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Thursday, 27 August 2009


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*Note that the camera is considerably more expensive in the U.K.—£1,947.75, which is equivalent to about $3,150 today.

We call it rip off Britain and we seem to pay more for everything compared with both US and Europe. A regular rant over here. I wonder what you and other US folk would think about the A850 at the $3150 equivalent you quote? Lovely camera but too rich for my Brit blood. Also still getting good results from the 'old' Nikon D80 - see Norfolk in August on my website if you want a squint.

Grumpy old man, UK!

Between the m2/3 of Panasonic and the $2,000 Sony, I think Canon and Nikon must be getting a little worried. Camera-makers used to be manufacturers of great glass with light-tight boxes on the one end; now they're computer makers who are learning to put a lump of glass on one end of the computer, and the glass-making is turning out to be less of a mystical process than it once pretended to be. N&C may be about to learn what happens when big consumer companies get their teeth in a market...

Trying to work out if a flight from UK to US would be worth the difference in the appalling UK price. Or I might just emigrate to a land where photography is taken a bit more seriously than here, moan, grumble, bin waitin' for this, bugger.

If I wasn't already heavily invested in Canon... ooo boy. Though this can be only good for competition. Keep it coming!

Waiting to see what Canon has to offer-- Sony may just kick A** with this A850 and like I said probably a 35MP+ A950? is in the wings at a low price-- At this price it's perfect for everything except sports. The race is on.
Mike, 2 grand isn't parrot feed but if you were shooting film today at $20/roll--thats only 3,600 photos (not including lens) still a great bargain. Digital cameras cost nothing compared to film cameras--even if you include all the other stuff you need.

This shows Sony is committed to the 35mm digital format. Either that or they're desperate. In any case, it leaves only Pentax and Olympus without a FF camera. Olympus will never have one due to their commitment to the 4/3 format, but Pentax...?

If the A850 drifts south in price as the A900 did, and if Nikon/Canon also introduce sub $2k FF cameras, Pentax will have to keep their APS-C offerings closer to $1k if they want to attract buyers, and when they do so these buyers will have to be aware that there is no room to grow (if by "growing" they mean "full-frame", because in just about every other respect the Pentax system has plenty of room for photographic growth).

I hate to say this, but I think Pentax are in trouble.

"Digital cameras cost nothing compared to film cameras--even if you include all the other stuff you need."

Or at least, they would cost nothing if you didn't have to keep buying one after another. Not very many people using their circa 2000 Canon D30's [sic] nowadays, eh?

I just *threw away* a digicam I paid $700 for. Still recovering from that.


Separated at birth?

Abrams Tank

That is big news. Maybe this will force Nikon to make a $2000 FF body. If not, well, I suppose I don't have THAT much $$$ tied up in Nikon lenses and accessories ...

About the 98% vs. 100% viewfinder coverage, if the sensor is being wiggled around by software why couldn't the calibration be done by changing the sensor's home position instead of physically adjusting the mirror and mask in the viewfinder.

On the same note, with vibration reduction with the relationship between the sensor and viewfinder so loosely coupled, what exactly does 100% viewfinder coverage mean?

I'm curious to see what the 950 specs out as.

BTW, parrot feed runs about 10 times as expensive as chicken feed!

It's true. You bought a film camera and pretty much used it for life. With digital, your camera is outdated in a few years at most. But I think that is going to settle in within a couple more generations of camera. I am waiting for a sensor the size of the new Leica S2 and about 50 megapixels, but not a Leica price... there i'll stop.

The SLRs are getting there fast, what is painfully missing is the DMD.
Why have NONE of these manufacturers wised up? I don’t get it.

I would imagine that any difference that IR has found in the A850's IQ compared to the A900's is a matter of sample variation, which is common amongst all brands.

Re: the US-UK price difference: true, but don't forget that the UK price is inclusive of 15% VAT (17.5% from 1/1/10) and that the US price needs to be increased with sales tax (a little less than 9% here in NYC).

Comparing is pretty complex:

If you are a UK resident and you fly out to NYC to buy the 850 at B&H you will pay $2000 plus say 9% sales tax is $2180. That is your final cost. Sales tax can't be refunded, but I have heard cases where sellers are willing to give you 0% sales tax if you can prove that you are a US non-resident. The UK resident runs a risk that customs will pick at him at arrival in the UK and get him to pay 15% import VAT and customs duties.

