The Sony A57 is a big bodied answer to those asking for an Alpha with a little more bite, while still living in the consumer space. I took one with me as I crossed the border and headed for San Francisco a few weeks ago, here’s what I thought.
Larger than my Alpha A33, the A57 has a full-sized grip. I have had medium-to-larger sized hands (not compared to Andre the Giant, but on average) and the A57 feels a little more comfortable. The short stature of the A33 usually ends up with me curling my little finger under the bottom which, while it may sound secure, makes my grip feel weaker.
The A57 puts all of the controls you need right in your hands, and has more programmable options. Every button on the back with a dedicated feature can be reassigned, something that I positively love. I was able to add depth of field preview when I needed it, then switched that button to AF lock on-demand. Very cool, and something I can get behind.
The 921k dot screen is both extremely bright and vivid. It gets a big thumbs up from me for usability. The articulation is welcome as well, though I did find that the hinge being on the bottom lead to some difficulty in opening it when I had it on a quick-release plate. Make sure you leave plenty of room to shift it or position it prior to securing it to your tripod if you find it’s an issue.
Sony’s internal software has come a long way since my second generation A350. The new software is high resolution, which is easy on the eyes, and everything is finally laid out in an intelligent way, where you don’t have to go digging for different options. Switching through modes using the dial on top brings up a full colour screen with a plain english display of what the mode does. When you’re not allowed to use a certain feature with a given mode (like auto-focus in video mode) the camera gives you a plain english reason why, instead of a cryptic error code. It’s almost like Sony made someone use the camera before writing the error messages; it would be great if other camera manufacturers joined them in doing this.
I positively love the display options both in the viewfinder and on-screen. Being able to see virtual spirit levels that showed me how level I was on more than one axis really made a difference; it completely cut down on my post production time.
The A57 is a great camera that continues to show how Sony excels in this category. Their Bionz processor does a great job with dynamic range in camera, though you can skip it and shoot RAW if you’d like. I found that while I still shoot RAW for my workflow, I had more usable JPEGs out of the A57 than my old A33 or A350. It’s a nice step up.
Video is a fantastic experience on the A57; the dedicated movie mode makes framing shots much easier than the A33, as it shows you the framing preview right on the LCD BEFORE you start shooting. This along was worth the money for me to upgrade, as I’ve had more than a few reshoots on my A33 due to a slightly skewed eye-line thanks to a lack of preview.
Colours are crisp, autofocus is fast, and I positively love the panoramic mode. It’s not great for photographers, but we all want to take that hat off sometimes to go shoot some cheesy shots.
Stepping up to the A57 gives you a bigger body, more megapixels, more powerful processing, and a better interface. That’s enough on the checklist for me to recommend it as a great option for those considering the Alpha line.
The Sony a57 DSLR is packed with the latest digital imaging technology to deliver outstanding photography, video, and functionality. It's equipped with the Exmore APS HD CMOS sensor and Translucent Mirror Technology that capture amazing imagery, even in low light. Other great features include 12fps shooting, HD movie capture, Portrait Framing Mode, a big view finder, and an 18-55mm lens.
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