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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

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Is it just me, or is anyone else peeved by the fact that Sony refers to the A3000 as an SLR? Here is the language cut-and-pasted from the camera specifications on the Sony store:

Camera Type : Interchangeable Lens Digital SLR camera

And, if you go to www.sony.com, you must follow the links to Alpha DSLR Cameras in order to find the A3000.
Looks don't make an SLR, in my opinion. A moving mirror positioned between the lens and film/sensor together with an optical viewfinder would seem to be the minimum requirements for referring to a camera as an SLR (or dSLR). The A3000, in fact, is an interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera with a built-in EVF that happens to be styled like an SLR.

Don't get me wrong. It may be a very good camera. It's actually priced about where mirrorless cameras should have been priced all along (I'm looking at you, Nikon, Olympus, Fuji and Sony NEX). Mirrorless cameras, especially ones without EVFs, have to be cheaper to manufacture than true SLRs. Yet, for example, as I write this, the Nikon V2 costs more than the D3200, and more than the D5200 after the instant $100 savings (all prices from B&H). No wonder Nikon, in its most recent quarterly statement, lamented the fact the mirrorless sales have tanked, and they're re-thinking their product strategy.

I applaud Sony for its pricing of the A3000. Just please don't call it an SLR.

I was just offered a flawless S95 for the tidy sum of $150. I'm going to look at this post a karma and say take him up on it. I need a good "shirtpocket" camera.

I was just now sitting here pondering whether or not digital SLRs might not yet turn out to be a short lived historical blip. Then I read this post.

The recent Panasonic GH3 and this new Sony A3000 would appear to contradict this 'blip' idea, with the move of so-called mirrorless technology into SLR forms. Both of these companies undoubtably have huge marketing and research arms and must surely have amassed a huge amount of information on what consumers, at all levels, want. Now, I can’t help but wonder whether these two cameras are a reflection of reality, or an attempt to impose an artificial one?

[[We're not done with the new camera introductions for today. Come back tonight, when my lips will be unsealed.]]

Let me guess: Hasselblad will be releasing the A3000 Lunar. Wrapped lovingly in ostrich leather and redwood and costing $4500.

"Let me guess: Hasselblad will be releasing the A3000 Lunar. Wrapped lovingly in ostrich leather and redwood and costing $4500. "

Excellent guess, Rob. But that won't happen for another year, when the A3000's successor is announced.

Phil, you're not the only one, but I'm guessing SLT or SLM don't cut it for name-recognition marketing-speak.

Dean, the Panasonic G and GH lines have always had the dSLR/bridgecam deep gripped form factor. But yes, the Sony A3000, and the rumored Olympus EM-1 both make it look like the other mirrorless brands feel they need to add it. Well, except for Fuji. :)

Re: the tease: EM-1? (PDAF!!).

Fun fact, the Canon EOS M currently costs less than the S120 (body with one lens) or G16 (both lenses). I guess that one pretty much bombed, wonder if Canon will give the line a 2nd chance.

The msrp for the a3000 is $400. The "lightweight" body and minimal controls seem comparable to low end rebels rather than the gh line. It has to cost less I guess to give you a reason not to buy a low end rebel instead.

Wow, Sony have been more daring than I though they would.

This is the VW Bug of APS-C cameras and they tick all of the "spec boxes" (lots of megapixel, big sensor, high ISO, "right SLR shape", small size).

They innovated on three points, I think.

1. The $400 kit price. That's not body only price nor a typo. This is going to cause problems for other companies who have been relying on price points between 150% and 200% higher. It will make this camera much easier to sell.

2. They've designed a low cost camera to keep the COG and manufacturing down. They've gone for inexpensive EVF and LCD (not state of the art). They must have got the yield of APS-C sensors to a very high level to push the costs down on the sensor. They've minimized the number of buttons and other controls to just the basics. I suspect the total part count of the camera is minimized too and mirrorless means fewer alignments too. The Sony sensor will be as good as we expect so the image quality will be good too. Even with the kit lens it should be good enough for photographing kids indoors.

3. They know the general public associate the "SLR shape" with "good camera". Even better this "SLR" is smaller than the other more expensive SLRs. It's the same size as the Panasonic G5/G6 which is bijoux.

