In this Sony Alpha A57 Review I’m going to go over everything you need to know! I also used several different A-Mount lenses for this which is really important for showing off what the SLT Camera can actually do in the Real World!! Often using the kit lens is very limiting in both optical quality and zoom range. Not necessary a bad thing depending on your photography needs, but when you want to see what the Sony A57 Sensor can actually produce, quality optics are critical!!
The Sony SLT-A57 is the latest semi-pro SLT Camera from Sony and will set you back ~$700 for the camera body only, or you can drop ~$800 and get the A57 w/ 18-55mm kit lens, or for ~$1000 you can get the A57 w/ the New 18-135mm kit lens. That is only available for pre-order though at the time of this article as the new lens is expected to start shipping in June. The A57 has a 16mp processor and is capable of taking HD video while simultaneously auto focusing thanks to the translucent mirror technology.
The Lenses I used for this review include the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Lens, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens, and the Tamron SP 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD Lens. A pretty sweet lens lineup to say the least and I have a ton of sample photos, custom product shots, and HD real world sample footage for you to check out!! For this review I opted for the Sony Alpha A57 camera body only and a few other lenses as the 18-55mm kit lens is not that impressive to me. Although a good deal for $100 dollars extra, it’s still not the best optical quality, and I really want to show off what the A57 can do at it’s best. Here’s a quick Intro movie I put together showing off the A57 and the 24-70mm lens.
The A57 has a much improved skin over the previous A55 model. Pretty much every part of the camera body has been improved drastically. It’s much more solid feeling than the A55; which although decent build quality it felt more like plastic, and it had small amounts of flex. (Click Here) for my A55 Hands on Review and you can see what I mean.
The SLT-A57 Body
You can really feel the difference when you hold a solid camera in your hands, and the A57 is a gigantic improvement over the A55. It’s not bullet proof rock solid like like Fuji X-Pro 1 I recently reviewed (Click Here), but it’s still a solid Semi-Pro build quality in my opinion and can take on most Pro photography work. I would gladly use it as a back-up/ extra camera with no hesitation. Personally for wedding work I would still use my Canon 5D mark II as you cannot beat the Full Frame quality, but I would mount a really fast prime on the A57 for those specialty type wedding shots and killer video. Mind you if I didn’t already have the Canon gear I would probably be using A77 for the megapixel advantage as my main camera at a wedding. I’m really looking forward to the A99 Full Frame though. Weight wise the camera is significantly heavier than it’s 15.27 oz / 433 g predecessor at 21.8 oz / 618 g. It’s also physically larger than the A55 as Sony utilized it’s resources, after the divesting floods, and used the A65 camera body for the A57. Nice move Sony!!
The grip is the first thing I notice when I hold a camera, and the A57 grip has been deepened and ergonomically enhanced with slight finger grooves. I can also easily reach the adjustment wheel on the top of the grip with my pointer finger. On the back side of the A57 it has a slight bump out for your thumb to help leverage the camera better. It’s very noticeable and easier to hold with one hand in particular at your side for example.
I have pretty large hands and the buttons are all reachable with ease on the back with my thumb. The only two buttons that are slightly awkward for me to reach is the ISO and Exp.comp buttons on the very top of the camera just behind the shutter re-lease and on/off switch. My pointer finger can reach them, but it feels a little odd for whatever reason. With use I’m sure I would get used to it, but I actually preferred to use the Fn (Function) button and changing my settings that way as it’s often easier to see all the settings as a whole when making changes. I also usually make more than one change at once and the function screen is the way to go for that!!
Moving on to the high resolution tilt/ swivel screen we have again a better built version than the A55. The A55 had an additional swivel feature which was nice, but it really made the whole screen assemble kinda flimsy feeling. The screen on the A57 has a large hinge for the initial mount point to the camera body, and then another rigid 270 degree rotating mount off the hinge to the actual screen. What this ultimately means is you can tilt the screen downward up to 180 degrees, then you can swivel it completely around up to 270 degrees. This allows you to not only hold the camera over your head aiming the screen down or have it down on the ground aiming up, but it also allows you to close the screen inward towards the camera, in a sort of “Armored Mode”. You might want to use this if your in really bright sun and the EVF is all your using, or in inclement weather for example. It’s also never a bad idea to flip the screen around and have it protected when your not using it as it’s easy to get scratched by accident. Even in your camera bag it can get scratched!! One time I accidentally left an interior zipper compartment open in my camera bag and an extra tri-pod quick release plate fell out. It ended up bouncing around the bag and scratching one of my Canon 5D Mark II Screens. Not really that big a deal in the end as it still works fine, but if I had the option to flip the screen around that would not have happened!
