Sony A57 Review Image

Sony A57 Review Image

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Introduction

The Sony A57 is a new interchangeable lens camera that uses Sony’s unique Translucent Mirror Technology to offer high-speed shooting and a smaller body size. The 16.1 megapixel A57 features 12fps burst shooting, full HD 50p video with control over exposure and continuous autofocusing, 15-point phase-detection autofocus system with 3 cross sensors, ISO range of 100-16000, a 3-inch free-angle LCD screen, a high-resolution Tru-Finder (Electronic Viewfinder) with 100% coverage, 3D Sweep Panoramas, Auto HDR and Multi-frame Noise Reduction. Compared to a conventional DSLR camera, Translucent Mirror Technology utilises a fixed, translucent mirror that splits the optical pathway between the main image sensor and a separate phase-detection autofocus sensor, and offers a simplified mechanical design that enables the camera to be smaller. The Sony A57 costs $700 in the US and £679 in the UK for the body and the 18-55mm zoom lens.

Ease of Use

Outwardly the new Sony SLT-A57 is almost identical to the more expensive A65 model that sits above it in the Sony hierarchy. As with its predecessor, the A57 dispenses with an optical viewfinder in favour of an electronic version, and uses a fixed semi-translucent mirror instead of the moving non-translucent mirror of a DSLR. The translucency of the A57’s mirror means that enough light can pass through it to the sensor to allow it to remain fixed in place at all times, with the ability to reflect some of the light onto a phase-detection auto-focus array that sits in the top of the A57 body. This combination means that the A57 can offer full-time DSLR-like focusing speeds, even during video recording, plus an excellent Live View system with 100% scene coverage and an amazingly fast continuous shooting rate of 12fps, whilst being physically smaller and lighter than a comparable DSLR.

Measuring 132.1 x 97.5 x 80.7mm and weighing 539 grams, the Sony A57 is the same size and weight as the A65. The plastic-bodied A57 is intended to be a slightly cheaper, more mass-market alternative to the enthusiast-targeted A65 and A77 models, whilst being a clear step-up model from the equally new A37, and in terms of its size and construction it neatly fits in between them. Although it feels a little plastic-y in hand, the A57 is still a solid bit of kit with build quality that’s on a par with rival DSLR cameras in the same price range – ultimately it’s neither cheap enough to put you off or solid enough to contend with more pro-level models, which we’d imagine is exactly what the Sony engineers were aiming for.

The Sony A57 can shoot full-resolution 16.1 megapixel pictures at up to 12fps whilst maintaining continuous auto focus and auto exposure, an incredibly fast rate for such an inexpensive camera. To achieve the full 12fps you need to set the exposure mode dial to the dedicated Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE shooting mode, which locks the exposure at the start of the sequence and uses the 1.4x tele-zoom function to record the center part of the image, resulting in an 8.4 megapixel photo. You can set the aperture and ISO speed by changing to AF-S or Manual focus mode, but you then lose the ability to refocus between frames. The A57 can shoot up to 21 raw files or 18 raw + fine JPEGs in a single 12 frame burst. The slightly slower 10fps option records a full-size 16 megapixel image.

The A57 features an adjustable rear 3-inch LCD, still a relative rarity on a digital SLR. This is bracketed at the bottom and can be tilted down and then swivelled to the left and right through 270 degrees, and can also be flipped around to face inward to help protect it from scratches. The A57 also has a clever eye level sensor that switches off the rear screen’s info display as you bring your eye close to the excellent optical viewfinder, plus a facility that automatically flips the same display through 90° should you turn the camera on its side to shoot in portrait fashion.

One advantage that the Sony range still maintains over either Canon or Nikon is that the A57 features built-in sensor shift image stabilization, hence no need to spend extra on specialist lenses to help combat camera shake. On the Sony A57 light sensitivity stretches from ISO 100 all the way up to ISO 16000, with a quasi top speed of 25,600 achieved by taking and combining six frames at once (JPEG only). Sony’s long-standing D-Range Optimizer and HDR functions help to even out tricky exposures, for example where a bright background would normally throw the foreground into deep shadow.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Front Rear

The A57 can record 1080p HD 1920 x 1280 pixel movies at either 50fps or 25fps (PAL), or 60fps and 24fps (NTSC) in the AVCHD format, or 1440 x 1080 pixels at 30fps/25fps in the MPEG-4 format, useful as this format can currently be shared more easily. There’s also a 640 x 480 VGA mode at 25fps, but no 720p mode. There’s a limitation of up to 29 minutes, or 9 minutes if SteadyShot is turned on, for the AVCHD format, and a 2Gb file size for MP4 video. Stereo sound is recorded during video capture, and you can fit an optional external stereo microphone to further improve the quality. The HDMI port allows you to connect the A57 to a high-def TV set, but only if you purchase the optional HDMI mini-cable.

