INSIDE sources – mainly people who have been invited to press launch events – confirm that Sony is to show its new Advanced Amateur camera, thought to be called the Alpha 300, on Thursday September 6th. A press conference is being held in Italy on the 5th/6th, and journalists from European mainland countries have been invited to attend. Nigel Atherton, editor of What Digital Camera magazine, wrote on the Amateur Photographer public website forums that the product/s would be unveiled on the 5th. (I have now seen a programme for the event, and the main launch conference is on the 6th).
This article has been edited on January 28th 2008 – the Alpha 700 was known shortly after it appeared, but I left the original title with ‘A300’. Since there is to be an Alpha 300 (probably the cause of the confusion originally as this model number was identified in Sony website databases) I am changing the title and references to the body to avoid search engines finding the wrong information.
We have just spent £500 ($1000) in expenses assigning staff, with travel costs, to attend both the Nikon and Canon launches. Richard reports that the Canon event was well worthwhile, with a whole range of diverse products including calculators and printers on show, and many staff to talk to; the Nikon event he described as ‘imagine your drawing room with 50 journalists in it, and one unhappy bloke giving a Powerpoint presentation and reading from a script’. Why on earth do we spend the money going from Scotland to London for 90 minutes of Powerpoint and a look at some cameras you can’t handle? Easy. On our pro magazine, 95 per cent of the readership uses Nikon or Canon or both. Both companies are regular advertisers and news of their products is essential for our content.
But Nikon didn’t even hand out a press CD – they told those attending the info would be sent by email! So, indeed, it was. I received it at 7.45 in the morning, almost two hours before son Richard arrived at the press conference. They did give away, for some peculiar reason, bottles of champagne. Richard, who carries a camera kit and laptop with him, said that he really didn’t need to add a bottle of booze to that for a trudge through London in the rain. We can add it to my collection of two dozen promo bottles of champagne, which we don’t drink. Some are now 20 years old and will taste like pee when we finally donate them to our daughter’s wedding, if she ever has one
I will probably not be out of bed in time to catch the earliest news – from Japan and Australia. The US Sony guys have kindly volunteered to send me everything they have to release on the day, probably aware that the European launch will have already happened six hours ahead.
One of my European friends has already been shooting with the new camera. His lips are sealed (with legal red tape, of course) but smiling. A Korean journo has been photographed – and nearly kicked out of the Nikon launch in Korea – wielding the new camera in public. A rival maker’s camera launch is not the place to be seen with your exclusive pre-launch Sony DSLR. And, of course, we know that the first prototype version was around in Holland and Germany much earlier this year.
What do we know about the camera?
It is almost certainly APS-C format, 12.x megapixels CMOS, 5.5 frames per second, ISO to 3200, improved AF, 3 inch screen or very much improved 2.5 inch, 95 per cent view 90 per cent scale (or vice-versa) optical glass prism viewfinder, AF assist on the body, improved flash, same basic shutter speed range as A100, slightly altered mirror/shutter action, very fast card writing, some water and weatherproofing upgrades, generally better response, altered user interface; much better high ISO noise, further enhancements to SSS.
For those who insist on speculating that it may have 10fps, or even match Canon and Nikon’s 6.5fps, I can only comment that the fastest sequential actuation of Minolta Alpha mount lens mechanisms (the aperture and AF) has been the 1985 Dynax 9000 which achieved 5fps, followed by the Dynax 9 12 years later with 4.5fps including focusing tracking. I believe even vintage Minolta lenses may be capable of 5.5 cycles per second, but I would not be surprised to see future Alpha bodies using lens-code recognition to disable fast frame rates with legacy lenses. New Sony lenses, I am sure, will have their aperture mechanisms and all other aspects balanced and tuned to operate at whatever maximum fps Sony believe they can achieve.
The devil will be in the detail. And, from my point of view, nothing counts as much as using the camera. Give me half an hour with a camera and I can tell you more or less where it is positioned and what immediate strenghs and weaknesses it has. The rest normally takes months or years and needs more than one person to use it.
One week to go, and a bit. I may be there, I may not. Whatever the case, I will obtain the new camera as soon as possible and report on it objectively as an Alpha system user. This is not the same as reporting on it as a non-Alpha system user. Since I won’t be at the European launch, I will try to get a hands-on report from one of my press colleagues who will be attending it.
– David Kilpatrick