Sony SLT-A57 In-Depth Review
The Sony SLT-A57 shares the majority of its specs and features with the SLT-A65, NEX-5N and other recent Sony cameras for which we have provided in-depth reviews and analysis. Sections of text are therefore adapted from those earlier reviews and where appropriate we've included links to relevant sections of previous reviews.
In 2010, Sony debuted its ground-breaking SLT technology with the beginner-friendly SLT-A55 and SLT-A33 models. The sheer ambition of a translucent fixed-mirror design using an electronic, rather than optical viewfinder reaffirmed the company's commitment to competing with Canon and Nikon in the entry-level DSLR market. With the Sony SLT-A57, the company updates the A55 without the fanfare that accompanies game-changing technology. In fact, there is precious little in the way of features or handling here that does not currently exist elsewhere in Sony's SLT lineup.
But that's not to say that the A57 should be dismissed simply as an iterative release. In the two years since the launch of the original SLT, we have seen a number of improvements to the Alpha lineup, and simply by bringing the A57 up to date with current SLT models, Sony is offering novice DLSR users a significantly enhanced user experience compared to that offered by the first-generation A55. One feature that did not make the cut in the upgrade, however, is the A55's built-in GPS module, meaning that you will need an optional external unit if geo-tagging plays a role in your workflow.
The most obvious change is that the A57 has a larger form factor and an external design that is virtually identical to the 24MP SLT-A65. The maximum shooting rate for still images has increased to 12fps (albeit with the camera set to a lower resolution 8.4MP crop mode). The video spec has been upgraded, with the ability to shoot 1080p video at 60 or 24 fps (50 or 25 on European models). The popular high-contrast edge-enhancing 'peaking' feature is available as a manual focus aid in both stills and video modes, but the A57 features the same 15-point AF system as the A55 (also used in the A65).
The A57 brings Sony's 'Clear Image Zoom' digital zoom function to its SLT range - this function was seen previously in Cyber-Shot models. Clear Image Zoom uses an image database to interpolate between captured pixels for what Sony claims to be full resolution output without noticeable quality loss. Making further use of this ability, the A57 also has a mode that will re-process your people pictures with what it thinks is a better composition. In Auto Portrait Framing mode the camera searches for faces and re-crops the image into a portrait orientation with the subject's eyes positioned along a rule-of-thirds grid. The crop is then 'intelligently' upsampled back to 16MP, using Clear Image Zoom scaling.
Despite all this high technology the A57's viewfinder is still a 1.4 million-dot LCD - the same unit that we saw in the original A55 - rather than the high-resolution OLED finder used in the higher-end A65 and A77. Some tweaks have been made though. The magnifying optics in front of the LCD panel have been redesigned to allow more of the screen to be seen. There are also two magnification modes within the viewfinder, designed to change the eyepoint (viewing distance) of the finder to make life easier for users with glasses.
While the A57 doesn't offer the same resolution as its high-end cousins, Sony's current 16MP CMOS chip ranks among the best-performing sensors in the entry to mid-range APS-C market. And the A57 features the latest iteration of the company's BIONZ processor.
- 16.1MP CMOS sensor
- Latest Bionz processor
- Larger, FM500H battery (same as A65 and A77)
- ISO 100-16000
- Auto ISO 100-3200
- 1,440,000 dot LCD electronic viewfinder
- 920,000 dot bottom-hinged rear LCD
- 10 frame per second continuous shooting mode with AF (12fps at 8.4MP crop)
- Picture Effects processing options
- Clear Image Zoom up-sizing digital zoom
- Peaking manual focus guide overlay
- 1080p AVCHD 2.0 movies at 60 or 24 fps (50 or 25 in Europe)
Compared to the SLT-A55
The Sony SLT-A57 is a noticeably larger camera than its nominal predecessor, the SLT-A55. In fact, it is virtually indistinguishable in appearance from the model sitting above it in Sony's lineup, the SLT-A65. While the amount of external control points has changed little in this upgrade, their layout has been altered to make use of the A57's greater surface area and revised contours.
If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).
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