The New Sony Alpha SLT-A57 Digital Camera: Built for Speed

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The recently announced Sony Alpha A57 is a mid-range DSLR designed to combine the quality and control of a full-fledged professional DSLR while integrating many of the features of a camera intended for a more casual photographer. Its compact size does not limit its versatility, since it features an aptly sized APS-C sensor and is compatible with the interchangeable Sony A-mount lenses. It features a 16.1MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor for improved low-light sensitivity and high quality image files. What separates this camera from other similarly sized DSLRs is the inclusion of a number of features meant to simplify your picture-taking experience, allowing you to focus more on what to shoot instead of how to shoot it. The A57 is also capable of full HD video recording at 1080/60p, continuous shooting up to 12 frames per second and Translucent Mirror Technology for continuous autofocus while recording imagery in rapid succession.

Translucent Mirror Technology

This camera’s strengths lie within the realms of speed and efficiency. Featuring Translucent Mirror Technology, the Sony Alpha 57 is able to continuously monitor autofocus, even while recording full HD video or shooting in continuous mode. By eliminating focusing lag time, the camera will always ensure that your subjects are kept in sharp focus with no recording-time loss. This full-time autofocus system employs 15 focus points, including 3 cross-sensors for a high level of precision and accuracy, even amongst multiple, moving subjects in low-light situations. Further capitalizing on the quick and accurate AF system is the camera’s ability to capture up to 12 frames per second in Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE mode. This mode magnifies the center of your frame by 1.4x and can closely render your subject matter at 8MP resolution. Up to 10 fps can be captured in full resolution.

Full HD Video Recording

Full HD 1080p recording is supported by this camera and also makes use of the high-speed Translucent Mirror Technology for continuous autofocus, even while using Live View to monitor your shooting. The AVCHD version 2.0 (Progressive) format is used and allows recording of 60 frames per second for outstanding clarity and motion detail. Additionally, the 24p frame rate is supported, allowing you to create movies with a more cinematic feel. This slower rate is the same that is used in movie-theater playback and gives an inherently cinematic look and feel to your movies. For even greater control over video recording, fully manual shooting modes give you control over aperture and shutter speed.

Auto Portrait Framing

Auto Portrait Framing is a unique mode that helps you to achieve well-balanced portraits, void of distractions and featuring a tight, efficient composition. When working in this mode, a normal exposure is made; the camera then automatically recognizes the person in the frame and the direction he or she is looking, and crops the image to isolate the subject and frame the subject using an aesthetically pleasing rule-of-thirds composition. Further utilizing other helpful tools such as Face Detection, Smile Shutter and Face Registration, Auto Portrait Framing can enhance the exposure of your newly created portrait and output this image as a new image file. You take the first, original image, and then Auto Portrait Framing applies the other tools, crops your photo and saves it as a new file. You end up with both the original file you took and the second, enhanced file.

Clear Image Zoom

Working in conjunction with Auto Portrait Framing, Clear Image Zoom essentially allows you to zoom up to 2x your working focal length with little to no perceivable image degradation. This function zooms from the center of the image and bases the camera’s exposure settings on these new framing constraints. By working this way, the image features better interpolation for increased quality, versus traditional digital zoom and a greatly enhanced exposure, since it is neglecting the regions of the scene you are not capturing.

16.1MP Exmor APS HD CMOS Sensor and BIONZ Image Processor

The heart of this camera features an incredibly low-light-sensitive sensor with high quality imaging capabilities. This APS-C sized censor produces imagery containing a wealth of detail and is able to render gradations with high fidelity. Providing the speed that is necessary for this sensor and other technologies to function, the newly enhanced BIONZ image processor utilizes complex algorithms for efficient speeds and power across all facets of the camera. This increase in power also effectively reduces noise and gives a wide range of ISO sensitivity (from ISO 100 to 16000).

Tru-Finder EVF and Tiltable LCD Monitor

Both the EVF and LCD allow for crystal-clear monitoring, featuring resolutions of 1,440K dots and 921,600 dots, respectively. Both viewing devices also feature Shot Result Preview, which gives you the ability to preview the effects of exposure settings, white balance modification and other creative modes before making the exposure. These settings are especially unique when used with the viewfinder, as they clearly separate it from an optical viewfinder in terms of efficiency and overall speed in determining how you want your final image to look. The viewfinder can also be adjusted to two different magnifications, 1.04x and 0.97x, to provide greater comfort while viewing and to allow full-frame viewing while wearing glasses.

The LCD monitor measures 3.0" diagonally and makes use of Sony’s TruBlack technology for a noticeable reduction in reflections on the screen. This comes in handy when you take into account that the monitor is able to tilt vertically up to 180° and rotate to the left up to 270°. This wide range of motion is ideal for using the Sony Alpha 57 in a variety of camera positions and allows easy monitoring of your image from above, below or from the side.

