The press release we have have been waiting for (well, almost) is here. Sony has announced a brand new CMOS image sensor that has “heart of a new dSLR” written all over it.
The press release is short and sweet, but there are lots of juicy details if you read between the lines.
First the basics. The new sensor is an APS-C size, the same size as the Alpha A100. So the crop factor and digital lens coverage should be identical. So much for those rumors of a 14MP, 1.25 crop dSLR.
Sony Advanced Amateur dSLR: you’re looking at it’s sensor
But how can we know that this will be the sensor used in the forthcoming Advanced Amateur Alpha dSLR? Although Sony hasn’t said it aloud, let’s read between the lines shall we? Consider this statement from the press release:
“Sony will position “IMX021” as a key device capable of generating new added value in the high-growth digital SLR camera market, actively promoting its use within Sony and externally.”
I highlighted the important text. First, Sony has said this sensor will be aimed at the dSLR market. More importantly, they are saying it will be used by Sony and also be supplied to other camera makers — most likely Nikon and Pentax.
So unless you expect Sony to use this sensor in the Alpha Flagship SLR, the only logical camera is the still unnamed Advanced Amateur model. Since I’m betting the Flagship will be full frame (or at least nearly full-frame), the only camera this could be used in by Sony is the AA model.
How fast will the new Advanced Amateur be?
So 12.47MP — a nice improvement over the A100’s 10.2MP. But that isn’t the end of the story. The press release says this about the sensor’s capture ability: “delivering an extremely high signal conversion speed (in all-pixel scan mode) of 10.39 frame/s (12 bit).”
A 12.5MP camera capable of delivering 10.4 frames a second? Bring it on!
Of course, it remains to be seen if Sony will produce a dSLR capable of cranking out that frame rate with full resolution raw files. Still it sounds very promising.
Sony serious about eliminating camera noise
Finally the release addresses noise: “The enhanced quality images generated by ‘IMX021’ are the result of its advanced noise cancelling [sic] features based on a unique circuit structure, its pixel array micro-fabrication technologies, and its cleaning and color-filtering capabilities …”
The A100 has been criticized as being noisy at higher ISO ranges. It offers great picture quality in the 100-400 ISO ranges, but many users (and reviewers) have been disappointed with the noise at higher ISOs. Sony seems to be emphasizing that the new sensor will produce much less noise, even though it packs more megapixels into sensor of the same relative size.
Of course the camera’s processor also plays a big part in the noise generated by a dSLR, so the sensor is not the only factor in digital camera noise. Hopefully, Sony has taken the A100 criticism to heart and will deliver a new dSLR that offers substantial high-ISO noise improvement.
It’s been a long wait. A very long wait. Does this new sensor signal an exciting new era in the world of Sony dSLRs?