But if a US resident flies out to London and buys the 850 for $3150, he can get the included VAT back when he exports the camera to the US. 15% VAT included in $3150 is $410. Net cost is $2740. Customs duties are payable when you get back to the US.

All in all a good reason for European folk to come over to the US - the airfares are still pretty good - but you will need to include the risk of being compelled to pay at the UK border.

I'm pretty sure the Nikon D700 sells for less than the Alpha 850 is going to sell for. No?

I have decided not to "upgrade" for at least three years. There is a lot that I still need to learn about the equipment I already have. No point in changing your camera until you have outgrown its capabilities. Besides, in three years, full-frame cameras will surely be available for $1000.

With full frame at $2000, the Nikon D300s at $1800 will have to have a big price reduction.

"so that the fabricators can have just a little slop to work with"

Does that mean that the view in a particular sample may be a little more than 98%? And, in general, can any optical viewfinder be so precise that one can be sure that all the edges and corners are exactly as they will appear in the file? For any lens?

100% coverage is impressive, but I think I'd have trouble trusting that completely and not framing in a little extra. So, in fact, 97% or 98% seems to me like a nice built in cushion for shooting. And don't you want even more extra when shooting for editorial?

From brief handling in a Sony store, yes the A900 viewfinder is sweet. And the boxy-looking body surprisingly comfy and light-feeling in the hands.

The mirror slap seemed a bit much, which leads me to wonder if that extra "slop" might extend to things like the mirror mechanism as well, possibly causing a "microscopically" softer image?

Like some others have said here already, the α850 is making me wonder what Sony has up its sleeve for its next flagship. That, along with the inevitable responses from Nikon and Canon, should be very interesting.

It all depends on how much you shoot. At 100 rolls a year, a level many amateurs reach, and $20 a roll, you can buy a $2000 body each year for what you used to pay for film and processing. Professionals have talked in my hearing quite calmly about spending $18,000 a year in lab fees. (For professionals, I understand that during this change, client expectations are also changing.) But if you shot bulk-loaded B&W and processed it yourself, and only did 20 rolls a year, suddenly that $2000 body looks hugely expensive.

I've certainly been using the offset against lab fees to salve MY aching credit cards.

At the amazon uk link the A850 is more expensive than the A900, we can perhaps expect a revision to that price!

"...and $20 a roll..."

Not for me. I rolled my own film and did my own processing. The last time I costed it out, in the early '90s, it was running me $2.05 a roll, for film, developing chemicals, Printfile Sleeve, and contact sheet. And about 45 minutes per roll, all tasks taken into account.


no matter what price barrier gets broken- digital sucks.

I think I'll wait until the kit is available.
Now who's going to buy an a900? at what price?
Such fun.

Just as we badly need a DMD, we also need a full frame DSLR body no bigger than the Olympus E-620.

> "Digital cameras cost nothing compared to film cameras--even if you include all the other stuff you need."

Or at least, they would cost nothing if you didn't have to keep buying one after another. Not very many people using their circa 2000 Canon D30's [sic] nowadays, eh?

I just *threw away* a digicam I paid $700 for. Still recovering from that.

Not only do you have to get a new digital camera every 2 - 3 years, you also have to pay Adobe $200 every year to upgrade Lightroom or PS; you have to buy new harddrives and backup drives to handle all the GB of raw files, psd files and jpegs; then you have to upgrade the computer every 2 years to deal with all that photo data, unless you're content to take a coffee break between every operation! Sheesh - dektol and microdol were cheaper!

I'm pretty sure the Nikon D700 sells for less than the Alpha 850 is going to sell for. No?

I just paid $2300 5 days ago. I could not find it cheaper from a legitimate dealer.

Yes Mike, this is where I apologize for spending $2800 on Amazon and forgetting to go through your link. I was just so gobsmacked that my wife suggested I buy it I was temporarily insane! My trusty Oly E300 finally croaked.

Next time (like 10 years from now)

DxOMark already has a review up:


"I'm pretty sure the Nikon D700 sells for less than the Alpha 850 is going to sell for. No?"

No; at least not here in the US. Even assuming the A850's suggested retail price will be its street price, the D700 is more. At least several hundred more at reputable dealers.

