Best DSLRs for £700
Considering its sub-£600 price tag the A57 packs in a bevy of impressive features. These include a 16.1MP sensor capable of full HD video recording, a 15-point AF system with three cross-type sensors, and a wide sensitivity span of ISO 100-16,000.
As one of Sony's SLT models, full-time phase-detection AF is on hand for both stills and movie recording. The technology also necessitates an electronic viewfinder, which has a capable resolution of 1,440,000 dots, while the rear 3in display can be pulled away from the body and adjusted around its pivot to face a multitude of directions.
The camera's burst functionality is also likely to please those into action photography. This is set to 8fps as standard, with 10fps in the Continuous Priority AE mode (where control over certain exposure settings depends on the focusing mode chosen), and 12fps when the Tele Zoom option is activated.
Despite a healthy selection of buttons and controls around the body, there's plenty of space for even larger-handed users to get sufficient purchase around the grip and thumb-rest. All buttons are clearly labelled and any commonly-used option which isn't among these can be found within the Fn menu, which has its own button.
Considering its upper-entry-level size the camera feels relatively light, and Sony points out that recycled materials are used for the construction of both the chassis and the casing. Build quality is as hardy as expected for a model of its kind, with no creaking under pressure, and plenty of rubber has been used around the grip and thumb-rest areas.
The menu system's straightforward design ensures it's easy to navigate, although a colour coded system similar to that adopted by other manufacturers for their own models would improve this even further.
The 15-point AF system quickly finds focus in the majority of situations, although as these are concentrated in the centre of the frame peripheral details can be harder to pick out.
The screen does an excellent job to reproduce detailed images, with good contrast and excellent colour, and the bright, detailed viewfinder is usable in the majority of situations.
The 8, 10 and 12fps burst rate options come in handy, although it's worth keeping an eye on the ISO setting chosen for these as this is raised to enable fast shutter speeds.
- 16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS SENSOR
- Iso 100-16,000 (expandable to 25,600)
- 1.44m-dot Electronic Viewfinder
- 8fps (12fps with Tele-Zoom feature)
- 3in, 921,600k-dot Tilt-angle extra fine LCD with Trublack technology