Multiple Exposures for Better Images

The Sony A57 features a few different imaging technologies for combating difficult lighting situations. Auto HDR is capable of capturing 3 bracketed exposures at once and automatically combining them into one image file. By doing this, the resulting image will display a high dynamic range of tones with controlled highlights and shadows and an extended middle range. Multi Frame NR and Handheld Twilight Mode also make use of combining multiple exposures into a single frame; however, these modes do so in order to compensate for the overall lack of luminosity within a given scene, particularly useful when photographing in candlelight or outdoors at night. These modes create up to six exposures at once and combine them to increase the effective exposure and reduce the noise of your image. This works along the same lines as a multiple exposure with film but eliminates the need to only photograph from a tripod.

18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Zoom Lens

When you purchase the Sony A57 as a kit, the Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DT AF zoom lens is included, giving you a range of focal lengths suitable for a variety of situations. This lens uses Sony’s smooth autofocus motor for quiet operation—something that is especially useful when recording video. It is also lightweight and compact for increased portability.

These newly introduced features all work in unison with a number of other modes already seen on many of the new Sony cameras. Sweep Panorama, Superior Auto Mode, Scene Selection and Exposure Mode are just a handful of tools that continue Sony’s mission to simplify the complexities of creating a beautiful image, allowing you more time to interact with your subject matter. This camera drives a fine line between DSLR and point and shoot by pulling from both camps to produce a highly capable imaging powerhouse that’s geared towards simplicity and speed.