From a strategic view point this will gain Sony market share (and chance at upsell too). The Sony E mount will also gain market share though like range most entry level SLR users most won't move beyond the kit zoom. So long as Sony can make a (small) profit on everyone sold it will be a win for them.

I think we're going to see more of that small and low cost Sony 200k dot EVF in compact cameras (following on from the Panasonic LF1) especially in small sensor fast zoom enthusiast cameras. Sony will be happy as they sell the parts to others.

Like Phil Service I'm a little miffed about the misuse of SLR but the product manager in me can see why they've done it: most people think of an SLR by the shape of the body and the "hump". They don't know what SLR stands for. They associate that shape with "better images". That big body shape also differentiates against users who want a smaller camera with more controls who will pay more for the NEX models.

Apparently, Sony's research has shown that beginners, when moving up from point and shoot cameras, actually want something that looks kind of big, so that they feel more "professional." It's a brilliant move for Sony to take NEX guts and put it in a bloated, DSLR-like body, because, since the camera has less moving parts than a DSLR, they can undercut the price of all of the small DSLRs on the market, and still appeal to the average, first time buyer with the A3000's looks.

I don't get this Sony.
It's an Alpha, but it doesn't use the Sony/Minolta A mount.
What are they doing?

I thought their big push with the A cameras was an EVF with a version of a pellicle mirror that they have been trotting out for successive generations now. Does this new camera signify Sony is going to standardize on one mount?

a back-seat driver's comment.

the origin of the brand name "Canon" goes back to "Kwannon", which refers to a bodhisattva which is known in chinese as "guanyin".
it's indian root is said to be avalokiteshvara. often referred to as "goddess of mercy" (this buddha being female is a chinese invention).

the name "Canon" bears no reference to any kind of firearm.

peaceful regards,
sebastian

and, by the way, i know what 'canonical' means, though i'm not a catholic.

;-)

The Sony A3000 might be worthwhile just to get the hotshoe on a dedicated copy camera. The Nikon d3200 is still cheaper once you take Sony's insane remote cable into account.
Why they couldn't just put in a simple plug to set off the shutter instead of implementing a proprietary local area networking protocol left over from when people wanted to control three video tape machines and a switcher.

Image making devices are now part of the consumer electronics industry where it is commonplace to introduce six new products every year.

Canon is up to G16 in its PowerShot series in just a short space of time (I know they skipped a few numbers).

The A3000 seems to be an NEX-6 in a new form factor offered for under $400, how can you go wrong! It also makes me wonder why I paid over $1,000 for an NEX-7 (but I'm not the only one).

Sony seems to be fragmenting its own marketplace. Sony offers new products every other month and is now making hyperboles that this is a DSLR.

OK, so what next: this product will cut into the sales of their A58 and their NEX-6 since in the case of the A58 the A3000 is smaller and $100 less money, and in the case of the NEX6 customers will see similar specifications and save over $200 if they buy the A3000.

What happened? Did Sony shoot themselves in the foot?

It's clear that the major manufacturers...Canon, Nikon, and Sony are looking for some, any formula that will boost flagging camera sales, and this model, like the Canon EOS 100D is an attempt in that direction. Not sure this particular model will help that, especially when cameras like the Fuji X100S, which has been backordered for months are indicators of what people are really interested in.

Hey - I came back, but no announcement and the blog entry changed? You had me at "new camera".

Non-expert observation: amateurs are drawn to cameras that look like what they see the pros use - DSLRs. And many pros, when not working an obvious gig, like to use cameras that let them look like amateurs - Fujifilm X series, NEX7, Ricoh, etc. One reason I'm enthusiastic about the new Fujifilm 27mm lens is that my silver X-E1 (with silver 27mm) is going to look so non-threatening in public. My winning smile helps too. ;-)

[[We're not done with the new camera introductions for today. Come back tonight, when my lips will be unsealed.]]

where did that part go? or do we have to wait until september?

Mike,

I think a good case can be made that we are living in the Golden Age of photography.

The performance of cameras like the G series is astonishing. Fast autofocus, fast exposure, good results. I dragged out my old Pentax SP500 and was shocked at how slow everything was -- match-needle exposure control, manually focusing a 50mm lens, and to get the same equivalent focal range, I would need to drag around 3 or 4 lenses.

