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Thursday, 01 April 2010

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There's an alpha rumors site. I think it's called Alpha rumors. They're all pretty unreliable and never pan out.

Mike,

Yes, there is a rumor site for Sony Alpha and it's a partner site to the 4/3 Rumor website

http://sonyalpharumors.com/

They sound conflicted about when the A700 replacement will be announced.

- Craig

I don't have any inside information, but I have some outside information: Sony doesn't know where it's going. It's been apparent for some time that the company's lost its way. They even tried to import an American to straighten things out.Their balance sheet is shot, and so, seemingly, is their drive to innovate. What was the last electronics hit they've had? The Walkman? In the 90s? They could come out with a great new camera tomorrow, but I don't think you can count on it.

>> What was the last electronics hit they've had? <<

Well, I think they've sold more than a few million PlayStations ;-)

And, aren't they the king of video cameras? I think not having video capabilities has hurt their DSLR sales. A nice full frame DSLR with HD video... AND with image stabilization.

Atleast one potential customer has moved on... to m4/3 ;-)

Pulling a story out of thin air:

1) The A700 didn't fare too well, IIRC. Of course, I cannot support it by hard data, but among the four cameras in its group (40D, A700, D300, E-3) it usually got the last place. Mostly because people thought it was a meh-camera. Not bad at all, but not as good as the other three.

2) Sony had some success with A900. A850 seems to follow in its footsteps.

3) Sony announces its entrance into the micro market.

Consequently, I wouldn't be surprised if Sony decided to drop that level of crop-sensor cameras altogether and replace it with cameras like A850. Therefore: micro-cameras, entry-level DSLR, entry-level full frame, top full frame.

As I said, out of thin air, but it does sound plausible. :)

Ask Jeff Ascough.

Sonyalpharumors has specs from another site for the new 7xx. But it was 4/1/10.

Why not just buy an 850 and get a full frame image stabilized 25 mp sensor with a superb viewfinder and tank-like build for $2000? No one else can give you that camera. They don't seem lost to me.

They had a dummy of a mid-level DSLR which was shown alongside their EVIL cameras line up, but no solid information about anything. That said, I am expecting an A700 replacement within the year.

As long as we are speculating...I think Sony's engineers may have decided that the low and mid-end dslrs are going to be replaced with mirror-less cameras, and so the teams assigned to the 700-series and 200-series model lines have spent the last two years working on those instead of replacement models. Sony is an engineer-driven, engineering-culture dominated company. Very much a "I have a vision for this cool thing, let's build it now" except multiply that by the various engineering fiefdoms. Cameras lend themselves to that sort of thing, particularly since you can play the "which feature will we remove to make this a different model" game easily.

Sony's missteps are almost always due to making something "perfect", totally cutting edge, and expensive to produce, like the Playstation 3, without taking into account the fact that you can't easily have downgrade models to make money off of. Is the A-900/A-850 an example of that?

Except for the unforced errors caused by their entertainment division (i.e. Sony Pictures/Music) dictating things to their consumer product engineers. Like weird, incompatible audio formats, bad DRM, etc. Sony's laptops suffer from something similar: they have to run Windows, and come with a bunch of crapware in order to make a (razor thin) profit. Aside from that, they are apparently beautiful, delicate machines.

Will

Sony is, reportedly, working on an APS-C-sensor compact line to compete with Micro 4/3 cameras. I am holding my breath waiting for a good walk-around "rangefinder-like" camera that will use my Minolta and Sony lenses, flash, etc.

If I were looking for something A700-like, at this point, I would (and do) find the A-850 quite attractive unless my lenses were all designed exclusively for a smaller sensor.

Based on a quick count I have come up with the following: Nikon offers 9 DSLR cameras from 6mp to 24mp, with MSRP of $ 500-$8000. Canon offers 9 DSLR cameras from 10mp to 21mp, with MSRP of $500-$7000. Sony offers 7 DSLR cameras from 10mp to 24mp, with MSRP $450-$2700.

Maybe, just maybe, Sony has decided to settle down on DSLR roll-out for a while. As a former camera store sales manager (two years ago) the more choices a customer has does not always mean the greater possibility of a sale. Often, it just tends to muddy the waters in their head and prolong the buying decision.

