I'm never going to understand why camera companies introduce multiple products on the same day—it definitely reduces the coverage they get from scurvy li'l bloggers like me. I'd be happy to feature all of Sony's cool new products one at a time if they'd un-embargo them with a few days' space between each. Oh well.
In any event, Sony has unveiled four new products today. Two similar new cameras situated just under the A700 and aimed at "photography enthusiasts" (again, who are all these non-photographers buying other DSLRs?), the 12.3-MP A500 ($750) and the 14.2-MP A550 ($950); and a new lens, a 28–75mm ƒ/2.8 constant-aperture zoom to serve as a half-as-expensive and not-quite-but-almost half-as-heavy alternative to the godlike, but dear, Zeiss 24–70mm.
But the real news is the A850. It's so close to the A900 that Imaging-Resource has already posted a full review, by pillaging parts of its own A900 review. (That doesn't make it worse review if you haven't read the original, of course.) In fact, the only differences, according to I-R—I'm quoting, here—are:
- 3 frame/second continuous mode, vs. 5 fps for A900
- 98% viewfinder coverage, vs. 100%
- IR remote is optional, not included in the box
- Slightly higher default color saturation
- Slightly (microscopically) softer images?
- List price of $2,000 vs $2,700
...Unquote. Photo Club Alpha (which has posted the full press release) had speculated that the new camera would have a single Bionz processor rather than the A900's two, but, according to both sites now, that's not the case.
And the kicker? It's quite a kicker. Two grand. That's right—you can now buy a full-frame, 24.6-MP big dog for $1,999. It's both the highest-resolution SLR-style camera you can buy and the cheapest full-frame digital camera you can buy. Not a bad trick.
Incidentally, the reason for the slight reduction in viewfinder coverage is most likely so that the fabricators can have just a little slop to work with. Even with a very well-made camera, it's still difficult and painstaking to exactly calibrate a mirror assembly and prism to read perfectly accurately on all four edges. This is a trivial change—the viewfinder will most likely be just as good as the one in the A900 for all the we users can tell. (And the viewfinder in the A900 is the best I've seen in a digital SLR so far. It's a beaut.)
Two grand still isn't parrot seed (I'm tired of writing "chicken feed"), but it's less than the 3-MP Canon D30 [sic] cost when it kicked off the era of affordable DSLRs in the Fall of 2000. We've come a long, long way in nine years, my people.
The camera, body only at first, is due in a month or so and the new lens will be along a month after that, when the camera and lens will be offered as a kit.
*Note that the camera is considerably more expensive in the U.K.—£1,947.75, which is equivalent to about $3,150 today.