This is a guest post by Robbie Aspeling. A fellow photographer and Minolta/Sony shooter from many years.
As happens every now and again, I manage to get my grubby little paws on some new kit. In this case it was the newly announced Sony A57 DSLT (Digital Single Lens Translucent) camera. This is one of the new technology cameras that Sony are now making which have a translucent mirror instead of the traditional DSLR, whose mirror flaps out of the way when an exposure is made. Much has been said about the pros and cons of DSLT technology, but I find that the pros far outweigh any cons. This coming from my using traditional DSLR’s for far longer than I care to remember. Some main differences are that the mirror no longer has to move out of the way when an exposure is made. This gives the ability of a much faster frame per second (fps) vs traditional DSLR’s, as well as having an electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF can now show additional information such as the actual value of settings, as well as the real effect of these different settings that the photographer has selected. The live view is direct and covers 100% of the frame. In other words, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).
The A57 is the replacement for the A55. It features a 16.2 million pixel CMOS sensor in the APS-C format and uses the latest-generation BIONZ® engine. One of the first things that I noticed was the size. It is far bigger than the A55 which it replaces and is the size of its bigger brother (the A65). It also uses the same bigger battery of the A65 and A77, giving it more exposures from a single charge over the A55. It fits comfortably in my large hand and has a real camera feel to it. The EVF is far improved from the A55 and – on first impressions – I thought that they had used the same OLED EVF from the A77. It is that good! I noticed no time lag in fast moving objects, neither when I changed aperture, nor the shutter speeds. It is very responsive and it seems to me that Sony has listened to their users and addressed the minor issues that the first DSLT’s exhibited.
I used the A57 in a variety of shooting settings, with a variety of lenses (including some of the older screw type ones) and found the focusing to be fast and accurate, even in lower light. The image quality is good and the noise levels improved over the A55 which it replaces. It has an ISO range of 100 – 16000 and I got some usable shots when pushing it all the way up to the maximum. The colour and contrast rendition were real and accurate and the JPEG engine did a good job of the processing. I am not a fan of the “fad” modes within the JPEG processing, but now that the A57 has most of the A65 and A77 menu functions, some of these are added and in fact make your life pretty easy when you are wanting some special effects. I particularly liked the B&W with selected colour effect. You can have green, red, yellow or blue colours selected with your B&W instantly; something that I have now only been able to achieve using Photoshop. The camera’s range of popular in-camera Picture Effect modes include 11 different effects and 15 total variations (including the ‘PC-free’ artistic treatments: Pop Color, HDR Painting, Miniature Mode and the selective colour options). Results can be previewed directly in live view mode on the EVF. The 2 other great features are the 12FPS mode and the Auto Portrait Framing. When capturing an image with a face in it, the camera will automatically crop the image according to the rule of thirds and give you a full resolution, correctly composed portrait.
The camera also does video in 1080/60p/24p Full AVCHD™, or 1080/30p MP4 movies. While I did play with this for some short snaps, I did not explore all the options.
For the short while that I had the A57, I truly found it to be a great top of the range, entry level camera. I had great fun with it and would easily have one in my camera bag.
“Robbie Aspeling is a professional photographer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. While working mainly in commercial photography, Robbie also runs a variety of workshops on various topics; including beginners, portrait, studio, landscapes and avian photography. Find him at http://www.raphoto.co.za”