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Sony A55: a new take

Sony's just come out with a new thing: an interchangeable lens camera that runs on Live View with an EVF and LCD, but that uses a fixed semi-transparent mirror to feed light to a phase-detect autofocus system. So we now have a smaller body, compatible with all of the existing Alpha / Sonica-Minolty lenses, that has the advantage of an SLR's faster focus and the strength of a large EVF. It also has 1080P video recording.

Michael Reichmann, who's not afraid to call out something he doesn't like, has a really positive preview of the new design:

It's an interesting idea - I'm looking forward to seeing it in person. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •

Wow. That looks really promising! Great to see companies thinking outside the box like this.
Can we finally say that camera companies are no longer just competing in the megapixel race, but instead looking for some real innovation again?

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Hmm interesting. I laud the fact that they're pushing the boundary instead of doing the same thing over again.

The pellicle mirror in particular sounds cool cool - because it doesn't move during shooting, they can achieve a super high frame rate, and AF can continue to be used while shots are being taken.

I still have my reservations against EVFs but he seems to be saying that the super large magnification makes up for it...

That being said though, you sacrifice a lot IMHO for a 20% reduction in weight and size, and a tricked out AF system.

A potential new toy Matthew? TongueTongueTongue

I have been solidly opposed to EVFs until recently - they were awful. But Panasonic's are now quite usable in many circumstances and they are probably better than OVFs on some cameras some of the time. I can see time when I will drop opposition to EVFs altogether.


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Pavel, no - four different interchangeable lens systems should be enough for now. Rolleyes

I have to admit that I've not been a fan of Sony's consumer-level SLRs for some time now, but perhaps unfairly since what I don't like is how 'consumer' they are. And with huge respect to Keith, who does tremendous work with one (and also Rabid Penguin and camperbc, although I can't remember their models off-hand) their Live-View cameras have viewfinders (that) are lousy verging on horrible. Easily the worst on the market, which is really saying something. That's the compromise that they made in exchange for a Live View system that still uses the faster phase-detect autofocus, and dates from a time when everyone else's cameras either couldn't use AF in live-view mode, or had to black out the screen and flip the mirror down to focus. Decent contrast-detect AF, which makes M4/3, NX, and NEX possible, hasn't been around that long. So while I'm getting off-topic, Sony's consumer-level Alpha-mount cameras are a perfect example of an EVF being "better than OVFs on some cameras some of the time."

And to make a short story long, the compromise with Sony's full-time AF on cameras like the A300-A500 is that the preview isn't from the imaging sensor, so that it's neither a completely accurate preview nor a 100% viewfinder. (Although the LCD offers as-good-or-better coverage than the optical viewfinders of other SLRs in the same price range.) This new approach with the semi-transparent mirror solves those problems, making the EVF a win-win situation.

This could be very interesting. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •

Thanks for the heads up and info Matthew, will definitely keep an eye on this space. Big Grin

Hey Dpreview has a full review of the camera here:

Some interesting insights:

1. For one, they praise the EVF and say that the detail and usage is actually quite good

2. The AF system wasn't up to par in high-speed shooting mode -- a feature which is claimed to be an advantage of using the new "mirror" system

3. In continuous shooting mode, the EVF/displays show a "slideshow" of the shots taken which lags behind the actual action that is occurring, making it hard to track a moving subject

4. Also the 10FPS shooting mode is pretty much a "full auto" mode in that it doesn't allow you to alter the exposure settings

But all in all, it was a very positive review and I like what they say in the handling and operation section - "Considering that the A55 represents Sony's first attempt at a completely new type of camera, it feels impressively polished, and its performance is overall extremely good."

Matthew said "...their Live-View cameras have viewfinders (that) are lousy verging on horrible"
I can't disagree, insofar as the original series (A300/350) are concerned.
Looked through an Alpha900's OVF once and almost cried.
But that's an unfair comparison, since the A900 is widely regarded as having the finest OVF of any DSLR.
I do make it a point to NOT look through the various Canon/Nikon cameras my friends use.

Good thing the viewfinder (of any type) doesn't take the picture.
Mine is small, dim, and hard to reach due to the folding LCD's thickness, but it doesn't bother me much.

I find it interesting that Sony has apparently abandoned their 18-70mm "kit" lens for an 18-55mm like everyone else seems to use.
And yet, all the pictures over at DPReview show the DT 50mm F1.8--an excellent and affordable lens that I use exclusively these days.
(Until I get the 30mm F2.8 Macro)

Between the NEX and this new type of Alpha, Sony is really serious about trying new things.
As usual.
For better or worse.

Oops, just a note of caution when using third party lenses with these new cameras:

Quote:Sigma is advising Sony users that its lenses are not compatible with the latest Alpha SLT-A55 and SLT-A33 'translucent mirror' cameras and it will fix them for free where possible. Specifically, the aperture may not operate correctly, giving an error message on the camera. The company says it will be offering to modify existing lenses free of charge, however this may not be possible for some lenses 'discontinued several years ago'. It advises owners affected to contact their nearest Sigma Service Station.

I had a chance to play with an A55 the other day, and I have to say that I was quite impressed. The AF is very quick, and the EVF is as good as any that I've seen. It's still a resolutely consumer-level camera, but it seems like a good consumer-level camera. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •

I must take a wander into a camera store one of these days and try out a latest generation EVF... I wonder how far they've come along since I last used them (we're talking maybe 5 or 6 years now) Big Grin

There are some reports that the sensor actually overheats when shooting video, and is made worse with the image stabilisation on... oh dear...

[Image: 10x0929jhvygghe.jpg]

I've only had one EVF and that was on my Fuji Finepix 3800. it was "OK" at best. The camera itself I was generally happy with and the guy I sold it too still loves it LOL.

Apparently Time Magazine thought the pellicle mirror technology was impressive enough that they included the A55 in their list of best 50 inventions of 2010.


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