July 20, 2022


Sony and Minolta SLR Weblog

Nikon D3 and D300 provide clues about new Sony Alphas

The dSLR world is suddenly bursting with news — Canon announced the EOS 40D, Nikon reveals both the D3 and D300 and Sony takes the wraps off their new IMX021 sensor.

Still no word on the future Sony Alpha SLRs, but the Nikon announcements may shed some light on future Sony development. Perhaps…perhaps not.

Probably of the biggest news is Nikon finally will offer a full-frame sensor in the new D3. Everyone was expecting this, and up until now, I had assumed that the D3 and the new Sony Alpha flagship would share the same sensor. I’m not so sure any longer.

Nikon Designed 12MP sensor

According to this article by Ron Galbraith, the D3 will use a sensor designed by Nikon. Galbraith also says that Nikon probably won’t reveal who will make the sensor.

Since Sony makes the sensor for almost all previous Nikon dSLRs, there is a good chance that they will also make the sensor for the D3 well. Would Nikon go elsewhere to find a manufacturer for their new sensor design? At this point, Nikon isn’t saying.

This invalidates my earlier assumption that the Alpha flagship and the D3 will automatically share the same sensor technology. If Sony doesn’t actually make the sensor for the D3, there is no chance they would buy a sensor from another manufacturer. Of course, only a handful of industry insiders really know what is brewing behind closed doors at Sony and Nikon. Would Nikon license their design for Sony to use? Would Sony pay Nikon for that privilege? Or will Sony prefer to develop full frame technology that they could then sell to other camera manufacturers — as well as use in their own cameras?

There could also be a problem in perceived value if the new Alpha Flagship actually offers less or the same amount of megapixels than the advanced amateur model. Most photographers realize that meagapixels aren’t the most important aspect of a digital camera’s stature. Still, there are cases when megapixels matter, and it does seem a little strange not to have MP boost in your flagship model. Canon’s top of the line full-frame dSLR currently offers 16mp. [Update 8/27/07: The Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III actually offers 21.1 MP] If the flagship weighs in at 12mp, that will hardly be a deal-breaker. It will still be an excellent, professional camera — it obviously will be every bit as capable as the professional level Nikon D3.

On the other hand, if the flagship could offer as many or more MP as the Canon, the perceived value of the camera would be that much greater. Sony has been largely snubbed by much of the mainstream press, who lavish an over-abundance of coverage on Nikon and Canon, tossing mere crumbs to the other dSLR brands. If Sony’s new flagship were to usurp the MP crown from Canon, it would be much harder for the press to ignore.

We’ll probably have to wait until Sony actually takes the wraps off the flagship model. Interestingly, Thom Hogan, a true expert in all things Nikon, starts his review of the D3 and D300 with the provocative title: Nikon D4 rumors start

He then, never mentions anything about the D4 or any rumor. Still it suggests that rumors are already circulating about a Nikon D4. Does this suggest a full frame Nikon with more MP (possibly sharing a new high MP Sony sensor) is coming? Or is only wishful thinking by Nikon fans disappointed that Canon still has an edge in megapixels?

Nikon D300 to use modified Sony sensor?

Meanwhile, Nikon also announced the 12MP D300 with an APS-C size sensor. Sounds like a likely candidate for the Sony IMX021. This is currently a hot topic on the dpreveiw Nikon forum. On his site, Thom Hogan seems to confirm that the D300 will use be Using a variant of Sony’s new CMOS sensor…

Not a real surprise, but it is interesting nevertheless. If Hogan’s comments are accurate, it appears that the D300 will use a modified version of the IMX021. How much the sensor will vary from the standard IMX021 is unclear. Obviously, we can expect that Sony’s own advanced amateur camera will display some differences to set it apart for the D300.

This also makes me wonder about the proposed naming scheme for Sony’s new hardware. I’ve heard numerous suggestions, although Sony has given no clues as to the names of the new models. One popular, but unconfirmed tale has the AA version carrying the name A200 while the Flagship will be the A300. Confusion ahead! Nikon calls their new 12mp model the D300 — will consumers then assume that an A200 is somehow less of a camera? Will they assume that the A300 and the D300 are more or less equals? Of course other rumors assign the AA model the title of A300 and indicate the Flagship will be known as the A500. Cosy, eh? Sony and Nikon each produce a similar camera, using basically the same sensor and both carry the 300 designation. Time will tell.

Sony has yet to reveal any more information about their future dSLR plans. The new Nikon models provide at least a hint of what is to come in the next several months.

Buckle your seat belts, everyone. It’s going to be wild ride!