Sony Alpha A850, A550 and A500 DSLRs arrive; still no video

Aug 27, 2009
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Sony has outed three new DSLRs in its flagship Alpha range, the α850, α550 and α500, packing 24.6-, 14.2- and 12.3-megapixel sensors respectively.  The α850 picks up much of the goodness from the Sony α900's table, including accessory compatibility, only at a much lower (comparatively-speaking) price, while the α550 and α500 differentiate themselves by packing new Memory Stick and SDHC card slots rather than Compact Flash.

They're also pretty well equipped for speedy shooting, with the α550 managing seven frames per second (the α500 falls a little behind that, however) and both having the same low-light abilities from Sony's recent Exmor digicams.  In fact the company claim up to ISO 12800 is possible while still preserving "fine detail".  There are also tilting LCD displays and an easy HDR mode, though no video recording.  They should land in October, priced at around $950 and $750 for the α550 and α500 respectively.

As for the α850, that pairs its high resolution sensor with the dual BIONZ processing engine and 3fps shooting at full res.  There's also an anti-shake system compatible with Sony, Minolta and Konica-Minolta lenses, an HDMI output and 3-inch 921k preview screen.  Like the cheaper DSLRs, though, it lacks video recording.  It should land in September, priced at $2,000 for the body alone.

Press Release:

CAPTURE THE MOMENT IN PERFECT DETAIL WITH NEW SONY ALPHA CAMERAS

DSLRs Deliver Low-Light Performance, Exceptional Shooting Speed and In-Camera High Dynamic Range

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 27, 2009 – Sony today introduced two α DSLR cameras with a new generation of Exmor™ CMOS sensors and BIONZ™ image processors, which make it easy for active shooters to get the best shot and capture clearer images—without missing their favorite moments.

The DSLR-A550 (14.2 megapixels) and DSLR-A500 (12.3 megapixels) cameras provide excellent picture quality, particularly in low-light scenarios. A new generation of Sony® Exmor CMOS image sensors employ new low-noise processing for high-quality pictures. The BIONZ image processor has color-noise reduction that helps achieve low noise up to ISO 12800, without sacrificing fine detail.

“We are bringing performance of a higher class of cameras within the reach of a broader group of consumers,” said Mark Weir, senior technology manager of the product management unit in the Digital Imaging Division at Sony Electronics. “Not only do these cameras provide great value, but they also bring faster shooting speeds and new technologies like in-camera High Dynamic Range and new Live View features to mainstream photo enthusiasts.”

Fast Shooting Speeds

With its unique sensor-processor combination, the α550 camera is the first DSLR in its class with seven frames per second shooting speed for under $1,000. Using the optical viewfinder on both models, you can shoot up to five frames per second and up to four frames per second with Quick Auto Focus Live View. This helps you capture the decisive moment when shooting fast moving subjects like in sports.

In-Camera High Dynamic Range

These are Sony’s first DSLR cameras that offer an in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature for capturing highlights and shadows, which processes the image within two seconds. Unlike HDR features in other DSLR cameras, Sony’s unique positional interpolation technology can overcome slight changes in camera position and align individual shots so that a tripod is not required.

The feature handles severe backlighting and other high-contrast scenes like looking out a window into bright daylight. The in-camera auto HDR technology combines the highlight and shadow detail of two separate captures into one remarkably natural looking image.

Improved Live View

Because composing shots on the LCD monitor is becoming increasingly important to DSLR users, Sony has equipped these cameras with two Live View functions and a 3-inch (measured diagonally) LCD screen that tilts 90 degrees up or down. The α500 has a 230,000 pixel Clear Photo LCD Plus™ screen, and the α550 has a 921,000 pixel Xtra Fine LCD™ display.

Sony’s Quick AF Live View uses two sensors to maintain the same focusing speed as with the optical viewfinder. While the speed of Quick AF Live View is ideal for every day shooting, Manual Focus Check Live View enables critical framing and magnification for setting precise manual focus in macro and tripod shooting. Temporary 7x and 14x zoom views enable you to focus on extremely fine detail while the 1x view shows 100 percent framing in the LCD.

