Sony SLT-A57 In-Depth Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Very good Raw file output up through ISO 6400
- Dynamic range at the top of its class
- High magnification EVF with comprehensive information display
- Manual focus 'Peaking' option for both stills and video modes
- 10fps shooting in full resolution mode
- Class-leading 1080/60p video resolution with manual exposure control
- Useful function menu provides access to shooting parameters
- Two customizeable buttons (AEL and ISO) with wide range of options
- Fully articulated rear LCD for flexible viewing options
- Good-sized image buffer and improved write times (compared to A55)
- Fast and responsive operation
- Form factor and body design matches the higher-spec'd A65
- Eye sensor for switching between EVF and rear LCD
- High capacity battery
- Optional live view exposure simulation
Conclusion - Cons
- Mediocre JPEG processing with mushy detail and visible artifacts
- LCD viewfinder (vs OLED panel in other Sony models)
- AF not compatible with manual exposure control in video mode
- No live view in 8 or 10 fps continuous shooting modes makes accurate panning very difficult
- Counter-intuitive setting of aperture in manual mode
- Awkward to navigate between stills and movie playback modes
- Main menu system is tedious to navigate
- Clear Image Zoom offers no IQ benefits over post-capture upsampling
The Sony SLT-A57 has the unenviable task of replacing the SLT-A55, which generated huge interest by introducing a ground-breaking translucent fixed-mirror design to the entry-level DSLR market. If you place a premium on the introduction of brand new features and functionality, the A57 contains only two that we haven't already seen in recent NEX and SLT models; an auto portrait cropping feature and a Clear Image Zoom upsampling technology. The 16MP sensor gives the same output resolution as the A55, although it is re-engineered and powered by the latest iteration of Sony's BIONZ processor, offering improved JPEG noise performance.
Despite the similarities though, the A57 is far from being a warmed over A55. In the two years since the introduction of the A55, Sony has rolled out a number of useful technologies in its subsequent NEX and SLT models and a large majority of these have worked their way into the A57. For starters, the A57 sheds the A55's 'mini-DSLR' form factor, for a camera body that is essentially identical to the higher-spec'd SLT-A65. The A57's video specification is identical to more expensive SLT models as well, with 1080p60 output and built-in stereo microphones. A quick look at the pros list at the top of this page will attest to the fact that simply by updating the A57 with features like focus peaking, customizeable AEL and ISO buttons and a high capacity battery, Sony has created a camera with substantial improvements over its predecessor - lacking only the A55's GPS module - and one that is extremely competitive in its class.
One feature that has not, regrettably, trickled down to the A57 is the brilliant OLED EVF seen in the A65. The LCD viewfinder does offer a higher magnification view than any of its competitors but is prone to color tearing which can detract from an otherwise seamless transition from rear LCD to EVF. And, in perhaps the only area in which the A57 is lacking compared to its predecessor, the A55's built-in GPS has been dropped.
While there are certain to be those disappointed that the A57 still offers 'only' 16MP resolution, it's only fair to ask just how many novice-oriented DSLR uses actually need more pixels than that. It's also worth noting that the 16MP sensor Sony introduced with the A55 and which has been re-engineered for inclusion in the NEX-C3, NEX-5N and SLT-A57 is one of the best performing APS-C chips on the market.
The A57 delivers images with pleasing colors, contrast and saturation. White balance is generally well-judged and metering is very reliable, with only more difficult lighting scenarios requiring the use of exposure compensation. JPEG dynamic range performance is class-leading, providing roughly 9 stops EV from highlights to shadows. And Sony continues to offer a number of creative effects for easy image manipulation, as well as features like Sweep Panorama which are just plain fun to use.
We find Sony's JPEG processing leaves a little to be desired, with default results that are slightly softer than we'd like and prone to artifacts at even mid-range ISO sensitivities. Users willing to invest the time in processing raw files, however, will find results that meet and often exceed anything its competitors can offer in terms of detail and noise performance.
Video quality of the A57 is outstanding, delivering crisp, detailed footage at 1080p60 with manual exposure control. The phase-detection AF does an admirable job of locking focus quickly on subjects in a central area of the frame, and only on very rare occasions does focus shift become a noticeable distraction during playback. The AE system also does an impressive job of smoothly adjusting to large changes in scene brightness.
In terms of its handling the A57 behaves almost identically to its bigger sibling, the A65. A comfortably deep hand grip provides a secure hold of the camera. The body is large enough to offer well-spaced control points and the exposure compensation and ISO buttons fall easily to hand while you're in the shooting position. Yet the camera is still light enough to carry around on your shoulder for a full day of shooting.
While the preference for an optical versus electronic viewfinder is clearly a personal one, there's no dispute that shooting with an EVF that offers detailed and customizeable information overlays provides a significantly different handling experience compared to a conventional DSLR. The A57 also provides an equivalent viewing experience whether using the EVF or rear LCD. This means you can not only frame a composition with as much or as little information as you like, but you can even navigate the menu system without removing your eye from the viewfinder.
When it comes to making between-shot adjustments, a well-placed exposure compensation and ISO button make quick work of two of the more common changes you're apt to make. Sony's Function menu provides easy access to nearly any other parameters you'd need such as AF mode, object tracking, creative styles and picture effects, limiting your trips to the more tedious-to-navigate main menu. The 4-way controller also provides direct access to drive mode and white balance settings.
