May 25, 2009 It appears the A230, A330 and A380 will not be the only new dSLRs in the Sony Alpha lineup. The website 1001 noisy cameras tipped me off to a screen-shot posted in the Dyxum forums. While registering their new camera at Sony-Style Canada, the poster noted that the drop down list for available cameras included choices for two mysterious models: A500 and A550.
This looks to be a genuine slip — there are no other details available. Naturally I am very curious to see what the A500 series will be like and when they will be available. At the same time, I don’t want to start rumors that could cause people to put off buying an Alpha dSLR because they are waiting “for something better.”
About ten years ago, I had a friend who wanted to buy an iMac. At the time, all iMacs had 15 inch screens. My fiend was ready to buy, but he heard rumors of a soon-to-be-released 17 inch iMac. So he waited. And waited. Every time he determined to go ahead a purchase the computer, he would hear a rumor about a new, better model. So he would put off his purchase. This indecision lasted over 18 months. I moved away and never heard from him again. I don’t know if he ever bought his computer.
The point is, rumors can cause people to hold off buying something while they wait for the “next best thing.” I hope my friend finally got the computer he wanted. Because he was always looking for something better, however, he went without the computer for a year and a half. He could have been enjoying the computer and expanding his skills during that time, but because he was always chasing rumors, he did without. The thing is, a computer with a 15 inch monitor trumps no computer at all.
This applies to cameras as well as computers, especially for someone wanting to move into their first dSLR. How many great pictures could you make in 18 months? How much sooner could you get up to speed on a digital SLR if you started 18 months sooner?
Of course there is no reason to think the A500 and A550 are 18 months away. The logical assumption is that someone at Sony Canada was readying the site for the release of the A500 series and made the changes live before the cameras were on the market. If that is true, we can assume the A500 and A500 will be announced very shortly.
There are another scenarios, however. Someone could have just made a mistake and typed 500 and 550 when it should have been another series of digits. Not likely, as they would have had to make same the mistake many times, because there are several versions listed with different kit lenses. Unlikely, but it has to be considered.
There is also a possibility that someone was simply experimenting with the database. I do quite a bit of web development work and I have seen database administrators make up fake data to fill in fields in the database. The fake info is just there to flesh out the database and see how it would work in actual production. It isn’t supposed appear in an actual live site, but sometimes these fake entries make into the wild.
That is exactly what happened several years ago when a computer science student was developing a database script for a class project. He must have been a photography enthusiast, because he made up some fake camera entries, including one for a 18 megapixel, Minolta Maxxum 9D dSLR.
It was just something the student created to flesh out the database, in order to test his script. It sounded logical. It was widely believed that Minolta would introduce a Maxxum 9D because that followed the usual naming convention for Minolta SLRs. They already had the 5D and 7D. History indicated the next camera in the series would be the 9D.
Minolta was undoubtedly working on a 9D model, but there is no reason to belive it would have had an 18mp sensor. The 5D and 7D were 6mp cameras and at the time anything over 10mp was unheard of.
The student published his code online so he could test his database script. Someone discovered the “evidence” of a 18mp Maxxum 9D. Word spread rapidly, and the Minolta faithful waited with baited breath for the official announcement of the 9D. It never came. Outside of Minolta’s laboratories, the Maxxum 9D never existed. Since Sony (who made sensors for Minolta) never released an 18mp sensor for dSLRs, it is highly unlikely Minolta was developing an 18mp Maxxum 9D. But there are those, who based on the imagination of a computer science student, still believe that Minolta was ready to unleash an 18mp super camera just before the company closed the doors on its photo operations.
Having said all that. I believe Sony does have A500 and A550 models in the works. I expect to see them announced very soon, yet I wouldn’t bet the farm they will be out this summer. When you will be able to actually order an A550 and what features it will have is anybodies guess. It won’t be real until Sony says its real.
If you are considering buying a current Sony Alpha, but are holding off because you are afraid of missing out on something better, I suggest you go ahead and buy now. It is possible the A500 series will be announced in the next few days. On the other hand, you could be like my friend, forever waiting for a new product announcement that never comes.
You will probably be much happier getting an actual dSLR you can use now, rather than waiting on a phantom camera whose features and shipping date are completely unknown. It’s awfully hard to take great pictures without a camera!