- Sony Alpha a57 on SonyStyle- $700 for body only
Typically when I review anything, I try to base it on general preference and not my own personal preference. Ex: Personally, I dislike using Canon camera’s, because I find them rather difficult to use (or at least at the time I was trying them out) and rather pick up a Sony or a Nikon. I do however review Canon camera’s for what they are, which are some amazing camera’s indeed! If I could grow to liking them, I would pick up a Canon 5D Mark III in a heartbeat!
I bought the Sony Alpha a57 in early August, just a few months after it was released. I wanted either this or one of the NEX camera’s, but chose this as I still wanted the traditional feel of a SLR body, but with the SLT (Single Lens Translucent) technology.
What I think about the a57 camera
Since the day I’ve bought it, I’ve used it 99% of the time. All of my latest images have been taken with this camera, even on my first trip with it, which was to Huntsville Alabama.
The SLT or “mirror-less” camera’s were not in my favor a year ago and I was just downright against them (mainly for the EVF over an Optical viewfinder at the time as they were new and not well designed, but things have changed in two years and they’re AWESOME), but as I enjoyed my Sony Alpha a560 so much and the quality from it, I was interested in getting another just like it to replace my much older Sony Alpha a300 that I no longer use, or the Sony Alpha a580 (it’s big sister). I thought, why get a camera that’s two years old and get one that’s newer in that same class model. Sony is now all SLT’s, so I was looking at the big sister to the a57, the Sony Alpha a65. It has more MP’s (24.3 MP to be exact) and a few more features over the a57, but just analyzing them from their exterior’s they’re identical.
The body is very light-weight and easy to carry around for a long while. One thing Sony has done differently, this camera doesn’t have an available vertical grip that you could buy for this, not even a third-party one either. Initially I saw that as a negative, but using this camera I don’t really care to put one on even if it was available.
Sony Alpha a57 Images
- My range is very wide. The one thing I don’t use this camera for at the moment are High-Fashion shoots & Weddings. Until I learn more about this camera and it’s features, I’ll stay safe and use the camera I know fully.
- Church photography, where low light is an issue. This camera eats up the a560 in the area of noise control and detail. It has 2 MP’s more than the a560 for greater detail and also has a better handle on noise so you don’t lose that detail when shooting at ISO 1600 or higher.
- Macro photography, this camera is a bit sharper for when detail is very key in the particular photo I’m capturing.
Sony Alpha a560 Images
- My everyday camera that’s used for everything, mainly High Fashion & Weddings at the current moment.
- High Dynamic Range, the photos of the a57 are great for HDR as well, but I prefer this camera in a way for these types of photos.
Sony Alpha Lenses
If you’re new to Sony and are needing recommendations on some great lenses to purchase first then here you go. If you buy this camera, you can buy it with the kit 18-55mm lens, which I haven’t had a chance to try, but I’m sure is pretty good. If you’re wanting more quality lenses to get the most out of your 16 MP camera then these are some good ones to start with.
- Sony 16-105mm - This is an excellent lens that stays attached at all times on my a57 now. It’s a very expensive lens (not as much as the Carl Zeiss 16-80mm). It’s $700, but well worth the money. I chose this over the CZ, just for the range. I don’t use telephoto lenses, so the further a standard lenses the better for me, but not too far to where the aperture is too small and ends at 6.3.
- Sony 50mm (f/1.8) - A great prime lens range that on an APS-C sensor is 75mm. It’s great for those instances where you need a faster lens in low light and also have a very sharp image also. It’s a great price, with astounding quality. Also look into the 50mm f/1.4 as well. It’s a bit more expensive, but also worth it for the quality.
What do you like about the Sony Alpha a57?