The Quick Auto Focus Live View has been developed with Face Detection technology to help you get the best shot by recognizing and adjusting for faces. It is the world’s first Face Detection system to work with fast, high-precision “phase detection” Auto Focus. By tracking up to eight faces, this system can prioritize auto focus points on a face, and optimize exposure and white balance for beautiful portraits.

These are Sony’s first DSLR cameras that include Smile ShutterTM technology in Live View, which takes the shot when your subject smiles. It works with Quick Auto Focus Live View to capture spontaneous moments.

Image stabilization helps take blur-free shots by compensating for camera shake. Typical DSLR systems build image stabilization into selected lenses only. SteadyShot INSIDE™ image stabilization is built into the camera body itself. Blur will also be reduced with every A-mount lens, including macro and wide aperture standard zoom lenses, with an effect equivalent to shutter speeds faster by 2.5 to 4 stops

To make the benefits of macro photography easier and more accessible, Sony is making available at retail the DT 30mm F/2.8 (model SAL30M28) macro lens. It captures intricate close-ups, which is difficult to achieve with standard lenses and is only compatible with APS-C format DSLRs.

Memory Cards

For higher capacity storage with greater connectivity and faster transfer speeds, the new DSLRs are compatible with Sony’s newest 32GB Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™ HX media. The HX series card is designed to deliver optimal read and write speeds for a growing number of products that require high-bandwidth memory in order to capture and store large data files.

Using the HX series media, Sony α DSLR users can confidently enjoy advanced features such as continuous-shooting photography and realize higher transfer rates of large capacity files to their compatible PC (via supplied USB adapter). For example with the α550 model, approximately 1500 14-megapixel photos shot in the JPEG+RAW mode can be transferred to a compatible PC in approximately 26 minutes (HX series media sold separately).

The new cameras include dedicated slots for high-capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo™, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™, HX series and SD/SDHC media (all sold separately).

Pricing and Availability

Pre-orders will begin on August 28, 2009 at www.sonystyle.com/retail and at selected retailers nationwide. The cameras, lens and a range of accessories will be available in October at Sony Style® retail stores (www.sonystyle.com/retail), at military base exchanges and at authorized dealers nationwide.

The α550 (model DSLR-A550) and α500 (model DSLR-A500), which come with the camera body only, will cost about $950 and $750 respectively. The α550L and α500L, which come with the camera body and 18-55 kit lens, will cost about $1050 and $850, respectively.

The SAL30M28 macro lens will be available in October for about $200.

Press Release:

Sony Brings Full-Frame Quality To A New Class Of DSLR Photo Enthusiasts

SAN DIEGO, August 27, 2009 — Aimed at experienced shooters looking for value and sophisticated SLR performance, Sony today introduced the full-frame α850 camera and a new 28-75mm F2.8 lens.

The α850 model shares the same 24.6 megapixel sensor and most features of the flagship α900 camera, introduced last year, but will be available for just under $2000 (body only).

“Sony is bringing the benefits of a full-frame digital SLR camera to a broader group of consumers,” said Kristen Elder, director of AMC business unit in the Digital Imaging Division at Sony Electronics. “The α850 strengthens Sony’s alpha DSLR line, which now offers models in each step from high-end professional down to the amateur enthusiast.”

The α850 camera is designed to deliver ultra-fine picture quality with a high resolution, 24.6-megapixel, 35-mm full-frame Exmor™ CMOS sensor and fast image processing with dual BIONZ™ processing engines. It also offers high-speed continuous shooting of 24.6 megapixel images at up to three frames per second.

Ultra-Fine Images
The camera’s Exmor CMOS sensor delivers the photographic expressive power of wide angles and perspective that only a 35 mm full-frame sensor can offer, and is designed to take advantage of the resolving power of high-precision alpha lenses. Its high pixel count and large size provide enhanced image detail and a wider dynamic range for natural color reproduction and subtle tonal gradations.

