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Friday, 02 September 2011


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It seems to me that the success of the A55, which was probably the biggest sales success of all Sony DSLR/SLTs, shows at least somewhat of a market willingness to adopt the new technology. However, I think the major function of both the A77 and NEX-7 is in their indication of what cameras will be like in the future. The more moving/mechanical parts that these big Japanese companies can remove from the camera, the more profitable they will be, and I don't expect there to be many cameras with OVFs or mirrors in ten years. Sony seems to be leading that charge, which makes sense for their business model, I'd imagine.

The past Pellicle debacle may be exactly why Sony has steered clear of the term. In other words, "translucent" may actually be genius marketing.

It won't be the first time that lousy English has been used in good marketing. "Think different" anyone?

I don't know that it was that EOS camera that gave pellicle a bad reputation. I think it was an earlier Canon, the Pellix of 1966. It sent a substantial percentage of light up to the viewfinder. Result: dimmer viewfinder image, and loss of light to the film. In their 1968 Lab Report, Popular Photography said: "Under identical conditions, with the same lens, the Pellix may require you to use a slower shutter speed. If you do lots of low-light shooting, the Pellix is not for you." This wasn't an imaginary problem--it was real.

I expect that very few buyers of the A77 will have any awareness of the Pellix, which failed before most of them were even born. But there's still a collective memory.

The viewfinder problem with pellicle designs is no more, because of EVFs. But the idea that my image is going through a pellicle mirror bugs me, even if there's no technical reason why it should.

"But the idea that my image is going through a pellicle mirror bugs me, even if there's no technical reason why it should."

Exactly my point....


Hmmm.. I defer to your far greater knowledge of camera history in general, but I'll say that any argument that depends on folks knowing the actual definition of a word (with more that 3-4 letters) is suspect. But then, it might be that my friends/acquaintances aren't a good sample. In fact, now that I think about it, they aren't - I just had to look up 'acquaintances' to spell it right. I do think if the IQ and pricing of those 'pellicle' (speaking of off putting words, what's with that) cameras is right, they will be a hit. Like you say, we'll see.


PS I love my R1, set the EVF to B&W, super way to 'previsualize' the final B&W print - and you still get an RGB file to play with.

They should never have mentioned it at all. They only provided a target for all the cross-hairs. Nobody knows how anything works anyway, if they had kept quiet, maybe people would have just bought and used the camera instead of second-guessing engineering/optical design decisions that most people don't know anything about in the first place.

i'm a weird one who bought the a55 specificly because it had an evf (also IBIS). i exclusively shoot manual focus so i was attracted by the ability to zoom for focusing as well as getting a real wysiwyg experience of dof and not having to deal with focus screen calibration issues. anyway since i'm only shooting manual focus i removed the mirror as it served no purpose for me. from the few shots i took prior to removing it there was no difference in image quality with or without. my canon FL 55mm f/1.2 lens outresolved the sensor at the same apertures with and without the mirror (for those keeping track diffraction becomes visible somewhere between f/5.6 and f/8). the light loss due to the mirror was about 1/3 of a stop - this is the reason i removed the mirror, i need all the light i can get. anyway, image quality is the best i've seen from an aps-c camera and focusing and composing with the evf is fantastic except (obviously) on fast moving subjects. hopefully the newer high res high refresh rate a77 will be a substantial improvement in those situations.

What turns me off from the entire idea is that if you get a fingerprint on the mirror, it's a trip to the service center. Sneeze while changing a lens, get drops on that mirror, it's a trip to the service center. Out there in the dust and get that mirror dirty, it's a trip to the service center.

Because the light goes through the mirror and anything on that will negatively impact the image.

That would make me think three times before changing lenses in the field...

I'm afraid you're behind the times. If the last ten days of nattering on the fora at various photo-review sites is any indication, it's already been decided that this camera is doomed to fail miserably for two reasons you've mentioned and one you haven't:

- EVFs are for point-n-shoots. No serious camera could ever put up with an EVF. After all, they introduce so much lag between image hitting sensor that your kid will have run out of the picture long before you release the shutter. (Ignore the opinions of most reviewers - that is, people who've actually used the cameras and who therefore can't know as much as people who just speculate about them - that after a short while they entirely forgot that they were looking at an EVF. And never mind that broadcast television cameras have been using EVFs for years. The viewfinder is fed from the sensor, by the way; as far as I know the reflected light is for the AF system only.)

- That pellicle mirror just steals too much light - it has to, doesn't it? (Estimates are that it's about 30% reflective and 70% transmissive.) That means that the signal from the sensor has to be boosted, which means that High ISO images su - er, stink. And of course everyone knows that what's really important is having noise-free images at ISO 12800.

- Twenty-four megapixels on an APS-C sized sensor? What WAS Sony thinking? They're just trying to show off, is all. The files are way too big to work with, nobody needs that kind of resolution, and anyway it's impossible for lenses to resolve that much detail. And all those teeny tiny photosites gather next to no light, which means that the signal from the sensor has to be boosted, which means that High ISO images su - er, stink.

I do agree that Sony has made one big marketing mistake: They allowed previewers to release pictures taken with unfinished firmware, which everyone, including Sony, admits doesn't do a good job of interpreting the data from sensor and does a worse job creating JPEGs. This has given lots of fodder to proponents of those last two points.

For my part, I'm an EVF skeptic (not thrilled with the display in the A55), but I'm reserving judgment until I actually play with a released camera. There are so many things I like about the A77, at least on paper (ISO 50? really?); I hope the reviewers are right in their positive first impressions, because I want one to put next to my A700 (I hope my wife's not reading this).

I hate to comment in a field I know nothing about, but, what the heck, it has never stopped me before. I think Sony should price the camera very low, even to be a loss leader, to get it into the hands of lots of customers and build a base of support. In 3 to 5 years it could come out with a "super duper" model which then could be priced to make money. It would take a long view to make it work.

