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Sony's Alpha A55 leaves competitors in the dust

If you have any misgivings about shooting video with a DSLR, it's best to cast them aside now; while Sony's Alpha A55 DSLR ($899 at Henry's, with a 18-55mm lens) may be a great camera, it's an even better video shooter too.

Unlike previous models, Sony's Alpha packs a revamped, translucent mirror. What this means for consumers is that auto-focus is fast - real fast - especially when shooting video. In fact, compared to other video-capable DSLRs, Sony's is one of the few to have full auto-focus while recording. The feature is impressive, especially when multiple objects are moving about in the frame, though manual focus is possible too for more precise control.

But that isn't Sony's only trick - the new mirror technology means the Alpha is capable of 10fps of continuous shooting, perfect for sports and high-speed captures. In addition to the usual array of visual effects, like greyscale or sepia, it also introduces the ability to create high-dynamic range (HDR) images as well. In this mode, the camera shoots three images in rapid succession, and combines the highlights and shadows of each to create a more intensely lit image.

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Just be careful in low-light scenarios; while Sony may claim that up to 12,800 ISO is possible, you probably don't want to go much past 1600 - unless you're a fan of grainy photos, that is.

Meanwhile, a rotating LCD makes it easy to shoot with the Alpha in crowded environments, and a digital viewfinder gives you access to fancy features like horizontal levelling, without having to glance at the larger screen - very handy for shaky-handed shooters. They've even managed to pack in GPS capabilities for geotagging support.

Of course, that's not to say there aren't shortcomings. The included lens' focusing system isn't as quite smooth as entry level glass from Nikon or Canon, and the all-plastic body isn't particularly reassuring when compared to other shooters in Sony's line. But if high-speed shooting and fast auto-focus is your thing, the Alpha A55 may be right for you.

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