CB, Digital does suck for some photographers--I have an assignment for you--I need 5,000 photo's taken--not sure what the lighting will be, probably mixed intensities so you will need 135 rolls of each--ISO 100, 400, 800, 3,200 and possibly 12,000 (I know they don't make 12,000 ISO film)-- now we have to travel light so the camera and a few lenses and the 700 rolls of film you have to bring has to be carried by you--Gees I forgot it could be tungsten or daylight--better bring 1,400 rolls of film just to be on the safe side.
Thats only one reason I love digital--There are many many more.

I just realised Amazon US are offering the Nikon D700 for $2,300. B&H have it for $2,400 once you add it to your cart.


For all those Brits willing to travel: First tentative prices here in Germany are 1999€, which spells 2,869.43 USD or 1,763.04 GBP. And that includes 19% VAT, so no hassle at the border as you're buying inner-EU. Should you buy this professionally and have the requisite VAT-ID, you could actually get it minus the 19%. Catch a ferry for the weekend, ey, throw in a couple of bottles of hock for good measure ... ;-)


"Yes Mike, this is where I apologize for spending $2800 on Amazon and forgetting to go through your link."

Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch, and ouch.


P.S. Ouch.

"N&C may be about to learn what happens when big consumer companies get their teeth in a market..."

And that's that is overdue.

Oh, and I can't understand why folks keep comparing digital to a theoretical film cost since hardly anyone uses film anymore. Well, relatively few.

You gotta buy new camera bodies, new more powerful computers, new software that can process the huge new files, new drives to store the resulting files, most of which will never see paper or anything else. Then, you gotta get a printer, and buy ink that is more expensive than gold and seems to evaporate on its own over night. Of course you need paper too.

I have no doubt digital costs me much, much more than film did. I never had to shoot 150-200 images a day when I used primarily film, and could probably get along on fewer today with no problem.

And as much as I am interested in the new Sony, my urge to replace bodies every 3 years died after my D300...Maybe I can get the cost down to film-level someday.

Mike, I got more pain for ya. When I ordered my D700 about 2 months ago, I had every intention of going through your website, but when the day arrived to order my trembling fingers found their way straight to the B&H Photo website. I still don't know how that happened. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that you would find out about my dirty little secret haha, but I guess what goes around comes around. At least I can apologize. I'm sincerely sorry. I feel better now.

"Mike, I got more pain for ya..."

Oh no...this is just a bad day...a very bad day...please stop now....


The finish of the camera is also slightly different, or so I'm told by the one person I know who's actually touched one. Here's Carl's quote - "Matte Black Finish (slightly different than A900)"
from AlphaMountWorld.com here:

As an a900 owner, the a850 isn't that interesting of a camera on a personal level, but knowing that it will attract a few buyers is always good. The a550 is pretty interesting though!

Maybe it's a good day to point out that the "tip jar" is back in the right-hand column (thanks, Mike).

Assuage your guilt with a click or two!

(btw, The tip jar doesn't seem to work with Google's Chrome browser, on this or any other site. Works fine with Firefox.)

Personally, I'm willing to bet that Nikon & Canon execs said "oh crud" way back when they first heard Sony was entering the DSLR market (plans to make Maxxum-compatible cameras were announced about 6 months before the buyout of the DSLR division). I'm sure they knew then that Sony would nibble away at market share and have been strategizing with Sony (and Panasonic and everyone else) in mind all along. They're both fighting tooth and nail and making extremely difficult for anyone else to gain traction. I like Sony's approach here. They're not going to lure many pros away from N & C, but at $2000 for the body and a couple Zeiss lenses, they can probably be nice little "second systems" for some pros, while luring in some well heeled amateurs & fine artists. They have some nice lenses, too ... the 24-70 is a beaut and Nikon and Canon users can crow about AF but I've never seen any lens on any camera AF like the Zeiss 24-70 on the A900. Then the 70-200, 70-300 or 70-400 round things out with a minimal investment. Andy Biggs posted an "impressions" piece on an A900 that Sony loaned him for one of his safaris and he wrote that the 70-400 takes all the best features of the Nikon and Canon equivalents and puts them together in one lens. A few more lenses wouldn't hurt. Mikes 35/2. A 24-105/4. A 100/2. Anyway ... it's refreshing after being a Minolta user for years to see so much 'stuff' coming out in such a short time.