For many people I suspect the biggest real drawback of the A77 might actually be its impact on workflow and data storage. The raw files from that 24Mp sensor are going to be about 25Mb in size, so if you shoot raw and JPEG together you won't get much more than 100 shots on a 4Gb card. Also, in continuous drive mode the data rate is going to be upwards of 200Mb per second, which is way above the maximum write speed of even the fastest SD cards. And once you get home, processing and storing those files is going to require serious amounts of computing power and disk space.

Sony seem to have made some real advances here. However, in the short term I think they might well have built a camera that exceeds the data-handling capacity of most of the people who're likely to buy it. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes the workflow side of the industry to catch up.

I missed any references to the Nikon F2h. Also any old 16mm film types will be very familiar with beam splitters. I still have the CP 16a I shot my last film story on and the 12-120 Angenieux on it has a built in viewfinder using a beam splitter.
Film off this box was every bit as sharp as that done on a CP16r which had a rotationg mirror shutter. The principle difference between them was that the non reflex model was quieter and cheaper. The reflex was easier to focus but not by much.
The beam splitter knocked the F2.2 down to a T 2.5, not a big deal then, shouldn't be one now.

Marc, thanks! You did a better job bringing up the Pellix than I probably would have.

That was closer to a 50:50 split than a modern one probably would be, AND we were limited to the film speeds of the 60s (and 70s eventually), AND the viewfinder wasn't amplified. So I can see the argument that it has different tradeoffs than the A77.

There was a rumor I heard multiple places that the f/1.2 lens existed to help make up for the light loss in the mirror. (This was almost certainly nonsense, and people with only ordinary SLRs still made f/1.2 lenses, and still do.)

The moving mirror in an SLR is fragile, and we were all warned to never touch it with anything and be very very very careful even blowing on it. A fixed pellicle "should be" worse -- possibly more fragile (thinner coating), AND it's in the imaging path, not just the viewfinder path, so cleanliness matters more, and damage also matters more.

My friend Emma Bull actually had one. I don't recall it being outstandingly good, or bad, in any practical way.

Mike, interesting point about sharpness. It's entirely likely that I and most of the rest of the world underestimate the impact of mirror-related camera shake.

For me the pellicle mirror is just another thing to worry about. It takes away some of the light, something of importance for those who care about image quality at high ISOs, specially with so many megapixels, but for me the real problem is that the mirror is another thing that can fail -ask Canon 5D users :)- and I'd be very afraid of having to clean such a fragile surface (I know of people who needed to send their cameras -A55- to get the mirror replaced).

So as much as I like what the A77 has to offer, if I'm going to embrace electronics, EVF and all, I'll just pass over this 'transition' technology -is there someone who doubts that CDAF or in-sensor PDAF will completely kill mirrors soon?- and pick its downsized mirrorless version, the NEX 7, or even the 5N with what has to be the best APS-C sensor at the moment.

NEXes are smaller, have precise focus -no back/front focusing with contrast AF-, more lenses available (native or adapted -OM, Leica M...-, and with the new adapter with PDAF, and pellicle of course, all Alpha lenses), better IQ -no mirror or less pixels-, choice of integrated or attachable EVF... Really? What can the A77 offer? Ergonomics -if you like the bulk-, weathersealing -that you can combine with only one lens- and GPS?

If I were Sony, and after so many time forcing users to wait for the A700 replacement, I would just have killed the APS DSLR line and focus on mirrorless systems: one APS -the current NEX system- and... one FF. A mirrorless FF system... that's something! What company will be the first to come with it? Oh, current Leicas don't count, you know what I mean. I personally bet on Canon, they have to be so quite in the mirrorless arena for something (we know Nikon is coming with a new system, just with an small sensor).

Well, things will get really interesting with the next FF camera from Sony: will be another SLT with EVF? Will they dare? I guess A77's sales will decide.

I have to agree with Ray - even the word "pellicle" sounds like something that should be surgically removed from the body. Sadly, I also feel the same about off-putting words -- words with more than 3-6 letters will be a chore to understand, and will probably be dismissed by the potential purchaser as an overly technical part of the description. Just my (hopefully over-cynical) view.

Hey, an oblique reference to the EOS 630, the camera that earned me more money than any other. Now nicked and grimy with a smudged, homemade reference table permanently glued across her back, the old girl still fires away like when she was young and pretty. I've sold everything else EOS, but I cannot let 630 go.

I think everyone misses the point, it doesn't make any noise when fired.
Cuts out all that clatter chatter for news guys and sound guys doing video.
It's a boon to the sneaky pete's camera guys.
It's a pro point and shoot.

I think the biggest concern in terms of image quality for the A77 shouldn't be the loss of 1/3 stop of light, but the problem of keeping the mirror clean. The other problem for me is that there are precious few lenses that take close to full advantage of the 24MP sensor, and not many times that I need or want the extra resolution. 12MP RAW processing can be slow enough.

Long term, it seems more likely that we'll just lose the mirror entirely, so the A77 beam splitter approach feels like a transitional step.

I agree, somebody has got to be working on a full-frame mirrorless system. Maybe Fuji and Nikon? That would be something. But this is a different camera designed to use a current dslr lens system well and still be, well, different. But is it true you can't clean the mirror yourself? That seems a little odd. And does anyone know if the camera is weather-sealed to any degree?

Laurence, shall I count the number of words in your paragraph with more than 3-6 letters? Seems like you're not that uncomfortable with them!

Carl, "doesn't make any noise" is likely to be a gross exaggeration. Leica M-series make noise, and my EPL-2 makes noise, and the Fuji X100 makes noise, and other EVIL cameras I've heard make noise. Mostly the noise is from the shutter in these cases; when you have interchangeable lenses you pretty much have to have a focal plane shutter, and even a leaf shutter (which the X100 could and I think does use) makes some noise.

I'd be shocked if the A77 was drastically different in sound output levels. (Generally the noise levels are less on a camera with a shutter and a moving mirror than they are on a camera with just a shutter, no moving mirror, of course. I'd agree that it should be quieter than a (D)SLR.)

Still kept two EOS RT bodies in case I ever want to shoot 35mm film - loved those cameras.

