For a while now, Sony’s biggest attention-grabbers in the camera industry were the mirrorless full-frame siblings, A7, A7r and the most recent, low-light and video focused A7s. Even so, to think that they’ve forgotten their DSLR system (although current Alpha cameras, such as the A99, technically are not really DSLR cameras) would be incorrect. Japanese electronics giant has enough resources and will to grow its customer base to provide deserved attention to all markets, which means those who still prefer the ergonomics of a full-sized camera can count on Sony not to leave them stranded. Today, Sony has announced what is to be the replacement of the venerable Sony A77, an SLT (Single Lens Translucent) camera we praised so highly in our review. So, what does this new camera, dubbed SLT-A77 II, improve over its predecessor?
Having a full-frame camera system does not make much sense unless you have lenses to go with it, too. That is why Sony has just announced five lenses to go with the recent Sony A7 and Sony A7R full-frame mirrorless cameras, and a refreshed 70-200 f/2.8 model for its Alpha line-up. What’s more, only one of these full-frame mirrorless lenses is a basic kit zoom, the rest being high-end Sony and Zeiss optics.
1) Sony 28-70mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens
We start off with the cheapest of the bunch, a lens that can only be purchased as a kit with the Sony A7 and will not be sold separately. The new Sony 28-70mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS lens A very simple design in comparison with the rest of the new lenses, it serves a similar purpose as an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 class lens would on your run-of-the-mill APS-C camera. Naturally, its biggest strength is its compact dimensions and light weight, so if you are primarily a fixed focal length lens shooter, this may be a good “just in case” option for you to have.
It has been a little over a year since Sony announced world’s first fixed lens 35mm full-frame mirrorless camera, the Sony RX1. Shortly after, Sony released another version of the same camera without an anti-aliasing filter and gave it a slightly different name – Sony RX1R, similar to what Nikon did with the D800 and the D800E. And with Sony’s hard push on the NEX-series cameras, we thought that it was a matter of time until Sony announces a full-frame interchangeable lens mirrorless camera system. Back in 2012, we predicted that Sony would release a full-frame camera in 2013 and it seems like our predictions were indeed true. Today is a very exciting day for the world of photography, because Sony has just announced world’s first full-frame interchangeable lens mirrorless camera with autofocus capabilities. Sony is shaking up the industry once again with a breakthrough product that will lead the way for others in the future. Some might say that this is the beginning of the end of DSLRs. Read on to see what we think.
Sony has just announced two cameras, which happen to be world’s first full-frame interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras with autofocus capabilities and also world’s lightest full-frame cameras – the Sony Alpha 7 (A7) and the Sony Alpha 7R (A7R). Featuring high resolution 24 MP and 36 MP sensors, a fast hybrid autofocus system with phase-detection AF, a high contrast 2.4 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder, Wi-Fi connectivity, Full HD movie recording with uncompressed HDMI output, weather sealing and a low price of $1699 (A7) and $2299 (A7R), the two cameras are meant to shake up the photography industry.
Previous Sony SLT-A58 and NEX-3N announcement may not have been all that exciting for the majority of current Sony users, but new and updated lenses usually make a more interesting topic. After all, cameras come and go. As of late, they seem to come and go rather too often – almost as if manufacturers decided to race each other and see who can push more “new” cameras into the market in the shortest amount of time. But good lenses, they tend to stay a while longer. Fine as your camera may be, it doesn’t exactly change the way you photograph all that much, be it a new D7100 or an older D7000, while a new lens – often and quite understandably – can make a much more worthwhile addition to your camera bag. Sony has made sure at least two of the three new lenses are of that kind. Let’s start with the smaller one.
1) Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 Lens
If there was ever a serious reason why I considered Sony DSLRs (namely, the Alpha A850 model), it’s Carl Zeiss lenses. Don’t get me wrong – Nikkor and Canon L lenses can be just as good and, perhaps, even superior. There’s more of them. More choice. Broader second-hand market. But somehow I always admired the legendary German manufacturer. There isn’t any real reason I can base my preference on – it’s neither sharpness nor price. But the few Carl Zeiss lenses Sony did have on offer were, in my opinion and experience, spectacular – the 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8 most of all. Now, a new prime joins their ranks, and it’s a standard 50mm f/1.4 class lens. For around $1500.
