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Good: Competent, agile camera which even with the standard kit lens produces striking picture quality
Bad: Obscure positioning of the depth of field preview control (but that's my only criticism)
Comment: This is by far the most competent and versatile DSLR camera I have ever owned, which even now still includes several of the higher specified offerings from both Canon and Nikon.
It is its innovative design and comprehensive functionality that puts it so far ahead of the game - and that's at any price, let alone the insane prices that it is still possible to pay for the heavy and unwieldy "professional" DLSR's that still cling to their ageing clunky technology when you can now buy a vastly more capable and nimble camera like this for a fraction of such prices.
You will find plenty of reviews elsewhere on the innovative merits of Sony's SLT camera range and how that technology in particular has already helped them re-write the rulebook on recent DSLR camera design, but what few such reviews seem to register (as yet) is the availability of the superb (and critically - purpose-made) Carl Zeiss range of lenses for these cameras, because regardless of the quality of the camera itself, it is ultimately the lens that ultimately determines image quality. So it is very gratifying to be able to realise the stellar image quality that those lenses produce through a camera that doesn't cost the earth, but whose modern technology and intuitive controls not only makes using it a relatively straightforward process in itself (as opposed to the uphill grind that characterises some of the competition), but is also smaller, lighter, quieter and decidedly cheaper than any other DSLR/lens combination currently available (which can produce images of comparable quality, that is).
I was originally tempted to buy the full-frame big brother of this camera (the Sony A99) as it shares the latter's innovative technology (and in fact I am still considering it as an additional purchase), but what ultimately made the A57 a more attractive purchase for me was its more manageable size and greater agility whilst still retaining the ability to take photographs which in all but the most extreme circumstances are still the equal of those produced by its larger sibling. Compared to the rest of the field (APS-C or full-frame), using this camera is like driving the Porsche after the family 4WD - not only do you get there quicker, but you enjoy the journey so much more as well.
I recently showed a selection of still pictures and movies taken with this camera in America to a few friends on a Samsung UE55ES8000 55" TV. That's a big screen which shows every detail of your photos in biting high definition (if such detail is actually in them to start with of course) and I can thoroughly recommend this as by far the best way of looking at your camera's high definition images.
All of those friends are themselves seasoned travellers who had all been to America and already seen many of the iconic sights I had photographed for themselves, so I was very gratified by their comments and compliments on the quality and vividness of many of the images I had recorded.
I have only one major gripe, and that is the obscure positioning of the depth of field preview control which unlike the rest of the controls on this camera, doesn't fall naturally to hand at all. Admittedly the function can be re-assigned to another control, but it could have been better positioned in the first place I feel.
Nonetheless, this is in my opinion the single most versatile and competent DSLR that money can buy and easily earns a 5-star rating.
Good: Superfast software and beautiful colours
Bad: Auto programs sometimes miss out on the image you want to shoot
Comment: This camera is beautifully balanced, controls are easily accessed and the resulting output is very consistent. I'm still working with the auto modes - they seem a bit erratic.
Good: Great Image Quality, Fast Autofocus, Fast Continuous Shooting, Excellent low light performance, Fast HD video autofocus, full manual control
Bad: Very little. Just the auto-focus noise during video. But that's the 18-55mm lens, not the camera.
Comment: Everyone who buys a camera has a different idea of what's important. What was important to me was:
1) High resolution 4k or better images with low noise even at high ISO (up to 16,000)
2) Very fast autofocus in both still shots and videos, optimally via phase detection
3) 60p, 60i, and 24p HD video
4) Interchangeable lenses
5) Full manual control or full automation of control
6) Reasonably lightweight for its form factor
7) Reasonably priced for its features and quality.
I was considering the Sony NEX-5 and NEX-7, the Sony A65, the Nikon D7000 and D5100, the Canon T3i, and other competitive cameras from Pentax and Fujifilm. I really believe that the Sony A57 delivers everything I wanted, and more, with more total functionality that any of the competitors, along with a price less than almost all of them. It has the same award-winning 16mp sensor as the NEX-5, faster autofocus than the NEX-7 (thanks to phase detection focus vs contrast-based focus), better image quality than the NEX-5 or NEX-7 (despite the NEX-7's 24mp sensor), way better video than the Nikon D7000 and D5100 and the Canon T3i, the same or better performance than the more expensive Sony A65, and a wide selection of high-quality lenses like other enthusiast DSLRs. I was hesitant about the weight at first, compared to the NEX-7, for instance, but it is really lightweight for being a DSLR, and it is extremely comfortable to hold and easy to shoot with, without fatiguing my arm. Everything is very well thought out, in terms of ergonomics. It's a winner. I love it.
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