In nearly all instances, whether using the rear LCD at arm's length or shooting in the traditional through-the-viewfinder position, configuring the more common shooting settings to the task at hand is not a complicated affair. Adjusting aperture when shooting in manual mode is a bit less intuitive than we'd like, and requiring a non-obvious button press in addition to rotating the front dial. Yet once you've figured it out, it works perfectly well.
The Final Word
The SLT-A57 is a camera that is straightforward in operation with good handling ergonomics. It does many things well and boasts a feature set that rivals its stiffest DSLR competitors. A tried and true 16MP APS-C sensor delivers pleasing images across most of its ISO range, with pixel-level Raw image quality that ranks among the best of its class. The A57's high-end video specification is backed up by a strong AF system and very good AE algorithms which produce great-looking video with minimal user input. A full-resolution 10fps shooting rate is well beyond most of its peers, and the camera tracks focus reasonably well for subjects moving towards the camera at a moderate pace.
Outside of our wish for JPEG output that more closely matches the potential of its 16MP sensor, our complaints with the A57 fall largely along issues of improved efficiency in operation and a higher quality EVF. These are hardly make or break issues for those in the market for a beginner-friendly DSLR. And at a street price of around US $800 with the 18-55mm kit lens, the A57 fits well into most any novice DSLR user's budget.
At its core, the A57 is a well put-together compendium of Sony's technology advances since the introduction of the A55 two years ago. This makes it a solid and proven performer for anyone stepping up to a DSLR from a compact camera or ILC, and one that concedes little in terms of either value or performance to its competitors from Canon, Nikon and Pentax. We'd love a touch-sensitive screen and a more sensibly articulated LCD (and the OLED EVF from the A65/77 would be lovely) but the A57 is an excellent camera at a compelling price, and as such it earns our top honor, the Gold Award.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Category: Entry Level Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The A57 combines a high-quality 16 MP sensor, easy access to shooting parameters, and class-leading video performance. And does this while providing an equivalent shooting experience, whether composing images via the EVF or rear LCD.
- Canon EOS 650D/Rebel T4i review
- Nikon D3200 review
- Pentax K-30 preview
- Olympus E-M5 review
- Sony SLT-A65 review
|Nectar Dancing by Lensmate|
from A Big Year - birds
|Sad clown by PEB|
|Mtl Gen X 2015 DP by MarioSS|
from - Gen X - (In Full Colours+ Border)
In this article, expert macro photographer Thomas Shahan shares advice for successful closeup photography of bugs, insects and small animals.
DJI's new firmware makes it difficult to fly in restricted airspace, even when you have proper clearance. Is DJI placing themselves between professionals and the FAA?
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has a the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.
An update to the Silkypix Raw converter fixes some bugs and adds support for several popular new cameras.
This crazy custom-built underwater camera shoots 8x10 large format film. It's supposedly "the first successful underwater 8x10 ever made," and it can be yours for $5,800... plus shipping.
Blackmagic just reveled a new accessory for their Cintel Film Scanner. The Cintel Audio and KeyKode Reader can capture KeyKode data and high-quality audio from film in real-time as it is being scanned.
A new Nikon patent shows a lens designed for a curved full-frame sensor. Could this be the high-end Nikon mirrorless camera people are hoping for?
The ability to shoot images at 1,000 fps first appeared in a Sony smartphone sensor. Now the Japanese manufacturer is using the same feature for industrial applications.
Astronomy expert and photographer Dr. Tyler Nordgren thinks you should "see your first eclipse, photograph your second." But if you do plan on taking photos this August, here are a few tips from someone who's been there.
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.
A huge copyright lawsuit between photography firm VHT and Zillow Group is heating up again, as both sides appeal a court ruling that granted VHT $4 million in damages.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent 6 months on board the International Space Station where he worked with Google capturing spheric panorama images that are now available in Street View.
It's official. PDN has confirmed with parent company Aurelius that 94-year-old lighting company Bowens is indeed going out of business.
The newly launched firmware version 1.06 fixes AF-issues that can occur with some lenses that are not officially compatible with the MC-11 converter.
Voyager is a waterproof smart light stick you can control entirely from your phone. The light has already blown past its $300K funding goal on Indiegogo.
2018 is the last year Photokina will take place during the traditional end-of-September dates. In 2019, Photokina will take place from the 8th to the 11th of May.
The Canon IXUS 50 (known as the SD400 Digital ELPH in North America) was one of a string of high-performing, pocketable PowerShots of the mid-2000s. In this week's throwback Thursday, Barney casts his mind back to 2005.
A close look at the EOS 6D II's Raw files suggest its dynamic range has taken a significant step backwards compared with the company's recent DSLRs. We look at how much difference this might make for your photos.
With a full-production review unit in our hands, we've got over 100 production samples from the new Canon EOS 6D Mark II to share.
Need a break from your day? Kick back and watch the making of a somewhat unconventional mojito filmed on Canon's new EOS 6D Mark II.
The Bonfoton Camera Obscura Room Lens can turn any room into a camera obscura, projecting the view from your window onto the walls of your room.