A57 announced today does what was needed and updates the A55 to have a decent EVF, plus a few bells and whistles. It’s got a 77-style microphone, and also a mic input socket for external mic moved to a better position than the A55. It has full 1080/50p video capability, 12 fps burst mode (with the usual restrictions and more*), a 15-point 3-cross AF sensor like the A65.
This camera is not an A55 body revision – it uses the NP-FM500H battery, the larger size found in the earlier A5xx-series Alphas and the A77/65. This should give it far more shots (well, OK, 550) per charge than the smaller ’50’ size battery used by the NEX and A55/33/35 etc. Sony’s new accessories include an LED video light, HVL-LE1. The rear screen is similar to the 55, reversible to the body (one of the major points missing from the NEX-7, which cries out to be configurable that way but can’t be).
Exposure bracketing remains limited to the inexplicable and disappointing 1/3 or 2/3 (0.7EV) steps and just three frames, so for HDR you are obliged to work manually or use the camera’s JPEG-only function.
*You only get 12fps in the ‘tele-zoom’ mode which is effectively a 2X crop to a mere 4 megapixel image, optimistically interpolated up by Sony in-camera to create a redundantly oversized not quite sharp enough JPEG in ‘tele-zoom’ mode. Otherwise, you get the usual and impressive 8fps regular and 10fps ‘advance priority’ modes, plus a 3fps Lo speed.
But they have dropped GPS, unless someone has managed to miss it out from the specs. Oh well. Not that interested now. Disappointing. Potentially much improved travel camera – one I would prefer to the Alpha 77 for size, weight, and sensor – turned into a family camera with some neat joke functions like automatically cropping portraits and then blowing up the cropped area to 16 megapixels. This uses face recognition, a variation of the tele-zoom kludge, and what could be a very annoying Rule of Thirds composition adjustment – at least it also saves the original file with the face/s placed where you intended. The best thing about features like these is that you can turn then off, the worst thing is that Sony probably think this is more useful than GPS.
Available end of April, and we shall be rushing out to avoid this model and wait for the next bus to arrive. Everyone has been saying – we’d love an A77 or even an A65 with the 16 megapixel sensor. Or we’d love an A55 upgraded with the better viewfinder. So what do Sony deliver? Neither…
Hopefully I should have put ‘yet?’ after that last remark.