August 30, 2021

Alphatracks

Sony and Minolta SLR Weblog

Future Sony Alphas coming: features and ship date still uncertain

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May 9, 2009: The rumors of new dSLR’s from Sony continue to swirl about the internet. Many people expected something at the PMA show in February, but a Sony official was quoted as saying no dSLRs would be released until after PMA — fueling speculation that new models would be coming soon after that.

There are several sources speculating that new models would be known as the A230, A330 and A380. There is yet another rumor of an A800. I have heard talk of other models, but I don’t want encourage rumors of cameras that may not be available for months or even years from now — if at all.

It does appear, however, that new models in the A300 and A200 line may soon be introduced. David Kilpatrick of PhotoClub Alpha (in the UK) has some screen captures from a SonyStyle site that contain photos of some of future Alpha dSLRs. These appear to indeed be the A380, A330 and A230.

You can read David’s musing on the PhotoClub Alpha site.

So what can we expect from these new dSLRs? Until now, all the Sony Alpha dSLRS carried names that fit neatly into an even 100 digits: A100, A200, A300, A700, A900. The only exception is the A350, which is more or less an A300 with a denser, 14mp sensor.

Since the new models carry names like 330 and 380, it appears the new cameras may be variants of the existing A300 and A350. If the photos are accurate, however, the new models appear to have newer, smaller bodies.

So other than the bodies, what will the new dSLR’s offer?

Sony hasn’t yet revealed the specs on the new models, so everything said here is pure conjecture.

Several people have suggested that Sony may remove the AF motor from the new bodies. This is bolstered by the recently announced Sony lenses. The new lenses overlap existing glass in the Sony catalog. There doesn’t seem to be a need for the new lenses, unless they have internal motors. These motors could handle the autofocus duties on cameras that lack their own AF motor.

This could produce lighter, more compact camera bodies. That is all well an good, but it breaks compatibility with older glass. Until now, you could use almost any A-Mount lens on any Sony Alpha. Minolta A-Mount lenses. Aftermarket (Tamron, Sigma, etc.) A-Mount lenses. And of course all the existing Sony A-Mount glass.

If the rumor is true, most of these older lenses will not offer full compatibility with the new bodies. I assume you should be able to attach the lenses and shoot using manual focus. Only the handful of older lenses that include internal focusing motors will actually offer auto focus ability on the new cameras.

Which is more important: lens compatibility or overall weight?

If this is true, I will be a little disappointed with the new models. In the first place, I don’t really like overly-light cameras. Heavy cameras dampen vibration and feel more solid to me. My all time favorite film SLR was the incredible XK-Motor. The camera itself was as heavy as a tank, and that was before you bolted on the battery pack that held ten AA batteries. As heavy as it was, the XK-M was so well balanced that felt and handled beautifully.

I do have a lot of experience in backpacking, and I understand the importance of eliminating extra weight. But if I have the choice between maximum lens compatibility and a smaller, lighter body, I would choose lens compatibility every time.

Kilpatrick also speculates the new bodies may abandon Compact Flash cards. Once again, I hope this isn’t so. Sony has only recently started selling their own line of CF cards. I prefer having a single card type that I can exchange between cameras. If the new digi-SLRs don’t accept CF cards, it will break compatibility with many of the older models. If the new cameras use SD cards, there will be no memory card compatibility with any current Sony Alpha. This might not be a problem if you only shoot with one camera. If you use multiple bodies, however, it will be pain to keep different memory cards for different bodies.

Different strokes for different folks, and Sony may have found that there is a considerable market for smaller, lighter bodies. Considering the limited amount of available lenses, I wouldn’t think the lower weight and smaller size would be worth the trade off. In my opinion, one of the best features of the Alpha is the huge array of Minolta A-mount lenses. Take away the ability to use those lenses and what do you have?

When will Sony offer a dSLR with video capabilities?

The other question is whether any of the new dSLRs will offer video. I’m not all that hungry for video myself, but with both Canon and Nikon offering dSLRs that have video modes, I find it puzzling that Sony isn’t stepping up to compete in the video/dSLR segment.

After all, Sony is a huge player in the camcorder market. The last I heard Sony was a close second to Canon in camcorder sales. So I would expect Sony to enter into the fledgling dSLR with video market with both feet.

Rumors — and remember these are only rumors — say the new Alpha dSLRs will not contain a video mode.

If this is true, I won’t be heart broken, but I want the Alpha to be competitive on all fronts. If the market is moving to onboard video on dSLRs, I want Sony to offer a video dSLR. This has nothing to do with being a Sony “fan.” The stronger the Alpha line becomes, the more aftermarket support we will see. It will also encourage Sony to release new and improved Alpha products.

Then again, it wouldn’t put it past Sony to abruptly release a new model that no one is expecting. After the release of the A700, everyone was expecting the A900 to be the next Sony dSLR. Without warning, Sony suddenly replaced the A100 with the A200. Only about a month later, the A300 and A350 were announced.

So until Sony clarifies the situation, this is all speculation. There is also no indication of when the new cameras will be on the market. The important thing is the Sony Alpha market is continuing to grow. Even if I don’t want to see a video-free dSLR without onboard internal focus motors and no CF slot, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for such an animal.

I sure hope folks at Sony has done their homework.

So what is your take on the future the Sony Alpha? Is there room for SD cards and bodies stripped of AF motors? Should Sony add a video mode? What say you?