The Sony SLT A57 is the new addition to Sony’s SLT camera series, all utilizing a translucent mirror technology. The A57 comes at the time where mirrorless cameras are very popular, and yet DSLR cameras will give this camera tough competition. The A57 replaces the older A55 model and certainly looks like a different camera in terms of its external design. Nevertheless, the SLT-A57 is packed with great features, like 10 fps continuous shooting, 1080p60 video recording, bright and high-res Tru-Finder, articulating LCD, sensor-shift image stabilization and much more. In this specs comparison review I want to compare the Sony A57 vs A65 and also see the differences between those two cameras.
If you are after a brand new DSLR camera, the Sony SLT-A57 looks like an excellent contender for both advanced and enthusiasts photographers. Buying a SLT camera over DSLR might be a smarter move if you understand the cons and pros of these type of cameras, and in favor of the advantages that SLT cameras bring with it. Let’s learn more about the A57 and see why you should consider buying the A57 (or not).
A bit About SLT Technology
Before we start talking about the A57, some of you probably not familiar with the SLT technology. To keep things short, SLT means that the camera features a semi-transparent fixed mirror inside the body of the camera. This mirror transmit 30% of the incoming light towards the AF sensor at the top of the camera and letting 70% of the light reach the sensor. The mirror doesn’t have to flip up as in traditional SLR cameras and this gives the camera some great advantages. Some of the advantages are very fast AF performance during continuous shooting and video shooting and fast burst.
Due to this camera design, the camera utilizes an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical viewfinder. Although those latest viewfinders are high-res and much better than in previous models, some photographers prefer the optical one. Other than that, because 21% of the light (in latest models) is reflected towards the phase-detection AF array, less light reaches the sensor compared to SLR cameras.
Although I didn’t talk in-depth about the differences, you need to understand that you are giving something away but gains some pro-advantages in return. No doubt that SLR cameras have been improved since the first model Sony Alpha 33) and will continue to improve in future models. With SLT cameras it’s all about performance and features, and these are really “Digital cameras” from the ground up.
I think that the main concern is weather you opt for an optical viewfinder vs electronic one. From experience, today’s EVFs are doing incredibly good job and are enjoyable to use. Just my two cents.
A57 Specs Overview
Let’s look at the Sony A57 specs in-depth and see why we are so excited about it.
Sony A57 Design
When I first saw the Sony a57, I could clearly see that Sony went into a new direction when it comes to camera design and size. The A57 is a much larger camera than the A55. From what I’ve read on the web, Sony designed this digital camera to offer better ergonomics by featuring a much larger grip. Furthermore, with a larger camera, a higher capacity battery could be utilized. No doubt that the A57 looks more “Pro” than the SLT-A55 and carries the design of the A65, the more expensive model.
If you are searching for a compact camera, you won’t find it in the A57. Some prefer getting a mirrorless camera over DSLR cameras just for having a more lightweight and more compact camera. Being an SLT camera doesn’t mean that the camera will be smaller, because there is still a mirror inside the camera, which leads to a more bulky camera.
I personally prefer holding a larger camera because I have large hands. I remember buying the Canon EOS 400D and I wound out that it wasn’t that comfortable to hold. After one month I bought a battery grip, and that certainly give the camera a better feel and balance the weight of heavy/big lenses.
Here’s a A55 vs A35 vs A65 vs A57 vs A77 size comparison (via camerasize.com)
At the back of the camera you can find a 3-inch 920K-dot bottom-hinged LCD. This type of display exists in both the A55, A64 and A77. The Sony SLT-A35 features a fixed LCD display. The articulated display helps capturing high and low-angle shots, which comes especially useful when shooting videos. The A57, A55, A64 and A35 looks very similar at the back with seven buttons and the dial control. As in other models, you’ll find a movie recording dedicated button (the one with the red dot) at the right side of the EVF.
I also think that Sony wanted make a more clear separation between the entry-level (ie. A35), mid-range (ie. A57) and pro models (ie. A77) in its lineup.
Sony SLT-A57 dimensions: 132.1×97.5×80.7 mm (camera body only, excluding protrusion)
Sony SLT-A65 dimensions: 132.1×97.5×80.7 mm (camera body only, excluding protrusion)
All in all, I like the change in the design. After all, it’s not a mirrorless camera, and Sony certainly took advantage of the new size in favor of improved ergonomics, handling and features.