I dont like DSLRs. The result is good and often impossible to get with other cameras, but the experience sucks to be honest. They are noisy, plasticy and ugly beasts and they have this silly triangular shape whih makes them impossible to fit anywhere, which forces me to carry a DSLR bag, which makes me feel like a nerd. I'm in it for the experience, as much as I'm in it for the result. When are they going to make a digital Contax G2, Mamiya 6&7, Zeiss Ikon, Hexar AF, Nikon 35Ti?


"Digital cameras cost nothing compared to film cameras--even if you include all the other stuff you need."

Or at least, they would cost nothing if you didn't have to keep buying one after another. Not very many people using their circa 2000 Canon D30's [sic] nowadays, eh?

I just *threw away* a digicam I paid $700 for. Still recovering from that.


Posted by: Mike Johnston | Thursday, 27 August 2009 at 02:08 PM"

*Off topic rant*

Oh, come on Mike! Haven't we got past this rubbish yet?

You "threw away" a camera, why? Did it stop functioning? Or did you want a new one?

It's well known that we've been shooting at at least 35mm film quality for a couple of years. So your old camera still works and Lightroom will continue to convert the files, just as it did yesterday.

Nowadays we're rapidly approaching the image quality of MF in a DSL body and we gripe and complain about the cost. Compare it to what it is. We want these things because we're finally getting MF film quality at a 35mm price. That sounds pretty cheap to me.

People don't use their D30's much because they don't choose to not because they can't. Same goes for Bronica ETRsi systems as well. And square Hassleblads. And contax.... And most film cameras for that matter.

A new digital body provides a different photographic experience that changing a film camera body just can't. And most of us somewhere deep inside want to beleive what the advertisers tell us. That this new toy really will miraculously take better photos.

*end rant*


The "new" Sony is not listed here in Canada, yet. And like the UK we too get screwed on
pricing. As an example..the
SONY ALPHA A900 D-SLR BODY is $3100.00
plus 13 percent sales tax if purchased in the province of Ontario.
I maybe would be less reticent about these new releases if Sony would replace the name on the camera with Minolta.
Have no idea who has or has not the money for these computers that resemble some cameras.

"You 'threw away' a camera, why? Did it stop functioning? Or did you want a new one?"

It stopped functioning, yes. And because the price had dropped so far (It was an Olympus C-3040, I think, and used ones were going for about a hundred and half when it broke), being broken essentially "totalled" it. It would have cost more just to get it looked at than it was worth.

Oh, and I must say I don't really buy your argument about how we "choose" to stop using old digital cameras. The fact is that most of them were good enough at the time because they were the best we could get back then, at least for the prices we were willing to pay then. But technology has progressed so much that using an old camera is no longer feasible from a results standpoint. I had fun with my F-707, for instance, but the only reason I put up with its oversaturated reds, poor DR, and high noise at ISO 400 was because I had to. It was good enough for me to use then but it is *not* good enough for me to use now. The world has changed around it--and that changes *it*, too.


"Between the m2/3 of Panasonic and the $2,000 Sony, I think Canon and Nikon must be getting a little worried. Camera-makers used to be manufacturers of great glass with light-tight boxes on the one end; now they're computer makers who are learning to put a lump of glass on one end of the computer, and the glass-making is turning out to be less of a mystical process than it once pretended to be."


While I agree with your implicit criticism against Panasonic (they've certainly been shown to cut corners on optics and fix it in the computing, a situation where the end may justify the means in my view), Sony certainly haven't been ignoring the quality of their optics. The G lenses are truly fantastic and the Zeiss offerings are drool-worthy. Where I find fault with Sony is the quantity of their lens choices. There are many fine Minolta designs (including a nice little 35mm f/2, Mike) that seem to be sitting on the shelf for no good reason. Okay Sony, you've proven you can make a fine camera at a fine price. Now give us some lens options!

Further, if someone could explain to me why Zeiss hasn't made AF versions of the ZF designs in alpha mount, I'm all ears. If I were Sony, I'd not only be releasing many more of the Minolta designs, I'd be on Zeiss' case to bring those fantastic primes. They're such good lenses that Canon finally licensed their mount to a third party, just to keep the ZF seekers from ignoring their full frame bodies. Offering those lenses in AF seems like something that Sony should prioritize.

