Sony Announces New Digital Cameras
Sony has just announced yesterday four brand new Alpha DSLRs – the A33, A55, A560 and the A580. Sporting the brand new Exmor APS HD CMOS sensors, the A33 and A560 clock in at 14.2 MP while the A55 and A580 are 16.2 MP. The main difference between the A33/55 and A560/580 is the mirror technology that they utilize. While the later are traditional DSLR’s the former are what Sony call ‘Single Lens Translucent’ cameras.
The “new” SLT technology Sony is unveiling with the A33 & A55 models is a Translucent Mirror which seems to be reminiscent of the Pellicle Mirror in the much older (1989) Canon EOS-RT cameras. Simply put, the Translucent Mirror is a two-way mirror allowing most of the light straight through the mirror and onto the sensor with a fraction of the incoming light reflecting upwards into the autofocus sensor and EVF (Electronic Viewfinder).
Not only do these cameras have an EVF, they offer an EVF with a glorious 100% field of view! By implementing the Transluscent Mirror, Sony has eliminated the need for a moving reflex mirror, thus technically these cameras cannot really be called DSLRs. Sony has since started calling these Interchangeable Lens Digital Cameras. This is welcome news as it allows these cameras to operate very fast continuous Phase Detect Autofocus in Live View mode including HD movie recording mode.
Both the A33 and A55 offer FULL 1920 x 1080i HD recording in AVCHD with 1440 x 1080i recording in MPEG4 codecs. Oddly enough, even though the sensor appears to capture at 30p (progressive) fps, each frame is doubled-up to provide the 1080i at 50/60 fps specification. Now, before anyone gets their proverbial panties-in-a-knot over this 1080i HD video mode, I must point out that because the video is captured from the sensor progressively, the HD video does not suffer from the problems normally associated with interlaced video.
Sony does this to provide seamless compatibility with the older NTSC/PAL video systems – which a LOT of people still use. The video footage actually will behave more like progressive footage. Recording times have also increased to 29 mins thanks to the AVCHD codec although MPEG4 footage is still limited to 5 mins thanks to the 2 GB file limitation on its cards. To top things off, other features include an increased ISO range from 100-12800, up to 10 fps burst still shooting on the A55 and 7 fps on the A33, and the new 3D Sweep Panorama shooting mode that creates a stereo 3D image from one single image.
The new A560 and A580 consumer level DSLRs, without the Translucent Mirror Technology, feature 14.2 MP and 16.2 MP sensors (respectively), FULL 1080i HD video recording, a 15-point phase detect auto focus system, a very hi ISO sensitivity of up to 25600, and a continuous shooting mode of up to 7 fps.
All in all, a very impressive update to Sony’s Digital Alpha cameras. My only real criticisms are:
1) As an independent filmmaker, I would love to be able to shoot HD with these cameras at the very cinematic rate of 24 fps.
2) The bitrate of HD video is very, very low – max. averaging 17 Mbps (Megabits per sec) for AVCHD and 12 Mbps for MPEG4.
The low bitrates are fine for most people and the HD video will look very, very good. But for those of us that want to make films who do not have millions of dollars of studio money to play with, this is not really looking all that great. Especially since we need a min. bitrate of 25 Mbps. Canon DSLRs like the T2i and 7D on the other hand shoots HD movies at a bitrate of around 45 Mbps.
Oh well, maybe that will change in a future firmware update or something.
The A55 and A33 cameras will cost about $900 and $800 CAD (respectively) for the body and 18-55mm zoom lens and the A55 will cost about $800 CAD for the body only. The A33 will be available in Canada in September and A55 in October.
The A560 will be available in early 2011 and the A580 in October in other parts of the world, however no pricing or release date has been announced for Canada yet.
DSLR REDEFINED: SONY INTRODUCES NEW CAMERAS POWERED BY WORLD’S FIRST TRANSLUCENT MIRROR TECHNOLOGY ENABLING SIMULTANEOUS AUTO FOCUS AND CAPTURE IN AN INTERCHANGEABLE LENS DIGITAL CAMERA
New Models Offer Continuous Phase Detect AF during 10 fps High-Speed Shooting and Full HD Movie Shooting
TORONTO, August 24, 2010 –Sony today introduced two new α cameras (models SLT-A55V and SLT-A33) that adopt Sony’s newly-developed Translucent Mirror Technology™, which achieves the highest-level of auto focus speed for both still image and movie shooting.