This really isn't a risk for Sony. Without some sort of dramatic change/shift, they know what future in the DSLR marketplace is - very poor. I can't say I am a fan of the video-driven technology. But to lie back and accept the fate that took Minolta, Olympus and soon-to-be Pentax, that is no risk at all.

p.s. I remember dreaming about the Eos RT.

I like the look of this camera but I really think the NEX 7 might be the ultimate winner for Sony. No mirror a completely different option from the DSLR so can with the right smaller prime appeal to Canon and Nikon DSLR shooters it can compliment their kit. For a shoulder bag carrier like my self the size of mirror less cameras are fine not too heavy not too poor quality, I carry an EP-1 with me all the time. I would have no problem carrying a NEX or the Samsung. The A77 has the problem of being a big camera and will people dump their current cameras to go with a Sony?

"I'll bet it [the pellicle mirror] diverts extremely little light, because the VF is electronic and can be amplified for the eye." I may be missing something, but this doesn't make sense to me. The mirror is reflecting light to the autofocus sensor. The VF is showing the image from the main imaging sensor. So the amount of light being diverted has nothing to do with the amount of gain being applied to the VF. Right?

I'm not in the market for a DSLR-type camera now, but to me the problem with the A77 is the same old problem with Sony: they haven't figured out that a camera company needs to be an optics company. Panasonic has figured it out. Samsung has figured it out. Why can't Sony? (Zeiss is a great optics company with a very limited alpha mount line. Minolta was a great optics company -- and if they were still making cameras, there's no way they'd be trying to pawn off their old 1990s designs at premium prices.)

As for your two main points, you may well be right. No one will ever go broke overestimating the willingness of Internet experts to dismiss an interesting product for spurious reasons.

It seems to me that Sony is competing with itself when comparing the NEX7 with the A77. What does the A77 offer that the NEX7 doesn't? They use the same viewfinder and the same sensor. The sole reason for maintaining the bulky size of a camera with a mirror box is for the phase detection autofocus. Is that single feature going to be enough to open the wallets of the advanced amateurs? I suspect not.

Plus One for Marc Rochkind...

I think I mentioned on here before, I DID test the Pellix extensively because I was interested in an SLR camera as quiet and vibrationless as a rangefinder, and I DID see a difference in image sharpness, the Pellix being "not-as-sharp"...the idea was that the camera would have a higher frame rate for photo-journalists, where the quality of reproduction would be moot...

I'm perfectly happy to believe Mike, tho, that the newer RT had no such problems. The advanced quality of optical glass, coatings, image absorption material, etc, etc, would certainly all lend itself to the idea that something like this would be 'perfected' or at least improved beyond anybodies ability to see the difference. I would beg to differ that a pellicle mirror and a beam splitter are in the same league, tho, as some on here have mentioned, I would bet that, at least in earlier days, a beam-splitting prism might be a much higher quality item than a pellicle mirror in terms of image quality.

I actually hold out great hope for the electronic viewfinder. I like the idea of watching that little face recognition box follow the subject around the viewfinder while it's held up to my eye, it's actually the only autofocus I'd ever need with the subjects I do...but, as my great friend Gary, the videographer and cinematographer, says: "...these EVL electronic viewfinder cameras are like looking through a 1970's video camera...".

I think this is a non issue. The success oor failure of most any of the advanced amateur cameras is based on sales at places like Best Buy, there are too few real camera stores out there. I don't think there are enough pixel peepers out there for the internet to be that much a factor. If the camera is easy to hold and priced right, it will be a success. I've know quite a few rank amateurs that hace reduced sensor sized cameras that are totally unaware of the bad VF's.

Camera companies shouldn't be selling hardware, they should be selling pictures. Does the Sony A77 make better pictures?

I still have my Canon Pellix in a drawer around here somewhere.

Will the phase-detect AF work in low light as well as it does in a moving mirror camera? Don't know but it's at least up for question.

It's not just the sensor that's getting less light, it's the EVF. EVFs are at their worst in low light as frame rates slow and noise degrades the viewfinder image. Sony's EVF not only has to be better than the EVFs in Micro Four Thirds cameras, it has to be better with less light.

Finally, the biggest unarguable benefit of the pellicle mirror is the fast still image frame rate. But Sony has only one fast prime in its system to offer at 300mm. There won't be high profile sports/action/wildlife etc. photographers validating a camera that doesn't have the lenses they need.

Mike the viewfinder image is from the main sensor , only the phase detect sensors get the reflected image, so the mirror only needs to reflect enough to make the autofocus work.
I think Olympus had some sort of m 4/3 camera with an extra sensor for viewing.

All the fuss about EVF cameras in bright sunlight seems misplaced. Brightness on my R1 was never a problem even at the beach. The good thing is that EVF cameras make it possible to photograph in light so dim that I can't see without the camera.

The file size issue doesn't seem to be relevant, canon is selling boatloads of 5dIIs and I never hear anyone complain about file size with them.

Keeping the mirror clean shouldn't be that big a deal. It's kind of far away from the sensor so dust shouldn't be a problem, and it sounds like it can be user replaced or just removed for manual focus.

BTW, I've wondered why no one makes a 3 chip still camera using a dichroic beam splitter with 3 monochrome chips just like in broadcast video cameras. No Bayer array and no moving parts. Anyone here know why , other than the deep lens register issues ? It seems pretty obvious, and those dichroic beam splitter prisims are pretty rugged.

To be honest, I only have two complaints about Sony, neither about the camera bodies functional brilliance per se but...

1. If there is so much less mechanical complexity in the cameras, why are they still so expensive?

2. Where can I buy one?

Things may be different in the US, but in the UK Sony is simply not taken seriously by dealers or customers.

The total bomb that was the A900 (and A850) didn't help dealers and nor did the wait for the A700 replacement. Sony set fire to all their bridges and are now expecting customers to ford rivers and gorges to get to their products. Won't happen.

However, I expect Canon and Nikon to be coming up with something in the same space pretty soon and guess what? Everyone will buy it.

