Sony Alpha A57 First Impressions Review
Lens Mount & Sensor
The Sony A57 uses the Alpha mount for interchangeable lenses, giving it access to a number of currently-produced Sony lenses, third party lenses, as well as several older Konica Minolta lenses. The Sony lens family is almost criminally underrated, with some excellent large aperture prime lenses, especially their excellent 35mm f/1.4 lens. While some of their midrange zooms struggle and many lower-end lenses feature plastic lens mounts, the Sony lens family can match Nikon, Canon, and Pentax at most common focal lengths for a camera such as this.
LCD & Viewfinder
The A57 includes a rear 3-inch, 921k-dot display that swivels away from the body. The hinge is located at the bottom of the LCD, with the ability to face downward, upward, and even toward the subject that you're shooting at. The LCD can also rotate to the right nearly 180 degrees, giving you a way to see the LCD at nearly all times. The one downside to this hinge design is that with most tripods you won't be able to face the screen forward or get it far away from the body, limiting its usefulness for self-portraits and in some situations for video.
The viewfinder on the A57 sets the camera apart from many of its competitors, as it's an electronic double of the rear display. With their pellicle mirror technology only blocking a small portion of the light coming into the camera, there's no ability to use an optical finder the way a traditional DSLR might. Instead, the camera utilizes a small 0.46'', 1.440M pixel resolution display with a 1.04x magnification. It's not as accurate or pleasant as an optical viewfinder, but it presents some advantages. Namely, you can see relative brightness, shooting information, and images in playback on the viewfinder. Most crucially, you can use manual focus with the camera's peaking functionality, letting you easily manually focus in stills and video while just using the viewfinder.
The A57 features a built-in flash with a guide number of 10 meters at ISO 100. That puts it among the more powerful basic built-in flashes in this class of DSLR, though it takes a full three seconds to recycle and fire again. The flash pops up from the body and is located just above the electronic viewfinder housing. In addition, the camera has a dedicated hot shoe for attaching external flashes and strobes. The flash can be controlled from inside the camera's menu, with options for fill flash, slow sync, red-eye reduction, rear sync, hi-speed sync, or wireless control. The flash can only sync with the shutter at speeds of 1/160th of a second and slower, however.
Jacks, Ports & Plugs
The left side of the Sony Alpha A57 features a number of input/output ports behind several rubber ports. The camera includes the typical mini-HDMI and mini-USB 2.0 ports. Also included are a remote sync terminal, DC power slot, and 3.5mm stereo microphone input, each behind their own individual ports.
The Sony A57 draws power from a proprietary lithium-ion battery, model number NP-FM500H. It's the same battery that the other current crop of Sony DSLRs use, including the new Alpha A77 and A65 models. The battery has a listed capacity of 1650mAh, which translates to a CIPA rating of 590 shots, or 550 shots per charge when using the electronic viewfinder. The battery slots into a dedicated compartment on the bottom of the camera right in the grip.
The Sony Alpha A57 uses SD/SDHC/SDXC along with MemoryStick PRO Duo and PRO HG-Duo cards. Memory cards also have a dedicated slot on the right side of the body, with the plastic cover sliding out and away from the body. By positioning the memory card slot on the right side of the body, there's little issue with tripod designs getting in the way, letting you switch cards in and out with ease. That and the articulated LCD and the DC power port allow for tripod and studio shooters to use the camera without having to detach it from the tripod plate.