Translucent Mirror Technology™ provides performance previously unattainable with traditional DSLR technology. Using the new technology, the α55 and α33 models can continuously and quickly focus (with TTL phase-detection) while shooting stills and recording video—even in full HD, allowing desired moments to be captured in tack sharp focus, high-definition video. They can shoot continuously at up to 10 frames per second on the α55 (and up to seven on the α33), achieving shooting speeds that are the fastest in the industry for an APS-C size sensor-equipped interchangeable lens cameras under $1000.
“This is the most innovative Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera that Sony has ever created,” said David Oyagi, DSLR Product Manager. “Our Translucent Mirror Technology is one of the most significant SLR structural changes in more than a decade.”
By displaying the images received by the Exmor™ APS HD CMOS Sensor, picture quality of the camera’s live view image has enhanced drastically. Coupled with the quick and accurate phase detect AF and 100 percent coverage Tru-Finder™ electronic viewfinder, the Quick AF Live View feature has been further advanced.
Translucent Mirror Technology
Both cameras are equipped with a translucent mirror, which enables light passing through the lens to be simultaneously received by the image sensor and the auto focus sensor, allowing continuous shooting and continuous focusing at speeds never before possible. The α55 offers the world’s fastest 10 fps high-speed burst shooting with continuous AF (TTL phase-detection) in an interchangeable-lens digital camera with APS-C sensor.
Because of its structure, the Translucent Mirror Technology™ does away with the motion of raising and lowering the mirror. The absence of the moving mirror mechanism contributes to making the whole body size significantly compact compared to traditional DSLR cameras.
By eliminating the need to raise and lower the mirror between shots, the technology makes it possible to achieve focusing while images are captured. Existing systems can only focus in the interval between image capture, limiting the ability to track fast moving subjects. The cameras also have continuous Advance Priority AE Mode and will automatically adjust for the best exposure to help you get the most professional looking results.
High-Speed Capture with Auto Focus
Additionally, a newly developed 15-point AF system assures ultra-fast, high precision focusing. The high-speed shooting with continuous Phase Detect AF tracks rapidly moving subjects accurately. You can capture the decisive moments that you might have otherwise missed.
Creative Video Capture
The continuous phase detect AF also works in movie shooting for the first time in the world. The Translucent Mirror Technology™ also allows the α55 and α33 to be the first cameras to ever maintain continuous phase detection AF while recording Full HD AVCHD video. With fast, precise phase detection AF continually tracking subject movement, even fast action and subjects that move quickly towards or away from the camera are easy to keep in focus.
With a large 16.2 megapixel (for the α55) and 14.2 megapixel (for the α33) Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor, background defocusing effects can be easily captured. The APS-C sensor size is nearly 20 times larger than a traditional compact camcorders’ 1/2.88 type image sensor, providing more creative control.
Compatible with all A-mount lenses, video and photography enthusiasts alike can choose from macro to telephoto lenses to achieve their desired artistic effect.
Full-time Live View
Full-time Live View offers unprecedented freestyle shooting versatility with fast, precise AF using either the viewfinder or LCD monitor. The α55 and α33 have a fully articulated 3-inch 921,600 Xtra Fine LCD with TruBlack™ technology with 100 percent coverage.
The Tru-Finder eye-level viewfinder provides an unprecedented combination of 100 percent coverage and 1.1x magnification for easy and natural framing. By combining Translucent Mirror and Tru-Finder technologies, α33 and α55 are the first interchangeable lens digital cameras to offer movie recording with the familiar eye-level shooting style – a significant advantage in fast moving and extreme lighting conditions (bright sunlight and low-light situations).
The variable angle tilt LCD is adjustable to accommodate shooting from low or high angles. The electronic view finder has a high-resolution effective 1.15 million dots conversion Xtra Fine LCD™ display, is bright and easy to see even in low light, has a selectable shooting parameter display and shows the effects of exposure and white balance adjustments.
Advanced Shooting Features
With an Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor, BIONZ® high-speed image processing engine and ultra-high ISO sensitivity (ISO 100-12,800), the α55 and α33 cameras offer advanced shooting features. These make it easy to get the best shot, even in difficult lighting conditions.
