Sony Presents New α57 SLT Which Does (Almost) All The Thinking For You

Sony today presents the latest model of their Alpha SLT lineup of translucent-mirror interchangeable lens cameras, the α57. Successor to the α55 not only by name, it ups the ante with a bunch of new features that come awfully close to making the photographer obsolete. Besides using the same 16 megapixel sensor as the mirrorless NEX-5n and featuring a new 50p/60p video mode, it comes with a portrait mode that does the framing for you and tracks faces even if they are turned away from the camera. To find out if it still needs a photographer to operate it, read on after the jump.

The new mid-range SLT α57 replaces the α55, which was introduced back in 2010 as one of the first two models of Sony’s new SLT line of cameras. Main feature of the SLT cameras is the fixed translucent mirror, which lets most of the light pass directly onto the CMOS image sensor, reflecting only a tiny portion to the phase-detection AF sensor. This way, there is no need for a loud swing mirror that causes vibrations and blacks out the viewfinder during an exposure. Even when shooting video, the autofocus can operate continuously as it always receives a small amount of the light coming through the lens.

Being more than one and a half years old now, the α55 was about to receive a major overhaul, which has now arrived in form of the α57. As the mid-range camera in Sony’s SLT lineup, it combines lower-end features such as the lower resolution viewfinder with higher-end features such as the new 12 frames-per-second continuous shooting mode and the same styling as the α65. Being the latest SLT model, it also brings a number of brand new features such as the Auto Portrait Framing or the Clear Image Zoom which promises to keep pixel-level detail in 2x digitally zoomed images.

Main Differences Over the α55

The new α57 has a number of new features over the α55. The following table shows the α57’s main features and the key differences between it and the α55.

α55 α57
Resolution 16.2 megapixels 16.1 megapixels
Max. image size 4912 x 3264 4912 x 3264
Dust reduction yes yes
Image stabilization Super SteadyShot INSIDE Super SteadyShot INSIDE
Storage media MemoryStick Pro Duo, SD, SDHC, SDXC MemoryStick Pro Duo, SD, SDHC, SDXC
Sweep panorama yes yes
3D sweep panorama yes yes
Auto Portrait Framing no yes
Clear Image Zoom no 2x digital zoom with By Pixel Super Resolution Technology
Video recording AVCHD Full HD v1.0 AVCHD Full HD v2.0
Supported framerates 24p/25p/30p/50i/60i 24p/25p/30p/50i/50p/60i/60p
Exposure control Auto only iAuto, Superior Auto, P, A, S, M
AF system 15 AF points, 3 cross-type 15 AF points, 3 cross-type
AF tracking yes new enhanced face tracking mode
ISO sensitivity ISO 100–12,800 ISO 100–16,000
Smile detection yes yes
Picture effects yes (with firmware 2.0) 11 types with 15 variations
Built-in flash GN 10 GN 10
Continuous shooting 6 fps / 10 fps in high-speed mode 8 fps / 12 fips in high-speed mode
Electronic viewfinder 1.44 million dots 1.44 million dots, 2 magnification levels
LCD monitor 3″, 921.6k dots 3″, 921.6k dots
Dimensions 124 x 92 x 85 mm (4.8 x 3.6 x 3.3 in) 132 x 98 x 81mm (5.2 x 3.8 x 3.2 in)
Weight 441 g (0.97 lb) 539 g (1.19 lb)

New Features

Chief among the new features of the SLT-α57 surely is the new high-speed continuous shooting mode, which comes with a maximum of 8 fps in full resolution, and up to a whopping 12 fps in its high speed mode, where the α57 crops out the center portion of the image by 1.4x. The sensor of the α57 is the same 16 megapixel CMOS used in the NEX-5n, which means it now also supports a maximum high ISO of 16,000. The electronic viewfinder in the α57 has the same 1.44 million dot resolution as that of the α55, but supports two different magnifications for users with and without eyeglasses.

On the software side, the α57 comes not only with the same new 2x Clear Image Zoom that was introduced in recent CyberShot models, or an enhanced new face tracking mode that keeps tracking faces even if they are obscured or turned away from the camera for a moment. The α57 now also offers a world’s first Auto Portrait Framing that does the thinking for you when shooting portraits. In essence, the Auto Portrait Framing mode analyzes your final picture and crops it so that the person you photographed is ideally framed according to the rule of thirds.

Of interest for videographers should be the new 50p/60p support which finally allows full HD 1080p recording with 50 (PAL) or 60 (NTSC) progressive frames per second. The α57 also uses the latest AVCHD 2.0 codec for video recording.

Availability and Pricing

The Sony SLT-α57 will be available from April 2012 for approx. US-$ 800 in kit with the 18-55 mm standard zoom lens. The α57 body only will be available for approx. US-$ 700.

Additional Pictures