Camera Type Interchangeable Lens DSLR
Lens Mount Sony A-Mount
Sensor Size APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm)
Sensor Type Exmor APS HD CMOS
Image Processor BIONZ
Resolution 16.1MP
File Formats JPEG and RAW 
Image Size (3:2 Aspect Ratio) L: 4912 x 3264 (16MP), M: 3568 x 2368 (8.4MP), S: 2448 x 1624 (4MP)
Image Size (16:9 Aspect Ratio) L: 4912 x 2760 (14MP), M: 3568 x 2000 (7.1MP), S: 2448 x 1376 (3.4MP)
Image Size (Sweep Panorama) W: Horizontal 12416 x 1856 (23MP), Vertical 5536 x 2160 (12MP); S: Horizontal 8192 x 1856 (15MP), Vertical 3872 x 2160 (8.4MP)
Image Size (3D Sweep Panorama) W: 7152 x 1080 (7.7MP); S: 4912 x 1080 (5.3MP); 16:9: 1920 x 1080 (2.1MP)
Picture Effect Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R,G,B,Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature
Creative Style Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, B/W (Contrast -3 to +3 steps, Saturation -3 to +3 steps, Sharpness -3 to +3 steps)
Dynamic Range Functions Off, Dynamic Range Optimizer (Auto/Level), Auto High Dynamic Range: Off, Auto Exposure Difference, Exposure Difference Level (1-6 EV, 1.0 EV step)
Color Space sRGB, Adobe RGB
Shutter Type Electronically controlled, vertical traverse, focal plane
Shutter Speed 1/4000 to 30 second, Bulb
Flash Sync Speed 1/160 second
Electronic Front Curtain Shutter Yes: On/Off
Drive Modes Single Shot, Continuous (Hi/Lo), Self-timer (10/2 sec. delay), Bracketing (Cont., Single, White Balance), Remote Control (with optional RM-DSLR1)
Continuous Shooting Speed Hi: Maximum 8 fps, Lo: Maximum 3 fps; Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE: Maximum 12 fps; Continuous Advance Priority AE: Maximum 10 fps
Maximum Continuous Shots Continuous shooting: Fine: 25 images, Standard: 29 images, RAW & JPEG: 19 images, RAW: 21 images; Tele-zoom Continuous Advance priority AE: Fine: 23 images, Standard: 25; Continuous Advance Priority AE mode: Fine: 23 images, Standard: 27 images, RAW & JPEG: 18 images, RAW: 21 images
Digital Zoom Clear Image Zoom: 2x (still); Smart Zoom: 1.4x, 2x (still); Digital Zoom: 4x (still and movie)
Focus System Type TTL phase-detection AF
Focus Sensor CCD line sensors
Autofocus Points 15 (3 points cross type)
Focus Sensitivity Range EV -1 to 18 (at ISO100 equivalent with f/2.8 lens attached)
Focus Mode Autofocus, Manual Focus
AF Mode Single-shot AF (AF-S), Continuous AF (AF-C), Automatic AF (AF-A) selectable
Focus Area Wide (auto, 15 points), Zone, Spot, Local
Exposure Metering Type 1200-zone evaluative metering
Metering Sensitivity EV -2 to EV 17 (at ISO 100 equivalent with f/1.4 lens attached)
Metering Modes Multi segment, Center weighted, Spot
Exposure Modes iAUTO, Flash Off, Superior Auto, Scene Selection, Sweep Panorama, 3D Sweep Panorama, Continuous Advance Priority AE, Movie, Programmed AE (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter-speed priority (S), Manual (M)
Scene Selection Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night View, Handheld Twilight
Exposure Compensation ±3.0 EV (1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing Bracket: Cont., Bracket: Single, with 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV increments, 3 frames
ISO Sensitivity ISO 100-1600 equivalent, Auto (ISO 100-3200)
White Balance Modes Auto WB, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent (Warm white/Cool white/Day white/Daylight), Flash, C. Temp 2500 to 9900K, C Filter G7 to M7, 15-step, Custom, AWB micro adjustment
Noise Reduction On/Off (for shutter speeds longer than 1 second), High ISO NR (High/Normal/Low)
Image Stabilization SteadyShot INSIDE (2.5-4.5 EV decrease in shutter speed)
Video Recording Format AVCHD 2.0 (Progressive)/MP4
Video Compression MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)
Video Image Size AVCHD: 1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 24p), MP4: 1440 x 1080 (30p), VGA: 640 x 480 (30p) 
Audio Recording Format Dolby Digital (AC-3), MPEG-4 AAC-LC
Viewfinder Type SVGA 0.46" / 1.2cm color EVF, Xtra Fine
Viewfinder Resolution 1,440,000-dot
Viewfinder Coverage 100%
Viewfinder Magnification Max: 1.04x, Standard: 0.97x
Diopter Adjustment -4.0 ~ +3.0
Eye Point Maximum: 23.1mm from the eyepiece, 18mm from the eyepiece frame at -1 diopter (CIPA standard) Standard: 25.2mm from the eyepiece, 20.1mm from the eyepiece frame at -1 diopter (CIPA standard)
Viewfinder Display Histogram Display, Graphic Display, Digital Level Gauge, Shooting Data Display, SimpleDisplay,
Grid Line
Viewfinder Image Adjustment Exposure Comp, White Balance, Creative Style
LCD Monitor Type Xtra Fine 3.0" / 7.6cm TFT drive with TruBlack technology
LCD Resolution 921,600-dot
LCD Coverage 100%
LCD Adjustments Tilt: Downward 180°, Rotate: Leftward 270° from front-facing position
LCD Display Modes Histogram Display, Graphic Display, Digital Level Gauge, Shooting Data Display, Simple Display, Shooting Information For Viewfinder, Grid Line
LCD Image Adjustment Exposure Comp, White Balance, Creative Style
LCD Focus Magnifier 4.8x, 9.5x
LCD Peaking MF Level: High, Mid, Low, Off; Color: White, Red, Yellow
Flash Type Auto popup, built-in
Guide Number 10m (at ISO 100)
Flash Coverage 18mm focal length lens
Flash Control ADI flash, pre-flash TTL
Flash Compensation ±2.0 EV (1/3 EV steps)
Flash Bracketing 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV steps, 3 frames
Flash Modes Flash off, Autoflash, Fill flash, Rear sync., Slow sync., Red-eye reduction (On/Off)
Recycle Time Approximately 3 seconds
External Flash Sony Alpha system flash compatible with Auto-lock accessory shoe
Playback Modes Single (with or without shooting information), RGB histogram and highlight/shadow warning, 4/9-frame index view, Enlarged display mode (L: 13.6x, M: 9.9x, S: 6.8x), Auto Review (10/5/2 sec, Off), Image orientation (On/Off), Slideshow, Panorama scrolling, Folder selection (still), Forward/Rewind (movie), Delete, Protect
Other Features Auto Portrait Framing, Face Detection (up to 8 faces detectable automatically), Face Registration, Face Selection, Smile Shutter (selectable from 3 steps), In-Camera Guide, Custom Function
PC Interface USB 2.0, Mass storage, MYP
HD Output HDMI mini (type C), BRAVIA sync, Photo TV HD
Other Interfaces Sync terminal, auto-lock accessory shoe, microphone jack, DC IN terminal, remote terminal
System Requirements Windows XP (SP3), Vista (SP2), Windows 7 (SP1) / Mac OS X 10.3-10.6
Memory Card Types Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD/SDHC/SDXC
Power Supply NP-FM500H rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack
Still Images per Charge Approx. 550 with viewfinder, 590 with LCD
Movies Per Charge Approx. 180 min. with viewfinder and LCD
External Power AC-PW10AM AC Adapter (optional)
Operating Temperature 32-104°F / 0-40°C
Dimensions 5.25 x 3.9 x 3.25" / 13.2 x 9.75 x 8.1 cm
Weight 1.37 lb / 0.62 kg