Whenever I see new (recycled?) and clever ideas like the pellicle mirror I always root for it to do well. Innovations like these are the things that move camera development forward, which is good for everyone whether they buy Sony or some other manufacturer.

The problem from Sony's perspective is I'm rooting for their camera, on my couch with my wallet in my pocket. I'm a Nikon shooter and likely always will be. Even if it was remotely practical to sell my $10K in Nikon gear and buy a whole Sony kit, I wouldn't. Like a previous commenter said, I don't want to buy into a system that could suffer "the fate that took Minolta, Olympus and soon-to-be Pentax" off the map.

Sony, specifically, is a huge company and cameras are a small piece of what Sony does. Sony could shut down they're entire camera division and it would register as a minor blip on their balance sheet. I like a camera company making cameras because the company's life depends on it (assuming the company is sustainable, of course).

Sony's best hope is in the enthusiast who has't bought into a system yet. The problem with that is Sony's system isn't compelling. A clever camera is no good if there aren't the lenses to make Sony a viable option for those people making a long term system choice.

Sony needs to decide that they are all in (with a complete system) or the bean counters will decide that they're all out... And that would be a shame.

Good points, Michael. I remember the EOS but money was tight then and it was too much for me.

There are two trends in Sony's favor now that Canon couldn't take advantage of. First, is that we now expect our SLRs to be great video cameras. Sony's new models have a real advantage there over the complicated shutter arrangements needed with-penta-prisms. The second is the internet. We can drop by DPReview or DXO Labs and read reliable reviews that just weren't available 20 odd years ago. If DP review or Imaging Resource really likes the new Sony pellicle mirror cameras that could be a big boost. Just as bad reviews can kill a new release movie the first weekend, good ones can propel a product in ways not available even a few years ago.

Also, the four thirds cameras have broken ground in the EVIL arena. I've used the Olympus EVF and find it quite nice. I'm more than ready to give Sony the benefit of the doubt on that regard.

Why not consult a quality dictionary when in doubt? From Websters: TRANSLUCENT

permitting the passage of light: a : clear, transparent

b : transmitting and diffusing light so that objects beyond cannot be seen clearly

Or perhaps you did consult Websters, but found the secondary meaning better fit your column?

Dear Michael,

In general, dust on a pellicle isn't a big issue because it's far from the sensor plane. It has to be a honkin' big clump to produce a visible shadow.

Most lenses out there can take advantage of a 24 MP sensor. That is, with most lenses, you'll find that pictures made with 24 MP will be sharper than those made with 12 MP. For a vastly more extensive (and wandering) discussion of this, see my column this week:


pax / Ctein

David, note that Sony implemented an electronic first curtain shutter in this camera. People who have it in hand say it's extremely quiet. This is actually my primary reason for upgrading from my 4-year old, but competent A700 to "something" (it's a toss up between the A77 and D7000, pending getting my hands on the A77). The D7000 has a pretty quiet shutter normally, and a very quiet shutter in Q mode, but in Q mode, it's not so terribly responsive.

I've read reports from people who've had trials who say the EVF is indistinguishable from an OVF - I suspect these are Sony fans who got to be beta testers. And I've read reports saying it's pretty good, but still nowhere near as good as a really good OVF (at least a good full frame OVF - it's bigger than an APS-C viewfinder).

It's all pros & cons. No need to beat that dead horse here.

As for the mirror, I think those concerns are going to come from "outsiders" looking at Sony seriously for the first time. Sony users have been beating this issue to death for a while now and it's pretty quiet now; I think the concensus is that if there's a loss of sharpness, it's largely irrelevant (and I suspect a 24MP sensor makes it more so) and if there is an issue with ghosting, it rarely affects anyone.

But I think Mike's assessment may have missed a couple of key points. First is that Sony probably wasn't scraping 10% market share (at least not until NEX came along). Their only higher end models were the A700 and the FF models, which probably didn't come close to 10% of their respective markets, so most of what they did sell was at the low end. I think Sony desperately needed to do something different and probably has nowhere to go but up. Second, Sony's designs are heavily video-centric and EVF is less an issue for anyone who might look at Sony for a DSLR for video. I have no idea whether PDAF is interesting for videographers (Sony seems to believe it is) but this is another market segment to be considered in addition to us traditional still photographer.

I've also seen some buzz from people interested in picking up either of the new NEX models (5N with its optional EVF or the cool 7) and using the new adapter (that uses a semitransparent mirror to provide PDAF with DSLR lenses on the NEX, basically turning it into an "SLT") to have the best of both worlds - compact mirrorless when you want it, SLT when you need those lenses. I tossed that idea around when I first heard about the adapter but it's a non-starter for me. The adapter looks like it makes the camera hard to hold and the NEX bodies lack image stabilization. And the control layout of the NEX bodies just aren't what I want for most of my shooting.

Anyway, it would be interesting to know what kind of sales projections Sony has for this camera.

From my point of view, I think Sony probably did a good job with the major technological innovations, but I'm still frustrated to see them miss out on the details. There are three programmable buttons; the three most enthusiasts are likely to use regularly. Meanwhile, the '?' button and the "smart TC" (aka digital zoom) buttons are either not customizable or can only be set to one or two uninteresting options. There is no longer an image stabilization toggle switch (it would be nice to be able to make the '?' button toggle that on & off) so you have to go menu-diving to turn SSS on/off. Same with EVF/LCD brightness. (Even my Sony HX5V digicam lets you adjust LCD brightness without going into menus ... on a live view only camera, this turns out to be pretty important as you go from indoors to out, from sun to shade, etc). They have not yet implemented Auto ISO in M mode (or, for purists who think 'M' means "everything" has to be manual, including ISO, which doesn't affect exposure ... any way you please of allowing sports photographers to set aperture and shutter speed and let the camera vary the ISO according to the meter reading). 12fps and 11 cross-type AF points suggests a camera designed for sports photography, but they apparently didn't talk to many sports photographers beforehand.

