The Sony Alpha SLT-A57 brings a lot of punch, without breaking your wallet. When searching for a new camera to purchase, there are plenty of competitive brands out there, and many with different aspects and things to weigh in. The A57 is a great camera for people looking for a beginning camera that can last them a long time before looking to get a new camera.
With a couple years around its belt, the A-57 is definitely a solid and easy to use camera that’s perfect for anyone getting into photography. Released in 2012, the A57 has stayed a staple to the Sony camera brand, and for good reason.
When looking for an inexpensive yet capable camera, you may look towards the Canon T3i, T4i or a Nikon D5200. But the one thing the rest do not have is Translucent Mirror Technology.
Translucent Mirror Technology
Most cameras are a SLR, or Single Lens Reflect, which requires a mirror to be moved for images to be captured, and the photographer to see through the view finder. Unfortunately, since there is a physical element moving, while the camera is taking a picture the viewer cannot see through the view finder. That’s where Translucent Mirror Technology comes in hand.
While SLT cameras in general do contain a mirror just like a regular SLR, this mirror does not move. Translucent Mirror Technology allows light photons to travel directly to the sensor, while also reflecting a portion of that to the Pentaprism simultaneously so the you can still see through the view finder, unlike traditional SLRs.
The first thing to note when purchasing the Sony Alpha SLT-A57 is the body is very similar to those of the professional models. Its multi-angle 3″ LCD screen isn’t OLED like the A65 but with 921k color dots, the screen is still on the large end and has great detail. On the other hands, the Electronic Viewfinder has 1.44 millions dots.
The Single-lens Translucent Technology: Since the mirror does not move, so there is no flipping, and no vibration so its really quiet. It also allows continuous focus during recording and distortion correction for still image. This is a great feature for anyone doing sports photography or capturing fast moving objects. The full time auto-focus system can lock object within a fractions of a second (Object Tracking is also a great tool as it follows the target if it moves). The drawback arguably is, there is less light to the sensor because part of it has been redirected to the pentaprism.
The SLT-A57 does a great job limiting noise at high ISO levels, and can be cranked well up to 3200 ISO before seeing detrimental affects, which is better than the A65 even. The Sony SteadyShot (also known as image stabilization) gives users the advantage of 2.x more light. That roughly translates to 1/3 stop better than Nikon’s.
Speedy System : The camera is quick to start up and has huge buffer for continuous shots : up to 21 RAW+JPEG. That gives plenty of room for the 12 FPS at 8MP (class-leading), or 8 FPS at 16MP (same as D7000). You will agree that this camera is fast, probably twice as fast as anything in its tier or some above. Great for any high capacity card such as the SanDisk Extreme 32GB Class 10
LCD and Electronic viewfinder (EVF) An extremely useful feature when taking pictures in hard to reach places or in bright light. Also, as stated above the camera features a multi-angle 3″ LCD screen with 921k color dots and the Electronic Viewfinder has 1.44 millions dots.
The Sensor : Sony improves the A57 APS-C sensor which are also found in the D7000, A580, NEX-5, RX1, EOS 6D, 5D Mark III and other high-end expensive cameras. The result is a excellent dynamic range image with rich color.
Durability : No overheating like A55 (older model are reported overheated when recording a movie for extended periods of time). The battery life is also much longer than the A55. The case is strong and sturdy.
Movie : It can record Full HD 1080p at 60fps or cinematic-like 24fps movie clips. The fixed Translucent Mirror Tech allows the auto-focus system to keep sharp and accurate track on the object without too much effort on the users. This is a huge advantage over traditional DSLR. Some user notes that the A57 performs on par or even better than the HF-S100 camcorder.
Take a look at this user-made promo for the A57, it was done using only the A57 camera! (with different lens of course)
Here is another cinematic looking video using the DT 35mm f1.8 Lens on Sony A57
Level Indicator : This is another cool bonus from Sony. The system can display a digital horizontal line ruler that verify the balance level of the camera for a leveled picture.
Sony also packs a healthy dose of features into this camera such as :
- Clear Image Zoom : The system automatically calculates sample surrounding pixels when in max zoom and reproduce them for a really great detail image. No gimmick.
- Focus Peaking : Highlights the focused object with a different tone of color during manual zoom. A valuable option for photographers.
- Multi-noise Reduction : The camera takes several pictures and combine them into one to reduce noise level. Great for low light scenarios.
- Live Special Effects : Tilt Lens, Pop Color, B/W, Retro, Soft High-Key, Black & White & Highlight Red, Contrast Mono, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Mono, and Miniature.
- Sweep Panorama : Take panoramic images with ease.
- Auto HDR : Multiple images at different exposures will be taken at the same time and merge into one.
- Built-in Help : If you are not sure about any option you see on the screen, hit the [?] button. Sony does a good job of implementing a helpful guide system into this camera.
Price. This camera does not cost you an arm and a leg to get the job done. It does all the works for you seamlessly and the result is outstanding, compared to anything in this league. For around $600, this camera is unbeatable.
While the A57 does have a lot of pros, there are a couple drawbacks that you should be aware of :
- Sony JPEG engine is not impressive. The A57 can capture pretty shots in RAW but if you tell it to compress to jpg, you lose some sharp details. Try to play around with RAW for best output.
- Live Effects, Panorama and some HDR features do not work with RAW.
- The microphone records noise from the auto-focus system in Recording mode. It’s best to get an additional microphone for better sound capture if doing video work.
- Panorama is not as sharp as normal shot.
- Viewing through the EVF is a bit off in color depth and hard to justify the outcome. You will find yourself using the LCD more.
The Best Lenses for The A57
Great lens are essential to any great camera. Using a great lens with an amazing sensor will produce the most vibrant and sharp pictures. It’s nice to see that the A57 uses A-mount Lenses and is compatible with a variety of the famous and inexpensive Japanese-made Minolta Lenses. Minolta lenses are known for their ability to delivers beautiful and excellent images.
If you do not have any old Minolta lens laying around, consider these sweet upgrades for the A57. They essentially make your A57 worth as much as, and does as good as some of the $2k-$4k pro DSLR cameras in the current market.
With your new camera and lens, you’re going to need these extra things to keep your gear clean and in top shape.
In closing, if you’re looking to get a new camera, and thought about getting the A-57, don’t hesitate any longer. Or if you’re a beginner and looking to get into photography, this lens is also perfect with its helpful hints and easy to use interface.
Also make sure to check out some example photographs taken with the A-57 here. (Via Custom PC Guide)