I've been shooting film for a very long time and have no plans to go digital but I do find the Sony interesting.

As for costs:
Hasselblad 503cw with 80mm CFI lens and back $1000
Pentax light meter $300
New in the box Saunders 4550XLG enlarger $300
building Darkroom including walls and SS sink $2000
125 rolls a year $500

Purchased a second darkroom from dead guy $400, parted out and made $3000

if "adding" digital to my equipment:
Sony A850 $2000
Sony lens $800
Apple Imac $1500
Photoshop $700
Epson printer $1200

I'll be shooting film and loving it until I can get a FF camera for $1200 or less.

I don't think the argument you're making is going to hold up much longer, Mike. There are fine reasons these days to not use an old 3MP D30. Eight years from now, a D700 will fare much better, I imagine.

Obviously, progress is progress and temptation is temptation. But whereas right now an "old" digital camera is full of flaws and imperfections that seem to demand upgrade, we've now reached a point with many cameras where the resolution, noise, and clarity usually beats film across the board. There are very few shots that I could get with an F100 that I couldn't get better with my D700. Whereas my D70 constantly annoyed me in one way or another, the D700 never does. Does this mean I'll hang onto the D700 indefinitely? Not necessarily. But when I replace it, it will be because I've been compelled to do so by real progress, not because it was a tool that failed to be all I could want it to be. For me, the D700 is the first digital to meet that benchmark, and as more cameras do, I think companies will have to redouble their efforts to entice people to upgrade.

Viewed as apples-to-apples as I can make it, I don't think that digital is at all more expensive than film for most users.

The cost of a DSLR, media, and batteries compares pretty favorably to the cost of an SLR plus film, processing, and batteries over that camera's lifetime.

The cost of an external hard drive for archiving compares pretty favorably to the cost of negative sleeves and notebooks necessary to store an amount of images equal to those that said drive could hold.

The cost of printing from digital seems to compare pretty favorably to the cost of printing from film. Again, staying as apples-to-apples as I can, drugstore printing is cheaper in my experience, pro lab printing is about the same, and some websites will do some very nice large prints for much less than you'd ever hope for in the days of film. I'm not much of a home printer, but I imagine the cost of a nice printer is less expensive than the cost of an enlarger and the assorted things needed for film printing, especially factoring in the expense of building a purpose-built room for the job. Paper and ink probably cost about the same as paper and chemistry.

The computer you already have and Lightroom isn't that expensive. Plus, Lightroom (or Aperture, ACR, CaptureOne) never need to be upgraded. Even if you buy a new camera that's not supported, DNG converter is free and allows even images from the newest cameras to be opened with old versions of this software. If that's too inconvenient or you like the new features, the upgrade for most of this software is very reasonable: $100 in the case of Lightroom. Even then, all DSLRs come with some software for free, and if you shoot JPEG you don't even need that.

Sure, the costs have moved from one place to another. And, importantly, many have moved forward, so that they're "up front" instead of over time (the camera and archival storage, specifically). But I really don't think it is more expensive. And the best part is that apart from printing, once you've hit that "break even" point versus film, you can keep going, at no cost. Meanwhile, most users have alot more control over the final product than they did with film, because most users didn't have a home darkroom.

We're living in opulent times! Who has time to complain when there's so much photography to be done?

One of the reasons that we upgrade digital cameras is because of new functions becoming available that weren't previously. Ok, some are little more than gimmics but others such as ISO adjustment, white balance and the abilty to store thousands of images with ease are now just taken for granted. Imagine if these functions had become available on film cameras 20 years ago. I'm sure many people would have gone for the upgrade. I really can't see anything wrong in wanting better image quality. The important thing is to not just upgrade because the latest camera has a few more functions built in. Only upgrade if there is definite and significant improvement in picture quality.

"they have this silly triangular shape whih makes them impossible to fit anywhere, which forces me to carry a DSLR bag, which makes me feel like a nerd."

Spyro, there are bags and backpacks specifically made so they don't look like camera bags.

Or you could go with Pen. Bermuda shorts with cargo pockets - one pocket, Pen with OM 28/2.8 on it (with adapter); the other pocket, OM 50/1.2. And most of the street shooting needs are covered.

If Zeiss would develop prime lenses for Sony like they did for other brands (ZF, ZE and ZK), I would go for the Sony camera. No doubt. Those fantastic primes on a full frame camera with I.S. - love it!