And how about the speed of the entire process? If my wife wants a print of one of the flowers in our yard, in ten minutes, I can have a decent print. Compare that with film. I can remember re-washing negatives from my Rolleiflex TLR to remove dust so I could -- maybe -- print spot-free 8 x 10 prints.

Of course, I don't have the Pulitzer Committee banging on the door for me to accept some award for jaw-dropping photography, but I didn't back then either.

Bottom line: these new cameras free me to take pictures of things that move me.

Cheers, Jock

The Sony A3000 certainly seems attractive for $399. But the low-resolution EVF would be an issue for me - even more so than the low-resolution rear LCD. I would have hoped for resolution equal to the EVF used in Panasonic's G-series cameras (on the order of 1.4 or 1.5 million dots).

Still, Sony could be onto something here and it's likely they'll move more of these units than many might expect. It's even more likely that the company's DSLR-class SLT line will be replaced by better-speced versions of this kind of camera with A-mount and on-chip phase-detection autofocus.

I'm also a little puzzled by the A3000 in more than one way. For example, dSLR form factor but only one dial and on the back? Then I saw the price and got a clue as to what this camera is about and who it's for. I think dpreview.com has it right:

"It enters a price range appropriate for older kids wanting a better camera, a smartphone upgrader, as well as simple impulse buys, gifts and anyone wanting a decent sensor and interchangeable lenses without spending a fortune."

With regards to Phil's comment that a mirrorless camera should be cheaper to manufacture than a DSLR: While the number of parts needed for the mirrorless camera would be less, you have to keep economies of scale in mind. If a manufacturer sells 4X as many of a DSLR model as it does a mirrorless camera of similar specification, the cost-per-unit to manufacture of the DSLR may well be less. The fixed costs of setting up the assembly line are spread across many more units, they will get a better price on the DSLR-specific components sourced from other companies because they're buying more at a time, etc.

Phil, it's called a SLR because the masses in the USA prefer to buy SLRs. Sony is essentially pulling a marketing bait-and-switch to get USA folk to buy it. Coupled with the low price tag they might just succeed.

Mike,

I agree with you about Pentax lens coatings. They also added 'circular aperture diaphragms'. As the man who brought the term 'bokeh' to the English speaking world and who wrote the most talked about review of the Pentax DA 35 macro lens, do you think these rounded aperture blades could improve the DA 35 macro bokeh? Photozone writes of this lens, "The bokeh can be busy at medium focus distances but it seems fine in macro situations."

Dr. Nick, both e-mount and a-mount have always been under the "Alpha" moniker. In fact, there are Alpha logos on the front of many NEX cameras.

Robert Hudyma, There is still quite a bit of difference between the A3000 and NEX-6 in terms of LCD quality (and tilt,) EVF quality, and control buttons/dials. Plus, the NEX-6 is much smaller, and it is more difficult to design and build something small with all of those electronics inside. The interior of the small NEX and RX1 cameras is a work of art.

One good thing about the A3000 is that it has a proper, built in, put your eye up to it, viewfinder. Perhaps this is a sign of a trend for lower priced mirrorless cameras having a viewfinder that's actually useable in bright sunlight. One that encourages a holding method that is good for slow shutter speeds.

Dr_Nick raised an interesting issue:

"I don't get this Sony.
It's an Alpha, but it doesn't use the Sony/Minolta A mount.
What are they doing?"..."Does this new camera signify Sony is going to standardize on one mount?"

I think Sony has started a necessary transition - one that Nikon and Canon cannot avoid indefinitely. The Sony A mount will go away, as will the Nikon F mount, and the Canon EF/EF-S mounts. They will go away because the cameras that require them - cameras with movable or fixed mirrors (SLRs and SLTs) - will also go away. It's only a matter of time - whenever EVFs and on-sensor PDAF are good enough. Whatever "good enough" happens to mean. Hell, for Kirk Tuck that time seems to be here already.