I know there is the LATEST IS GREATEST syndrome that marketing departments rely upon for sales increases, but in the current economy coupled with Sony's need to heal their bottom line....SELL what you have, don't just OBSOLETE your existing product for new business. The cost of design, re-tooling, marketing, and support of NEW does not always prove to be profitable.

If this also sounds like a soapbox stand for Thoreau's "simplify" philosophy, you might be right, but it has also proven to be good business strategy. Fewer, better, more profitable products with market differentiation (think Apple), can be a winning approach in the long run.

Many thought Apple was headed for the scrap pile not so long ago, but they have since renovated their market approach, limiting choices and roll-outs, and have really taken a bite out of competitor's market segments.

Release the hounds! Please, bring on the seriously-nonsensical hyperbole.

You should have started a rumor yesterday.

This has been talked about ad nauseum on dyxum.com, dpreview and other Sony sites for the last year or more.

I'm a huge Sony Fan Boy, but MANY in the Sony community feel that Sony has abandoned the "enthusiast" market by not updating the A700 (or updating the firmware in the A900). Both are wonderful cameras, but the difference in how Sony approaches their users versus, say, Nikon ,is night and day. Many feel that Sony treats their DSLR's like any other electronics commodity (DVD players, etc), whereas Nikon seems to "get" the needs of its audience.

We're all hoping for news at Photokina this fall. If Sony doesn't impress then, I think you'll see the "enhthusiasts" abandoning them in droves.

They're working on a rangefinder.

As a professional in the video game industry I can state without fear of dispute that the Xbox 360 has trumped the PS 3 and they both have been left coughing dust spewed by the innovative Wii (especially artistically speaking). Yes, they have sold PS3's but Sony is viewed as not leading-edge in any way, shape or fashion, which echoes John Camp's comment,

That is the big issue with Sony Alpha enthusiasts right now. A550 and below are lacking some features that the A7xx will have to fill. Asking users to jump to FF and $2000 does not make good business sense.

Sony did show a prototype at PMA in Feb, but no details at all accept some form of video. No release date, no cost, no specs, nothing. I want to upgrade from my A100, but will have to wait to see what transpires.

and live view. Then I'll become a customer, ditching this 5d2.

What was the last electronics hit they've had? The Walkman? In the 90s?

The walkman came out in 1979.Sony always does pretty well with their professional products. They just have a problem with competing on price vs. quality. Betacam pretty much owned the pro market unlike their famous problems in the consumer market.

Their problem is that one by one their hardware product lines get replaced by software running on apple computers. I haven't seen a sony editing suite in years.

I can't think of anybody that has had a consumer "electronics hit" that was not in fact some sort of ancillary device tied to some software platform, and Sony simply can't wrap their head around software.

For a while there was an a950 on the Sony warranty site drop down list, I wonder what became of that? I'd really like a full frame version of the a550.

Oh, and be thankful that Sony Alpha cameras are marketed by their consumer division , not their pro division, otherwise they would cost at least twice as much.

Sometimes Sony goes model mad, especially as it has the financial power to do so.

I seems that Sony sometimes take the opportunity to flood the market with very similar models to see which one wins out, and then streamlines their products based on this information.

For example, they had incredible numbers of very similar walkmans and minidisk players out at the same time. Perhaps their strategy is to see which ones are popular and focus their future R&D and marketing on the profitable variations.

If I was a new entry to a market, with no previous experience, with money to burn, I would probably release models at every level of customer and see which ones had the best chance of success...

My WAG: Sony is carrying on the tradition of Minolta and reserving the 7*-series moniker for the inaugural model of a new generation. For example, the Minolta 7000 (first AF SLR system), 7000i (creative expansion cards), the 7xi (power zoom), the 700si (multi-predictive focus), 7 (rear LCD, control setup), 7D (Sensor Anti-Shake), A700 (Quick-Navi), the 7 model set the stage for that generation of alpha mount cameras. Apart from the A100 (which was presumably a carry on development from the KM buyout), you could point at the A700 as the first truly Sony initiated DSLR.

My guess is that Sony is reserving the A700 successor model for the introduction of "DSLR video done right" (TM) :-). From reading various comments from Sony officials I get the impression that their main aim is to fix two main issues, making the video taking experience on par with a dedicated camcorder (e.g. AF, ergonomics), and implementing a global shutter. The prominence given to the video aspect of the mock-up shown at PMA would be consistent with this. I think that the development of a new generation sensor is the real holdback, one which is optimised for video (global shutter etc.). Sony could have used a variant of the D90 sensor and had video but I guess they didn't think it was significant enough of an improvement over the current A700 to kick-off a new generation.

