« Congratulations Jim Davis | Main | Rare Rings and Big Prints »

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Comments

I see this way differently. Sony has, up to now, been aiming at the consumer end of the market, which consists of people who don't usually care for lenses beyond the 18-55 and perhaps 50-200. Apart from Sony's FF line of DSLRs (which seems to have failed, by the way) and the A700 (which was a leftover from Konica-Minolta), pretty much all Sony so far has done is trying to make stand-out bodies, such as LiveView-dependent DSLRs, A55/A33 and the NEX series. All so they would get some attention from the casual shopper who chooses perhaps more on looks and gizmo-features than on things that 'really' matter. Sony's lenses have also generally been consumer-oriented. Their most recent batch of DSLR lenses were all cheap primes.

What has this approach gotten Sony so far? A good chunk of the market. Contrast that to brands such as Pentax or Olympus, who have had perhaps the best lenses in the industry, but struggle to increase their marketshare.

Now, releasing enthusiast models such as the NEX-7 and the A77 without some enthusiast lenses along side of them, that would be a mistake. But it seems that with a new 35mm-e (arguably the most 'enthusiast' focal length of them all) Zeiss prime being shown as the NEX-7's best friend, that's exactly the kind of mistake Sony isn't planning on making.

I tend to agree - people want a compact system, not just a compact body. Too bad they didn't join MFT with an integrated mft to alpha adapter. They they could sell bodies to anyone.

One of the things I love about MFT is that it is as close to an open standard as we get in the camera world. The benefit of having two major companies making integhangeable bodies and lenses for the same format is big plus...

While I'd love this post to spur them into action I'd argue that Sony's target market even in the A900 is people who buy the camera with one lens and never take it off. Maybe they're being smart?

Heck, can Sony's lens lineup even match with Pentax? At least us Pentaxians get great primes.

Does Sony even rival Pentax in sales? Of course, Pentax also make great lenses.

Their other big mistake seems to be the short registration distance that makes w/a (especially) lens design much more difficult. Sounds like the marketing department ("make it smaller! Smaller still!") won out over the engineers; now the engineers are trying to fight back with better sensors - micro lenses - to mitigate the design flaw. If they succeed, it will be like the Porsche 911 all over again - a triumph of engineering over physics.

"What has this approach gotten Sony so far? A good chunk of the market."

Nope. Sony's progress has all been in compact cameras. It hasn't made much more than a small dent in Canon and Nikon's domination of DSLRs.

Mike

Should it again be said that Sony was nearly starting from scratch when taking over Konica Minolta and NO camera makers can release more than a few new lenses a year? Didn't Sony release 3 carl zeiss prime lenses and 2 zoom lenses? Plus a bunch of other lenses, like cheap (and sharp) 35/1.8 and 85/2.8?

Plus Sony's market share is not the same in America, Europe and Asia.

And... none of this diminishes the pleasure I have of using 20 year old lenses on my a900 :)

Mike, you may be right. But besides the new Zeiss and 50/1.8 lenses, the NEX-7 seems to be very set up well for manual focus, especially with focus peaking. And in that mode it can use pretty much any lenses, including Leica, Voigtlander, Pentax pancakes, etc.

The sensor, according to multiple rumors, has a Leica-style corner microlens setup (as well as Nikon-style aberration corrections in-camera). If the sensor and viewfinder are as good as promised, the world's best manual focus lenses might be able to satisfy serious users while Sony's e-mount lens line fills out.

For a grand or so, the NEX-7 might even interest potential M9 buyers. That's not a huge market--no threat to Canon or Nikon. But it is a serious market.

I keep hearing the same thing about Sony's 'EVIL' cameras. The bodies are good (if you can get around some user interface issues), but they do not have very good lenses available.

I really think Sony has no intention of being a photography or enthusiast photography company. I have a Sony A700, A850, and a handful of G and Zeiss A-mount lenses. I will not give sony one more penny. Simply because they're not thinking of a system.

The lens line-up is laughable not for the lenses they have, but because of what's missing. As for the NEX E-mount... what a poor joke. Small cameras, large consumer-grade lenses.

Me and my X100 are a happy pair. I advise friends to get the NEX cameras only if you are entirely happy with what is available now. If you're hoping for lens XYZ then do not get it. Buy when what you want is available.

