Test Review: The Sony a57

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June 6, 2012 at 10:34 am  •  Posted in Review by  •  0 Comments

The Sony A57 is an SLR digital camera based on Sony’s SLT system (semi-translucent mirror) with 16 MP resolution. It allows recording of high speed images with up to 12 frames per second and is able to create panorama pictures and videos with full HD resolution.

Comments on image quality

The A57 reproduced the image of the standard test box with a crisp look. Even details in the corners of the image are clearly visible. The automatic white balance system caused a clearly visible bluish touch.

The A57 reproduced the image of the standard test box with a crisp look. Even details in the corners of the image are clearly visible. The automatic white balance system caused a clearly visible bluish touch.

Colour: The camera showed an average performance in our colour tests. The automatic white balance system sometimes caused a very bluish touch in images taken with fluorescent light, which is noticeable in the standard test box image. The A57 reproduced all images with high saturation (in standard setting) and boosted especially red nuances. Skin tones had higher yellow rates than in images taken with other cameras.

Sharpness: The camera showed very crisp and clean images. In some images, you will notice sharpness-filtering effects like halos on extreme contrast lines like the lines of the Siemens star.

Noise: The camera showed clean images up to ISO 3200. In images taken with higher ISO speed settings, you will notice colour clouds in homogeneous colour areas. The camera uses an intense anti-noise filtering but keeps filtering artifacts on a low level in images taken with ISO 3200 and 6400. In images taken with higher ISO speed settings (up to 16000), you will notice a reduction of image details due to this filtering. Luminance noise is on a low level and will decline y-factor=1.0 not until ISO 6400.

The dynamic range results are very good. The camera achieved a maximum of 11 f-stops and showed high results (around about 10 f-stops) even up to ISO 3200.

Comments on handling

The camera has a large mode dial on the left which offers choices of standard image modes like P, S, A and M, seven scene modes and much more. The T12 setting will activate the very fast burst mode to shoot up to 12 images per second.

The camera has a large mode dial on the left which offers choices of standard image modes like P, S, A and M, seven scene modes and much more. The T12 setting will activate the very fast burst mode to shoot up to 12 images per second.

The new A57 is based on Sony’s SLT viewfinder system. It uses a fixed and semi-translucent mirror, which enables the image sensor to create a live preview on the LCD screen on the back or for the electronic viewfinder. In addition, the mirror reflects the image on an AF sensor based on the phase detection system used by “normal” SLR cameras. The AF sensor works continuously because there isn’t a moving mirror system that covers the sensor when the picture is taken. Therefore it can also be used for continuous shooting or recording videos.

The camera showed an extreme performance when taking images in burst mode. It can shoot up to 12 frames per second (series of 23 images) and shows the same speed as the A77. However there is a big difference: to achieve the maximum speed, it offers a special recording mode that doesn’t allow any manual exposure or ISO speed settings (same as the A77). In addition it crops the sensor area a little bit (1.4x digital zoom) to gain this high speed. Nevertheless, it allows extreme burst rates, which is a very interesting feature for sports and nature photographers.

The camera offers a lot of functions that are normally used in point-and-shoot compact cameras. It has seven scene modes, automatic scene detection, smile detection, creative filter effects and much more. It also allows shooting raw images and changing image parameters (exposure setting, white balance) in an editing software. The camera is able record raw images and JPEGs simultaneously. It’s also able to record panorama images by simply panning the camera and shooting images in burst mode, and it can create 3D panoramas. The new Sony can also record Full HD video with 1920 x 1080 pixels in AVCHD 2.0 mode. This means it is able to record up to 50 Full HD video frames per second and uses a an 28 Mbit H.264 compression.

The camera offers a swivel monitor that is mounted to the lower part of the body. This is doesn’t work well when using a tripod; nevertheless, it is helpful when shooting near the ground.

The camera offers a swivel monitor that is mounted to the lower part of the body. This is doesn’t work well when using a tripod; nevertheless, it is helpful when shooting near the ground.

Due to its mounting on the lower part of the body, the LCD screen isn’t totally articulated. This applies especially when using a tripod, because the tripod head inhibits total movement in all directions. Most cameras offer a LCD attachment on the left side of the body to avoid that problem. Nevertheless the monitor can be flipped upwards and downwards, and the user can rotate the screen to the front.

Pros:
+ very fast mid-level system
+ compact body
+ swivel LCD screen
+ high resolution ELV

Cons:
– swivel monitor is not totally articulated (on a tripod)

This review is based on precise lab tests conducted by BetterNet GmbH and provided by the Technical Imaging Press Association (TIPA). TIPA is the largest family of independent photo and imaging magazines worldwide. Photo Life is an active member of TIPA.

SPEC SHEET: Sony A57
BASIC TECHNICAL DATA:
Resolution 4912 x 3264
Resolution sensor 16.1
Size of sensor in inches 0/0.00
Size of sensor in mm 23.5 x 15.6
LENSES:
Focal length (wide angle; 35 mm equivalent) in mm 27
Focal length (tele; 35 mm equivalent) KB in mm 83
Focal length (wide angle; real) in mm 18.0
Focal length (tele; real) KB in mm 55.0
Speed 3.5 – 5.6
Macro 25 – 100
Manual focus, controlled by function elements no
Manual focus, controlled with lens ring yes
TAKING PICTURES:
Startup time (in sec) 1.50
Shutter delay (in sec) without pre-focusing 0.20
Shutter delay (in sec) with pre-focusing 0.01
Continuous shooting speed (frames per second) 12.0
Max. burst during continuous shooting speed 23.0
Fastest shutter speed in sec 1/4000
Long time exposure/shutter speed in sec 30
Self timer yes
Exposure Settings:
Aperture pre-setting, shutter speed pre-setting, manual exposure settings
Automatic bracketing
Exposure programmes 7
White balance:
Auto yes
White balance settings 6
Individual white balance yes
ISO:
ISO min 100
ISO max 16000
ISO steps 23
Manual ISO control yes
FLASH:
Integrated flash yes
Flash mode:
On, off, automatic flash, slow-sync, anti-red-eye, rear curtain sync
External flash:
X-Sync no
Accessory shoe yes
FILE FORMATS:
Standard file formats JPEG, RAW, DCF
JPEG-compression grades 3
LCD AND PREVIEW:
Size in inches 3.0
Resolution of LCD in pixels 921600
Zoom-mode during preview yes
Index during preview yes
Slide show during preview yes
VIDEO:
Video available? yes
Max. width 1920
Max. height 1080
Picture frequency 50
POWER SOURCE:
Rechargeable battery yes
Battery type Li-Ion
Battery charger included? yes
Power connector yes
Power supply unit? no
STORAGE SYSTEM:
Supported memory cards Memory stick, SD-Card, SDHC-Card, SDXC-Card
PC-CONNECTION:
PC-connection USB, HDMI
TV-out HDMI
DIMENSIONS:
Dimensions in mm (width x height x depth) 132 x 97 x 80
Weight in g (body without battery and memory card) 539
ACCESSORIES:
Docking station no
Printed manual yes
Manual on CD yes
Bag no
Remote control no
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