The EVF Viewfinder
The upgraded EVF viewfinder is the same model found in the A55 except it’s apparently using twice the amount of pixels. I must say it’s clearly better than the A55, but not as good as the OLED found on the A77, A65, and Nex-7. It’s a satisfactory compromise though in my opinion as it keeps the cost down on the camera, and it looks great. It doesn’t have that HDR Surreal look that the OLED has, which I must admit is incredible, but the dynamic range needed is their for every situation I encountered. I did not get to try it out in the studio unfortunately as I need to get another flash adapter for the A57 hot shoe, but that low light work will simple have a bit of noise on the viewfinder as it tries to simulate the brightness for viewing. Really not that big a deal as the A77 does the same thing and it didn’t bother me that much, although in low light studio shooting I still prefer the Optical Viewfinder found on the A580 and my Canon gear. That is the only situation that the optical viewfinder has an advantage now though in my opinion. Sports are now totally doable as the viewfinder updates super fast allowing tracking even at 12fps!! The viewfinder, being an EVF, also has the advantage of overlaying all sorts of information on the screen and simulating whatever setting you have on the camera. For example, white balance can dialed in perfectly before you take the photo. The EVF shows you the result before you take the shot Live!! This is not new feature for the Sony Alpha 57 SLT, just an advantage over the Optical Viewfinder I wanted to point out encase you are not aware. [divider]
Sony A57 Image Quality and Sample Photos
The A57 has an upgraded 16mp sensor that is basically the same physically as the one found in the A55 as far as I can tell, but Sony has figured out a way to get more of it using their incredible powerful Bionz processor and software. [toggle_simple title=”A57 Sensor Specs” width=”Width of toggle box”]
Imaging Sensor : Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor (23.5 X 15.6mm)
Processor : BIONZ™ image processor
Anti Dust : Charge protection coating on Low-Pass Filter and Image Sensor-Shift mechanism
Sample Photos w/ 24-70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens
I took a couple of snapshots with the A57 and 24-70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss lens. A pretty hefty lens with the large constant f/2.8 aperture, but a real quality product as you will see below.
Here’s a few pics of Sandy and Chubs from the other day in the backyard.
Here’s a few snaps in the harsh sunlight on my parents deck. The Sony handles the highlights really well in my opinion.
Sample Photos Continued…
A few Landscape Scenes.
More of an Architecture shot I suppose, but a cool building nonetheless that I like to photograph as it has great detail and is interesting to look at in general. As you will see in the 100% Crop version, Sony still likes to sharpen their Jpeg images a little to much in my opinion, but to it’s defense, the lens is razor blade sharp! Also note the shear dynamic range in this scene that the A57 was able to capture with one click.
Sample Photos w/ Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens
Here’s a few pics using the Sigma f/1.4 lens and the Sony A57 loved it I must tell you. It fits great on the camera and looks stout and like it means business, but more importantly check out the image quality the A57 pumps out with this lens on it!!
I used the AutoHDR feature on this first image of my Brother’s Screaming Eagle Harley Fat Boy and I was quite happy with the results all around.
Sample Photos Continued…
This next image was taken at the bottom of my deck stairs were we have a large flower pot. I cropped this image to a square in Lightroom 4 and I also converted it to BW in Lightroom 4 using one of the new presets.
This last sample image taken with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens was a quick grab of the huge bucket at Sesame Street Place dumping some serious quantities of water!! I was using the New Superior Auto intelligent mode as well just to let you know.
Sample Photos w/ Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD Lens
A few shots from our Sesame Place trip.
I took this image on the way to sesame place at the gas station with the Sony Alpha A57. A really nice rig pulled up and I was honestly impressed at the shape it was in considering the age. The Owner was really cool and told me it was almost at 1 million miles!!
Sony Alpha SLT-A57 – High ISO Sample Images
The A57 goes all the way to ISO 16000 and I’ll let you take a look at theses High ISO images before I comment on them.
Be sure to click on the photos for the in page 1200px gallery style view!!!
Sony Alpha A57 Sample Video
One of the most powerful features of the Sony Alpha A57 is HD video! It has the ability to record HD Video and maintain accurate AF with object tracking and face recognition. This is not just hype either, because it actually works as you will see in the real world sample video below. Keep in mind I am not a cinematographer by any means, but I can hit the record button pretty good! I used Final Cut Pro for the video and used the .mp4 format for all the sample video.
Sony A57 Menu System Explained
Sony Alpha A57 Review – Conclusion
The A57 is the best out of the box Sony Camera that I have used to date, and I highly recommend it! The focus is fast and accurate, image quality as you can see is excellent across the board, even at extremely High ISO’s of 16,000. The features work as advertised including the incredible Telle Zoom feature which delivers a 1.4x effective increase of focal length, allowing you to shoot up to 12fps at 8MP resolution with continuous auto focus and auto exposure. The ergonomics and build quality of the A57 have officially entered Semi-Pro Category in my opinion and I can confidently recommend this camera to you Pros who want an awesome back up camera with killer HD Video abilities.
You could use this camera as your main, but people at the event may be using the same camera and you may or may not have issue with that 😉 Think about this though; You can record the bride coming down the aisle with sharp focus the entire time while she is walking toward you or away from you in crisp 1080 HD. Even on a tripod you can set the object tracking to the bride and then walk away to take pics with your other camera. The Sony A57 will track your object or bride in this case through the scene and maintain sharp Autofocus the entire time assuming your composition covers it all of course. You could in theory capture the entire ceremony from a tripod using a killer lens. How great would that be for a bonus item to your customers!! I know all our wedding customers for the most part ask if we offer video as well.
For ~$600 dollars you cannot get a better camera in my opinion as far as image quality, build quality, and features are concerned. Just compare it to anything!! I took this camera on vacation and had no issues using it instead of my Pro Canon gear and I’m totally satisfied with the results. I could absolutely use this camera as a backup for my Pro work, assuming I have a few lenses for it of course 😉
The A57 is the best out of the box Sony Camera that I have used to date, and I highly recommend it! The focus is fast and accurate, image quality as you can see is excellent across the board, even at extremely High ISO's of 16,000. The features work as advertised including the incredible Telle Zoom feature which delivers a 1.4x effective increase of focal length, allowing you to shoot up to 12fps at 8MP resolution with continuous auto focus and auto exposure. The ergonomics and build quality of the A57 have officially entered Semi-Pro Category in my opinion and I can confidently recommend this camera to you Pros who want an awesome back up camera with killer HD Video abilities.