As with Live View, continuous phase-detection AF is possible whilst shooting movies on the A57, a distinct advantage over most DSLR cameras and fast enough to rival Compact System Cameras like the Panasonic Lumix GH series. It allows you to track fast-moving subjects without having to resort to manual focusing, ideal for users who are used to compacts that can auto-focus for both still and moving images. There are a few caveats – the focusing can be heard on the soundtrack, although using an external microphone gets around this, it sometimes struggles to keep up with the subject, and more notably the shallow depth of field that’s inherent to a large-sensor camera produces noticeable and often unwanted “jumps” as the AF system locks onto different subjects in the frame.

In addition to continuous AF and manual, the selected AF Area can be changed within the frame to easily create the professional “rack focus” effect, where the focus moves between the background and foreground subjects. Also pleasing is the ability to change the shutter speed or aperture during recording with Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and fully Manual recording modes all on offer. Exposure compensation, creative styles, picture effects, white balance, AF area, tracking auto-focus and metering mode all apply equally to stills and moving images too.

As you’d expect, it’s also possible to focus manually with the Sony SLT-A57. When focusing manually, Sony offers two Focus Magnifier zoom levels to aid in determining the precise point of focus, either 5.9x or 11.7x. Also included is the “focus peaking” display which was first introduced in the NEX-C3 compact system camera. Peaking is a feature that provides a level of hand-holding for manual focus users. When turned on to one of the three levels (low, mid, high), this essentially draws a coloured line (red, white or yellow) around the areas of highest contrast in the image when you’re manually focusing the camera. Used in conjunction with the magnified focus assist, this makes it a cinch to focus accurately on a specific part of the subject, something that the majority of digital cameras have struggled with. It can even be used in the movie mode, again providing a real boon to your creativity.

The new Auto Portrait Framing mode uses face detection and the rule of thirds to automatically crop and create tightly framed portrait shots. Sony’s catchily named Pixel Super Resolution Technology ensures that the resulting image is still a full 16 megapixels in size, and the original uncropped image is also saved for easy comparison.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Front Top

From the front the Sony A57 looks unthreatening to the novice DSLR user. Apart from a familiar ridge housing the pop-up flash above the Alpha lens mount, its most distinguishing feature is the traditional handgrip complete with leather-look rubberized covering that extends around the side of the camera. It’s easy to fit three fingers around the handgrip and makes it straight-forward to hold the camera steady for shooting handheld. Built into the grip itself is a narrow sliver of a window for the remote sensor, should use of one be required as an optional extra.

At the top of this grip, but still at the front, is the camera’s one and only control/command dial, situated beneath the main shutter release button and on/off switch, where it falls readily under the forefinger. In the absence of any top-mounted LCD window, users can twist this to rapidly scroll through screen menu options and folders, a task also achieved in slower, steadier fashion by tabbing through the same using the familiar four-way control pad at the rear, as well as adjust apertures and shutter speeds. A small Depth-of-field Preview button is located at the bottom-left of the lens mount.

Over at the other side of the lens mount we find a comfortably large button to release the lens, adjacent to which is a self-explanatory slider switch for alternating between auto and manual focus. Sony has subtly incorporated instances of its Alpha trademark ‘cinnibar’ (orange to the rest of us) colour on the camera, here only visible in the Greek symbol for Alpha that makes up the logo and a thin line encircling the lens surround. The Alpha mount also offers compatibility with A mount lenses from the Minolta and Konica Minolta range, Sony having bought up that company’s expertise wholesale in 2005 to launch its own range.

The A57’s top plate features the aforementioned shutter release button encircled by an on/off switch that visually apes the zoom levers found on some compact cameras. The shutter-release has a definite half-way point, with the focus points (a choice of 15) rapidly illuminating green in the viewfinder and a confirmation bleep signaling that focus and exposure has been determined and the user is free to go on and take the shot. With an imperceptible shutter delay, a full resolution JPEG is committed to memory in just over a second in single shot mode, a RAW file in three. The Exposure Compensation and ISO buttons are very handily positioned to provide quick access to two features that you will use all the time, although you can change their default settings to one of 23 other options if you so desire.

