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Full Version: Sony Alpha ultra-compact Concept
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It's PMA time and the product announcements are flooding in! One that hasn't quite been quite as forthcoming is the Sony Alpha ultra-compact concept - apparently it's behind glass and the reps are keeping mum about it.


Basically all they've been able to deduce is that it's a compact body with an interchangable lens system (a la Panasonic GF1 / Olympus EP-1/2), and it uses a Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, which is supposed to be bigger than the 4/3 system. Also on display are two lens prototypes - the Super Telephoto Lens (500mm F4 G) as well as a prototype Distagon T 24mm F2 ZA SSM.


Looks like others are trying to jump on the compact interchangeable lens bandwagon too, which can only be a good thing.
Its a tradeoff between sensor size and camera size - as you increase one - you increase the other. Where is the sweet spot? I am loving my GF1. So nice to have a real street camera again - but one that can still deliver the goods.
Jolly good...I think.
I do try not to be too annoyed about this perpetual game, as I do realise that these companies do have a buck to make..and if they end up supplying a snapper's needs(as opposed to the "want" that they engender and pre-manufacture in people's gadget-vacuum), this can be a very good thing.
It is perhaps both perjoratively transparent and predictable that the way to generate interest is to in some way feed and work the more base of human instincts: this "show an ankle" approach, used so well by Canon(and car/automobile makers in their ads), is guaranteed to hit one's salivatory G-spot. Mind you, as, er, has been reported to me, Ladies of the Night in Amsterdam peek seductively from Amsterdam windows using the same successful ploy, showing a shoulder and getting one gagging for the rest...and why not use the oldest profession in the world to make a sale?
Manufacturers have to reach new markets..which necessitates either creating the perceived need for one in a consumer, or revisiting something that has been done already in the past with 35mm. If one does the latter, then one can ride the wave of ensuing retro-chic: Leica have clung to the straw that floats on this one with the death-grip of a blind and drowning man, with others blessedly getting the idea and giving quality at a more reasonable price.
In terms of this approach, I have to say: good for Sony. Though their audio and pewter products go from depency-creating exclusivity to nooses of barbed wire yet have lost quality, they have played a few blinders in optics(pun intended) the past few years from the S2 Pro onwards and are succeeding in the same arena as the Big Boys by hitting with the same body-blows as they have used. Doing the Behind Glass Thang, then wheeling the reps out to rehearsedly say jack through inscrutably-tightened lips, will get the DPReview kitboys writhing in their pants.
I'm not over-sure about the longevity(and what a self-contradiction that concept is nowadays) of yet another format that tries to get the right equation of cheapness v. pixels/sensor v. lenses; sooner or later people hopefully would wise up and realise that IF portability and New Smallness are the Present Thing, then the same old same old of buying fewer lenses would still hold true. I have to say though, that I have a smirk on my face, as the way Sony are going, I'd not be surprised at all if they got it spot on: the point of the 4/3 system was already stretching thin at its birth(in my humble) and is transparently pointless by now surely. That sniff of the word Distagon does engage the heart too, does it not...
Mind you, I do like(and think it has "legs" too) the idea of these light, "street"(to use Toad's term) cameras with ultra-sharp fixed primes. I remember the sheer brilliance and quality of the Yashica T*4 some years ago: 35mm film with fixed, quality prime wide: by some synchronistical quirk, the modern digital equivalents like Toad's have the same quality AND have the retro factor of being equivalent-ish in effective focal length to the old fixed 40mm rangefinders. I personally love this idea.
Anyway, opinions, like...er, pores...are exhalative orifices that all are blessed with. These are merely my unconsidered ones and I'm sure won't meet with everyone's bonhomie. Cool
Great post Zig - much to think about.

One of my ideas in getting a m43 system camera was that I would have it with me at times when I would not have my big rig (not that my big rig is that big). This is partially true. I still don't *always* have it on me but I have it more. We'll see how it shakes down in the end. Carrying what appears to be a point-and-shoot in a crowd seems to afford you a lot of photo opportunities that tend to walk away when you point as SLR with attached zoom at them.

I am building up to a proper thread about this thing - just need more experience with it.

As for longevity - point well taken. I always assume that camera bodies are a loss leader for the lenses anyway - something that you change out every 5 years or so (much less for some). I am hoping my combination of D200 and GF1 covers the bases for me in the short term. Its certainly a lot nicer carrying the GF1 when hiking in the mountains.
Hmmm... those concept models remind me of something. By my watch, this puts Sony about where Samsung was this time last year, and where Olympus was eighteen months ago...
More information on this camera - this time Sony's put out a video showing, albeit in a very secretive kinda way, the camera in operation. Interesting direction - having the entire back of the camera as a touch sensitive display / control area. Kinda like an iPhone I guess. An iPhone with a DSLR-sized sensor inside, that is.

Panasonic G2 also has a touch screen interface. Call me old-fashioned. I like touch screen controls, but I also like dedicated buttons for setting commonly used controls like aperture, shutter speed, and shooting mode. Screens can sometimes be difficult to see in bright sunlight - and the key settings of the camera shouldn't need to rely on that.

Sony's touch screens work fine (my girl's ultracompact T70) but I prefer me some buttons.
That's also why I'm glad I bought an Alpha300, since the replacement is rather lacking in this area.

I find a DSLR to be both a blessing (control+quality) and a curse (size+weight), so this trend still interests me, and as a Sony believer (OK, their credit card is all I have) the 'for sale' edition of this camera is eagerly anticipated.

But I'll stick with a DSLR until cameras like these get a few more generations along in their quest for "perfection".

2012 maybe.