In March 2012, Sony introduced its new Sony SLT-A57, which uses translucent mirror technology and has an electronic viewfinder instead of the traditional for other manufacturers optical. Recall, this solution has dramatically increased the speed of shooting a series of frames, created a really working focusing system for shooting video and reduced the overall size of the camera.
A new class of SLR cameras was created just a few years ago and is still developing successfully. I was interested to estimate how successful new relatively cheap model turned out to be and New York representative office together with new camera provided necessary line of high-quality optics from 16 to 400 mm. With this kit I spent a month in the wilderness of Northwest America to shoot landscapes, birds, plants and insects.
From the previous model Sony SLT-A55 , the new camera differs viewfinder, a little higher upper limit of ISO sensitivity, changed the size of the body, improved video capabilities. In general, the new model was a logical development of the system, it has no revolutionary innovations or any super convenient solutions, as in the older and much more expensive model SLT-A77.
Exmor APS HD CMOS 16.1 Megapixel, 4912×3264 pixels
interchangeable, A mount
Shift of the sensor when taking pictures compensates for camera shake
electronic True-Finder, 1.4 million. pix., 100% frame
Tiltable in one plane, 921k. points,
75 mm diagonal visible image
15 focus points, modes: multi-point, center,
User selectable focus point, single, tracking
Shutter speed ranges
30-1/4000 seconds, continuous manual
P, A, S, M, Smart Mode, 8 scene modes
1200 segment sensor, multi-segment, center-weighted, spot, EV compensation ± 3 EV
built-in, GN 10, external Sony flashes can be connected, EV compensation ± 2 EV
ISO Auto 100-3200, ISO 100-16 000
RAW, RAW+JPG, JPG, JPG panorama, JPG 3D panorama
SD, Memory Stick PRO Duo
Single, continuous up to 12 fps, self-timer with delay, remote release, exposure bracketing
Full HD with auto/manual focus, AVCHD, MP4
miniUSB B , miniHDMI C , external stereo microphone,
External power, remote release button
Battery NP-FM500-H, 7.2V, 1600mAh
132×97×81mm without lens
618g without lens
~25 000 Dollars. without lens
Design, controls, ergonomics
Although the camera belongs to the class of amateur DSLRs, I believe that in the hands of a skilled photographer will produce high quality results any modern camera. The difference between the classes of professional and amateur equipment begins in the usability – in how much one has to struggle with the equipment, defeating technical solutions or the limitations laid down by the manufacturer, or the limitations of one’s own wallet.
The new camera has added convenience. First of all, I want to mention the body, which perfectly lies in the hand. the size and ergonomics of the body is similar to that of the older models, except that the number of control buttons is not enough, in my opinion, to quickly adjust many important parameters – you always have to turn to the camera menu. But in amateur photography this approach is acceptable.
I saw the technology of the new electronic viewfinder called True-Finder as a compromise, a kind of balance between price and quality. In comparison with the previous model the color and brightness parameters have improved. No “cartoon”, saturated colors. True, the viewfinder in SLT-A57 is less comfortable than in older Sony Alpha models with higher resolution electronic viewfinder.
When we look through the electronic viewfinder we see not the real action but what will appear in the picture. This will help the experienced photographer, but can mislead the novice photographer, especially when shooting against the light, with a bright light source in the frame, or in other difficult situations.
The excellent large external display helps here, but it becomes less effective in bright sunlight just in the wilderness. It’s harder to see fine details under the sun, even though the quality of the display is just as good as in the older Sony SLT-A77.
The moisture resistance of the camera was excellent. Torrential rains, 100% humidity, storm wind and work from motorboats had no impact on camera’s performance, which once again convinced me of Sony’s reliability. Frequent lens changes in the field did not result in dust on the translucent mirror and the sensor.
12 frames per second – what could be faster? Speed shooting, previously available only to a high-end reporter’s SLR, has become the norm in a Sony product priced under $ 1000. It certainly affects the subjects which became available to amateurs. But it’s not all that simple. Marketers, claiming 12 frames, not always explain that such a fantastic speed is only possible in a special mode, when shooting in compressed JPG format, with a reduced frame resolution to 8 megapixels and a series of no more than 23-24 frames.
So you really have to wait for the climax, realizing that you have 2 seconds of continuous shooting left. It could be a child’s leap, a hockey player’s throw, a bird’s landing – any fast-paced moment where every phase of motion is important. When shooting in the traditional high-quality professional RAW format the shooting speed is reduced to 9-10 frames per second, the maximum series of no more than 18-19 frames, t. e. again not more than 2 seconds.
After that the camera writes at least 25 seconds on the memory card – fantastically fast! It’s great that you can still shoot a few frames even when recording, because the viewfinder is still focusing, and the photographer shouldn’t miss the sudden development of the scene. Even in more expensive models of the firm it is impossible: in such situation the Sony STL-A65 and SLT-A77 cameras show black screen and lock shutter button.
It is worth evaluating the image quality, because it has been suggested that the transparent mirror technology affects it. To do this, we took a test shot with the new camera and a traditional camera with a sliding mirror under exactly the same conditions and using the same optics. There is practically no difference in the images, but the texture of the details in the highlights on the camera with translucent technology is smoother. You can only appreciate it by a picky comparison at the same time. Also the shutter speed was lengthened, which took to achieve the same result, but very insignificantly – by 1/3 EV.