Next on the Sony A57 we come to the Finder/LCD button alongside the pop-up flashgun and a large curved grille for the built-in stereo microphone. If choosing ‘Finder’ with the camera set to auto-focus, bringing your eye level with the viewfinder and sensor below will neatly prompt the camera to automatically focus on whatever it’s aiming at (you can turn this feature off by disabling the Eye-Start AF menu option). Pressing the same button again switches to the LCD, automatically blanking out the viewfinder with the rear screen bursting into life instead. As expected the Sony’s top plate also features a shoe for an optional accessory flash situated just above the electronic viewfinder, with a dedicated button to manually release the pop up flash situated just in front. The built-in flash can also trigger an optional wireless accessory flash.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Pop-up Flash Tilting LCD Screen

Over at the far left of the A57’s top plate is a shooting mode dial that’s slightly sunk into the bodywork, thus helping to prevent the dial accidentally slipping from one setting to another when placing into or retrieving the camera from a bag. Arranged around this are 12 selectable options, running from full Auto and Auto+ to the creative quartet of Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter priority and Manual, plus dedicated modes for the 12fps continuous shooting, Panorama (normal or 3D), Flash Off and a Scene option which includes pre-optimised scene modes for common subjects such as portraits, landscapes, close ups (macro), sports, sunset, night, night portraits and handheld twilight.

The Auto+ mode goes even further than the standard Auto, automatically recognizing the correct scene mode and then taking advantage of the camera’s high-speed shooting capabilities to shoot and combine up to six shots to produce images with greater dynamic range and lower image noise.

At the rear of the A57 we find the free-angle 3-inch LCD screen, which has an impressively high resolution of 921,600-dots, 16:9 wideangle ratio and can be adjusted for brightness. While the ability to both tilt and rotate the screen is very welcome, placing the bracket at the bottom does make it impossible to attain the video-friendly side-on position that some other rival models offer, a real shame considering the A57’s video capabilities.

Instead of the bulky optical viewfinder of a conventional DSLR, the Sony A57 has a smaller electronic viewfinder. The mere mention of an EVF is usually enough to elicit loud groans from any serious photographer, as they have traditionally been poorly implemented in the past, with low-res, grainy displays that were only really suitable for still subjects. That’s simply not the case with the A57 – the electronic viewfinder on the A57 is better than most other systems that we’ve used. It has a large 1.04x magnification, 100% field of view, and a very high 1440k dot equivalent resolution, resulting in a display that rivals a more traditional optical viewfinder.

As the EVF is reading the same signal from the image sensor as the rear LCD screen, it can also display similar information, with a choice of five display modes. For example, you can view and operate the A57’s Function Menu, giving a true preview of the scene in front of you and quick access to all the key camera settings while it’s held up to your eye. The various icons used to represent the camera settings are clear and legible. The icing on the viewing cake is the clever built-in eye sensor, which automatically switches on the viewfinder when you look into it, then switches it off and turns on the LCD monitor when you look away.

The A57’s EVF system also performs very well indoors in low light, typically the scourge of most EVFs which have to “gain-up” to produce a usable picture, resulting in a noticeably grainier picture. The A57 doesn’t suffer from this unwanted effect at all, making the A57’s electronic viewfinder the equal of and in many areas better than a DSLR’s optical viewfinder, particularly those found on entry-level models which are typically dim and offer limited scene coverage. The truest testament to the A57 is that I almost exclusively used it by holding it up to eye-level, something that I wouldn’t do unless the EVF was of sufficient quality. The only negative that we found with the A57’s EVF was a tendency to block-up the shadow areas in order to maintain detail in the highlights, but this is a small price to pay for what is an otherwise great viewfinder.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

To the left of the electronic viewfinder is a button marked Menu. Press this and a number of shooting and set up folders appear on screen, with white text on a black background aiding visibility. The three shooting folders allow users to select image size, ratio and quality and – if JPEG (RAW and RAW+JPEG also available) – compression rates too, plus features like SteadyShot, long exposure and high ISO noise reduction – all in fact activated as a default, as is the likes of the eye start feature. The Movie folder contains the video quality and audio options, while the four Customise folders allow you to tweak the A57 to your way of working. Playback, Memory Card, Time and two further Setup folders allow the likes of the LCD brightness to be adjusted, the help guide to be turned on or off, plus user languages, folders and file numbering to be specified.

To the right of the viewfinder is a small wheel for dioptric adjustment that isn’t too stiff and rigid. Just below and to the right of this is a welcome dedicated button for one-touch movie recording. A second marked AEL locks the exposure and also doubles up as a means of zooming into images and magnifying detail when in playback mode, while a third activates the new Clear Zoom function, which is essentially a 2x digital zoom. Thankfully you can more usefully re-assign this button to focus magnification.