Easy to say, because I don't have invested in Nikon or Canon. (I shoot Zeiss Ikon and Mamiya 7.)

Just wait until your out-of-warranty sony camera breaks and you see what the repair estimate is. With these folks, what you save now you end up paying later. No joke!

What I find typical is that the A850 is listed as 1999 euros, while I can get the A900 for that price right now at several of my favourite stores.

So if you're in the EU, a trip to Holland might be quite profitable.

Dear Will,

This is a minor point, but color darkroom paper and chemicals cost a LOT less than digital paper and ink. Anywhere from two to five times less; three is a good average number. If someone is a heavy printer, the cost of going to digital printing will swamp any savings on film costs and processing.

Not that there aren't really good reasons for doing digital printing, but economics isn't one of them. If you're into printmaking rather than just photograph-making, the argument that silicon is cheaper than silver becomes problematical.


Dear Robert e,

Thanks for the pointer to the DxOMark review; it confirms my suspicion that any differences in appearance between the A850 and A900 photographs has to do with the JPEG rendering and isn't in the RAW files.

Actually, out of curiosity, I downloaded I-R's full frame JPEG's and I had a lot of trouble seeing any consistent difference in detail or sharpness between the two cameras. In some parts of the photograph, the A900 look sharper, and others it was the 850. And the difference was never very large. I have a suspicion there may be some differences in how the JPEG algorithms for the two cameras weight different spatial frequencies, but it's not a very big difference. I think the relative evaluation depends more on what one's eyes are sensitive to.

As a test, I tried applying Smart Sharpen in Photoshop to the 850 image. With a 0.5 pixel radius, at 10% strength, the filtered 850 image looked everywhere as sharp and detailed as the 900 image. If I upped the strength to 20%, the 850 image was everywhere sharper and more detailed. Note that that is a really weak level of sharpening. We're talking about awfully small differences and nuances here. So I think for any practical purpose, one has to say that the images produced by the two cameras are identical.

By the way, there's a cool new feature on the DxOMark site. There is a "spectrum" vertical slider to the right of the graphs for the various characteristics, like bit depth. Move that slider up and down and you get a background image that shows you approximately how image quality changes visually as the level of the characteristic being graphed changes. It's rather neat. The one for dynamic range appears to be miscoded; changing the dynamic range changes the noise in the background image, not the exposure range portrayed. But the others seem to be correct.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

This is a technical question: If I bought the Sony 850, and used the Tamron 28-200 or Tamron 28-300, would the chip out-resolve the lens? Or would the lens resolution and the chip resolution match?

If I bought the Nikon D700, the lens/chip resolution would match as far as I can tell.

Your thoughts?

For all the brits complaining about the RRP, I'm sure the price will drop rapidly. After all you can get an A900 for £1699 - and that's from Jessops! (Jessops are a notoriously expensive UK photographic retailer)

Man, this looks promising :)
However, a lower MP FF camera at this price would steal my heart.

I usually don't get involved in comment rants, but, when we ALL used film, we did NOT use a film body for a lifetime. I started with a Praktica LTL, then a Yashica FR1, then a Contax 139, then a Contax RTSII. Who was buying all those Canon F1s, Nikon F2s/F3s/F4s, Minolta XE7XD11s, Pentax Spotmatics, MXs, LXs etc.? Why are there Leica M7s?

As far as storage, with the exception of a few peeps I know, most families have no idea where the negatives are for the yellowing prints they have in shoeboxes/cheap vinyl/magnetic photo albums. No one I know, except me..., store their negs in acid free archival boxes and sleeves. Which would still disappear if my house burned. Unlike my digital pix, since I've a cheap 1TB hard drive that I back up each week automatically, and shuttle into work. And I just started using a great 'data vault' service available thru SmugMug. So even if the entire state of Massachusetts flooded, my pix would still live in cyberspace even if I floated out to sea!

Things ain't better or worse now. They are just different!

This is definitely a game-changer and will likely force eventual price reductions from Canon and Nikon. But I suspect that any price drops will be slow in coming from Nikon, which has the D700x scheduled for delivery soon as a more affordable FX option.

I expect an introductory price of around US$4,000 for the D700x, which should help Nikon hold its ground among established Nikon shooters. Yes, this would be twice the price of a Sony A850, but for folks who already have lots of Nikon glass, it will still cost more to go with Sony.