Sony A57 16.1MP Sensor
At the heart of the A57 you’ll find a 16.1-megapixels, same used in the Sony NEX-5N mirrorless. This is one of the best APS-C sensors around, and already proven to provide excellent low-light images with very low amount of noise. I’m really happy to see this Exnire APS HD CMOS sensor in the A57.
This sensor will make you not afraid of shooting at sensitivity above ISO3200. It’s just a very capable sensor, one of the best APS-C sensors we have today. This sensor was able to bit the low-light capabilities of previous and even some current full frame DSLR cameras. So Sony builds upon this sensor success and hopefully photographers will appreciate this, I do!
Sony Alpha NEX-5N: 16.1MP
Sony SLT-A57: 16.1MP
Sony SLR-A55: 16.2MP
Sony SLT-A35: 16.2MP
Sony SLT-A65: 24.3MP
Sony SLT-A77: 24.3MP
As you can see, the A57 doesn’t follow the A65 and A77 high-resolution figures, and this is a good thing. The A77 and A65 performance is good, but in high-ISO, the A57 is just a better one, a low-light beast!
Those of you who are comparing the A65 vs A57, you can see that the A64 utilizes the same 24.3MP of the A77. I personally not a big fan of this sensor, and happy to see that the A57 doesn’t use this type of sensor. Resolution wise 24.3MP will give you more details, but on a APS-C size sensor, its a compromise that will give you, in comparison, a lower low-light performance.
Sony A57 Electronic Viewfinder (vs A65)
Many people can write a book comparing EVF vs OVF. Of course it’s out of this article scope. In general, Electronic Viewfinders can give you pre-shot visualization, better looking and more info display, ability to brighten and darken the image when its to bright or too dark ,etc.
In the past, EVfs where just terrible. If you’ve bought a point-and-shoot camera with EVF you probably know what I am talking about. EVF has been vastly improved, and nowadays, you might not ever notice that you are looking through an EVF at all. Still OVF offer real-time view of the scene, rather than a projected image on a screen. Professional photographers will certainly adore the OVF over EVF, but enthusiasts might not consider this feature a problematic at all.
The A57 EVF is and improved one over the A55, featuring 1.44-million dots compared to 0.97-million dots on the A55 but slightly less mgnification (1.04x vs 1.1x). Overall, it is an improved viewfinder that will give you better visuals when you compose you images via the EVF.
If you compare the A65 EVF versus A57 EVF, you can see that the A65 OLED EVF is a much better one. Sony A65 features a Tru-Finder™ OLED electronic viewfinder. This is the first camera ever taking advantage of the OLED technology in its viewfinder. It features 2359K-dots for amazingly sharp image. The OLED technology helps minimize motion blur to bare minimum and the image color and details are out of this world as they say.
So for the best viewing experience, A65 is a better camera in that regard. Of course Sony wanted to separate the mid-range from the top performing models, and that’s one feature that makes a big difference for some.
SVGA 1.2 cm (0.46 type) electronic viewfinder (colour), Xtra Fine (1,440,000 dots effective resolution (when viewfinder magnification is set to maximum setting), with 100% frame coverage, five display modes and grid line display modes.
XGA OLED, 1.3 cm (0.5 type) electronic viewfinder (2,359,296 dots effective resolution), with 100% frame coverage, five display modes and grid line display modes.
So with the A57 you get a very good viewfinder, but not in the same league as the A65. For that you’ll have to pay more and get the A65 model.
Fast Continuous Shooting, Up to 12fps!
One of the advantages SLT camera bring is increased burst compared to traditional DSLR cameras at the same price range. The Sony Alpha SLT-A57 can shoot at 10 fps, and 12 fps at Tele-Zoom High Speed mode. In this mode, the camera captures 2/3 of the image sensor (8.4MP), which increases the focal length of the lens by 1.4x and in that mode, you can shoot at 12 fps with continuous AF and auto exposure.