To the right of the A57’s LCD screen is a Function (‘Fn’) button for those details that we’d expected to find amidst the menus but didn’t. Here for example we find the Drive modes, Flash modes, along with Autofocus modes (a choice of single shot, auto or continuous), AF area (wide, spot or local), Object Tracking, Face Detection, Smile Shutter, ISO speed, Metering (multi segment, centre weighted or spot), Flash compensation, White Balance (including a custom setting), DRO/Auto HDR, plus Creative Styles and Picture Effects. Creative Styles are pre-optimised user selectable settings which run from the default of ‘standard’ through the self-explanatory vivid, portrait, landscape, sunset and black and white. For each of these creative options, contrast, saturation and sharpness can be individually adjusted. Picture Effects are a range of 11 creative effects that can be previewed on the LCD screen or electronic viewfinder and applied to both JPEG stills and movies.

Beneath the Function button we find a familiar four-way control pad. Ranged around this are settings for switching on or off the on-screen display, selecting from the white balance settings, Picture Effects (if in JPEG mode), and single shot / burst capture, self timer or bracketing options (three shots at 0.3EV intervals). At the centre is a ‘AF’ button that comes in particularly handy when scrutinizing the screen in Live View mode. Press this and, as with a press of the shutter release button, the camera will automatically and rapidly determine a point of focus for you. Underneath these options is a playback button for the review of images and a self-evident trash can button for deleting images on the fly, which also doubles up as the Help menu button, essentially a mini in-camera user guide aimed at beginner users.

On the left of the A57 is a HDMI output in order to hook the camera up to an HD TV (the cable is once again an additional purchase) alongside the expected USB connection, both protected by the same rubber flap, and a DC In port. Above are ports for a remote control and an external microphone, the latter potentially allowing better sound quality to be recorded than via the camera’s built-in stereo microphones. Two partially recessed metal eyelets on either side of the body allow the supplied camera strap to be attached. On the bottom of the camera is a shared compartment for a choice of either SD or Memory Stick to save images to, a lithium-ion battery that supplies an impressive life-span of 550 images with the viewfinder or 590 images in Live View mode, plus a metal tripod socket that’s in-line with the centre of the lens mount.

Sony A57 Review Image

Sony A57 Review Image

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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 16.1 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Sony A57 produced images of excellent quality during the review period. The Sony A57’s has an extensive and very usable ISO range of 100-16000. ISO 100-800 is noise-free, whilst ISO 1600-6400 produces more than acceptable results, and even ISO 12800 and the fastest setting of 16000 are OK for emergency use. The RAW samples illustrate just how much processing the camera does by default, though, as they’re much noisier at all ISO values than their JPEG counterparts.

The 16 megapixel images are a little soft straight out of the camera using the default Standard creative style and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera sharpening level. The built-in flash worked well indoors with no red-eye and good overall exposure. The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and the Bulb mode offering lots of scope for creative night photography. The built-in SteadyShot anti-shake system works well when hand-holding the camera at slower shutter speeds.

The effective Dynamic Range Optimizer function extracts more detail from the shadow and highlight areas in an image, without introducing any unwanted noise or other artifacts. The High Dynamic Range mode combines two shots taken at different exposures to produce one image with greater dynamic range than a single image would produce. It only works for JPEGs and for still subjects, but does produce some very effective results. Sony’s now tried-and-trusted Sweep Panorama is still a joy to use. The 11 creative effects quickly produce special looks that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom, while the 6 Creative Styles provide a quick and easy way to tweak the camera’s JPEG images.

Noise

There are 8 ISO settings available on the Sony A57. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

JPEG RAW  

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 16000 (100% Crop)

ISO 16000 (100% Crop)

 
 

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web – Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don’t like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

File Quality

The Sony A57 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

16M Fine (4.46Mb) (100% Crop) 16M Standard (3.09Mb) (100% Crop)
   
16M RAW (16.1Mb) (100% Crop)  
 

Flash

The flash settings on the Sony A57 are Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow sync, Rear flash sync. and High Speed sync., with Red-eye reduction available in the Main Menu. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off – Wide Angle (27mm)

Flash On – Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off – Telephoto (82.5mm)

Flash On – Telephoto (82.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Neither the Auto setting or the Red-eye reduction mode caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red-eye reduction

Red-eye reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Sony A57’s maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds and there’s also a Bulb mode for even longer exposures, which is excellent news if you’re seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 25 seconds at ISO 100.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Steadyshot

The Sony A57 has an antishake mechanism built into the camera body, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with Shake Reduction turned off, the second with it turned on. Here is a 100% crop of the image to show the results. As you can see, with Shake Reduction turned on, the images are sharper than when it’s turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Shake Reduction Off (100% Crop)

Shake Reduction On (100% Crop)

1/3 / 27mm
     
1/3 / 82.5mm

Dynamic Range Optimizer

D-Range Optimiser (DRO) is Sony’s solution to improve shadow detail in photos taken in contrasty light. There are 5 different levels and an Auto option.

