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Sony affirms NEX future – and SLT path for Alpha

Sony today announced upgrades and a road map which will keep NEX E-system adopters more than happy – especially those who have added NEX to their Alpha outfit. Diehard Alpha purists will be less delighted.

At the photokina press conference, a two-year rollout of additional NEX lenses was announced including a fast Carl Zeiss wide-angle, a premium quality G-series standard zoom, a macro lens, a portrait lens, a wide-angle zoom, and a prime telephoto.

Firmware upgrades for NEX-3 and NEX-5 to enable Aperture presetting for video, and AF operation of SAM and SSM Alpha mount lenses with the Sony adaptor, were promised for October with a similar upgrade for the NEX VG-10 in November. The NEX 3 and 5 upgrades will allow assignable functions for the buttons, including direct access to ISO setting or HDR (amongst other choices).

Sony went out of their way – as on their stand – to highlight the explosion of 3rd party adaptors making almost every lens in existence usable with the NEX body’s 18mm register. They announced they were already working with partners to enable production of NEX adaptors and even NEX compatible lenses, but could not reveal anything yet. The opening up of the system to 3rd party makers would, said Toru Katsumoto, help revive photography itself.

With NEX now accounting for half of all mirrorless/compact interchangeable lens sector sales, they were confident of its future.

The bad news, for many, will be that the Alpha 700 replacement – optimistically shown with a vertical grip, 500mm f/4 G SSM lens and a new flash – will have a fixed Translucent mirror just like the A33 and A55. Paul Genge of Sony UK confirmed to us after the presentation that it will not have a flip-up mode to allow shooting without this extra sheet of glass in place.

As tests of the A33 and A55 have shown clearly, the Translucent mirror creates visible bright-edge ghosting or secondary imaging in the vertical direction. For many users, this will be a no-go option; they will look at the Pentax K-5 and the Nikon D7000 and see a ‘pure’ optical path from lens to sensor (although we all know the cover glass assembly of the sensor removes this possibility).

Perhaps the real A700 of tomorrow will be the Sigma SD-1 – the 1.5X factor, beautifully designed, 15 megapixel (true!) Foveon machine claimed as ever to match a much larger real pixel count – 48 megapixels. Well, Sigma need not make such claims. 15 megapixels is enough. It was enough with Bayer pixels. 15 real Foven RGB coincident location pixels will be one amazing camera.

Today was a wonderful day. Summer temperatures. Everyone was sitting round outside in the open spaces at photokina and it was like a big barbecue party with all the wurst-stalls grilling away. The sunniest photokina we’ve ever been to. And there is an amazing level of optimism here about trade and the market. We had a recession – unless someone screws it up, we are in for a boom again. There is so much fantastic stuff coming and China is both the market and the innovator in so many ways.

- D&SK, reporting from outside the Restauration K A Pütz Brauhaus, with 2nd small Kölsch

Additional notes: I filmed the entire conference on my NEX-5, which overheated losing 1 minute midway (pull out the LCD assembly and have the screen away from the body – this stops it overheating so fast, my mistake). But I need my big iMac and fast broadband to edit this and put up several YouTube sections, I can not do so from photokina pressroom or hotel wifi. It will be posted next week.

The image shown of the A7XX (the ‘Advanced Alpha’) is the same mag-alloy body (strap lugs give this away) ‘750’ that was seen at PMA, it’s actually like a slightly rounded Pentax K-5 in size and heft from the description and screen views. Because it will use Translucent mirror technology, you must not assume outright that this means no optical finder. It may use the semi-silvered mirror at 45 degrees, and have a new AF method, quite unlike the A33/A55 – and it could have a really good glass prism finder. But the mirror, like the old Canon Pellix and RT models, would be fixed. We simply do not know but the shape and size indicates it’s not necessarily an SLT in the A33/55 mould. I could devise an AF detector capable of reading from a focus screen (just as the human eye does). Anyone with basic optronics/optics knowledge can see that there are many potential ways to achieve AF, and they do not preclude fitting an optical focusing screen. There are also ways of achieving superior on-sensor contrast detection AF. – DK

4 comments to Sony affirms NEX future – and SLT path for Alpha

  • Well, I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water and will wait for tests of the new A7xx. But ghosting of course is a no-go for a camera in this class, and any electronic correction will not do the trick here.

    On a side note: suddenly the A850/900 become much more attractive! Counting my lenses, I find only 2 APS-C ones, so maybe a switch now is less expensive then it would be in 6 months, when all others have got the same insight,

  • springtide

    What a shame – looks like yet another year for the a700 replacement which was discontinued in April 2008 – two and a half years ago!

    I feel for a700 owners looking for an upgrade as it looks like they would have to wait yet another year.

    I think for most a700’s owners who have been waiting for the replacement at Photokina – these will now throw in the towel and switch brands.

    Shame really, as the a700 as Sony’s first camera really showed promise. Unfortunately I don’t think Sony sees itself as a Prosumer DSLR manufacturer:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Alpha

    Maybe if it wasn’t for the recession things would have been different.

  • SO A7xx is basically A77… Successor of A700 is with EVF, is it good or bad, time will tell, but on hearing this I have more negative feelings.
    How about FF DSLR, will they have Translucent mirror too?

  • Well that is quite a surprise that there will be no OV 7 series. I thought it would be a year or two before that happened.

    I was leaning in this direction myself for the smaller lighter dimensions but hope that some one can come up with a solution for the ghosting issue – which I consider minor for my shooting.

    There are going to be some mad enthusiast Sony owners though that is for sure.

    Extremly bold move by Sony – standby for the return fire.