Sports photographers will like this new feature, because it gives them plenty of speed to capture a decisive moment. That speed is faster than the max. 10 fps of the A65 (in Priority AE), but the A65 shoot 10 fps at full resolution. Considering the sensor resolution, the A65 performance is really quite impressive. Don’t take it for granted, the Canon 60D in comparison can shoot at max. 8 fps. Again, this extra performance that the A57 brings is directly related to the camera design, the SLT technology.
Here’s a video that demonstrates the a57 12 fps, take a look!
Wow, Amazingly fast isn’t it!
Full HD 1080p at 60 and 24 fps
For some people, 60p and 24p doesn’t mean anything, for others it means the world. The Sony a57 can record Full HD videos at 24 and 60 fps. What interesting here is that the camera can capture videos at 60p, progressive!
Compared to interlaced, this means higher image quality, and the ability to make more detailed slow motion video in editing. There is a great article that compared progressive vs interlaced scan, which I highly recommend reading if you are new to all those weird video specs.
Cinematographers will love the 60p, although the 24p cinematic frame-rate is among the most popular ones. So in general, having 60p is a great option, but it doesn’t end here. One of the key advantages that the A57 HDSLR offers is super-fast AF while shooting videos. In traditional SLR cameras, AF speed is compromised due to the technical design of the camera. With the A57 you get phase-detection AF in video, which is incredibly fast due to the translucent-mirror design and highly accurate.
The next video was taken with the A55, but it certainly shows the how the AF speed in video compares to DSLR cameras (Canon 550D in this case).
As you can see, the AF performance of the A55 is incredibly fast and accurate, much better than the Canon 550D. You can expect the same performance with the A57. So if you love shooting videos, you will certainly enjoy this feature quite a lot.
Now for a Sony A57 sample video. This video was shot by imagingresource using the pre-production model. You can see how smooth and clear the video is, just beautiful to watch and certainly delivers excellent details and color reproduction.
As I mentioned before, many of you will enjoy the fact that the A57 can capture 60p when editing your videos in post-production video editing software (ie. Adobe Premiere)
SteadyShot INSIDE™ stabilization
One of my personal favorite features of any SLT camera is the SteadyShot image stabilization feature.That means that every lens that you attach to the A57 is stabilized. Image stabilization means that the camera will combat image blur by moving the sensor to compensate hand-shake. This is crucial when shooting hand-held at shutter speed sunder 1/60 sec and especially when shooting with telephoto zoom lenses. Sony SteadyShot will give you approx. 2.5-4.5 steps compensation. That means that you can shoot at 2.5-4.5 steps less in shutter speed for a clear image compared to a non-stabilized mode.
I want to add a personal note here. Having in-camera image stabilization will save you a lot of money when buying interchangeable lenses, alpha-mount lenses. Stabilized lenses cost a lot more than non-stabilized ones. I have the Nikon D3100 and in order to enjoy this useful feature, I had to buy Nikon lenses with VR, which are more expensive than non-stabilized lenses. So remember that when you purchase you next DSLR camera, because you will pay this extra when purchasing lenses.
The Sony SLT-A57 is an excellent all-around performer. I haven’t mention the Auto portrait framing and Auto HDR feature, 3D sweep Panorama, Multi-framee NR and hand-held twilight modes. At the end of the day, the A57 is just an excellent camera that boast some incredible features. In favor of the A57 (vs A65) is a larger viewfinder, higher ISO, faster burst and it’s cheaper of course. The A65 enjoys a much higher resolution (24 vs 16MP), has a GPS (yes it does), and have a much better electronic viewfinder. I think that the A57 will be favorite among enthusiast and beginner too. It really comes with all the bells and whistles that you can expect from a SLT camera.
You get a 1080p60 video recording, great handling and ergonomics, 12 fps (at a lower resolution), in-camera image stabilization and the amazing high-quality sensor for top-notch image quality at high-ISO. I would certainly consider buying this camera over the competitors. Great camera for both beginners and enthusiast a like. If I haven’t bought my Nikon D3100, I would certainly consider buying this camera. At the end of the day, you want a capable camera, one that can deliver exceptional images that you can share with you family and friends online. If you are more serious about photography (or videography), you can trust this camera to deliver the goods. Sony has intelligently took advantage of the SLT technology to deliver the customer a camera that won’t disappoint, even the professional photographer (well.. depends on the needs). Highly Recommended!