Off

Level 1
   
Level 2 Level 3
   
Level 4 Level 5

High Dynamic Range

High Dynamic Range Optimiser (HDR) is Sony’s solution for capturing more contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining two exposures into one image. There are 6 different EV settings and an Auto option.

Off

1EV
   
2EV 3EV
   
4EV 5EV
   
6EV  
 

Creative Styles

There are 6 Creative Style preset effects that you can use to change the look of your images.

Standard

Vivid

   

Portrait

Landscape

   

Sunset

B/W

Picture Effects

Just like Olympus and Panasonic, the Sony A57 now offers a range of eleven creative Picture Effects.

Off

Toy Camera

   

Pop Color

Posterization

   

Retro Photo

Soft High-key

   

Partial Color (Red)

High Contrast Mono

   

Soft Focus

HDR Painting

   

Rich-tone Mono

Miniature

Sweep Panorama Mode

The Sony A57 allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by ‘sweeping’ with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and even successfully compensates for moving subjects. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution.

Standard
Download the Full Size Image
 
Wide
Download the Full Size Image

Sony A57 Review Image

Sony A57 Review Image

Mac users, we’re pleased to announce Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar is now available for just $69£52

with special Valentine Day bonuses (two eBooks, Vivid Wonderland preset pack, & Creative Sky Overlay pack) included for free until February 19.

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Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony A57 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Sony A57 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We’ve provided some Sony RAW (ARW) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/100s · f/8 · 82mm · ISO 100
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/100s · f/5.6 · 82mm · ISO 1600
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/100s · f/7.1 · 39mm · ISO 100
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/100s · f/5.6 · 82mm · ISO 200
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/250s · f/5.6 · 82mm · ISO 100
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/100s · f/8 · 82mm · ISO 125
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/80s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 100
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/80s · f/11 · 75mm · ISO 125
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/250s · f/8 · 82mm · ISO 100
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/160s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 100
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/100s · f/8 · 82mm · ISO 200
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/4s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 100
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/8s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 200
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/15s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 400
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/30s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 800
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/60s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 1600
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/125s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 3200
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/250s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 6400
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/500s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 12800
Download Original

Sample RAW Image

Download

1/640s · f/8 · 27mm · ISO 16000
Download Original

Sample Movie

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920×1080 pixels at 25 frames per second. Please note that this 24 second movie is 66.1Mb in size.

Sony A57 Review Image

Sony A57 Review Image

Mac users, we’re pleased to announce Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar is now available for just $69£52

with special Valentine Day bonuses (two eBooks, Vivid Wonderland preset pack, & Creative Sky Overlay pack) included for free until February 19.

Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10 on Luminar.

We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended”. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.

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Product Images

Sony A57

Front of the Camera

 
Sony A57

Front of the Camera

 
Sony A57

Front of the Camera / Flash Raised

 
Sony A57

Isometric View

 
Sony A57

Isometric View

 
Sony A57

Isometric View

 
Sony A57

Isometric View

 
Sony A57

Rear of the Camera

 
Sony A57

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

 

Sony A57

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

 
Sony A57
Rear of the Camera / Function Menu
 
Sony A57
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
 
Sony A57
Rear of the Camera / Tilting LCD Screen
 
Sony A57
Rear of the Camera / Tilting LCD Screen
 
Sony A57
Top of the Camera
 
Sony A57
Bottom of the Camera
 
Sony A57
Side of the Camera
 
Sony A57
Side of the Camera
 
Sony A57
Front of the Camera
 
Sony A57
Front of the Camera
 
Sony A57
Memory Card Slot
 
Sony A57
Battery Compartment

Sony A57 Review Image

Sony A57 Review Image

Mac users, we’re pleased to announce Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar is now available for just $69£52

with special Valentine Day bonuses (two eBooks, Vivid Wonderland preset pack, & Creative Sky Overlay pack) included for free until February 19.

Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10 on Luminar.

We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended”. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.

Download Luminar & Try Free »

Specifications

Lens Mount

Sony α mount
YES

Lens Compatibility

All types of Sony α lenses
YES

Image Sensory

Image sensor type
CMOS Sensor
Image sensor colour filter
R, G, B, Primary color
Size (mm)
23.5 x 15.6mm (APS-C size)

Camera

Total sensor Pixels (megapixels)
Approx. 16.7
Effective Pixels (megapixels)
Approx. 16.1
Automatic White Balance
YES
White balance: preset selection
Auto / Daylight/ Shade/ Cloudy/ Incandescent/ Fluorescent / Flash / Custom
White balance: custom setting
YES
White balance: types of color temperature
2500 – 9900 k (G7 to M7,15-step) (A7 to B7,15-step)
White balance bracketing
3 frames, Selectable 2 steps
ISO Sensitivity Setting
ISO100 – 16000 equivalent