So they miss features like those, but because Sony is all about 3D (a couple years ago, Sony was all about HD) you have 3D sweep panorama on the mode dial. Sure, make me go menu diving to turn off SSS, but thanks for making 3D sweep pano so easy to access !

Maybe I'm just picky after being annoyed by Sony being Sony for too long, but my take is that the new technology will intrigue a lot of people, and then it has to be good enough to overcome Sony's lack of photographic experience and insistence on consumer-friendly design over photographer-friendly design.

With my years in advertising, i know for sure that it doesn't matter if ADAMs don't buy. Most sales come from the naive, mass consumer. However, the A77 is not a 100% mass product, but Sony won't expect that kind of profits from it. These cameras work at a different level. They build the image of the company as a premium technology company. The image trickles down to actually help sell a mass product, a Rebel. Conversely, if a company doesn't have the flagship products in each segment, people will not perceive it as a desirable company.

(That's also the reason why Sony should bring out premium, quality pancakes for the Nex's. :))

And i don't think people will bother about the technology differences to that extent. This new technology makes room for fast frame rates and the EVF, and that's what the new age geeks want. In the digital world, the EVF is an advantage, not a negative.

Also, Sony has huge marketing muscle and infinitely deep pockets. They have come out with so many innovations in the past, and the fact that many of them didn't work for them had zero effect on their stature.

I am not interested in A77 though. I find these designs ugly.

The last "quality" dictionary that bore the name "Webster's" was the fabled Second Edition of 1934. "Webster's" is long out of trademark status and is now slathered indiscriminately on all sorts of fly-by-night dictionary-product, whether or not it has any relation whatsoever to the rightful holders of the name.

NO "quality" dictionary would define "translucent" as "transparent." The words aren't synonyms.


Some commenters have mentioned the EVF of the Sony R1. I loved that camera and its EVF! Like any other feature, it takes some getting used to. I'm still mad at Sony for abandoning the R-Series in favor of some "me-too" DSLR designs!

> NO "quality" dictionary would define "translucent" as "transparent." The words aren't synonyms.




I think where Sony has a real advantage is with the NEX-7. Ever since owning an R-1 I have been waiting for this camera. Once you get used to using an EVF (even an older one), you see its many advantages. Without ANY kind of mirror, and with its small (and LIGHT!!) form factor, the NEX-7 is really the camera that is going to change the world.

But Sony realizes this; that is why they are working on a sensor with BUILT-IN autofocus, so no need for a translucent mirror. Then their larger cameras will have the same advantages as the NEX-7. I believe the A77 is an intermediate step. Supposedly Sony is working on some FF cameras - I am hoping they will have the same smaller size as the A77. And lots of new Zeiss lenses!

I do agree that putting 24mp on an APS sensor is overkill, though. I wish they had stuck with 16mp, but I can see how they would have decided to raise the mp in order to differentiate the NEX-7 from the NEX-5n.

Time will tell.. Amazing how people draw conclusion to support their agenda. I have shot Sony for about 6 years and Canon for about 2 (5d mark 2, 60 d) each has it strength and weakness, I prefer Sony's color and resolution, (glass does make a difference as well. I for one am holding off though to see a finished product and real world results. Hope it preforms well..

Big risk indeed.

Signal = data + noise

For a Pellix system

Signal = (photons + photon shot noise) + (read noise + pattern noise + thermal noise)

Apparently the first term is attenuated by ~30% while the second term remains constant (compared to a mirror-less or reflex design).

Why would anyone discard any of their data (photons) before the signal is recorded?

Simplicity for high burst rates could be worth discarding information. Photographers with applications where signal-to-noise is never a priority would not notice any difference. Otherwise, throwing away information seems pointless and silly.

I've been a photographer for over 35 years, have had Zeiss/Ikon, Leica, Minolta, Canon, Nikon, Konica-Minolta 7d, and for over 5 years the Sony ( most of their DSLRs ). Currently I have the A900 and A55. Yes, the A55 seduced me for its size, weight, the very good EVF (!) and wonderfull IQ up to ISO 3200.
Sony has a breakthrough product with the A77/65 now, and I just can't wait to put my hands on one!

In the light of the other option for Sony, i.e. sticking with traditional DSLRs, this move doesn't seem risky at all.
And while I'll agree to some extent with some of the points made, I won't agree with everything.
EVFs are different than OVFs. Overall not better, nor worse. For those who like EVFs, the A77 will be the only available option in the pro segment. So, imho, not a disadvantage at all.
About the translucent mirror (agreed on the weird naming), you can't use some data from 20 years ago. Things have drastically changed, the A33/55 are here to prove that the technology works and the A77 is, well, cheap.
Also, Sony has nothing to learn that Nikon and Canon know, except being consistent and following up. If it weren't for those giants, we would probably be much further in camera development today.

So I checked 6 different online dictionaries, and only one has "transparent" as the first meaning of "translucent" - and that's Merriam-Webster. (http://www.merriam-webster.com) I always thought that one was considered to be of good quality. Odd that they seem to say that the two words are synonyms.

Of course, they have 1a and 1b definitions, that just confuse things :

1 : permitting the passage of light:
a : clear, transparent
b : transmitting and diffusing light so that objects beyond cannot be seen clearly

So they have the more typical definition as "1b".

It's strange that NOBODY after the presentation of the new Sony SLTs remembered the CANON PELLIX (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_Pellix) the real beginner of this kind of photo gears...

So the OED is not a "quality" dictionary, eh?

Through which light passes: = transparent adj.

I certainly remember the Pellix. It's just that I never used one, nor tested it, so I didn't discuss it.


The OED is a descriptive dictionary (the granddaddy of them, in fact), like Merriam-Webster's. A descriptive dictionary means that its standard is how people tend to use a word, regardless of etymology or propriety. Webster's Second was that company's last great prescriptive dictionary; since then, they've gone way too far the other way. I would never use a Merriam-Webster dictionary today, although I have dibs on the family's copy of the Second, which resides at our summer house. The OED is very interesting, of course, but not terribly useful as a working dictionary. Almost no writers or editors that I know of use it as such except poets.

