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Sony Alpha a57 review

The sharp-shooting DSLT that clocks up 12fps

Our Verdict

For

  • Good build quality
  • Many controls and shortcuts
  • Versatile articulated LCD
  • Decent EVF
  • Range of exposure modes

Against

  • Menu not that clear
  • Some functions unavailable in some modes
  • No built-in GPS
  • High price

Having grabbed our attention with the original mould-breaking Single Lens Translucent cameras (SLTs) the Sony Alpha a55 and Sony Alpha a33, Sony has gone on to produce further high-performance models that are proving to be increasingly capable of taking on the mighty DSLR.

Incorporating Sony's innovative SLT design - which features a semi-transparent mirror in place of the DSLR's traditional mirrorbox arrangement - the new Sony Alpha a57 boasts a number of tweaks and upgrades over its predecessors that certainly look good on paper, and could potentially take Sony's DSLT range one step closer towards knocking its DSLR rivals off their respective pedestals.

Built around a superb 16MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor, the Sony Alpha a57 features a DSLR-esque design similar to that of the enthusiast-level Sony Alpha a65 and sports a raft of high-spec features to boot.

Sony Alpha a57 review

With Full HD 1080p movie recording capability, stereo sound, SteadyShot INSIDE and a class-leading 12fps continuous burst mode, we expect that the DSLR manufacturers of the Sony Alpha a57's closest competitors will certainly be watching closely to see how this new model fares in the real world, and what move Sony will make next.

Features

The Sony Alpha a57's 16.1MP Exmor R CMOS sensor is borrowed from one of Sony's popular compact system cameras (CSCs): the Sony NEX-5N.

While this may seemingly offer no real advantage over the same resolution, older Sony a55, Sony's decision to pair the swapped sensor with its latest generation BIONZ processor looks to be promising in terms of the improved image quality that may be possible. We'll share our verdict on this later.

Sony Alpha a57 at a glance
Price: £699 (UK)/$799 (US)
Sensor: 16.1MP, 23.5 x 15.6mm (APS-C) CMOS
Video: Full HD, 1920 x 1080, 50fps
LCD screen: 3-inch, tilt-angle LCD, 921k-dots
Dimensions: 132.1mm × 97.5mm × 80.7mm, 539g

Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology (TMT) offers a number of benefits, not least fast, full-time Phase Detection AF, which enables SLT cameras to deliver a very responsive performance, plus impressive features such as the Sony Alpha a57's class-leading 12fps continuous burst mode, for instance.

You also get Full HD (1080p) movie recording with stereo sound with the Sony Alpha a57, plus a high-resolution, 921,000-dot, 3-inch LCD screen, which can be flipped out from the back panel and swivelled any way you want, to enable easy composition when shooting subjects at odd angles.

The Sony Alpha a57 retains the Sony Alpha a55's 15-point AF module, although Sony stresses that improvements have been made to the new camera's Object Tracking AF for improved consistency and accuracy.

Sony Alpha a57 review

Sticking with the subject of action photography, the Sony Alpha a57 outguns its predecessor when it comes to sequential image capture, clocking up a standard rate of 8fps at full resolution, 10fps in Continuous Priority AE (full resolution frames, but the aperture remains constant) or a class-leading 12fps in the camera's top-whack continuous burst mode.

The latter employs Sony's Tele-Zoom feature to capture a reduced resolution 1.4x crop of the centre of the frame, enabling (still very good quality) JPEGs of moving subjects to be recorded at high speed.

Sony Alpha 57 review

The Sony Alpha a57 has - for some reason - lost the Sony Alpha a55's GPS module in the upgrade. While this may be a deal-breaker for some globe-trotting photographers, there is some benefit to be noted with the omission of this feature, in as much as the Sony Alpha a57's battery life is extended to around 600 shots per charge when using the LCD.

A handful of new features, including Auto Portrait Framing, Sony's By Pixel Super Resolution Technology and Clear Image Zoom also make their debut with the Sony Alpha a57, priced at £700 in the UK or $800 in the US, with an 18-55mm kit lens. More on how these perform shortly.

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital SLT Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
TouchscreenNo
Effective Camera Resolution16.1 Megapixel
GPSNo
USBYes
PictBridgeNo
Product Familyalpha A
Image StabilizationOptical
Optical Zoom3.1x, 3.1x (Lens 1) - 3.6x (Lens 2)
Digital ZoomNo
Brand NameSony
FeaturesLive View, Self-timer, Face Detection, Face Recognition, Smile Detection, Continuous Shooting Mode, 3D Panorama
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsAVCHD, MPEG-4 AVC
Viewfinder TypeElectronic
Weight (Approximate)539 g
Maximum Image Resolution4912 x 3264
Maximum Frame Rate60 fps
Number of Batteries Supported1
Battery Built-inNo
Battery RechargeableYes
Battery IncludedYes
Display Screen TypeLCD
Image Sensor TypeCMOS
Total Camera Resolution16.7 Megapixel
HDMIYes
Camera AssemblyBody with Lens Kit
HD Movie ModeYes
Battery Model SupportedNP-FM500H
Memory Card SupportedMemory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Secure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Eye-Fi Card
Height97.5 mm
Width132.1 mm
Depth80.7 mm
Autofocus Points15
Product SeriesA
Focal Length18 mm to 55 mm (Lens 1) - 55 mm to 200 mm (Lens 2)
Image FormatsJPEG, MPO, RAW
Audio FormatsAC3, AAC
Flash ModesAuto Flash, Fill Flash, Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction, Flash Exposure Compensation, Rear Flash Sync, High Speed Sync
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product ModelSLT-A57
Product NameA57 Translucent Mirror Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product Linealpha
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberSLTA57Y.CEH
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sony.co.uk
Marketing InformationSpeedy shooting plus limitless creative options

Serious quality and powerful creative options have never been so accessible. The SLT-A57 shares many features found in range-topping cameras from Sony, including super-fast shooting with continuous autofocus. Explore the possibilities of flawless images and Full HD video.

Battery Life590 Shot
Package Contents
  • A57 Translucent Mirror Interchangeable Lens Camera
  • SAL-1855 Lens
  • SAL-55200 Lens
  • NP-FM500H Battery
  • Software Media
Display Resolution921600 Pixel
Limited Warranty1 Year
Built-in DevicesMicrophone, Speaker