Body & Design
The SLT-A57 is a considerably larger camera and more closely resembles a traditional DSLR than its predecessor SLT-A55. Despite being positioned lower in Sony's SLT hierarchy in terms of body design the A57 is virtually identical to the SLT-A65. The only visual difference, apart from the model name, is the labelling of the 'Zoom' button on the camera's right shoulder which was previously called the 'Digital Teleconverter'. By extension the ergonomics and user interface are also very similar to the SLT-A65.
The A57's body is all-plastic but nevertheless feels very solid with a grip that is made out of a thick rubber material that has a pleasant feel to it. Like on the A65 the main control points are sensibly arranged and fall easily to hand. The dual-axis rear LCD screen allows for easy composition from high and low angles in both both still and video modes but is not as versatile as the variant on the enthusiast SLT-A77 with its extra hinge.
Ergonomically, the A57 is very close to previous SLT models, essentially offering the same interface as the last generation of Sonys. It combines the button and dial-based user interface of a traditional DSLR with the intuitive on-screen operation of the 'Fn' quick menu.
Top of camera
The top of the SLT-A57 resembles that of the A65, with the mode dial on the camera's left shoulder and the ISO and exposure compensation located just behind the shutter button. Pressing these buttons with your 'shutter finger' and then turning the front dial to change the setting works quite well. ISO and exposure scale respectively are displayed in the EVF or on the screen as you modify the parameter. Other elements on the camera's top plate include the button to switch between EVF and LCD, the built-in stereo-mic and Sony's proprietary flash hotshoe.
Like the A65, the A57's ISO button can be re-assigned to any one of 27 possible functions, to access features ranging from DRO dynamic range optimization to image quality settings.
On the back of the camera (just visible in this view) are a dedicated movie record button, a customizable AEL button and the Zoom button. By default, this activates the A57's 'Clear View Zoom' that offers up to 2x extra magnification. Once pressed, you can either zoom in progressively (in 0.1x intervals), or zoom in three steps: 0x, 1.4x and 2x.
There's also a menu option to engage traditional digital zoom, which extends the zoom a further 2x, also accessed by the same button. And, if you're happy to accept smaller final output, you can add another 2x zoom (8x in combination), if you select the smallest image size and let the camera crop-in.