The working dictionary I prefer, and recommend, is The American Heritage English Dictionary (AHED). It strikes a balance between descriptive and prescriptive, by submitting controversial words to a panel of 100 experts and noting what percentage of them would allow any particular descriptive usage.

I can't speak to the state of lexicography in the U.K. as I'm an American.


Old guy at the corner gas station:

You can't trust them new cars with "ejectors". Why Them don't have a clear carburetor float, you can't see the gas in the lines before it get to the engine. You can't see into the carburetor (there ain't one!!!) to see the fuel spray. You can't clean the nozzles with a paper clip. The car ain't going to ever run right after 20,000 miles!!! Dumb, Dumb, Dumb...

My last was satire...

I'm a Nikon user but recently bought a Sony 70-400 because it is the best lens in the market of its type. I mounted it to an A580 which does not have "shutter release priority", it has focus release priority. If the A77 does not have shutter release priority like the A580, this may be a deal breaker if you shoot fast moving sports. My Nikons run circles around the A580. The reason is that the A580 shutter won't release until the fast moving subject is in absolute critical focus. This takes time. The Nikon shutters will continue to release even if not in focus but since I shoot at F8, the subject will end up in focus even if it isn't in perfect focus. All these computations and adjustments that the A580 must make before releasing the shutter, also slow down the A580 considerably.

Pollicle dogs, jellicle cats, and pellicle mirrors ...

Dear William,

You'll be looking at about a 2 dB loss in the S/N ratio, with the splitter.

That may be important for some photographers; it won't be for most.

pax / Ctein

"If the A77 does not have shutter release priority like the A580, this may be a deal breaker if you shoot fast moving sports."

First hit found on a search. Your wish satisfied:

@ Atkins:

Also, Sony has nothing to learn that Nikon and Canon know, except being consistent and following up. If it weren't for those giants, we would probably be much further in camera development today.

I'm as bored with traditional SLRs as the next guy, but for whatever reason I occasionally feel compelled to object when Canon and Nikon get unfairly dumped on.

Held camera development back? What has either done to keep other electronics and optics giants (and they are the true giants -- several are many times bigger than Nikon) from making innovative and different cameras that people want to buy instead of buying Nikon and Canon DSLRs?

Then, too, both companies have far outpaced their competitors in many critical areas of camera and lens development -- two minutes of thought will turn up a long list. Really, the only thing they haven't done is experiment with the basic form factor of interchangeable lens cameras. They may soon have to, but up 'til now, the large majority of the market has neither demanded nor rewarded that.

The Canon Pellix was marketed first by Canon in 1965 ( film cameras of course ):
- Pellix QL (1965)
- F-1 High Speed (LE for the 1972 Olympics)
- EOS RT (1989)
- EOS 1N RS (1994)
Nikon also had their versions, the F2/F3 HS which were special products made for some specific photographers in the 70's ( not many details are found on those ).
Anyway, those were all niche cameras for scientific uses and sports (!) due to the high speed they could achieve ( up to 9 fps at that time .
Sony's concept for the A33/35/55/65/77 is the same, but using today's technology on both materials and manufacturing process for the pellicle mirror. That's quite a difference which translates into much more reliability and lower cost. The pellicle on the Sony cameras is very easily replaced, if ever needed, and it's cost should be quite low.
IMHO Sony used latest technology to develop a formerly "niche/special" product concept into a modern/reliable product available for high production numbers.
Two thumbs up for them!

I think Sony is not necessarily aiming at the traditional buyers of Canon and Nikon dslrs. I think consumers moving up from point-and-shoot digicams are going to love the huge live display and many will never look into the viewfinder. In May I spent a week in France shooting with a a33 and was very impressed. With the big display I was able to get the fun high angle and low angle shots without putting my face on the ground or climbing a ladder. With the integral anti-shake, I got a very high yield with handheld shots even in difficult lighting conditions. I had a bout 2 bad shots in over a thousand frames - shake-wise.

Mike, may I attempt to simplify your logic:

"If you market a product that looks great, but performs poorly, word will get around. Just ask movie producers. Marketing can help a bad film have a great first weekend, but if the movie actually sucks, that word will get around, and attendance will fall off fast."

= high demand, but poor product, therefore demand is not met. Customers go elsewhere.

"...when you have a good product that doesn't appeal from a sales standpoint, such that nobody buys it."

= low demand, but good product. There aren't many customers.

I think your movie analogy is not quite correct - you're referring to product awareness there, something that's easily fixed with advertising. But no matter how good a chick flick is, it's probably not going to draw the male teen demographic.

Perhaps the A77 is like a chick flick with explosions...

mike johnston wrote: "The OED is a descriptive dictionary (the granddaddy of them, in fact), like Merriam-Webster's. A descriptive dictionary means that its standard is how people tend to use a word, regardless of etymology or propriety."

ah, this is the kind of dictionary that appeals to me. i have no use for a dictionary that tells me what words used to mean. languages continue to evolve and fighting that evolution is a losing and pointless battle. i'm sure marketers are much more interested in how words will be understood than in the "etymology or propriety" of the words.

The new Swiss Army knife:


1. EVF - Not a gamble. It's been successful for Panasonic and Olympus, both of whom have seen better sales of their EVF-based (or capable) EVIL cameras than they ever did with DSLR's and the A33/A55 is by far Sony's best selling Alpha body. The A77 and A65 just improve the EVF more.

2. Pellicle Mirror - this is an interim solution until on-sensor PDAF is ready for prime time. It works and works well and only costs half a stop of light. Yes, it affects high ISO performance but Sony's still doing better than Canon or the EVIL guys (Panny, Oly, Samsung) there, Nikon and Pentax are the only ones with a high ISO advantage over the SLT's right now.

