and for Macintosh (System X/or higher)
additional accessories Sony GPS-CS3KA Universal ProductSony
HVL-MT24AM Macro FlashSony
NP-FW50 Special Rechargeable Memory CardAlpha Lenses


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