In what is surely one of the most interesting recent developments for fine-art and dedicated hobbyist photographers, Sony yesterday officially announced its long-anticipated flagship camera, the A900. The camera and its specifications have been no secret during the long run-up to its expected November ship date. It has a full-frame, 24.6-megapixel sensor, 100% viewfinder, image stabilization in the body, and, at 156 x 117 x 82 mm (6.15 x 4.6 x 3.2 inches) and 895 grams with battery (31.5 oz.), isn't even terribly big or heavy. (Compare those numbers to the reasonably-sized A700's 142 x 105 x 80 mm [5.6 x 4.1 x 3.2 in.] and 768g [27.1 oz.] and the older Konica-Minolta 7D's 150 x 106 x 78 mm [5.9 x 4.2 x 3.1 in.] and 845g [29.8 oz].)
The new camera provides a fascinating counterpoint to the other recent "most interesting" non-pro DSLR body, the Nikon D700. Nikon went a different route, concentrating on high responsiveness, a modest (by today's standards) pixel count, and great high-ISO performance in the absence of image stabilization in the body (note that we don't know yet what the A900's high-ISO performance will be like). Of course they're hardly "opposites," but they do embody notably different approaches to the task of making a premium-quality body for serious digital photographers.
Sony certainly seems to have made a good call here in one sense. Canon and Nikon between them share, and thus virtually own, the pro market. Fine-art and landscape photographers are a different market. We watch admiringly as the latest pro bodies are announced to great fanfare, and either settle on one or another of the pro alternatives or find a non-pro model that will serve; but at the same time, it's obvious that the "big two" aren't aiming their all-out efforts straight at us. Sony, rather than create a "me-too" pro wannabe camera that would attract few pros (a repeated failing of second-tier camera companies in the old film days, not excluding Sony's antecedent company Minolta), has logically focused its effort on a market that differs subtly from the standard pro market. This gives us, as photographers, more, and better, choice.
And speaking of choice, it's very likely that the splendid new A900 will soon have competition. Good thing, then, that the first of the expected "big three" is blessed with such a reasonable asking price—$3,000 to start.
We'll certainly be following updates about the A900 with interest and attentiveness.