The Sony Alpha SLT-A57: 1080p 60fps and Why It Doesn't Matter
Of course that's not quite true, it does matter, but will anyone really buy it? Sony is rarely a company to lag behind and not have an answer to major announcements from competitors. Instead of announcing a high-end product, they've announced a replacement to a low-end product: the 16 megapixel APS-C Sony Alpha SLT-A57. Like some recent Sony cameras, it has a translucent mirror instead of a flip-up mirror - so it stays down while recording to allow AF during video.
Here is Anthony Carboni from SGNL with Kenta from Sony introducing the camera:
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7UiXxMtvVc
I'll just be talking about the video features, because if you're a stills shooter, and you aren't already invested in lenses, then this is one of the best values for the money under $1000 compared to Nikon or Canon. This camera actually uses the same sensor as a number of other Sony cameras - including the predecessor, the Sony A55, and also the Nikon D7000, but it's image processor is much improved this generation. This allows for lower overall noise and a max ISO of 16,000, which if you compare to other sub $1000 cameras, is clearly where cameras are heading (good sample videos seem hard to find, unlike the recent Canon and Nikon releases).
Now on to why this camera doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of new releases that are sure to come out this year - one of them rumored to be the Canon T4i. Yes, it has 1080p 60fps - but similar priced Sony cameras have had it for months. That seems to be a gold standard for so many people, but 60fps is more than twice the data as 24fps, yet the A57 records at 24mbps for 24fps and 28mbps for 60fps. Should it not stand to reason that if you've got double the data, your data rate should also be doubled? This is the problem with 60fps and the AVCHD standard at the moment - 28mbps is not great for that amount of data. It's the same way the FS100 does 60fps. It will do its job if that's what you're looking for, but you're stuck with those data rates - as this camera (to my knowledge) does not have a recordable HDMI.
But let's get to the real problem with this camera: lenses. It has Sony's Alpha/Minolta mount, which is one of the more incompatible lens mounts in the industry - much worse than most of Sony's other cameras that have the E-mount - because the flange distance is permanent. Samuel Hurtado actually put together a great little chart that's helpful if you're looking at what lenses you can adapt. Without some sort of glass adapter - which would be useless and affect sharpness - all you've got besides the A-mount lenses, are M42 screw mount and Leica R lenses. You might argue that the Nikon F mount has similar problems - but let's be fair to Nikon, they've had the same mount for over 50 years, and the positive of that is we've got a tremendous amount cheap, used lenses out there that will work on a number of other systems - Canon EF mount included. This might not seem like a big deal, and a lot of manufacturers have been forced to create new lens mounts for mirrorless cameras, but consider that Canon has been far and away the most popular DSLR for video, and with that comes a bit of loyalty.
I don't see too many people switching over to this camera - unless they haven't owned one already - mainly for those reasons: brand loyalty and lenses. If you've been buying into the low end Canon system - like the Canon T2i, Canon T3i, and Canon 60D - you probably have a few lenses that you use for video. Move to Sony and now you've got to buy into a whole new system.
This is a fantastic camera, and it's got a tremendous amount of features, 1080p 60fps, 12fps stills mode, autofocus while shooting video, a swivel lcd, a mediocre, but better EVF than its predecessor, and a very high max ISO of 16,000. That doesn't mean I recommend it - Sony has a similar but less featured camera that makes a lot more sense for the money, the Sony NEX-5N, which has the same sensor, higher max ISO at 25,600 (though the A57 should be less noisy), and has the more compatible E-mount, which can take numerous dumb adapters. Not to mention that camera is smaller and $100 cheaper, at $600, instead of the $700 starting price for the body only version of the A57 (lens version is $800).
This isn't going to be a Canon Rebel killer - certainly not if Canon brings down many of its new video features into the T4i. I expect it will have similar video resolution and quality as the previous Sony cameras, but with improved noise. If you really look at it, it's a bigger upgrade for stills shooters. If you've already bought into the A-mount system, then by all means this looks to be an amazing camera. If you're looking for a B-camera just to do 60fps, then this could do a good enough job at a cheap price. Unfortunately, I think the only way that this camera could really take off is if it had an uncompressed recordable HDMI - but that would surely destroy some sales for its far more expensive siblings.
Link: Sony Alpha SLT-A57 - B&H