Image processing gets a boost in speed and power from two BIONZ processing engines. Large amounts of data captured by the 24.6-megapixel sensor can be quickly processed to achieve a fast shooting response. Additionally, this dual BIONZ system applies advanced noise reduction algorithms producing images of exceptional quality and detail, especially at high ISO sensitivities.

Capture the Right Shot the First Time
The camera’s innovative intelligent preview function takes the guesswork out of setting up a shot and the hassle of taking multiple shots to achieve a desired effect.

After pressing the depth of field preview button, the camera “grabs” a RAW preview image which is processed and displayed on the LCD screen. You can then fine tune white balance, determine the best level and effect of dynamic range optimization, adjust exposure compensation and check histogram data, all before you actually take the picture. Preview images are not recorded on the camera’s memory card, thus saving capacity.

The camera’s autofocus system features nine sensors with 10 assist points for improved tracking of moving subjects. A center dual cross sensor comprised of two horizontal and two vertical line sensors as well as a dedicated f/2.8 sensor are included to achieve greater precision, especially when using fast-aperture lenses.

Ultra-Bright Viewfinder with 98 Percent Coverage
The ultra-bright viewfinder with 98 percent field of view coverage and 0.74x magnification enables accurate framing and preview. It features a high-power condenser lens, an eyepiece with high reflective-index glass, and a multi-layer, anti-reflective coating on optical surfaces to deliver its extraordinarily bright view.

A mirror box features a parallel-link mirror mechanism that moves on two horizontal axes to accommodate both the large full frame mirror and the body-integrated image stabilization system without increasing the camera’s size.

Anti-Shake System for a Full-Frame Sensor
With its body-integrated SteadyShot INSIDE™ image stabilization, the camera achieves an anti-shake effect equivalent to shutter speeds faster by 2.5 to 4 stops. The anti-shake system stabilizes all Sony, Minolta and Konica-Minolta compatible lenses even wide angle or large aperture lenses.

Versatility to Unleash Creative Possibilities
Other key features aimed to expand creative options include the Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) with five levels of user-selectable correction as well as DRO bracketing for enhanced scene analysis and graduation optimization. EV bracketing with ±2EV range makes it easy to create high dynamic range composite images.

With the camera’s HDMI™ output and Photo TV HD mode, your creative output can be enjoyed on a compatible HD television. This mode brings the look of actual printed photography to the television, by fine-tuning such image parameters as sharpness, gradation, and color reproduction.

The a850 model features a 3-inch (diagonally), Xtra Fine LCD™ screen (921K) making it possible to check focus and image quality with accuracy. It incorporates an easy-to-see display with a quick navigation menu to easily access common functions without interrupting your creative flow. A backlit LCD panel sits on top of the camera and displays key settings.

The camera includes dedicated slots for high-capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo™, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™, HX series and CompactFlash® media.

Bright Lens
The choice of full-frame lenses to complement the α850 model is enhanced with the new SAL2875 28-75mm F2.8 SAM lens. This compact, easy-to-carry lens is ideal for photo enthusiasts looking to add a bright, general purpose zoom to their collection of full-frame optics.

Delivering excellent imaging quality at an accessible price, it offers a wide F2.8 aperture over its entire zoom range. Ideal for day-to-day shooting tasks, its bright constant aperture makes the 28-75mm F2.8 SAM particularly valuable for depth-of-field control and available-light portraits.

Pricing and Availability
The a850 (model DSLR-A850) will be available in September for about $2,000 (body only) along with related accessories. All a900 accessories are compatible with the a850 camera, including the dedicated vertical grip (model VG-C90AM). The SAL2875 lens will be available in November for about $800. All will be available at authorized dealers, at military base exchanges, Sony Style retail stores (www.sonystyle.com/retail) and at sonystyle.com.


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