Following Nikon’s announcement of the D7100 DSLR, Sony introduced a new SLT camera, called A58, along with their newest entry-level mirrorless offering, NEX-3N. As before, Sony is pushing a lot of innovative, consumer-friendly features into both cameras to attract customers. Not having all that much pedigree as a camera maker (at least when it comes to DSLR or, in their case, DSLT), features and numbers is their surest way of shifting attention of a potential buyer away from better-known camera manufacturers, such as Canon, Nikon and, perhaps, even Pentax.
1) Sony SLT-A58
The new SLT-A58 is a replacement for two older Sony cameras, A37 and A57, which is a good thing – I’ve always found they had too many models not that different in their positioning. Luckily for current Sony users and temptingly for potential new ones, however, the camera fitted with the usual 18-55mm kit lens will cost around $600, which is on par with Nikon’s lowest-end D3200 camera (while on $100 rebate program). Mind you, on paper, SLT-A58 is no slouch against its competitors.
Two highly regarded Sony cameras have received generous instant savings at B&H, our most trusted reseller. Both SLT-A77 and NEX-7 mirrorless camera offer great 24 megapixel APS-C sensors, durable magnesium alloy bodies and extensive manual control with lots of professional features, and are of the most desired cameras among Sony users.
Traditionally, Sony offer a lot of bang for your buck (a strategy to counter photographic pedigree of its fierce competition). Now, with instant saving, they are even cheaper, especially compared to competition. We were very impressed with the A77 (click here to read our review) and although NEX-7 has not yet been reviewed, it’s baby brother, the NEX-6, left Nasim with positive feelings as well (click here to read our reaview of the NEX-6).
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Back in September, just after major Sony announcements, we predicted an upcoming full-frame Sony NEX mirrorless camera. We are not usually ones to speculate and spread rumors, but this time evidence was rather convincing. First of all, NEX-VG900 35mm sensor camcorder, the first of its kind, was launched. As it packs NEX E mount we now know it’s compatible with full-frame image circle. This cleared out any technical reasons why a large sensor NEX would be out of question. Secondly, with the launch of latest NEX-6 camera, Sony decided to specifically write “APS-C” on the front of the camera, something they have never done before. And the only reason for such an indication we can think of is the existence of a larger or smaller sensor. Now, a smaller than APS-C size sensor doesn’t make all that much sense, of course, and recently many other photography websites have been reporting rumors of the upcoming full-frame Sony NEX camera.
Of course, it’s hard to say for sure. We can only guess it will be a sort of a merge between Sony NEX-7 and RX1 full-frame compact camera. Expect 1080p/60 video, 24 or more megapixels, great screen and small size despite the large sensor. Hopefully it will have a hybrid AF combining both contrast- and phase-detect systems. And please, please let it have a good EVF! RX1 would have been it for many photographers if it wasn’t for the silly and irrational omission of a viewfinder, be it an optical one or an EVF.
This is an in-depth review of the Sony SLT-A77 digital SLR camera that was announced together with the Sony SLT-A65 in August of 2011. I had a chance to test both cameras, along with a number of Sony / Zeiss lenses for the Sony mount, while reviewing the Nikon 1 camera system in late 2011. While I concentrate most of my gear reviews around Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses, I got really excited about these Sony cameras after seeing the press release and decided to try them out.
