DSLRs tend to have longer refresh cycles than oh, we don't know, phones with RAZR in the name, but every shooter must eventually go to heaven nonetheless. About a year and a half after introducing the Alpha A55 translucent mirror camera, Sony's putting that model out to pasture to make way for its replacement, the Alpha A57. This time around, Sony's bumped the ISO to 16000 and boosted the continuous shooting rate from 10 frames per second to 12. It's also rolling out some improvements to the 15-point autofocus system, including enhanced object-tracking and quick AF in Full HD movie mode. Like the A55 before it, the A57 packs a 16-megapixel APS HD CMOS sensor, though this guy records 1920 x 1080 video at 60p, 60i and 24p/25p. It also packs the relatively new Bionz imaging engine introduced with Sony's fall 2011 models. Also on board: effects like Auto Portrait Framing (it is what it sounds like) and Clear Image Zoom, which promises an effective two-fold increase in focal length. Design-wise, the A57 takes some cues from the A65, and sports a tilting, 921,600-dot LCD. It'll start at $699 for the body only when it goes on sale next month, though it will also be offered as a $799 kit with an 18-55mm lens. Until then, we've got official press shots below and the PR just past the break.
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Sony Alpha A57

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Sony Brings Pro-level Performance to Mainstream SLR Users with New High-Speed α57 Camera Featuring Translucent Mirror Technology
Advanced Feature Set Includes 12 fps Shooting, Full HD (60p) Video Capture, New Auto Portrait Framing and more

SAN DIEGO, March 12, 2012 -- A wider palette of creative options is now accessible to more shooters with the α57 camera, the newest addition to Sony's popular line of A-mount cameras employing Translucent Mirror Technology.

The innovative Translucent Mirror design directs incoming light to the CMOS image sensor and the AF sensor at the same time, allowing full-time continuous AF during both still and video shooting. Users can also frame, focus and preview shots in real-time on the high-resolution Tru-Finder™ electronic viewfinder, which offers a wide viewing angle and 100% field of view. This allows photographers to capture exactly what they see on the screen.

A natural successor to Sony's acclaimed α55 camera, the α57 is positioned for a wide audience of DSLR users. It can shoot still images at up to 12 frames per second, capture full HD video at 60p, 60i or 24p frame rates and has a variety of creative modes including Auto Portrait Framing, a world's first technology

"Today's DSLR consumer is looking for a higher level of control and flexibility in their camera," said Mike Kahn, director of the Alpha camera business group for Sony Electronics. "With the introduction of the new α57, we're bringing blazing fast response rates, enhanced artistic capabilities and other advanced features to the mainstream DSLR marketplace, offering professional-grade performance at affordable prices."

With the α57 camera, shooting speeds of up to 12 frames per second are achieved in new Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE mode, maintaining continuous auto focus and auto exposure with fixed aperture. Magnifying the central portion of the sensor's image by 1.4x, it's perfect for capturing split-second action close-ups with a burst of sharply focused images, even when the subject is moving. In this shooting mode, aperture is fixed at either f/3.5 or the maximum aperture of lens in use (whichever is smaller) and image size of photos is about 8.4 megapixels.

Additionally, the α57 camera lets people create powerfully expressive Full HD movies. Responsive full-time continuous phase detection AF ensures that moving subjects stay sharply focused, just like with still shooting. Support for the AVCHD™ Ver. 2.0 (Progressive) format means that Full HD resolution movies can be captured with 60p frame rate: ideal for capturing smooth, blur-free action. Shooting in 24p is also available to give footage a rich, cinematic look. Movie-making options are enhanced further with full control over P/A/S/M shooting modes for virtually limitless creative expression.

The α57 model shares the α65's 15-point AF system with three cross sensors delivering fast, accurate TTL phase detection autofocus. Newly enhanced Object Tracking AF keeps faces or other selected objects in sharp focus – even if a target is obscured momentarily by another passing object.

Even the novice photographers can now easily create pro-style portraits with the α57 thanks to new Auto Portrait Framing, a world's first technology. Using face detection and the compositional 'rule of thirds,' the camera identifies a subject's position, trimming the scene to create tightly framed, professional-looking pictures in portrait or landscape orientation while maintaining a copy of the original image. Saving both the original photo plus the adjusted version allows for easy comparison between the two images, offering photographers inspiration to refine their portrait skills.

To get closer to the subject, 2x Clear Image Zoom digital zoom technology doubles the effective magnification of your lens and is a highly practical alternative to travelling with a bigger, bulkier telephoto lens. The camera uses Sony's "By Pixel Super Resolution Technology" to ensure that cropped and zoomed images retain full pixel resolution.

Additionally, the model's range of popular in-camera Picture Effect modes includes 11 different effects and 15 total variations – offering a generous palette of 'PC-free' artistic treatments, including Pop Color, HDR Painting, Miniature Mode and much more. Results can be previewed directly in live view mode on the LCD screen or in the new Tru-Finder™ electronic viewfinder while shooting either Full HD video or stills.

Still and video shooting, framing, focusing and real-time preview of exposure adjustments are a pleasure with the new Tru-Finder™ electronic viewfinder. With ultra-detailed 1440k dot resolution and a 100% field of view, it rivals quality optical viewfinders. There's a choice of selectable high-resolution information displays with a wide viewing-angle to help consumers shoot with confidence, including a digital level gauge and framing grid. Information can be displayed either directly in the viewfinder or on the angle-adjustable 7.5 cm (3.0-type) Xtra Fine LCD™ display.

Ensuring detail-packed images, the 16.1 effective megapixel Exmor® APS HD CMOS sensor is teamed with a latest-generation BIONZ® engine. Refined by Sony during the development of its flagship α77 and high-end α65 cameras, this powerful processor effortlessly handles large amounts of image data for flawless, low-noise images and Full HD video.

Thanks to the BIONZ processor, creative shooting opportunities are boosted by an outstanding sensitivity range of ISO 100-16,000. Users will experience consistently natural, low-noise images – whether shooting at fast shutter speeds to freeze dynamic action or handheld without flash in low light.

Pricing and Availability
The new α57 interchangeable lens camera will be available this April with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens for $800 (model SLT-A57K). It will also be offered as body-only for about $700 (model SLT-A57).

Sony will also be introducing a new battery-powered LED video light, model HVL-LE1, which broadens options for recording video indoors or in low light. This new accessory will be available this month for about $250.

The camera, camera kit and a wide variety of Alpha accessories are sold at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.