Thoughts on the implications of what Sony have announced


So it WAS all true. Despite the skepticism about 24MP APS-C sensors and the incredible specs. that were being discussed, Sony have presented a remarkable series of cameras, some extra lenses and a stand-alone OLED viewfinder for the NEX-5n (and presumably every subsequent NEX camera)

They are going for all markets it seems. From serious to snapshooter. They have introduced the first Compact System Camera that can in any way deserve the title "Professional" in the NEX-7 and have provided a reasonably priced mid-range DSLR in the shape of the A65 with a 24MP sensor in it!!!

Yesterday I described this as the most mind-boggling single day launch from any company in the history of Digital Photography, and indeed I believe it was.

When I saw the confirmation of all this, and once again congratulations to Andrea at SonyAlphaRumors for "sniffing" this all out, I was very much reminded of when I and my nephew visited the Focus on Imaging show earlier this year. As I reported at the time, we were both interviewed in some depth as to our experience, what we used currently and what we would like to see Sony come up with. Interestingly, virtually everything we talked about and said that we would like to see turned up yesterday. The A55 technology in a serious top of the range camera, a small CSC with serious "pro" specs., a really good EVF, and more lenses. So now you know who to blame!!

There's no way that I'm claiming any credit whatsoever for this, but what I think happened is that many 1000's of people said what we said. Sony at the show were interviewing Photographers. Not gadget heads, gear freaks or snapshooters but photographers. People who either made their living from photography and / or people to whom taking pictures was an important part of their lives.

Because what we got yesterday was gear for photographers. Gear for people serious about photography, gear that enhances, aids and complements what we do and doesn't restrict us. Gear that doesn't treat us as morons who are only interested in pointing and shooting and uploading our miserable efforts to some social networking site. Gear that helps us to go out and see, and create. Gear that you don't just put in a pocket.

I liked the A55, apart from the video overheating, very much. I thought that the new technology it included added useful options for what I do. I saw very little of what might be described as gimmicks. True not all of it worked (the overheating!!) but it showed the possibilities. Yesterdays announcements have taken this SLT technology forwards.

Sony have also realised that many photographers don't want ever smaller cameras, and don't want to be forced into holding out their cameras in front of them and chimping away. They quite like to be able to compose with a viewfinder and are fed up with squinting at some screen in bright sunlight attempting do decipher just exactly what they are taking a picture of. They also don't want to be described as aging old farts when they say how much they prefer to use a viewfinder, a DSLR or actually bother to understand the fundementals of photography. They also like a company to listen, to provide products that they, the customer wants and not what the company decides is best for them. 

This may sound like a Sony press release in parts, but its not. No company is perfect, every company makes mistakes and at some point treats its customers badly and Sony is no exception. However what I see as their great virtue, is that after a period of "acclimitisation" since aquiring Konica Minolta, they now see their future as providing a wide series of alternatives for photographers and I really believe that these alternatives are to a large part a response to what people want. If not why would they bother with their in-depth interviews that I mentioned earlier.

The general reaction to yesterdays announcements has been a mixture of genuine surprise that all the rumours are true and a pretty positive response. There has been some criticism of the A77 jpg. samples, but then some really impressive cameras have had the same reaction. Out of camera jpgs are notoriously unreliable for making a true assessment. To my mind making a judgement on them alone is a bit like saying how good a painting is by looking at a picture postcard of it. (A gross exaggeration but you will see my point!!) I remember being put off the Sony a900 / a850 cameras by looking at the jpgs. and having a completely different reaction when I got hold of some raw files. Everything I've seen of the A77 files leads me to believe that this sensor will perform really well. Possibly not as well as the 16MP Exmor in terms of high ISO results but for the majority of what I do it should be very good indeed. And indeed we aren't all desperate to take pictures of a black cat down a mineshaft at night.

What I have seen announced yesterday is very exciting and I'm keen to get my hands on some of it, particularly the NEX-7. One impression I've always got from Sony, is that I'm not being patronised. Perhaps the fact that they are "new to the game" means that they don't have the Nikon and Canon mindset of "We've been doing this for years, all the pros use our gear, we know best" They have always been prepared to go out on a limb and take a chance. Sometimes they fail spectacularly commercially, but succeed brilliantly in terms of quality. Betamax and DAT being obvious examples. 

When these products finally appear on the shelves and we can assess them properly, we will know if they have got it right. Unless some serious problem arises, such as the sensor self-igniting, then I would imagine that they will probably do very well. True, other companies will probably catch up soon and I'm sure Canon will have some monster sensor out soon. However whether it performs any differently to any of its previous incarnations remains to be seen. Sony have taken several bold steps here and they are fulfilling their initial promise to go after Nikon and Canons market share. After a period of treading water, it seems that they are back on track with that. If this stuff works, and works as well as they claim it does, then there are going to be some very worried camera company executives out there.