For these shooters, the options are: (1) Stay with Nikon, buy a D700x and keep using current lenses (total investment = $4,000) vs. (2) buy a Sony and two or three pro-grade lenses (total investment = $5,000 to $8,000.)

The math obviously is different for people who are new DSLRs and have no legacy glass (or have old Minolta lenses), but the market is so saturated now, these customers are few and far between. Besides, is this customer even interested in a full-frame 24MP body?

Interesting times ahead.

Carl Leonardi, you plan to take 5000 shots? Well, as long as you talk digital capture I care for none of em. Digital equals falsification (you can get a glimpse of a few of the biggest mistakes on photoshodisasters.com). This is not photography this is image creation. I couldn't care less.

Lots of comments on the new Sony, Mike! I think that Sony HAS to be agressive becasue Canon & Nikon have such an installed user base, they have a compehensive lens selection, and brand loyalty is (fairly) high. I myself have just switched from Canon to Nikon (5d to D700) and am slowly selling off lenses and buying new ones. It's not a pleasant process, and NO one camera maker has it all.. Nikon has better bodies and AF, in my opinion. Canon has (generally) better lenses and IS. Sony.. well, in film days I lusted after the Minolta 7, a 1/12000th of a second professional body. Now they are playing the price card, and are slowly adding to their lens repertoire with Zeiss optics. That will be a formidable combination in a few years. Full frame DSLRs are stupidly overpriced by Canon and Nikon. They think they can charge a premium, and as they were the only ones (a little while ago Canon was the only one) they could pretty much do as they wished. Sony is bringing a new dynamic. They will attract the amateur market I am sure, and this market is actualy much more profitable than the pro market. The pro-market is possibly worth 5% to each company. The rest comes from rich amateurs and semi-pros that need to contain their expenses. In this context Sony will grow their market share rather more quicly than the main two would wish for. In this contest I think that Nikon will fare rather worse than Canon, because they are positioning their products are being of a higher quality than (and therefore more expensive) everyone else. Look at the D3x.. silly pricing move, but they want to prove a point. The point being.. they are selling VERY few. They are earning bragging rights. Meanwhile most pros are going with the cheaper 5DII and Sony offerings. This is not idle speculation.. Michael Reichmann is one such convert. There are others. Newly graduated photography students who need to penny-pinch are thinking seriously of the Sony offering. Nikon may be gaining back it's lost pro base but that's not really where the money is, it's the much larger slice of semi-pro's and amateurs.. The original 5D was a HUGELY successful camera for Canon (how else to expain a 3 YEAR PRODUCT CYCLE.. For a DSLR that is unheard of!). Cheap full-frame is where the action is. Wake up Nikon. Good on you Sony. Canon, can you catch up?

A side note about FF pricing.. The $2000 barrier was broken by the 5D late in it's life. It was selling NEW for around $1600 if memory serves correctly, after various rebates. That should be no surprise, as the 5D (and others like it) are basically a 40D ($1000 camera) with a bigger sensor. That sensor doesn't cost $1000.. camera manufactures are making a fortune on FF cameras. Do not be decieved. Yes, FF is more expensive than a DX sensor, but NOT in the order of $1000! Marketing and positioning are dictating those prices..

*Note that the camera is considerably more expensive in the U.K.—£1,947.75, which is equivalent to about $3,150 today.

Doesn't make a great deal of sense, as the A900 is on sale at half-a-dozen retailers for several hundred pounds less!

"I usually don't get involved in comment rants, but, when we ALL used film, we did NOT use a film body for a lifetime."

Very true, least of all me (my friends used to taunt me about my proclivity to buy new cameras constantly). But the difference is that I can still use my Pentax ESII to take pictures that would go on the wall next to my latest conventional prints, whereas prints from my old Olympus C3040 don't stand up to prints from the D700 or K20D. Plus, the C3040 cannot be fixed, and uses SmartMedia, a flash memory format that is already outmoded. The media used by the ESII (a 35mm film cassette) is still available, for the time being at least.

We certainly did buy new cameras to get new features in the film era, no question. Perhaps it's just that the pressure to engage in successive upgrades has just gotten more insistent with digital, is all.