Same in M4/3. Oly builds lenses that are not only good, but small, light & balanced on the bodies, which is not the case with Panasonic or Sony NEX.

On the one hand, Sony supported the A900 with the only three lenses most pros use anymore: a 16-35, 24-70, and 70-200, all in f/2.8. For certain, there's a ton of customers that use these three lenses almost exclusively, whatever system they're in.

On the other hand, I went from feeling certain I would be buying an NEX-7 to certain I'm going to buy an E-PL3 just on the basis of lenses (and I'm buying 4 with the camera). And I think Thom has it right on the money: apart from the Zeiss 24mm for NEX, Sony doesn't have a single lens in the stable that will warrant the 24MP of the rumored NEX-7, and that's not a small problem.

The biggest reason that I went with Sony was I got a sizable discount with them for my A850 and Zeiss 135, almost half off. I went with Minolta and Konica Minolta lenses for everything else on the used market ;)
I am a student after all and have limited budget. It was either stay with Nikon and upgrade to a used D300 (possibly sell or keep my D2H) and keep my Tokina 12-24, Nikon 35mm f/2 and Nikon 85mm f/1.8 or swap for approximately the same price, but yield more resolution plus a better telephoto lens.

All the lenses I shot prior had equivalents (coming from APS-C) so I figured it was not a loss at all for myself. I'm sure many could not say the same however. I personally am waiting to see how Sony is going to do in the next year or so in terms of releases and if it isn't bold then I will probably be looking at Canon and Nikon in the near future.

(Sorry for being late posting SeanG's comment, after mentioning it in my reply to the Featured Comment. My goof....)

Mike

I respectfully disagree, Mike.

The most recent figures I could find are up on Thom Hogan's website: http://bythom.com/2011%20Nikon%20News.htm (scroll to April 18th). Sony's marketshare in the interchangable lens camera (ILC) market is over 10 percent. Up from nothing not too long ago. That means they are in third place, and are beating several brands who have been selling ILCs for decades and decades.

I guess you could still argue they are a good bit behind N and C and thus not rivaling them. But I would argue coming out from under the dominance of the big two and snatching a bigger chunk than all the other players have been trying to get their hands on for a long time cannot be 'a big mistake'. Also, their marketshare shows growth, which in some ways is more important than absolute figures.

"Prediction: Sony will never rival Canon and Nikon in SLR (or, let's say, SLR-type) sales** unless and until Sony has a full, complete, and up-to-date lens line for whatever cameras it wants to sell"

As for the number one - it is true (but only in SLR segment). It is, because Sony does not want to rival Canon or Nikon ... Endless discussions with a Sony guy on my local forum revealed that a few years ago and it seems he knew what he was talking about. When you think about it a bit it becomes obvious - there is no chance to rival Canon or Nikon on their ground. It is a strait way to defeat.
When it comes to NEX - things are different. The lenses does not really matter here. Really. They matter for advanced users, but not for 95% of potential NEX customers.

There are a few Sony and Zeiss lenses that I'm tempted to switch from Canon to Sony DSLRs for. The 135stf and the Zeiss wides top the list. That said, the best thing about the NEX is that it's the best camera for lens junkies. The worst thing about the NEX is the lenses Sony sells.

Peter Gilbert:
"Their other big mistake seems to be the short registration distance that makes w/a (especially) lens design much more difficult."

I think that's one of the best things about the Sonys. Just because the registration distance is short doesn't meant that you have to stick the lens up against the sensor. it's easy to add some space.

"it will be like the Porsche 911 all over again - a triumph of engineering over physics."
That's why I like my 914/6. A 911 engine where it belongs.

Reminds me of Sony Betamax; with hardware technically better than competition but still unsuccessful due to lack of software (films).

As for lenses, the question is rather how many lenses do you really need? I can see how some photographers, and especially some pros can find find the Sony lens lineup incomplete. But to my wonder I quite often see this complaint raised by amateurs who will never ever buy a tilt and shift lens or a 500mm lens, which are the lenses perhaps most lacking in Sony's lineup for a high end camera like the A900. Instead they should be comparing the mainstay lenses like the 16-35mm and 24-70mm zoom, the 85mm and 135mm portrait lenses and so on. And I can't see how Sony i lagging behind the big two there, quite on the contrary.