SteadyShot INSIDE

System: Sensor-shift mechanism
YES
SteadyShot INSIDE scale (in viewfinder)
NO
Camera-Shake warning (in viewfinder)
NO
SteadyShot INSIDE capability
Approx. 2.5 EV – 4.5 EV decrease in shutter speed (varies according to shooting conditions and lens used)
SteadyShot INSIDE compatibility
All Sony DSLR lenses and A-Mount bayonet lenses from Minolta and Konica Minolta
*SteadyShot INSIDE was previously known as Super SteadyShot

Anti-Dust

Charge protection coating on Low-Pass Filter and electromagnetic vibration mechanism
YES

Auto Focus System

TTL phase-detection system
YES
Contrast AF system
NO
Sensor
15 points (3 points cross type)
Sensitivity Range (at ISO 100 equivalent); EV
-1 to 18
Eye Start AF System (on off selectable)
YES
AF Area: Wide focus area
YES (auto with 15 areas)
AF Area: Spot
YES
AF Area: Local focus area selection
YES (auto with 15 areas)
AF Area: Multi Point
NO
AF Area: Center Weighted
NO
AF Area: Flexible Spot
NO
AF Modes
Single-shot AF, Automatic AF, Continuous AF
Predictive Focus Control
YES
Focus Lock
YES
AF Illuminator
YES (built-in)
AF Illuminator range (meters)
Approx. 1-5

Auto Exposure System

Light metering type
1200-zone evaluative metering
Light metering cell
Exmor™ CMOS Sensor
Light metering: Multi segment
YES
Light metering: Spot
YES
Light metering: Center weighted
YES
Exposure: Automatic
YES
Exposure: Program Auto
YES
Exposure: iAUTO
YES
Exposure: AUTO+
NO
Exposure: AUTO+
YES
Exposure: Shutter priority
YES
Exposure: Aperture priority
YES
Exposure: Manual
YES
Exposure: Scene selection
YES
Sweep Panorama
YES (2D, 3D)
Anti Motion Blur
NO
AE Lock
YES
Exposure compensation
YES, +/- 3.0EV (1/3EV steps)
AE Bracketing
With 1/3EV, 2/3EV increments, 3 frames

Shutter

Type
Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane type
Shutter Speed Range (seconds)
1/4000 – 30 and bulb
Flash Sync Speed; second
1/160
Flash Sync Speed (With Steady Shoot On); second
1/160

Flash

Built-in-Flash Guide Number (in meters at ISO 100)
10
Flash Metering System
ADI / Pre-flash TTL
Flash Compensation
+/- 2.0EV (1/3EV steps)
Built-in-Flash Recycling Time (approx. time in seconds)
3
Flash Mode
Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow sync, Rear flash sync, Red-eye reduction
Wireless flash mode
YES (with optional compatible accessory flash)
Red-Eye Reduction
YES
Flash Popup
Auto

Viewfinder

Type
Electronic
Focusing Screen
NO
Field of View (%)
100
Magnification (with 50mm lens at infinity)
1.04x
Eye Relief
Approx. 25.2mm from the Eyepiece lens
Diopter Adjustment
-4.0 to +3.0 diopter

Live View

Live View
YES

LCD screen

Screen Size
7.5cm / 3 Wide
Monitor Type
TFT
LCD Total Dot Number
921600
Brightness adjustable
YES
Tilting screen
YES
Rotating screen
YES

Recording

Drive Mode
Single, Continuous, 10 seconds and 2 seconds Self-timer, Bracket (continues, single, white balance bracket, DRO bracket)
Continuous-Advance Rate (approx. frames per second at maximum)
max. 12 fps
Number of Continuous Advance
Fine: 23 images/Standard: 25 images/RAW & JPEG: 18 images/RAW: 21 images
Recording Media
Memory Stick PRO Duo™, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™, SD, SDHC, SDXC memory cards
Recording Format
JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver. 2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), 3D still image MPO (MPF Extended stereovision compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format), RAW & JPEG
Image Size L – JPEG (pixels)
4912 x 3264 (16M)
Image Size M (pixels)
3568 x 2368 (8.4M)
Image Size S (pixels)
2448 x 1624 (4.0M)
Panorama size:Max. degrees of sweep angle(focal length 16mm/18mm)
Wide: horizontal 12,416 x 1,856 (23M), vertical 5,536 x 2,160 (12M), Standard: horizontal 8,192 x 1,856 (15M), vertical 3,872 x 2,160 (8.4M)
3D Panorama size:Max. degrees of sweep angle(Focal length:16mm/18mm)
Wide: 7152 x 1080 (7.7M), Standard: 4912 x 1080 (5.3M), 16:9: 1920 x 1080 (2.1M)
Still Image quality
RAW, RAW+JPEG, JPEG Fine, JPEG Standard
Movie Recording Format
AVCHD / MP4
Video Compression
AVCHD Ver. 2.0 compliant / MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)
Audio recording Format
Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 AAC-LC, 2ch
Movie recording mode – AVCHD
1920 x 1080 (50p recording, 28 Mbps, 50i 24 Mbps, 50i 17 Mbps, 25p 24 Mbps, 25p 17 Mbps, 25p 12 Mbps)
Movie recording mode – MP4
1440 x 1080(Approx.25fps, 12Mbps(Average bit-rate)
Noise Reduction (Long exp.NR)
On/Off, available at shutter speeds longer than 1 second
Noise Reduction (High ISO NR)
YES
Noise Reduction (Multi Frame NR)
YES
Color Space (sRGB)
YES
Color Space (Adobe RGB)
YES
Color mode/DEC/Creative styles
Standard, Vivid, Portrait , Landscape, Sunset, Black & White, Saturation, Sharpness
Dynamic Range Optimizer
Off, Auto

