Returning my A57 after two weeks

Started May 31, 2012 | Discussions thread
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trackpete
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Returning my A57 after two weeks
May 31, 2012

I wanted to share this for anyone in the process of purchasing an A57 who may, like me, find themselves frustrated with some of the drawbacks that don't seem to get much mention in typical reviews or discussion of the camera. Note that my complaints are from the perspective of having better options available to me, as an only-camera-purchase maybe the A57 can be a good all-arounder.

I purchased my A57 primarily for video and action photography, intending to replace or supplement my NEX5n and allow me to move away from the Canon T2i and T3 I currently use mostly for photos - expecting it to be a best-of-breed combination with the video and low-light still capabilities of the NEX5n with the benefit of affordable fast autofocus lenses. To this end I also picked up the 35mm f/1.8 to go with it to start.

First, let me say this: The sensor and the photo/video quality (especially low light) impressed me just as much as the NEX5n. The autofocus is fast and solid in photo mode.

The reasons I'm returning the camera have mostly to do with the annoying lack of features! In fact, it's really bizarre to me because some of the features I take for granted on the NEX5n aren't even available on the A57, like they were developed by entirely separate teams of people who never talked (maybe they were).

So, if you're looking at the A57, especially for video, vs the NEX5n especially, consider these drawbacks which became deal-breakers for me:

1. The A57 does not appear to have a self-timer + burst mode. You can only do self-timer with a single photo. My Canons let me do a ten shot burst, my NEX5n lets me do a five shot burst (which, frankly, is stupid - I should be able to set it to 15-20+). No burst on the A57, a camera that specifically touts itself for the burst mode. This means you cannot use this camera well for action self-portraits.

2. The A57 does not allow you to set shutter speed or aperture while using auto-focus during video. If you want to force one or both, you need to go to manual focus. This is incredibly frustrating considering the auto-focus of the video is the main reason to buy - the NEX5n allows you to set shutter speed and aperture (with a floor) while still using auto-focus. If I am shooting video outdoors with the intent of converting to slowmo using Twixtor, I need to shoot at 1/2000 or higher, but am forced to do manual focus. It's silly that I can't auto-focus with a set shutter speed and aperture when I'm feeling lazy or whatnot - once I'm using manual focus, the only valuable thing about this camera over any other is the 1080p60.

3. Face tracking is horrible unless the face is square to the camera. If the face turns, it forgets about it. If it's just slightly turned or profile, it never picks it up. The NEX5n seems to do a much better job of tracking faces, which I don't understand. If there's no face in the picture, autofocus seems to frankly be pretty damn random, if I don't use set AF points I have no idea what the camera is going to choose. This feels very different than my Canons where I can predict AF a good portion of the time (even though I usually use spot). Also if there're multiple faces in autofocus mode for video, it tries to close the aperture up to widen depth of field in order to capture them all, super annoying.

4. Focus lock seems to completely blow. I've done things like setting focus lock to a red ball on a black background, then started moving the red ball and the focus lock random picks a spot somewhere else to focus on - this is sorta an ideal circumstance where it should have no problem! Again, hate to say it, but the NEX5n handles this noticeably better (even though it's still not perfect at this, at all). Major killer for video.

There's a lot of good things I can say about the camera, but it's just not as good as the specs imply for video, especially compared to the NEX5n - I'd rather spend the money on lenses or some gopro's for backup video. The only way the A57 seems to be superior to the NEX5n for video is that it doesn't overheat that I've seen... but frankly I don't understand why this doesn't kick the NEX5n's ass all over the place.

In short, I feel like 1080p60 is the only thing going for the A57 when it comes to video over a T2i with Magic Lantern or a mirrorless camera like the GH2. It was not at all the upgrade I expected from the spec's and reviews, but I primarily blame the firmware/programming rather than the hardware itself, which rules.

P.S. If I missed hidden settings that let me control this stuff I'd love to hear it... and will eat my words.

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