Wait, $700 dollars cheaper for
"highest-resolution SLR-style camera you can buy and the cheapest full-frame digital camera you can buy."

I think you forgot to add your other big deal feature.

Now I'm definately on board, since Canon has pretty much said no to inbody stablization.

*sigh* anybody want to buy my XTi?

Dear Misha,

PLEASE reread this column:


Unless the camera and the lens resolutions differ by more than a factor of two, improving either one produces an observable improvement in total system resolution.

The folks out there who argue for 'matching resolutions' don't know what they're talking about.


Dear cb,

You are not the audience.

If you were to decide whether or not you liked my art based on the medium I used for making the photograph or for printing it, I'd be totally uninterested in whether or not you liked my art. 'Cause it wouldn't be my photograph you cared about, it'd be just the craft.

pax / Ctein


I just bought a Peterbilt eighteen-wheeler through Amazon, and I'm sitting here slapping myself on the forehead...blahblahblah.

I never tried to figure out if digital is cheaper than film, but most of the ancillary stuff (computers, hard drives, etc.) I had before I got a digital camera. I also had a darkroom that took up about 140 or 150 square feet of my house, and that space has now been reduced to a printer that takes up about four square feet and makes gorgeous color prints.

The Sony is undoubtedly a great camera for the price, but I couldn't use it because it looks like it fell out of an ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down; it simply doesn't meet my refined standards for industrial design.

"I'm never going to understand why camera companies introduce multiple products on the same day"

Yeah! Talk about brain dead marketing. It' like putting the cameras behind each other on the shelf.

[[It stopped functioning, yes.]]

I sure hope you mean that you put it in a box with the rest of your electronics for delivery to the local electronics recycling center. :)

[[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]]

Tamron makes a 28-75mm f/2.8 lens. Hasn't Sony rebranded Tamron lenses before?

"Tamron makes a 28-75mm f/2.8 lens. Hasn't Sony rebranded Tamron lenses before?"

Not sure, but Konica-Minolta did. The 17-35mm and 28-75mm, both excellent lenses.


"Tamron makes a 28-75mm f/2.8 lens. Hasn't Sony rebranded Tamron lenses before?"

I think it's a Tamron. They make a constant 2.8/28-75.

Sony would be foolish not to use something on the shelf. Sony is also charging 2x the Tamron's price.

Hi Mike,

As a point of reference, my dad paid 2000$ for a full frame rangefinder...in 1954. (Inflation adjusted.*) Sony may have found a usable price point for amateurs, but that Retina IIa was producing better quality images in 1989 than when it was new. That's the weak point in their strategy.

For me, film vs digital is a question of the best tool for the job. I use my Olympus E520 for pictures of my kid, and I use my XA to carry in my pocket wherever I go. I use my Nikon FG with a 50mm f/1.8 when I want shallow DOF or to shoot with less noise than the E520 offers in low light. And I use an 6x6 MF folder** for scenery on vacations. Unlike the Sony, I can afford to buy a new one if I break it.

I may very well spend 2000$ a year in film and developing, but I never have 2000$ all in one place to pay for a camera, nor would I give up shooting film for a year for the privilege of owning one. Meanwhile, my E520 still isn't a small as my FG, so wake me when they make a full frame sensor small enough to bolt on to it. (Olympus, I'm looking at you: where's my full frame digital XA?)

*and we probably paid another 5,000$ in Kodachrome and processing over the next 35 years.
**an Agfa Isolette, ebay, $42.50 with s/h., bellows intact. Olympus XA, ebay, $52, cracked front cover but fully functional. FG and lenses were inherited, E520 was 450$ from Amazon.

Sony, which owns about 11% of Tamron, has rebranded a number of Tamron lenses, particularly in the DT lineup.

@misha: Those Tamron super-zooms are not terribly good. They'll produce equally bad results on the D700 and A850. I would suggest you consider much higher-end glass if you're looking at full-frame, or instead buy better lenses and a lower-end camera. A Nikon D5000 with a 16-85VR and 70-300VR will produce better results and cost significantly less than a low-end consumer superzoom like the Tamron 28-200 or 28-300 on a D700 or A850.

"...'photography enthusiasts' (again, who are all these non-photographers buying other DSLRs?)..."

They're usually the ones using the pop-up flash on their EOS Rebel (with kit lens) to take a photo of a building 200ft away.

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