Reading discussions like these, I come to wonder how I in my film days could ever be so stupid to invest in a "limited" system like the Hasselblad V system, or more recently how on earth Leica got me to invest in the equally "limited" Leica M system. I suppose my photographs will be equally limited as a result.

"As for lenses, the question is rather how many lenses do you really need?"

Eirik,
Well, I've always said--somewhat controversially--that you need between one and three. But the problem is, they need to be the right 1-3 for you and your needs and taste.

Therein, as the old Shakespeherian rag would have it, lies the rub.

Mike

I'm really interested in the NEX-7 because I could use some of my Contax G lenses and the 5 Contax lenses which I've changed the mount to Nikon F mount. All I need is a few adapters to use some really fine lenses. Manual focus, of course.
At the wide end, I'd hope Sony/Zeiss produces a quality 24mm equiv.
Or possibly a quality zoom covering the wider focal lengths, say a 16-30 (24-45 equiv). That would complement my other lenses well.

Mike, do you mean a cutaway of the 85 or a diagram? Because here's the diagram. A simple lens.

Minolta made a full line of lenses for the Maxxum cameras that work on the Sonys. I know many of them are no longer made by Sony, but they're plentiful and cheap used. Are Minolta's old primes like the 28/2.8 and 85/2 not good enough for the 24mp sony body?

Well, I've always said--somewhat controversially--that you need between one and three. But the problem is, they need to be the right 1-3 for you and your needs and taste.

I suspect "three" is indeed the magic number, Mike, as I capture 95+% of my photos using just three lenses for each of my two camera systems. Of course, I actually own five lenses for one system and six for the other, because you never know when you will need them...

@JH Panasonic doesn't make small, light and balanced lenses? 14+20. Both better than the 17. I'll give oly the collapsible, but that is a subjective cost to the end user (we'll see what the new rumored pancake powerzooms are...)

@Mike, I have to say I disagree that NEX will never catch m43 in sales. Sony has a much better retail presence, and TBH, most people just have the kit, and maybe zoom kit, lenses.

I am going full out m43, so the lens issue does affect my NEX decision, but I think Sony can pull ahead if they wanted to.

With the so called new compact powerzooms... I think I would change my mind. people will go for the tiny combo. Hell, I would for a super light travel kit to add to my G3's I'm getting.

@Lukasz Kubica: I think you might be right. Sony doesn't want to rival Nikon or Canon. It is a sure way to defeat, but also because Nikon uses Sony sensors exclusively. What would be more profitable? Selling cameras or selling the sensors to someone else?
It's not very good business to try to take over your clients specialism.

Dear Eirik,

The mass market doesn't think you are stupid, nor does Mike, as the voice of it.

It doesn't think about you at all. You are one single customer, like me. Unless you have an inside line on what the preponderance of buyers like, your feelings don't matter.

Thing is, it is likely the three lenses you would favor would be different from mine or Mike's ( at least one of us, if not both, as Mike and I favor distinctly different focal lengths). That is why a wide range of lenses is important to market share; you need to appeal to a broad variety of preferences.

pax / Ctein

Having shot most of my career with a 4X5 and a Hasselblad, I was a big believer in the Contax system as well, just for the Carl Zeiss lenses (altho I actually did very little 35mm at all for money). I was really interested in the Sony stuff because of the relationship with Zeiss, but went Nikon anyway, mostly because of my frustration with the Zeiss 85mm, one of my most used lens sizes on full frame 35. My Contax Carl Zeiss 85mm f/2.8, a sweet little lens if there ever was one (and absolutely no bigger than a 50mm), was ridiculously frustrating because it just did NOT focus close enough. It seemed petty just to not add a few millimeters of barrel, it couldn't have wrecked the performance, it was so good anyway.

One of the popular camera rags recently ran a comparison on 85mm's, and sure enough, there it was again, the Carl Zeiss 85mm 1.4 metal manual focus, focused no where near as close as the new Nikon and all the rest of the 85's tested.

My Contax/Zeiss 25mm, and 35mm were a dream, and I shot some nice things with them, but I still remember that dang 85mm being an "almost there" lens. For this alone, I didn't take a chance on the Sony.

Tom,
Sigh...you're talking about territory that is VERY familiar to me. I used that 85/2.8 for years...great lens, with an almost magical way with Tri-X. I loved it. But I was almost paranoid about close-focusing. For years after I left Contax, I used macro lenses for portraits just so I wouldn't get hung up needing to focus just a LITTLE closer. [g]

I think the very scarce Zeiss 100mm f/3.5 was even worse, if I remember correctly. I had one of those briefly, but I returned it to the seller because the mount was wobbly. But it was just as good a lens visually.