I had posted something on the question of the A700 successor mid last year at http://circ-of-conf.blogspot.com/2009/07/pining-for-a700-successor.html

As a KM7D, then A700 user, I'm happy to wait. The A700 does all I need for the moment. I can live without video. Improved AF, low light performance and viewfinder, liveview, and small usability tweaks would all be welcome but I'm not desperate to upgrade. I'd rather wait a bit and get a polished camera than one which would take more than a few firmware fixes to get right.

I don't think the lack of a high-end APS-C enthusiast model is an "error" in the sense that it's something they did by accident.

I think Sony is deliberately turning away from enthusiast photographers: Sony doesn't understand them; doesn't like them much; and considers them more trouble than they're worth. I think Sony has decided they can make they most profit ignoring everything but the low-end and releasing an endlessly changing lineup of dumbed-downentry-level cameras.

The a700 didn't sell so well. The A850 failed to lure A700 owners to spend more money. The reaction to the mockup presented at PMA as "an A700 replacement to be released in 2010"--which didn't have buttons for things like ISO and white balance, and I think might have had only one control wheel--was...vigorous, but not in a way Sony liked.

Sony had a website for photo enthusiasts, called "Backstage 101". It was a typical photo enthusiast website, something like Dyxum or DPReview--articles, tips, user galleries, contests, forums, all that jazz.

Shortly after PMA, Sony announced that they were shutting it down at the end of March. See http://backstage101.learningcenter.sony.us/index.jsp : "We're currently working to create new programs and initiatives to support our Sony photo enthusiasts based on the feedback you've been giving us on these sites." Uh huh. Yeah, they loved the feedback so much they pulled the plug. With no replacement in sight, like the A700. I can't consider that as anything but a big f--- you to Sony camera enthusiasts.

If they release an A700 replacement at all--which I doubt--I suspect it will be a real turd.

I just got an Alpha 550.

Killer camera. Yes it doesn't have MLU but it does have 7fps, a super-sharp high res dream of a tiltable screen, 2 flavors of liveview, and awesome IQ that meets or exceeds the best in APS-land from ISO 200-12800.

I think if you try it, you'll like it too. . .

"I think Sony is deliberately turning away from enthusiast photographers: Sony doesn't understand them; doesn't like them much; and considers them more trouble than they're worth."

Ed G.,
Yours is exactly the sort of feeling I think Sony is at risk of encouraging by leaving the middle of the range blank even for a short time....

Mike

This has indeed been a major topic of discussion on dyxum & dpreview. In addition to this gap where the A700 has been discontinued (and is difficult to find for purchase in many places) with only a mockup to tide us over, Sony currently has 6 sub-$1000 entry level cameras from the dirt cheap A230 to the luxury A550, and not a one of them has a pentaprism VF, DOF preview or MLU. This causes endless debate; many reasonably claim that the target market for these cameras has little interest in DOF preview or MLU. But if so, that means Sony is spending a lot of effort targeting consumers and little effort targeting enthusiasts. And even with an A7xx due by September, none of this sits well with many Sony-shooting enthusiasts.

Personally, I'm on the 4-year plan with my A700 and assume Sony will have something available when I'm ready for an upgrade in a couple more years. And if not, life goes on. But Sony got into the DSLR business because of shrinking profit margins in digicams (they had announced plans to produce Maxxum-compatible cameras before KM threw in the towel). They have to be eyeing photographers who will buy more than a 55-200 and a $200 flash. (Sony also announced a Carl Zeiss 24/2 for the Alpha system so it's a safe bet that much of the FUD is not warranted).

Dennis

I don't see a really large hole between the A550 and the A850; neither spec wise nor price wise.

In short: I don't understand the lamenting here.

"Sony currently has 6 sub-$1000 entry level cameras from the dirt cheap A230 to the luxury A550, and not a one of them has a pentaprism VF, DOF preview or MLU."