Another interesting feature was the introduction in the camera function digital 2X zoom. That is, in JPG format we can instantly and for free increase the focal length of the lens, for example, from 400 to 800 mm. The same operation done in Photoshop gives less quality result. I can’t predict how much this will be in demand, but it works pretty well, as well as other, now traditional features of in-camera image processing.
When you work with a new camera for a whole month in the open air, you have time to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses and get used to the nature of the instrument. The camera is lightweight, with good resolution and speed, so let’s try it out for spotting wary birds.
In the pouring rain I was able to get close to a flock of wild whooper swans. In such a situation, you have to pay attention to the coordination of their own movements, to do everything very smoothly, so as not to scare the heroes of the picture. And pass the control to the camera’s automatics. Tracking focusing in the center did not let me down, but the exposure meter was wrong and I lost the highlights in the plumage.
Later on I faced the problem more than once that the camera makes the picture a little bit brighter than it should be, and I had to introduce minus correction. Capturing the most interesting moment of birds taking off in a second burst of 10fps. The same high speed and sharp focus made it possible to capture the mating dance of the little zorok butterfly.
A subject like this rarely gets caught by a photographer simply because not every technique can cope with the task. Sony 70-400 telephoto lens is focused even on the distance of 1,5 meters which lets you use such a combination for macrophotography.
When I was hunting for the gray toad that lives in the river I had to get close to it with the boat. In order to get a completely flat light background, I had to put the camera down very low, a couple of centimeters in front of the water, on my outstretched arms.
I used the flip-down screen to precisely frame the shot, and I used the “Local Dot Focus Area” to set the focus point on the animal’s eye. The camera was amazingly accurate in its exposure, no details were lost in the light, and the slight shake of the boat was canceled out by the matrix stabilization system. You might conclude that the SLT-A57 and telephoto lens combination is very convenient and comfortable to use.
I had some problems with the wide-angle lenses. The brightly sunlit horsetail was growing at the edge of a swamp full of pitch-black water. I was sure that the sensor would be able to handle the huge difference in contrast. The task of getting the focus set correctly was a bit of a challenge. I couldn’t get the focus point I wanted in the viewfinder, not enough resolution. The external screen was illuminated by the bright sun and could not help me either. I had to take a few takes at different apertures and then use the computer to choose the best one.
When I take pictures of sunset scenes with my Sony cameras I always use HDR High Dynamic Range Range mode. I think it is a lot faster than spending hours on computer file processing. the main thing is to choose the right degree of correction, because if you set it too high, it could result in an unnatural image, not applicable to a wildlife photo. Sometimes it’s useful to use HDR mode not only against the light, but also in the woods, in bright sunlight.
The image sensor is not only good for telephoto lenses, but it also greatly extends your options when shooting wide-angle, letting you use slower shutter speeds without a tripod or for creative effects like motion.
When shooting riverscapes in bright sunlight in JPG I thought the camera didn’t always have the right color balance, the image became cooler, bluer. When shooting indoors with artificial or mixed lighting the results are reliable.
Of course, the best picture quality is between 100 and 400 ISO. a lot depends on the scene, but in general the sensitivity up to 1600 ISO is quite good, and for the photos posted on the Internet up to 3200 ISO. Such result is a bit worse than in older models of the company.
Features of computer photo processing
A month of field shooting flew by and here I was with 50 gigabytes of RAW files. Converting results from RAW to the traditional TIFF and JPG formats for printing and printing. As already mentioned, the native processing program Image Data Converter v. 4 quite clumsy and uncomfortable by modern standards.
To take advantage of the much more convenient ACR 7 module.1, you either need to buy a very expensive modern Photoshop 6, or install Adobe Lightroom 4, available only for Windows 7, or use the free DNG-converter from Adobe and use all the features of the new camera in the familiar working environment of digital photo processing.
The new Sony SLT-A57 is well-balanced, lightweight and handy, with great features, like all of Sony’s latest additions, while still being fairly inexpensive. The camera can be used in almost all areas of amateur and professional photography. Its technical capabilities are not inferior to more expensive models of line Alpha, but if you want to have the full range of amenities and innovations from Sony, you can look towards the older models – Sony SLT-A65 or more expensive, but technically almost flawless Sony SLT-A77.
ISO 500, f/6.3, 1/500 s, 70-400 mm lens,
10 fps continuous shooting, tracking focus,
Post processing in graphics editor.
The grey toad.
ISO 400, f/10, 1/200 s, 70-400 mm lens,
Continuous shooting at 10 fps with SteadyShot mode to compensate for camera vibration , focus tracking on a selected point.
Rubble on the river.
ISO 100, f/9, 1/320 sec, 16-35/2.8 lens,
Some image editing to correct the color balance was required.
Sunset at Polisto Lake.
ISO 100, f/9, 1/40 s, 16-50/2.8 lens. Dynamic range expansion mode was used, the result of processing 3 frames directly in the camera.
The mating dance of the zorok butterfly.
ISO 800, f/7.1, 1/1000 s, 70-400 mm lens, 10 fps continuous shooting, tracking focus, minimum distance to subject.
A swampy valley on the Stradnitsa is a great refuge for rare birds.
ISO 100, f/10, 1/200 sec
Thistle of a prehistoric forest.
ISO 200, f/10, 1/40 s, 16-50/2.8 lens.
Difficulties in evaluating proper focus.