Another great, great portrait lens: the OM Zuiko 100/2. It was virtually a macro lens. It focused really close. Another lens that could yield magic at times.

Mike

I think it could also be because Sony has carried over Minolta's quirkiness and design gimmickry. Remember the Maxxum program mode cards? Sony has dragged on with the Memory Stick for too long, and now we have an SLR that isn't an SLR (A55) with none of the benefits of either a real SLR or compact camera.

Pentax is just as guilty with the lens issue too - they have a hodgepodge of legacy lenses and a scattering of premium lenses with the strangest specifications. All categorized with very confusing terminology (DA, D FA, DA limited, DA *, DFA* WTF...).

Honestly, I have give up on sony a while ago. They are always too focused on stupid formats and ways of cheating out the consumer instead of making a practical, functional product that consumers want to buy and use.
EX: HI-8 format, memory stick, memory stickduo, memorystick duo HC, making dumb proprietary ports on their nex cameras instead of a hotshoe...non ac adapter like power adapters...all the stupidity behind the PS3 hacking and sony's selfish lawsuits...charging ridiculous premiums for not premium grade products. oh and continuing on, the dumb minolta hotshoe port, the bluray fiasco, and 3D Bull.

personally, I dont care if sony makes a super-magical live mos backlit transparent 4K ready sensor which is greater than all others in the near future. I wont buy it.
I dont care for sony. They are dead to me.

I was in a camera store a few months ago and the then new Sony A55 was the store's best selling SLR-like camera at the time. I think Sony's biggest problem with sales is not lack of lenses, but lack of stores selling Sony SLR cameras and to some extent lack of name recognition for SLR cameras.

As much as most people reading this site would disagree about lens choices, I think Sony has the mid-range zoom, super-zoom and telephoto zoom that most camera buyers (as opposed to camera enthusiasts) want covered many times over.

Pentax has more gaps in their lens lineup that i actually care about, viz wide normal FAST lenses, ideally weather sealed to match the k5. Heck, if they just had one, fast (at least f/2) 35mm-e wr and fast af lens i would get it and a k5 just on a lark.

But then, even canon and nikon are awefully thin in their crop sensor fast wide-normal prime offerings. Its all relative to whatever lenses you want. And with the trio of pro zooms, sony has the bases 'covered' for many out there.

Zeiss has a beautiful line of manual focus lenses for Canon, Nikon and Pentax. Why don't they offer them for Sony? That would make it very exciting.

@Kelvin "Pentax is just as guilty with the lens issue too - they have a hodgepodge of legacy lenses and a scattering of premium lenses with the strangest specifications. All categorized with very confusing terminology (DA, D FA, DA limited, DA *, DFA* WTF...)"

But Pentax have the right lenses for their market. Sure they don't have Canon's big guns but that's not their market. I could get by with a DA* 16-50/2.8, an FA Limited 31/1.8 and an FA Limited 77/1.8. All fine lenses.

And there's a method in the nomenclature madness and it seems no worse than any other manufacturer. What is more important is they have better compatibility than most other mounts so the letters are less of an issue.

On the lens issue, it's not really a problem in the Alpha line, all that's really missing there are super-telephoto's and tilt shifts. That said, there's some lenses formerly in the Minolta lineup which would really round out the Alpha lineup (the trio of f2 primes, 28,35,100, a 300/4 and the 24/2.8) but as a practical matter Sony currently offers a good set of f2.8 zooms from 16-200mm as well as primes at 20,24,28,35,50,85,100, 135 and 300mm and also the two best long telephoto zooms in their class (the 70-300G and 70-400G). The lineup is actually significantly broader than the Contax lineup ever got although it's similarly quirky (no 35/2 for example, one lens both of those lineups missed).

Everybody likes to bitch about Sony's lack of lenses. But unless you're looking for an APS-C f2.8 normal zoom, everything you need is there, just maybe not at the price you want (FF 24 and 35mm options, I'm looking at you). And well, the APS-C f2.8 zoom issue should be resolved next week with a 16-50/2.8 SSM.

The NEX line? It's currently worse off than the m43 line was a year in.