Playback/Edit

White/Black Out Alert
YES
Index Playback
YES
Enlarge (Maximum magnification)
L size: 13.6x, M size: 9.9x, S size: 6.8x
Image Rotation
YES
Auto Image Rotation
YES

General

InfoLITHIUM Battery Indicator
YES
Histogram Indicator
YES
Exif
YES
Exif Print
YES
PictBridge
NO
Zone Matching
NO
Depth-of-Field Preview
YES
PRINT Image Matching III
YES
Remote Release Terminal
YES
IR Remote Control
YES
DPOF(Digital Print Order Format)
YES
Indicator of remaining memory space
YES
Beep Sound
On/Off selectable
File Number Memory
On/Off selectable
Folder Name Mode
Standard and Date
Operating Temperature (degrees C)
0 – 40

Jacks

Video Out
NO
HD/HDMI® Out
YES
USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
YES
USB Mode
Mass-storage, MTP

Power/Others

Battery System
NP-FM500H
Supplied Battery
NP-FM500H
Stamina (battery life in CIPA condition)
Approx. 550 shots(Viewfinder) / approx. 590 shots(LCD monitor) (CIPA standard)
Weight (g) (Body only)
Approx. 539

Dimensions

Width (mm)
132.1
Height (mm)
97.5
Depth (mm)
80.7

Sony A57 Review Image

Sony A57 Review Image

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Conclusion

The new Sony A57 is a compelling intermediate SLT/DSLR camera that has a list of features and performance that few other rivals can match. The Sony A57 essentially offers the same excellent handling and features of the more expensive A65 model, but uses a more modest 16 megapixel sensor rather than the A65’s 24 megapixels. It also doesn’t have built-in GPS tracking, something that the A65 and the previous A55 both offer.

Just like the rest of the SLT family, the Sony A57 turns conventional design on its head to provide what is in many ways a better user experience than traditional DSLRs can achieve, at a competitive price point that Canon and Nikon must surely be worried about. The A57’s electronic viewfinder may not be as detailed as the one used by the A65 and A77 models, but it still has enough resolution to rival and even beat a more conventional optical viewfinder. The A57’s translucent mirror and EVF open up a world of possibilities for Sony, with headline grabbing burst shooting speeds, fast auto-focus for both stills and video, and 100% scene coverage, all for the modest price of a mid-range DSLR.

Image quality is excellent, with results from the 16 APS-C sensor rivaling the main DSLR competition and in most cases surpassing the Compact System Camera alternatives, especially if you want to achieve shallow depth-of field effects. Noise doesn’t rear its ugly head until ISO 3200 for JPEGs, although the A57 does apply some pretty aggressive noise reduction to keep the files clean, resulting in some loss of finer detail. The myriad of creative effect on offer such as HDR, Dynamic Range Optimisation, creative styles, the innovative sweep panorama mode and a new range of in-camera Picture Effects help to get the most out of the A57, especially if you like to experiment away from a computer.

While the A57 may be bigger than the A55 model that it replaces, and it loses its predecessor’s GPS functionality, in most other ways it’s clearly a better camera, so much so that it even competes with the more expensive and very similar A65 model. There’s not too much at all to dislike about the new Sony A57, and we can easily highly recommend it as a very capable and full-featured camera that won’t break the bank.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4.5

Sony A57 Review Image

Sony A57 Review Image

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Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Sony A57.

