The Sony a850 is not a flashy camera, there's no extensive feature list or bloated menus. It just gets on with the business of taking top class pictures. I like it very much but it may be the last of its kind. Sony have already indicated that all future alpha cameras will have pellicle mirrors and EVF's. When (and if?) Sony come out with another camera with a 35mm sized sensor it will be radically different to both this and the a900.
All the current cameras with a 35mm sized sensor have been around for a while. The Nikon D3 series and D700, The Sony a900 and a850, The Canon 5DMkII and 1DsMkII and the Leica M9 all date back to 2008 and 2009. Nothing was announced last year, and apart from a few rumours, there is currently nothing on the horizon. The global economic situation obviously makes a difference, and the market for these large sensor cameras is quite small. While manufacturers still announce new models at the cheaper end of the scale, "full-frame" is conspicuously absent.
In many ways this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most of these cameras require a substantial financial investment and those who buy don't really appreciate them being quickly upgraded. There is generally a slower upgrade path for "professional" gear anyway and there is none of the lots of cameras at every conceivable price point philosophy that happens with what might be described as "consumer" cameras.
Certainly I'm very happy with the a850 and though live view would be useful, I can live without it. It is nice to use a camera for a days shooting without making any adjustments other than to change the aperture a couple of times. Reminds me very much of using film. This less complex approach is a breath of fresh air and I'm certainly concentrating much more on the important bit, taking pictures, instead of operating cameras.
Words - David
Images - David and Ann