Note that Sony solved that little problem with the Contax 85/2.8. The Sony version focuses to 0.6m (vs 1m for the Contax). And it's either the same optical design or a very slightly tweaked one.

Mike, Sony's 85/2.8 is a copy of the 85/2.8 Zeiss Sonnar. You can easily find a cross section for that. Here's the cross section.

I'm optimistic about the future of Sony NEX. The major knock on Sony has been the scope, quality, and size of their lenses. With regards to scope, they are filling some major holes in the lens lineup with the announcements this week. In terms of quality, the 18-55 and 18-200 are both very good for their class, and the 16mm lens is performing better as Sony introduces cameras with improved sensor microlenses (eg, NEX-C3). In terms of size, the 18-55 is no bigger than the Panasonic 14-42, and the upcoming primes (24/1.8, 30/3.5 macro, and 50/1.8) are in a similar size range to the kit zoom, which is still reasonably compact.

I'm still a Micro 4/3 shooter and will continue to be, but I'm excited enough about the NEX system that I just launched a new NEX site as a companion to my Micro 4/3 site. I think both systems will do quite well.

Mike Johnston wrote:
> That said, I will give Sony credit for introducing one of the lenses
> I actually wanted, the 85mm ƒ/2.8 (and, completely as an aside, does
> anybody know where there's a cross section of that lens on the web? )

Have you tried Sony's website ? ;-)


Peter Gilbert wrote:
> Sony's other big mistake seems to be the short registration distance
> that makes w/a (especially) lens design much more difficult.

You're a bit confused, I'm afraid. A long registration distance makes the design of w/a lenses difficult, as it forces the designers to use complex, retrofocus designs.

Compare e.g. the complexity of the optical formulas of:

- the retrofocus Zeiss Distagon 21mm designed to fit a SLR, thus requiring a long registration distance to put the lens out of the way of the swinging reflex mirror

- the Zeiss Biogon 21mm designed to fit a rangefinder camera, and that has thus a much shorter registration distance than a SLR's.

http://toothwalker.org/optics/vignetting/D21vsB21_f11.png

Note that, if considerations of exit pupil to imaging plane distance matter, nothing prevents a designer from using a long-barreled retrofocus optical design on a short registration distance mount. Judging from the leaked pictures, I suspect the soon to be announced Sony E-mount Zeiss Sonnar 24mm F/1.8 is such a long-ish, retrofocus design.

Lets say that Sony had a complete lens list, whatever that are. And their cameras was built traditional up like Canon or Nikon. Lets say that Sony somehow built cameras, that they was 10% better than Canon or Nikon. Even then would I not think, that there would be a large migration from Canon/Nikon users, because of their already bought lenses and conservatism.

What Sony seems to do now, is built "cheap" SLR with lot a features and their new cameras are very easy for beginners to use. Seems to me indicate that Sony strategy are building a user base from the ground, and not so much convert user from Canon or Nikon.

Sony also seems to be relative weak in the USA market compared to here in Europe and some developing markets, why i can't say.

I myself are pretty satisfied with my upgrade from the a200 the a900. The lenses are all, with one exception bought second hand. As an amateur I have the luxury to use mostly primes, which can be very nice coupled with the a900 IS.


I do love the Sony 85/2.8 lens Mike. Plastic fantastic!

I bought it for my A900 in preference to the much heavier 85/1.4.

I already have the superb CZ 135/1.8 and 24-70/2.8 plus 70-400G and Sony 16/2.8 fisheye, Minolta 50/1.7, oh and a 100/2.8 macro.

There isn't much wrong with any of them.

Does me fine.

The only other lens I lust after is the CZ 16-35/2.8.

As you can tell I am in the "there are plenty of fine lenses available for the Sony" camp.

Maybe I am one for the underdog, as I am getting a Ricoh GRX with the M mount as soon as it is available to try my Leica/CV/Zeiss lenses on. They currently are used with a used M8u.

While Sony certainly deserves the blame for not making the right lenses quick enough, we shouldn't let Nikon, Canon, and Pentax get off the hook so easily. After over 10 years of producing APSC sensor cameras, none of them has made a fast, small, and capable 35mm - 40mm equivalent prime lens. Or an 85mm - 90mm equivalent for that matter.

