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The Empire is Back: Sony at Photokina

Post courtesy Tristan Hall
Editor, PhotoComment.net

A few years back I watched with admiration, a National Geographic documentary on three peoples pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca. If photography were a religion – and for some that may very well be the case – then Photokina would be its Mecca, and our journey there was not without it’s challenges.

Despite an 11 hour flight delay and missed trains, we arrived at Photokina moments before the Sony Press Conference. That is the primary focus for this post.

While many were expecting a fireworks filled announcement, the news which initially left some disappointment has with reflection, got me rather excited.

Two Systems Commitment

The first thing I took away from the press conference is that Sony are committed to both the Alpha A-mount and the E-mount or NEX systems. That is a serious commitment to make when the top of the food chain brands seem to be throwing their blows at mid range DSLR and top end compacts while keep missing mirrorless.

According to Silke Schild, (Corporate Communications, Sony Europe) mirrorless cameras account for 8% of the interchangeable lens market in Europe. She also mentioned that Sony’s NEX has in a very short space of time taken 50% share in that 8%.

So What About A-Mount

You are right, there is a lot of NEX talk in a section that says Sony is committed to both systems. While some may label the new Alpha A55 as not a strictly true DSLR because of the Electronic Viewfinder, Sony’s new Translucent Mirror Technology has allowed the A55 to not only have possibly the best AF in Video we at PhotoComment have tested to date, but also allows it to do continuous AF tracking at 10 frames per second, way ahead of its peers in the same class.

This is just one development that shows Sony’s dedication to A-mount cameras.

What about high-end?

I know, I am also disappointed that there was no announcement of an A700 replacement made. What Sony did do is tell us some of what we can expect in the ‘advanced camera due for release soon’ whenever that may be.

We were informed that the new camera will utilize the Translucent Mirror Technology. Now whether that means it will have an electronic view finder we will have to wait and see. In addition Sony say it will shoot AVCHD video and therefore use a Exmor APS-C HD CMOS sensor.

We can also expect a new flash and battery grip for this new model plus the final production of that long awaited 500mm f/4 G lens.

Back to the E-Mount

Many people who have reviewed the NEX cameras have come down heavily on it being a very ‘menu’ driven camera. Sony say that the entry level consumers that they are targeting with it love the interface. This may have been the reason that rumors began to fly over an bigger NEX-7 or 9 coming. While nothing was said about this, Sony did announce a new firmware for mid October that will allow people to customize the shortcut buttons on the NEX’s to modes currently only accessible in the menu, like Auto HDR, ISO etc.

The road map showing the planned release of 7 new lenses by 2012 created some stir and yet, what was even more surprising – particularly for Sony in some aspects – is their enthusiasm for third party adapters that allow use of old Leica M lenses, of Nikon, Pentax and other lenses on the NEX cameras. On the stand is a cabinet of examples and it was hinted to that Sony are in talks with other companies to produce more such mounts.

Conclusion

While we had hoped for more fireworks, the more I think about what we heard yesterday the more I realize that it will only be good for Sony users. There is a sense of change in the air that is exciting, if they could just speed up releases a little so I can have finger nails left when the day actually comes.