Auto HDR shoots and combines three frames into a single high dynamic range (HDR) photo with rich shadow and highlight detail. Multi frame NR shoots and combines six frames into a single photo, enabling smooth low-light imaging at half the noise level. Hand-held Twilight shoots and combines six frames into a single photo, suppressing blur to enable clear night-scene imaging without a tripod or flash.
3D Sweep Panorama™ technology creates two images from a single frame, enabling panoramic photos to be viewed in 3D on compatible 3D systems and other devices that support 3D technology. Using the α55 model, built-in GPS capability enables global positioning coordinates to be recorded along with the date and time. HDMI™ connectivity enables stunningly beautiful PhotoTV HD display of images on compatible Sony BRAVIA® TVs.
AUTO+ (Advanced Auto) mode offers the same benefits as Auto mode and more, resulting in cleaner, more dynamic pictures and fewer missed shots. The camera automatically recognizes the correct scene mode, then quickly shoots and combines up to six shots to produce images with greater clarity, optimum dynamic range using Auto HDR technology and lower image noise using 6 shots layering technology.
The new cameras accept both Memory Stick PRO Duo™ (including Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™) and SD (including both SDHC and SDXC formats) media (all sold separately). With a 30MB per second transfer rate, Sony’s Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX offers the best performance of all memory cards whether in continuous shooting mode or transferring data to other media.
A new dedicated microphone (models ECM-ALST1 and ECM-CG50) will also be available.
3 New Lenses for Active Shooters
Made for experienced and budding photographers alike, the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 24mm F2 ZA SSM (model SAL24F20Z) functions as a wide-angle 24mm lens on full-frame cameras, or as a 36mm equivalent lens ideal for general use on cameras with APS-C sensors. Jointly developed with Carl Zeiss, it features the highly-regarded Carl Zeiss Distagon designed for wide-angle lenses.
This lens is distinguished by its fast response focus and extremely quiet, very smooth operation thanks to its built-in SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor).
It offers a wide and therefore highly versatile focal range from 0.19m to infinity, and features a nine-blade circular aperture that along with the large F2 maximum aperture contributes to smooth, natural bokeh effects.
In keeping with traditional Carl Zeiss design, the all-metal lens barrel has been finished to a very high standard resulting in a visibly high-quality appearance.
Offering photographers at all levels great value and performance in a compact and lightweight design, the new DT 35mm F1.8 SAM (SAL35F18) weighs just 6 ounces. It can be added to a lens kit system and carried without noticeably increasing the weight of the bag.
With an approximately 50mm (35mm equivalent) focal length on an APS-C sensor, this lens is ideal for snapshots and portraits under a wide range of shooting conditions. The high-speed F1.8 maximum aperture is particularly advantageous for hand held shooting in low light.
At just 0.8 feet, the DT 35mm F1.8 SAM (SAL35F18) has the shortest minimum focus in its class, making it an excellent choice for dramatic close-ups too. Whatever the shot, the internal Smooth Autofocus Motor (SAM) drives the focusing group directly and ensures responsive and fluid autofocus operation.
The new 85mm F2.8 SAM (SAL85F28) lens is a full-frame lens that offers performance and affordability. The 85mm focal length is a standard for portraiture because of the natural perspective that it provides. On an APS-C sensor camera the 85mm F2.8 SAM functions as a 127.5mm (35mm equivalent) telephoto lens – and features a Sonnar-type optical design that is considered ideal for mid-range telephoto lenses.
The lens is sharp centre to corner, and features smooth defocusing thanks to its large F2.8 maximum aperture and circular aperture design. At two feet, the minimum focusing distance is the shortest in its class, and SAM motor technology ensures smooth autofocus operation.
The quality optical and mechanical features of the lens mean it is suitable for serious photography and should more than satisfy intermediate and advanced users alike.
Pricing and Availability
The α55 and α33 cameras will cost about $900 and $800 (respectively) for the body and 18-55mm zoom lens and the α55 will cost about $800 for the body only. The Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 24mm F2 SSM (model SAL24F20Z), DT 35mm F1.8 SAM (model SAL35F18) and 85mm F2.8 SAM (model SAL85F28) lenses will be available in October for about $1,500, $250, $300 respectively. The α33 camera will be available in September and the α55 and 3 new lenses will be available in October at Sony Style® retail stores (www.sonystyle.ca/retail) and at authorized dealers nationwide.