Frankly, 24MP is the real isse for me. Two problems, the first being the large amount of data to be moved forced the buffer to be a relatively small 13 RAW/17 JPEG Fine despite having the same size buffer as the older but far more expensive A900. Secondly the switch to SD at the same time slows buffer clearing due to the fact that even UHS-1 SDXC cards remain slower than CF despite the faster interface (SDXC is a faster spec than CF, topping out at 300MB/s instead of 167MB/s but current cards are the opposite). I'd have been significantly happier with the proven 16MP sensor and a deeper buffer.

As it is, I'll probably replace my A33 with an A65 next year and keep my A700 as my primary body for now.

I can imagine a few reasons why advanced users might actually come to appreciate the SLT cameras — or "live view" interchangeable-lens cameras in general:

1. Large viewfinder image size
Sony claims a viewfinder magnification on the A77 and NEX7 of 1.09x with a 50mm lens, which is thus comparable to a full-frame camera like the Canon 5D MarkII — 0.71x with a 50mm lens — when one takes into account the 1.5x scaling factor between an APS-C and a full-frame viewfinder.
At any rate, the A77 and NEX7 should have a viewfinder image that's impressively larger than their OVF APS-C competitors.

2. Accurate representation of depth of field
The reflex mirror of current autofocus cameras diverts about 30% of the incoming light towards the phase-detect AF sensor.
To compensate for this loss of light, and for the fact that mass-market lenses — e.g. kit lenses and telezooms — are by themselves already pretty slow/dark — with typical apertures in the f/3.5 to f/5.6 range — current OVF cameras have focusing screens that are less and less diffusive.
The focusing screens on AF cameras thus get closer to a bright, clear, non-diffusive piece of glass — like window glass — that creates a "virtual", aerial image on which DoF and focus snap are more difficult to judge — imagine trying to focus a view camera on which the ground glass had been replaced with a piece of clear glass.
An SLT camera, OTOH, will always operate in "live view", and its viewfinder image, derived from the image captured by the main image sensor, will offer an intrinsically accurate representation of DoF if the lens is stopped down to its working aperture.

3. Viewfinder resolution that's now "good enough"
The concept of Depth of Field is based on a notion named the Circle of Confusion: if the lens focuses on the film or image sensor an image feature as a circle of diameter equal to or smaller than the CoC's, that image detail is, conventionally, deemed to be "sharp enough".
The CoC is thus, conceptually, similar to a pixel.
The conventional CoC diameter is 1/1500th of the image diagonal.
On the 24x36mm format, this corresponds to a CoC diameter of about 0.03 mm; the 36mm image width is thus equivalent to about 1200 Circles of Confusion laid next to each other, which would be akin to about 1200 horizontal pixels in resolution.
The OLED panel used in the Sony A77 and NEX7's EVF has a 1024 x 768 resolution — i.e. its horizontal resolution is now pretty close to the approx. 1200-pixel resolution standard that has long been considered sufficient to judge a picture's "sharpness" and DoF.

4. Face detection autofocus
The A77 is not limited to phase-detect AF, and can use its image sensor's data stream to detect human faces. This opens up all the possibilities mentioned by John Kennerdell in his "The Liberated Camera: Part II" ToP article.

5. Total shutter lag that might approach a pro-class SLR's ?
Total shutter lag = viewfinder lag + time delay between pressing the shutter button and start of the actual image capture.
With an OVF SLR: viewfinder lag = zero (lightspeed), but the shutter lag after pressing the shutter button is quite significant as mechanical parts like the reflex mirror must be moved, and the blades of the first shutter curtain must be started and reach their "cruise" speed.
Canon 1D Mark 4's total shutter lag: zero (viewfinder lag) + about 50 milliseconds (mechanical mirror and shutter lag)
Sony A77's total shutter lag: viewfinder and sensor image refresh cycle (say, 30 times per second -> about 33 milliseconds of lag ?) + post shutter button press delay of about 20 milliseconds (as per Sony's website).
The A77's post shutter button press delay is much shorter Canon 1D4's as there's no moving mirror, and the mechanical first shutter "curtain" can be replaced with a nearly instantaneous electronic signal directing the already uncovered live view sensor to reset its pixels and start a new photon accumulation cycle.

6. Viewfinder optics that are easier to seal
Most consumer-grade zoom lenses change their size when zoomed. This tends to create air pressure differentials and pumping in the attached camera body.
With an OVF, these airflows can move dust particles to locations above the focusing screen — e.g. between the condenser lens and the pentaprism, leading to perenially annoying dust particles in the viewfinder image that can only be cleaned by taking apart the camera.
An EVF doesn't have a focusing screen, condenser lens and pentaprism or pentamirror, and might thus be less prone to dust contamination.

When the Canon Pellix QL with the Canon FL-P 38mm /2.8 pancake lens camera came out, I bought and enjoyed that combination. That was an easy camera and lens to carry around, but the viewfinder was dim and I had to use fast film or contend with slow shutter speeds. A quarter-century later I had a Canon EOS RT, which was a fine camera because it had a quiet shutter and .007 second shutter lag. I wish I hadn't sold it. I now have a Ricoh GXR with EVF and despite the EVF's drawbacks, I really like that camera and use my large, heavy, moving-mirror Canon 5D rarely.

I think your wrong on the two big mistakes. The mirror is not going to be a deal breaker for most, but where it will hit people is not on sharpness. But rather the current High ISO race that is on. Less light, means that there will be more noise in the high iso. That for some reason is the current race. People did by 580's over 55's for this issue.

The second real problem is not the EVF, these are the future. But The 24MPixel chip in APS-C. This is far too much. The files are huge, the noise at high iso is higher and the gain is little. They should have stuck with the 16MPixel wonder chip or max moved up to 18Mpixels. 24 in APSC is too much, diffraction will not be a good thing.

I think that the EVF/pellicle issue is a non-issue for the majority of the buying public. But my assistant pointed out something while we were shooting in Africa last week: vision adaptation.

For wildlife shoots we shoot mostly at the edges of day, when we need to rely upon our eye's night vision adaptation. With an optical viewfinder and the way camera companies have implemented LEDs that adjust to ambient light, you can move back and forth between viewfinder and regular vision without much worry. But EVFs are light-producing, and that means that your low-light vision will be compromised as you move back and forth between looking for animals with your eyes and shooting them with the camera. It's one of the reasons why I often turn my LCD off when shooting at the edge of day.

