a57 v d5100 for first DSLR

Started Apr 6, 2013 | Questions thread
Bjorn_L Veteran Member • Posts: 5,770
Re: a57 v d5100 for first DSLR

kangaroo in oz wrote:

Hi guys

Besides the faster frame rate in the a57  i was just wondering if there is much difference in these cameras which would sway you to go one way or the other if you were recommending a DSLR for a first time buyer..

Price seems on par


Fat Dragon summed it up nicely.  Just a few additional comments.  Not everyone likes the electronic viewfinder.  I really dislike them.  Someday screen technology will advance to the point where I stop complaining about it, but the a57 is not there for me.

Most people find they prefer optical or electronic viewfinders.  (for now optical outsells electronic by a huge amount).  In my opinion optical is better for stills but useless for video (mirror up means you must use the back screen).  While the electronic allows use of the viewfinder in video.  This is advantageous as the shooting position using the viewfinder is more stable and less prone to jitter.  Also in very bright light the back screen is hard to see.

The d5100 is better in low light.  This is because the a57 uses some of the incoming light for the viewfinder.  This is not technically neccessary but it is how Sony has chosen to do it.

The a57 is better for video.  The Nikon is an excellent stills image and focus very fast there from my use it is faster and more accurate in focusing in stills then the a57 particularly on moving subjects but my useage of both is limited as I normally use higher end bodies.  But in video it is the opposite.  Here the Nikon is much slower to focus (manual focus for best results on Nikon).  The a57 acceptably fast and accurate in stills and is very fast to focus in video.  Until I tried an a57 for myself I thought only Panasonic had the fast-AF in video in a consumer level camera.  The Sony does not quite match the Panasonic GH2 I tried fir video, but it is close and with an external mic I would more very happy with the video results of the a57.

The FPS is not a big deal to me as the Sony does have an insanely fast burst rate but it does not track movement or maintain focus reliably at that speed.  For example, my camera can shoot either 5.5 or 8fps depending on if I use an optional battery grip.  I almost never bother with the grip now.  I did at first because I thought it would help me capture fast movement.  I find that with very rare exception 5.5fps is all I need even for sports, fast animals and so on.  Shooting at the faster FPS actually means you won't be shooting as long.  You will quickly fill you cameras buffer and you will spend more time swapping out memory cards plus you will have twice as many photos to sort through and no real improvement in your keeper rate.

The Nikon system is much larger and has many more options.  This means that pretty much no matter what kind of lens, flash, or camera body you decide you want down the road your odds are better with Nikon (or Canon).  Nikon and Canon each sell for around 40% of all DSLRs while Sony is in a respectable 3rd place with around 10%.  This leads to certain obvious economies of scale when deciding which lenses can profitably be made.  Sony has very deep pockets but they are a rational business.  They are trying to grow their marketshare mostly by appealing to entry level users with the kinds of features and such they are looking for.  This means that Sony has almost as good an entry level selection of lenses as Nikon.  It is in the other areas where Sony does not do as well.  A few examples, Weather sealed lenses, fast-primes, sports lenses, professional grade lenses, and so on...

Short version is pretty much the same as Fat Dragon said.

Nikon = better (larger) system

Sony = better for consumer level video (a common desired use of a DSLR for new users)

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