What about the new Sony dSLRs?

Written by Gary on August 30th, 2009

I tend to ignore the Sony product line on my blog, and apologies to those who quite rightly love their cameras, it’s just that I do not use them and do not intend to for the following reasons:

  • I have too many systems – I already own Canon, Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds digital systems plus 35mm film, Brionica SQ 6×6 film and Mamiya TLR 6×6 film systems, so I am not keen on adding another system
  • as far as APS-C sized dSLRs go, I no longer see any real point in having them (other than as a longer focal length reach backup camera to a full frame system or for astrophotography and IR purposes) now that the image quality of Micro Four Thirds is almost on par and provides a more compact kit with the best video capability, while the Four Thirds is partly compatible with the MFT system and offers pro-quality dedicated lenses for the cropped sensors with weather-proofing if needed and sufficient AF speed for action or sports while giving the most compact telephoto reach options.
  • fast live view AF – while the Sony a550, a350 and a380 all adopt Olympus’ aborted live view AF type of technology which Olympus introduced with the innovative E330, and take it a step further by adding built-in image stabiliser, if you really want fast, usable live view AF, I think the Panasonic GH-1 and forthcoming Micro Four Thirds models would be the way to go there and will provide much more versatile options
  • lenses – unlike the Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds, or even Canon, as a result of the longer Minolta lens flange to sensor distance on the Sony cameras, you can really only use lenses designed for Sony/Minolta on these cameras, which does take away some of the fun of experimenting
  • lenses II – whilst the Sony lenses are generally very good optically, and the Carl Zeiss lenses even better (and much more expensive), the range is not quite up there with Nikon or Canon, and there are no tilt-shift lenses yet (and I do love these).
  • proprietary flash hotshoe – whilst all camera manufacturers use proprietary pin placement on their hotshoes for TTL, flash ready, etc, unfortunately, Minolta (and thus now Sony) took the crazy step of placing the critical PC sync pin in a different position to everyone else which makes using non-Sony/Minolta flashes a real pain as it needs an adapter – this is a big negative to me
  • no live preview on full frame models – accurate manual focus really needs live preview at times, I can’t quite work out why Sony has not provided this generally standard feature yet on its full frame cameras

Having said that, the new Sony a850 dSLR will be very attractive to many given that it is some 25% cheaper than its competition and provides similar image quality (25 megapixels) at ISO up to 1600, and in addition gives you a built-in image stabiliser which will work on all lenses – something Canon or Nikon are yet to incorporate but which is important in providing the best resolution hand held.

There is much to like about the a850 if you are not interested in the video mode of the Canon 5DMII and the lens range and 3fps burst rate suits your needs and you want a big, heavy, 20+mp full frame dSLR.

See specs and opinions on Luminous-Landscape and dpreview.


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