I've heard the same complaint about lens selection before, but I'm surprised to hear it from you, Mike. Currently the dyxum.com Minolta/Sony website lists 364 different lenses available for the alpha mount, and that's not counting M42s and converted Leitax lenses. I own 10, leaving me with a mere 354 to go. I assure you that this is not what's holding back my photography!

Yes, Canon has more long teles, with better affordability and availability. Nikon can claim the same. Pentax has more choices in compact, high-quality primes. Olympus, my second system, is unbeatable for small kit lenses of fine quality. Every system offers something unique.

For me, the chance to find old Minolta AF lenses at low prices on the used market was a big draw into that system.

For those not in the know, Minolta brought us some glassy gems over the years. Among the very best are the 100/2.8 macro and 28-135/4.5, which I own, and the 200/2.0 which I don't. (photozone.de just reviewed it with glowing praise, "a marvel of a lens indeed. It is sharp as a tack..." I may never afford any of the Sony Zeiss primes, but I don't feel deprived. Contrary to common expectations, my a850 has made all my old lenses better!

IMHO, Sony has other & bigger problems in challenging C&N in the US of A. They don't have the worldwide professional service and support infrastructure; popular accessories like Radio Poppers aren't available, and, most of all, they haven't marketed an a700 replacement to fill the yawning gap between amateur and pro cameras. Add the fact that Sony is thought of as a huge, charmless electronics conglomerate known for other types of products, with little track record in this field, and you have a lot of barriers to jump over...

Finally, I think Americans are hard-wired towards bianary choices: Coke or Pepsi, Dems or Repubs, Target or Wal-Mart, Windows or the mac. It takes more work to find and research those third and forth choices, so most folks just choose from the first two and believe they've made a real decision.

Bruno,
Thanks. I can never find anything on Sony's many websites.

Mike

P.S. Thanks to those of you who steered me to the information on the Lens Rental site, too.

It's not exactly the same design as the fine old Sonnar lens, but it's very close. (Of course, many other manufacturers' lenses were very close too. There's more to a lens than just the block diagram.) If it's the spiritual heir to the old Sonnar, it might be a sleeper of a lens even if it is part of a "bargain" line.

BTW Sony flash mount haters, I believe Herb Keppler at Pop Photo (when he was still alive), took the blame for convincing Minolta to make a 'better' flash mount than the standard hot shoe, to the chagrin of virtually everybody from then on trying to buy adapters and jury rig connectors, Sony just stayed with the program (so I guess, another mistake) at least I think I remember a column to that effect...

My small m mount Zeiss and voitlanders on a Nex c3 are giving me a superior picture to those same lenses on a GF1. I think the considerably larger sensor on the Nex is a great advantage.

I understand why people think of Sony as the big bland electronics company that doesn't "get" what passionate photographers want.

My own view is colored by the time I owned a Sony R-1, which had an absolute killer zeiss zoom lens, a somewhat primitive but useable electronic viewfinder, and a fully articulating lcd that could be used like a waist-level finder. A bold, satisfying, high quality camera for the price.

To me, the NEX-7 seems original too. It will have the highest (by far) resolution electronic viewfinder we've seen yet, a very high resolution sensor, shutter lag on a par with pro DSLRs, and the ability to use almost every lens ever made. I already own several lenses I'd like to try on an NEX-7, including some Contax Zeiss stuff and some Pentax pancakes. If Sony comes up with their own killer primes with autofocus, so much the better.

In fact, this is could be a camera exactly for lens lovers. Meanwhile, I'm sure we'll see lots of comparisons with the Fuji X100. Which has only one lens....

Anyhow, in a week we'll know much more.

From a user perspective I think that Nex looks great on paper, but micro 4/3 just works better in practice. Controls are intuitive and one can actually use accessories and lenses. Nex doesn't even have a cable release, there isn't much space for a tripod mounting plate and controls are not as smooth was with e.g. the GF1. That said it makes for a nice experimental infrared camera after modification.

One of the pain points with Nex is the absence of quality wide angles (or teles for that matter, but I miss the WAs more). According to Photozone, Leica M WAs don't seem to work well on Nex and if one is going to bother with a Nikon 14-24/2.8, one could just get the Nikon body to go.

Uh, Mike, about that neck-and-neck thing in compacts: it didn't used to be that way. Sony used to be clear #1 with nearly a quarter of the market, and then for a long time was a clear co-#1 with Canon at about 21%. Sony's compact camera share has slid while a few others, including Nikon, Panasonic, and Samsung, have managed to close the once-large gap.