- The #1 thing is by far the EVF (Electronic Viewfinder). What you’re seeing is an LCD screen in the viewfinder to compose your image. It’s 100% coverage, which for those Full Frame professional users will love about this camera that’s in a mid-range camera. The information is crisp and clear and the capability to make all your changes/adjustments from the LCD, as well as seeing how your image will look before you take the image and review your images all in the viewfinder is incredible! It’s also an upgrade over the a55’s EVF. Sony has really made a great improvement here!
- The weight is great and the grip feels right in your hands. A great improvement over the Sony Alpha a55.
- Distortion correction is a GREAT feature to have INSIDE the camera. This feature, however is only available when you’re shooing in JPEG.
- The addition of a movie option on the mode dial, so you can actually disable the movie mode button if you are one to accidentally hit the button during normal operation. It can then only enabled once the mode dial is in movie mode.
- You gotta love the screen’s tilt action. I could never see myself without a camera that doesn’t have a tilting screen.
- I love the addition of the Matrix AF that wasn’t in the Alpha a560 SLR I have. Vs using the local AF point, I tend to use this one more now as I can choose which of the 3 frames I want the focus to only concentrate in.
- The movie mode feature is very good on this camera. The HD quality is rather great also (See video below for the video test)! When I want to capture something very quick, this camera is ready to go!
- Clear digital zoom: If you’re a Sony user back in the ye ole days of when Sony first took over Konica-Minolta, you’ll remember that awful digital zoom feature that was available when using the “Live View” and would be a cropped image each step you went in the digital zoom mode. Sony has reintroduced that feature and has revamped it to make it one of the most appealing features of this camera! Using the clear digital zoom, you’re utilizing the camera’s digital zoom, but how about the photo will still be a full resolution 16MP image? I found that very impressive! This feature has made it less likely I’ll ever get a long range telephoto lens, as I can push my 16-105mm lens even further now and not lose detail or image quality! Way to go here Sony… this is another favorite feature of mine!
What don’t you like about the Sony Alpha a57?
- Sony made a lot of the controls combined into other controls to do multiple functions. This can be a pain when trying to choosing a setting very quickly. It’s a bit much. I rather have tons of buttons all over my camera (Like the previous Sony Alpha a560).
- The hinge on the a57 is hinged at the bottom, which makes using a tri-pod quite difficult from it’s flipping downward and being dead smack at the bottom where the camera sits. I would have liked to see the return of the upper hinge from previous Sony camera’s in the SLR range.
Menus and Controls
One of the greatest things about a Sony is the easy to use menu system. It just doesn’t get any better than this. This is one thing Sony has always done a great job on. Some down it for it being orange and black in all the menus and not color coded for different options, but I could careless about that. It’s easy, so who cares?
Shooting Modes and Other Controls
Talk about LOADED! This camera has tons of features that you can use to make your photos more amazing. For this price point of just $700 for body only, it’s a steal!
- Shooting 12 fps (frames per second) is easy on this camera. The camera will be shooting at just half the MP count of 8mp to achieve this however. At full resolution you can still shoot at an amazing 10 fps.
- There are some cool picture effects you can add to your image to either only account for the reds in an image and make the rest of the image B&W. I’ve never really cared for these features in a camera, but I must say these are all pretty sweet… Try them!
- The can set different settings for some of the buttons on the camera, which is great to give priority to the settings you adjust most and don’t have to go through so many menu’s to get to them.
- One interesting thing on this camera that’s found on the NEX camera’s is the iA (Intelligent Auto). There is also a Superior iA, which I haven’t tried either of, but one day I will and maybe can expand on this some.
High Dynamic Range
As usual, the bracketing on this camera sucks! This would be something to always go in the dislike for a Sony camera, even at the mid-range level. Sony only brackets for 3 exposure (-0.7 EV, 0 EV, +0.7 EV or by .3 EV in the same format). It works for what it’s worth, but what I usually do is manually bracket myself by choosing my exposures myself.
The in-camera HDR on this camera I haven’t tried yet, as that was something I did try on the Sony Alpha a560, but didn’t care for much. For a quick image, it’s useful, but I still prefer doing it in post.