Fast AF liveview precludes a pentaprism VF, at least for Sony's current design. I'd much much rather have the fast AF liveview. DOF preview is an inaccurate, dim substitute for shoot-and-review and is pretty much worthless in a digital SLR. The omission of MLU is unfortunate. However they have done a marvellous job damping the mirror in the Alpha 550, which helps with sharpness with all your shots, unlike MLU.

All in all, I'd say the 550 is a pretty marvellous and extremely fun camera. . .

Forget all the pro and con nonsense in these comments about Sony corp. Here's an informative and recent article about the company:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/29/technology/29sony.html
As for the A700- it was a well made lower cost version of similar Nikons using he same sensor (made by Sony). It's still a very solid camera and, can still be found for sale new and used at Amazon, Calumet, and other stores. At this point, it will be sold with a lens though.
Why no fast replacement? I think Sony is trapped in developing a model that has HD video. They want it to be so new and groundbreaking (as they should be with their history of video innovation) they have lost sight of the frenetic demands and artificial deadlines of the camera market. Maybe for the better in the long run.

The Exmor APS HD sensor (family) appears to be the holdup. Resolution is not yet known, and HD video mode is rumored to use pixel binning for increased sensitivity. Sony, what about binning for stills, like Phase One?

The PMA mockups - EVIL, consumer DSLR, a700 replacement - all featured this sensor. Guessing that Sony will be leveraging economy of scale to keep these cameras affordable. Along that line, will other camera makers use this sensor, with improved HD video capabilities? Pentax and Nikon are current Sony APS-C sensor customers.

"Fast AF liveview precludes a pentaprism VF, at least for Sony's current design. I'd much much rather have the fast AF liveview. "

The A550 viewfinder is small and dark. A good viewfinder is much more use to me than Sony's (admittedly excellent) live view.

"DOF preview is an inaccurate, dim substitute for shoot-and-review and is pretty much worthless in a digital SLR."

DOF preview works well enough for me. Shoot and review is no substitute when shooting handheld.

Besides the bad viewfinder, the A550 is an ergonomic disaster, from the single control wheel to the small selection of badly-placed buttons.

High frsme rate and good high-ISO performance are excellent things, but when the camera's control gets in the way of getting a shot at all, it is small comfort to know that it would have looked great.

If Sony announced a new camera with the A550 sensor and processing engine in an A700 body, that'd be great. But they haven't, and they won't.

If something happened to my A700, my first choice would be to find another one. Failing that, I's have to either scrape up the extra thousand bucks for an A850 (and put up with the extra weight and the huge RAW files), or (more likely) dump my Alpha mount gear for a camera maker that gives a damn about cameras.

Ed,

Anybody who complains that the A550 viewfinder is "small and dark" and then talks about the wonderful usefulness of DOF preview is talking out of both sides of their mouth.

If you want truly "dark" just press the DOF preview button on a dSLR that has this dinosaur function when the lens is stopped down to, say, f/16. . .

Matthew,

You say: "Anybody who complains that the A550 viewfinder is "small and dark" and then talks about the wonderful usefulness of DOF preview is talking out of both sides of their mouth."

At first, I was quite dismayed by this. It is always a terrible moment when one side of a discussion resorts to ad hominem; although, in the purely argumentative sense, it is a welcome sign that the adversary has fled the battlefield. But one always hopes that a discussion between photo enthusiasts might not be purely a debate to be won or lost.

But then, I realized that your response must actually be grounded in an extreme hostility towards the DOF preview feature, and that itself was rooted in a misconception.

So, let me explain: when using the DOF preview, one does not keep the button pressed the whole time one is framing and focusing.

Indeed, that would be absurd, negating all the advantages of a good viewfinder. Instead, one frames and focuses with the button untouched, and then presses it for only a moment, to determine whether the depth of field seems sufficient. Then one releases the button, the viewfinder returning to its normal brightness.

Thus, since the scene is only darkened for the fraction of a second that the feature is in actual use, and the camera retains the advantage of the bright viewfinder for all the rest of the time, you see there is no contradiction between preferring a large bright viewfinder, and finding DOF preview useful.

I hope this has been of some use to you; although if you continue shooting with new Sony models you will undoubtedly never again have the opportunity to employ this highly useful feature.

My word, in another few years, I expect we'll have to explain to Sony shooters what the idea of "exposure compensation" was. Technology marches on; would that it were always marching forward.

Cordially,
Ed G.

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