In the "DSLR" market, the success of the NEX-5 actually moved Sony up to about 10% of the market, but their DSLRs have continued to be at about the same single-digit number they have since Sony took over Konica-Minolta. Put another way, NEX seems like Sony's best attempt so far at nibbling away at the Canon/Nikon duopoly in interchangeable lens cameras. Only one problem: Olympus m4/3 is giving Sony a run for the money on that, and Olympus has the lenses to back it up.

It appears that Sony is counting on the new Alpha mount adapter for NEX, which includes phase detect autofocus and a motor to drive older lenses, to solve the NEX lens deficiency. It's a kludgey approach, and it makes for a "system" that's nearly DSLR-sized (only the body itself will be smaller). Moreover, Sony also seems to think that NEX solves their low-end video problems, so the lenses we are getting tend to video capable, which has design implications. If you don't think this, check the specs on the upcoming NEX-5n and NEX-7 for video, and then notice that Sony also has a VG-10 and upcoming VG-20 video camera, plus the pro-level FS100u all using the NEX mount. As I've noted many times, video has distorted and diverted the still camera designers' plans.

One thing that has always had me scratching my head is that Sony has had very good lenses covering the 24-200mm range for Alpha. But I think that part of Sony's problem is a marketing problem: they could make a good case that they outperform Nikon and Canon in that range, but they don't. And many people don't realize they have very good 100-400mm and 300mm f/2.8 options, either.

In the US, you'll see some difference in the coming months, I think. Sony has gotten serious about working with dealers. If you ask a dealer these days about who the best camera makers are in terms of working with them, Sony and Nikon tend to be the two that get named first, with everyone saying Canon has gone downhill. But let's see if they pick up on Nikon's secret weapon (all those weekly coop flyers and ads with the rolling instant rebates).

Frankly I don't think Sony is making many mistakes lately, and I highly doubt the E mount will suffer from a paucity of AF lenses in the medium term. The specs have been released to all the players and the Nex-7 is the hottest camera on the horizon at the moment.

I love my nex-5 not because I have an emotional attachment to a corporation, but because I can easily carry an APS-C everywhere with little fuss. Canon and Nikon are asleep at the switch--with no answer at all to the nex's combinaton of IQ and form factor.

There is where the great mistakes lie :)

The truth is, SONY does not need to deliver a ton of AF lenses to make the NEX popular (it is already very popular in the mass market). Nor do they need to be #1 in the soon to be dwindling dSLR market.

Your average Best Buy customer who is upgrading from a compact will keep that kit lens on their new NEX and be happily ignorant of other options. This buyer is more interested in things like overall system size, tilt LCD, panoramic, face detect, etc.

Yes, enthusiasts and pros lust after lenses but I believe that SONY is playing a deft game here by giving the "Best Buy" mass market everything they need (some decent zoom lenses and a few primes) while simultaneously appealing to people like me who are interested in using a wide range of adapted lenses with the excellent peaking feature. In no way would I desire to go back to the m4/3 system of MF assist after using the SONY peaking method. Add to this, the high end Zeiss 24mm that will soon hit and the expectation that more third parties will be releasing E-mount lenses due to SONY sharing their mount specs.

So all in all, I think SONY is likely right where they intended to be with the NEX line as it is a very appealing option to both the average consumer and the photographer with a drawer of M-mount lenses. The fact that SONY could appeal to both markets in one camera is impressive.

On a personal note, I never wanted to like the NEX. Initially I thought it was a newbie only camera with an intolerable UI. Once in hand though, with the latest firmware and an adapted lens, my little NEX-3 became a modern day TLR that was an utter joy to use. Those that say the NEX interface is menu laden and unintuitive must not have used one in practice because these cameras control like a dream when properly customized.


The more balanced and less anti-Sony biased comments are down the bottom of this page. As if the people who actually know Sony's photographic products needed some time to react to the original post, which IMHO was not totally true towards the excellent lenses for A-mount that are already there.
As for the NEX, UI was something I (Mac-user) very quickly got used to. I find it a breeze to work with.
I think Sony shoot be complimented for what they've done in just a few years. At last, some fresh air and out of the box thinking.

The comments to this entry are closed.