I have been enjoying shooting with DSLRs for quite some time now and while I am very happy with the cameras and lenses I use, I just think that we have not been seeing major breakthroughs in new DSLR cameras. New cameras pack more resolution, faster frames per second, better video features and other bells and whistles, but nothing innovative and revolutionary that changes the way we shoot. With Sony entering the DSLR market rather late in 2006 (after acquiring Konica Minolta), it was tough to compete against the long-established Canon and Nikon cameras. Sony introduced a few DSLRs with great features at a competitive price and secured itself the #3 market share spot in DSLR sales globally, mostly with lower-end DSLR camera bodies. With a rather slow adoption rate and a limited choice of lenses and accessories available, the company quickly realized that its only way to challenge the big two was to innovate. In August of 2010, Sony announced its first “Single-Lens Translucent” (SLT) cameras – the Sony A33 and A55. While the concept of a translucent mirror is not new (in fact, Sony calls it “translucent” for marketing purposes, because it is actually supposed to be “pellicle mirror”), Sony was the first to design it to work with an electronic viewfinder. Its first SLT cameras were a success, so Sony decided to embrace the technology and take it a step further with the new Sony A77 and A65 cameras. Going forward, we will most likely not be seeing any more DSLR cameras from Sony, since its management already expressed commitment to this new breed of cameras. We should be seeing more cameras from Sony with translucent mirrors, including high-end, full-frame models.
NOTE: A full Sony A77 Review has been published.
Yesterday Sony released two brand new cropped-sensor DSLRs – the Sony Alpha A77 and Sony Alpha A65. Actually, it is not right to call these cameras DSLRs, because they are not equipped with a traditional DSLR mirror. Instead, the A77 and A65 use a “translucent mirror“, so the correct terminology is “Single-Lens Translucent” (versus Single-Lens Reflex), or “SLT”. On traditional DSLRs, the camera mirror reflects the light coming from the lens into both the viewfinder and the AF sensor, allowing the camera to quickly acquire focus through the phase-detection system. When a picture is taken, the mirror gets raised, thus blocking the viewfinder and preventing the light from reaching the AF sensor. Because of this, the camera can only focus using contrast-detect, which is much slower than phase-detect. Sony’s translucent mirror, on the other hand, allows the light to pass through the mirror and hit the camera sensor, simultaneously reflecting some of the light off the mirror on to the AF sensor. The mirror never moves and stays in the same spot. This allows the camera to acquire focus with the phase detection system even when shooting video. Because the shutter is the only moving component inside the camera, images can be captured at crazy fast speeds. For example, the top-of-the-line Nikon D3s can loudly capture 9 frames per second maximum, while the new Sony Alpha A77 SLT can take 12 frames per second and the only thing you will hear is the sound of shutter opening and closing. There are many advantages to SLTs like smaller size, less camera shake, etc.
The translucent mirror obviously has its own problems. The first problem is that only a small portion of the light gets reflected off the mirror into the camera viewfinder. This results in very dim viewfinder that is extremely hard to see. The workaround is to use an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one (an electronic viewfinder is basically a small LCD inside the viewfinder). The difference between the two is huge – an optical viewfinder is just a mirror of what the lens sees and it cannot be altered, while an electronic viewfinder can be customized to display whatever the manufacturer wants. For example, if a photograph is going to be underexposed, the viewfinder could show a dimmed image with warnings. Or the histogram could be placed right on top of the image as an overlay. Or you could view your photos right inside the viewfinder after you take them, which is very useful in daylight conditions. You could do many different things with an electronic viewfinder. If it is not implemented properly, on the other hand, an electronic viewfinder could cause a lot of grief. The second problem with the translucent mirror is the fact that it is another piece of glass in front of the camera sensor. Any dust or other foreign particles could end up on this mirror, which would obviously mess up photographs. So now you have to worry about keeping both the camera sensor and the translucent mirror clean. On traditional DSLRs, you don’t have to worry about dust on the mirror. It will never show up in photographs, because once the mirror is raised, nothing stands between the lens and the sensor. The third problem is the amount of light that actually reaches the sensor – the translucent mirror blocks about one third of a stop of light, putting more stress on the sensor. Lastly, continuously looking at an LCD inside the viewfinder could put a lot of strain on eyes and the actual captured images would look better, because the viewfinder has much less dynamic range than the sensor.