Lokks like you have a point, there. The moment I read "The first is the EVF.", I instinctively scrolled down to the next message.


Personally I am more put off by the EVF approach instead. At this moment I am not seeing it as viable replacement for OVF , particularly on the low light / available light photography part. Still I think the A77 is an exciting new product and I am truly considering it.

The real deal for me with Sony is thier system continuousness from the AXX series down tot he NEX series with those 2 LA series lens adapter. I would wish their future FF to retain the classic SLR approach and give us that option to go with the SLR / SLT / mirrorless as a broad lineup

I suspect Sony are not taking much of a risk at all, rather they are taking a sensible marketing approach.

There is no way Sony are going to win over Nikon or Canon users, they are already locked into their systems and regardless of what Sony do most will not change. I must add I was a Canon user and now a Sony 900 user with over 20 lenses (and no I don't think there is a lens problem with Sony at all), I simply couldn't abide the Canons' awful skin tones for portraiture that defied all types of RAW conversions and the Sony is just so much more film like in its reproduction.


The only way forward is to do something differently, to bring in new customers early in their camera buying career and foster a long term relationship, exactly as Canon and Nikon did back in the late 50s and early 60s.

I imagine Sony don't see the A77 as the volume seller but rather a very full featured aspirational tool that will help sell the lesser models sell better.

And then there is the NEX7 and NEX5N, really what else is there to compare with these, and importantly most of the development for the NEX7 and A77 is probably shared cost wise, Sony won't care too much if the NEX7 steals the A77s sales.

24 megapixels too much? Don't get me started, there has almost never been a higher MP camera that did not provide a better more useable final print output than the lower res versions.....stop looking at 100% screen views and start making prints...please.

And the high ISO performance, so what! You buy 24 megapixels to shoot for maximum quality, ie RAW, 100 ISO and with the camera properly supported. You can of course always downsize if you want to.

I believe the NEX7 and A77 will sell well and be much appreciated by their target audience.

Perhaps I will be wrong but we shall see soon enough.

I am sure it will do much better than any CaNikon clone (aka classic DSLR) ever would. Let's see - Oly ? No more DSLRs, Pentax ? Sold for $124.2 ... (and has 0 chances in competition with CaKikon in DLSR, sorry), Panasonic ? Nope, Minolta ? R.I.P, Samsung ? gave up. Sigma ? Fuji ? Not many players on the DSLR market, are they ?
So, do not blame Sony - whatever they do, it will be better than producing "classical" DSLRs. At least they are trying to offer something new, which really is usable. Maybe it will no appeal to die-hard SLR users, but you know what ? die-hard SLR users are probably no more than 10% of the global camera market.

The A77 is the decoy. Very few self-respecting Nikonians and Canonettes will choose one over their own brand.

The NEX-7 is the Trojan Horse. It will find its way into LowePros, ThinkTanks, Domkes, and Crumplers otherwise populated with Canon and Nikon.

The end is nigh.

I've been using Nikons for almost 40 years and I gotta say, good for Sony.

They are pushing the envelope. They are ringing the bell of innovation. Their SLTs and FFs and SLTs and NEXes are out there.

Sure they're taking a risk. And the lesson they should learn is precisely not the Canon/Nikon lesson: dragging innovation, me-too products, rest on laurels to retain market share.

Any number of case studies can be done of companies that possessed this wisdom, and failed as a result.

Good for Sony for taking a chance. They are seeking to expand the market by defining a market. If they don't hit it with one formula, they'll nail it with another, creating little niches here or there until the Big Boys are wrapped and trapped.

I'd say Canon and Nikon ought to be learning a lesson from Sony.

The "translucent" Sonys are very well received, if the alpha-mount websites are any guide. They had become pretty quiet places over the past few years, as fans of traditional SLRs made their "jumping ship" announcements one by one. Then came the Axx series, something new to talk about, and you could sense the fresh excitement.

My personal reaction is just the opposite, as it tends to be. I tend to stay one or two steps behind the curve, so I'm still enjoying my new a850 for its big pentaprism, as well as its sterling IQ. Using an EVF seems as appealing as taking photos off my TV screen. For that and some other of Sony's misguided ergonomic "improvements," I don't expect to be bonding with Sony's future SLRs/SLTs or whatever. I've bought a small Olympus E-620 for days when the a850 is too much to carry, and I expect to be content with my a850 for a good long while. It's a purist's SLR if there ever was one.

That's my story, but I realize that I'm far outnumbered by younger buyers who are happy to compose on the rear screen and shoot rapid-fire bursts. The SLTs are probably an intermediate step towards hybrid movie cameras that dispense HD stills culled from continuous recording. There will be software to sort out the resulting excess of images, automatically culling the best frames and dowloading them to LCD photo frames and facebook. Did i miss the place for the photographer in that workflow?

Thom -- vision adaptation -- good point. I use my digital cameras inside in low light a lot (late-night music jam sessions and such). I've been able to adjust LCD intensity on all my cameras, and I can avoid messing up my eyesight (or being too intrusive, more relevant perhaps with people 5 feet away than in Africa shooting wildlife) by turning down the LCD far enough. Having that be more automatic (as you suggest the lights in the viewfinder are) could be smart, though.

Meanwhile -- amplified viewing is very handy when it gets dark enough.

Um, a large number of authors and editors I know, and I know a lot, love and use the OED. Certainly not as their only dictionary, but as a vital part of their reference library.

We have at least 4 copies just in our one household here.

"A descriptive dictionary means that its standard is how people tend to use a word, regardless of etymology or propriety."

Aren't all dictionaries ultimately descriptive over enough time? The very fact that American (as opposed to British) dictionaries exist, also means that they are descriptive, right? Or do they still spell it "colour" and "centre"?

I'd think the only question is how willing they are to change with the times.

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