Mike replies: Sorry, I didn't know what the announcement was going to be when I wrote that. Turned out it was Pentax announcing a bunch of "new" lenses...which are the old lenses with a red band around them and a couple of other alleged refreshmentations. (Including supposedly "better" coatings, which I flat don't buy. There was nothing wrong with Pentax's lens coatings before...they were and are among the best.) Seemed like a manaufactured press event to me, so I passed on announcing it. Except in this reply, I guess

They also came out with weatherproofed flashes. This is a big deal. Combine with a weatherproof body and lens, and you have an unbeatable combo for the outdoorsy type. Hopefully they improved on their P-ttl implementation, which was a major factor in me leaving Pentax for more Nikon-y pastures.

Robert asked: "What happened? Did Sony shoot themselves in the foot?"

No. They limited features on this camera. This is not an NEX6 in a different body this is a feature reduced NEX3 with a QVGA (320 x 200!) EVF and a poorer LCD.

They know there are people who still want the manual controls and buttons and nice LCD and EVF. further up the range. From the A3000 they can upsell to NEX range or A-mount DSLRs or if the customer doesn't want to do that they just sell the A3000 to customer.

Sony have already said the future SLT DSLRs are dead. There won't be new models with a pellicle mirror but I suspect there will be new "mirrorless DSLRs"**

There may be new Sony APS DSLRs but they'll all be mirrorless cameras with A-mount lenses. As there will be from Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax (with their respective "DSLR" lens mounts).

** On a minor philosophical note what do you call a "DSLR" that doesn't have a mirror of any sort so it isn't a "reflex camera". This is going to become a question as Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax all make "mirrorless DSLRs" that use a DSLR lens mount with a long empty "mirrorbox" and an EVF.

Sony have finessed the answer with the A3000: it's the body shape that makes it an "SLR". "SLR" now is a word on it's own rather than an abbreviation. For Sony this body shape, not the lens mount, has the brand "Alpha" associated with it. Sony marketers realize that "normal people" (i.e. people other than those reading this comment) don't care about lens mounts.

There is a parallel in which camera enthusiasts ask for "rangefinder" cameras don't want real rangefinder but want a camera with no mirrorbox and a viewfinder in the top left corner that has the shape of a rangefinder.

It should be DMLR, for Digital MirrorLess Reflex. Except that the Sony A3000's viewfinder is electronic, so "reflex" shouldn't be there either.

The lumpy, "organic" DSLR form factor is a digital era development dictated by haptics and choice of materials (polycarbonate). So "D" should be there. Film SLRs were boxy like rangefinders except for the "hump" of the former which housed the pentaprism. Digital RFs have retained the boxy look of their film antecedents. This (boxy with-or-w/o-the-hump look) has been imitated by non-RF mirrorless digicams for that "retro" look. But only DRFs are true to the "form-follows-function" brief, rather than just being retro.

The great thing about the A3000 body is that it is proportional size-wise to its native E-mount ultra-wide and telephoto zooms (or even their bigger SA mount siblings, adapted). It won't have the lens cap look of the Nexes and RF-style M4/3's, when mated with adapted legacy lenses or even their native wides and tele-zooms. Best of all, it's *honest* in terms of price given its form and function.

Among the digital mirrorless ILC's only, the largish ones have proportionately-sized bodies relative to their native lenses, e.g.: GH3, X-Pro1, GXR, and the now-lamented K-01. The small-form factor only really works for fixed-lens mirrorless compacts (GR, RX100, Coolpix A, DP Merrills, RX1) in terms of haptics and aesthetics (and pricing) IMO.

[[It's an Alpha, but it doesn't use the Sony/Minolta A mount.]]

A point of clarification: All Sony NEX cameras are actually called Sony Alpha NEX

"Svein-Frode: "It's kind of sad to see Canon continue with outdated tiny sensors in their 'enthusiast' pocket cams. How the mighty have fallen. The Canon G16 and S120 are as exciting as a new Toyota Corolla...."

Actually Canon is even more similar to Toyota
which seemingly introduces more and different
models of automobile which confuses the
purchaser even more when shopping for a set of new wheels. Between the newly introduced Scion all the way to the top Lexus vehicle,
the variety is amazing. This is confusing as much
as Canon with its cheapest point to the top of the line full-frame mega pixels digital
single lens reflex.

Hey now. I *like* the new Corolla.

That new Sony reminds me of when they put a weedy 4cyl engine in a Mustang, for people that had to have a Mustang but could not afford a real one.

[Really? Looks like the opposite to me, like putting a Corvette V8 in a Pontiac Solstice. --Mike]

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