Who is this for?
If you’re an amateur, you’re going to love this camera for all the features of it. If you’re a true professional, then you’d still love this for the 100% coverage in the viewfinder. It’s a great friendly camera that’s very powerful with all that it offers.
If you’re photographing a lot in low-light than any Sony may not be your best pick. I would go for a Nikon 1st, Canon 2nd. Sony is a heck of a lot better than where they were say 3 - 4 years ago, but still far below Nikon. Performance up to 3200 on this camera has proven excellent, but if you want cleaner results straight out the camera, you can’t beat Nikon… at least for now! If your heart is still set on Sony, just as me and noise really isn’t a major worry for you, then for sure go for it! You can even pull some nice looking 6400 ISO images from this camera as well.
Below you’ll find some of my photos that I’ve taken with the Sony Alpha a57. I tried to include as many different situations as possible, so look for the EXIF data on the bottom of them to see just what they are.
For all of them except one, was processed in Lightroom 4. You’ll see the full notes under each image! If you wish to see more EXIF DATA, then click on the picture and you’ll see the full data for that image on my Flickr. Also, you can see a larger image than what’s displayed here by clicking the “PHOTO” link above the image on my Flickr page.
Above: This is a photo of my Olympic pin collection from 1996. This is the first image I took from the camera and is right from the camera! - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 400, f/5.6, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), Original straight from the camera.
Above: I took this outside of Huntsville, Alabama of the sunrise over the water as we were traveling at 70mph. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 200, f/8, 24mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: A macro of my newest bought CD’s that I’ve been enjoying listening to. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 400, f/3.2, 30mm (30mm f/2.8 macro)
Above: This was taken at “How Sweet the Sound 2012” at Philips Arena. Here you can see how well this camera does, even with low light. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 1600, f/5.6, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: Night photo of the Blue Moon. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 200, f/13, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: HDR landscape I took that’s close to where I live. I always get cool photos in this location that I use quite often. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 100, f/16, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), High Dynamic Range (3 exposure bracket)
Above: A test image I took a couple days after I obtained this camera, just playing with depth of field some and seeing how well the AF was. It’s pretty fast I must say! - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 100, f/5.6, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: This was taken at “How Sweet the Sound 2012” at Philips Arena. Here you can see how well this camera does, even with low light. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 3200, f/5.6, 50mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: Some delicious Zebra Cakes - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 200, f/8, 35mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: A Fall Wedding I assisted in photographing back in October 2012. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 1600, f/9, 55mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: A macro of one of our plants that I used a spray bottle to get the water drops on. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/5.6, 30mm (30mm f/2.8 macro)
Above: This is a photo I took of my favorite little cutie at Atlanta-Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church (My new and current church) - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/2.2, 50mm (50mm f/1.8)
Above: I love capturing macro money shots quite often, not sure why, but they make for nice cool photos! - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 400, f/5.6, 30mm (30mm f/2.8 macro)
Above: This is by far the best image I’ve taken at the West End Church. I loved the detailed the camera retained at ISO 1600. I could have used 800, but forgot to change it. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 1600, f/3.5, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: Great AF points on this camera, they’re pretty accurate for the most part and really fast. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/5.6, 105mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: Food photos are always fun and this one of my salad came out very nicely! - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/7.1, 90mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Above: A High Dynamic Range image of the outside of the Atlanta-Berean sanctuary. These were 3 exposure JPEG’s combined in Photomatix Pro 4. - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 100, f/9, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6), High Dynamic Range (3 exposure bracket)
Above: A pretty cool wide angle image from the lower part of the West End Church. When I did a 100% crop of this photo, it’s amazingly sharp and has so much detail! - Sony Alpha A57, ISO 800, f/5.6, 16mm (16-105mm f/3.5-5.6)
Sony Alpha a57 Review Video
Here’s a quick YouTube review video on the Sony Alpha a57, showing the movie feature and test images taken with this camera.