Canon EOS 600D

Canon EOS 600D Review thumbnail

The Canon EOS 600D (called the Canon EOS Rebel T3i in North America) is a new DSLR camera that boasts a class-leading 18-megapixels and full 1080p high-definition videos. Other key features of the 600D / T3i include continuous shooting at 3.7fps, a vari-angle 3-inch LCD screen with 1,040k dot resolution, ISO range of 100-12800, 14-bit image processing and Canon’s Digic 4 processor. Is the Canon EOS 600D / T3i the best mid-range digital SLR camera on the market? Read our expert review to find out…

Nikon D5100

Nikon D5100 Review thumbnail

The Nikon D5100 is a new mid-range DSLR camera that features a 16.2 megapixel sensor, vari-angle LCD screen and 1080p HD movies. The D5100 also offers an ISO range of 100-25600, 4fps continuous shooting, a range of creative effects and an 11-point autofocus system. Read our in-depth Nikon D5100 review to find out if this is all the DSLR that you need.

Olympus E-P3

Olympus E-P3 Review thumbnail

Olympus have further expanded their Micro Four Thirds family with the launch of the E-P3. Boasting the World’s fastest autofocus system, the E-P3 also adds a 3-inch OLED touchscreen display, new 12.3 megapixel Live MOS sensor, full HD movie mode with stereo sound, and an extensive range of creative filters. Read our expert Olympus E-P3 review to find out if this is the best PEN camera yet…

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Review thumbnail

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is a new compact system camera for enthusiast photographers. With a 16 megapixel sensor, 3 inch LCD screen, built-in flash, 1080i high-definition video, new power-zoom kit lens and a wealth of shooting modes, is the GX1 the best portable interchangeable lens camera? Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 review to find out….

Pentax K-5

Pentax K-5 Review thumbnail

The K-5 is the second DSLR camera from Pentax for 2010, inheriting the existing K-7’s proven control layout and incorporating a new 16.3 megapixel APS-C sensor. The Pentax K-5 offers an incredible ISO range of 80-51200 plus Full 1080p HD movies, 7fps burst shooting and a large high-resolution LCD screen. Read our Pentax K-5 review to discover if this mid-range DSLR can compete with the competition from Nikon and Canon.

Samsung NX11

Samsung NX11 Review thumbnail

The NX11 is the third model in Samsung’s compact system camera range, adding compatibility with the innovative iFunction, which allows you to change key camera settings using the focus ring on the lens. The Samsung NX11 also features a DSLR-like design, 3 inch AMOLED screen, electronic viewfinder, 720p video and a large APS-C CMOS sensor with 14.6 megapixels. Read our in-depth Samsung NX11 review, complete with 40 JPEG and 15 RAW samples.

Sony A55

Sony A55 Review thumbnail

The Sony A55 is a new kind of interchangeable lens camera, removing the optical viewfinder and moving mirror of a DSLR and replacing them with an electronic viewfinder and a fixed semi-translucent mirror. This combination allows the A55 to be smaller, lighter, faster and offer a better Live View experience than a comparably priced DSLR. Read our Sony A55 Review to find out if this is the future of interchangeable lens cameras…

Sony A65

Sony A65 Review thumbnail

The Sony A65 is the second generation of Sony’s SLT camera range, which replaces the optical viewfinder and moving mirror of a DSLR with an electronic viewfinder and a fixed semi-translucent mirror. The A65 ups the ante considerably with a 24.3 megapixel sensor, 10fps burst shooting, 1080p Full HD movies, high-resolution OLED viewfinder, 3-inch free-angle LCD, built-in GPS and an ISO range of 100-16000, all for just £800 / $900. Read our detailed Sony A65 review to find out if Nikon and Canon should be quaking in their boots…

Sony A57 Review Image

Sony A57 Review Image

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Review Roundup

Reviews of the Sony A57 from around the web.

reviews.cnet.co.uk »

The Sony Alpha SLT-A57 really delivers when paired with the 18-55mm kit lens. With bright, vibrant colours, plenty of fine detail and super-fast underlying hardware, it’s easy to get great shots in practically any condition.
Read the full review »

ephotozine.com »

The Sony Alpha A57 is the replacement for the A55, and features a 16.2 megapixel sensor, 1.44 million dot electronic viewfinder, full HD video and 12fps continuous shooting. Alternatively it can be seen as the little version of the A65, and shares the same size body and design as the A65 but doesn’t feature GPS.
Read the full review »

whatdigitalcamera.com »

Succeeding the acclaimed Alpha A55, the A57 marries an updated set of specifications with an enthusiast-oriented body. The What Digital Camera Sony Alpha A57 review finds out if the partnership is a success
Read the full review »

Sony A57 Review Image

Sony A57 Review Image

Mac users, we’re pleased to announce Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar is now available for just $69£52

with special Valentine Day bonuses (two eBooks, Vivid Wonderland preset pack, & Creative Sky Overlay pack) included for free until February 19.

Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10 on Luminar.

We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended”. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.

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