Sony Surprises with Quick AF Live View and 14.2 Megapixels

Sony just introduced the A200 at CES about 4 weeks ago. Rumors were floating that even more new Sony models would launch at PMA, but no one really expected the two feature-laden models Sony introduced yesterday.



The A300 and A350 are new models that add Live View to the list of features. It is not, however, Live View like everyone else has recently introduced. The Sony Live View is clearly the best implementation of that feature on any SLR.

Olympus pioneered Live View a couple of years ago with the E-330, an expensive DSLR that enabled Live View with a separate sensor feeding the LCD image. In retrospect this was a superior method of providing a live view to the LCD screen.  It must have also been an expensive solution since Olympus abandoned that method in future versions of Live View. So did every other manufacturer.

Everyone now uses the imaging sensor to provide Live View, and while that method works and is fairly cheap to implement, it does have serious limitations. First, it eats precious power, as the mirror has to be flipped up and held out of the image path during Live View. Second, the camera must flip down the mirror for focus and metering, which slows down shooting and momentarily turns off Live View. This makes Live View more a check-box feature on today’s digital SLRs than something truly like the Live View seen on Point-and-Shoot cameras. Some variations of this exist, such as the Canon Live View system with contrast-detection focusing, but all the Live View systems have been slower and less capable than optical AF.


In the A300 and A350, Sony introduces a totally different Live View System, based on an additional live view sensor and a tilting pentamirror.


In the Sony Quick AF Live View the pentamirror tilts and the optical viewfinder closes during live view. The dedicated sensor enables true TTL (Through The Lens) phase-detection continuous AF during Live View.



The A350/A300 also sport a larger 2.7 inch LCD display that can tilt down 40 degrees or up 130 degrees (180 degrees measured from film plane) to make the Quick AF Live View even more useful. This is not quite as flexible as the Olympus and Panasonic tilt-and-swivel LCDs, but it is a big improvement on flexibility over a fixed-position LCD.

While Quick AF Live View was an unexpected surprise, Sony had another surprise at PMA. The entry-level A300 is utilizes a 10.2 megapixel CCD sensor, but the A350 step up resolution to 14.2 megapixels.

All three new Sony cameras will sell under $1000 in Kits with the Sony 18-70mm (27-105mm equivalent) lens. The A200 kit will sell for $699, the A300 kit for $799, and the A350 kit for $899. The A350 will also be available as body only for $799. All three Sonys can add a battery grip with the same new Vertical Grip VG-B30AM.

Nikon launches D60 Entry DSLR 24.6 Megapixel Sony Full-Frame
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  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    PMA originally was an acronym for the Photographic Manufacturers Association, but it has lost that meaning over time as photography has shifted to imaging and PMA never makes mention of what PMA stands for any more. I defined PMA in some recent blog articles referring to the show.

    The second sentence in the article is 'PMA bills itself as “The Worldwide Community of Imaging Associations” '. This was mentioned at the beginning of the article to explain what PMA was about. With the introductory paragraph was it not clear that PMA was a show of imaging solutions, which included digital phtography?
    Reply
  • Per Hansson - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    Thank you Wesley Fink for your work with this article, but I have a small grip with the Sony Live View system

    "The Sony Live View is clearly the best implementation of that feature on any SLR."

    Well, like always lets take into account how it's going to be used
    The Live View might be better for people coming from P&S cameras but it's surley not the holy grail

    Canon's XSI with it's WYSIWYG Live View has it's own advantages, here is a small article on it (including downsides to the Sony design)

    http://photoclubalpha.com/2008/01/31/how-the-live-...">http://photoclubalpha.com/2008/01/31/how-the-live-...

    Also, on page X there are spelling mistakes, "certaihly" and "showss"
    Reply
  • Johnmcl7 - Sunday, February 3, 2008 - link

    I think you're quite right, the comments about liveview in the article seem to misunderstand the concept. This form of liveview thinking was certainly popular when only Olympus had it but funnily enough times have changed now that various other companies have it and people have realised the benefits.

    Without the facility to use the main sensor for liveview I think it leaves the Sony implementation still half baked - while the main sensor means delays with mirror flips it can be used for very accurate manual focus and generally works better in low light. In most cases when using the camera in liveview mode it's because it's in an awkward position so speed isn't really that useful. However as in these cases for me at least it's often macro having a 10x boost is very useful. While I could be lying along the ground to use the optical viewfinder, obviously it's far more comfortable to use the screen.

    I have to say I remain uncovinced with the AT camera articles as they seem to consider the cameras far too much from a feature aspect without properly considering their usage. Furthermore I'm disappointed at the errors, the last camera comparison had numerous errors on 4/3 aspects alone and similarly there are errors in this article as well. As I'm only particularly familiar with the 4/3 system, I don't really trust what I'm reading on other cameras here.

    John
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    I personally think Live View is very over-rated and is more a check list feature - even though I'm a fan generally of Olympus' recent 4/3 gear and Olympus invented Live View on the SLR. I spent a great deal of time at PMA walking around the show with A Sony A350 and I found the live view on their camera VERY fast and much more useful than I expected.

    The down side is Sony uses a tilting Penta-mirror, which means the way they do it will not work on more expensive SLRs with full optical viewfinders like the A700. The tilting Pentamirror is by definition an entry level solution for the DSLR. However, Sony sees it as a bridge technology for buyers coming from P&S and they feel strongly it should be just as fast as optical to be of any real value. I mentioned the Canon because I do believe as done on the upcoming XSi it is the next best solution for Live View, though it the Canon approach does have a different set of limitations.
    Reply
  • SlinkyDink - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    I've been a fan of Anandtech since the geocities days

    This is the first article I've read here while, and felt a bit clueless in regards to the content. A camera lens thing? Whats it do? What do all these unfamiliar acronyms mean? Nikon didn't want a blower thing, but now they're adding one? I must have missed that news on cameraworld.com

    If the content is going to stray away from the usual 'hardware analysis and news', then I think it should have bits of the article geared towards someone new to the topic.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    If you clock on the 'Digital Cameras' tab at the top of the page you will find an article called "Digital Photography from 20,000 feet". I have mentioned in many recent reviews that you should start there if you feel lost in the terminology and concepts. As one comment pointed out nothing I said here was that unusual for those into Photography - even a little bit.

    There is also a late December Buyers Guides that talsk about features of all the models available before this show - and the article links the recent blogs on the introduction of the Canon XSi and the Pentax K20D.
    Reply
  • AndyKH - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    If you want an introduction to the subject you could take a look on dpreview.com, a really excellent photo site. Reply
  • Bruce 1337 - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    Heh, yeah camera news can get a bit acronym heavy. I don't think anything mentioned would be unfamiliar to anyone "into" photography though, so I'm not sure how much they should be expected to define or explain ahead of time. They don't usually spell out stuff like Front Side Bus when talking about new PCs either. It's just assumed that the reader knows what terms like FSB, L2 cache, 45 nm, and SLI mean.

    But I think maybe an article explaining some of the basics would be helpful. Then they could link to it whenever there's camera news.

    Briefly: the Nikon thing was talking about a sensor cleaning system that removes dust from the image sensor. SLR type cameras have the sensor sitting out in the air when you swap lenses, so they can get dirty. The VR lens has image stabilization so you get fewer blurry pictures when shooting in low light and such (very useful). Canon and Nikon have the stabilization take place in their lenses, whereas Sony, Olympus et al do it inside the camera body. The Live View stuff is confusing, but basically Sony's is the best. DSLRs didn't used to show you what you're taking a picture of in the LCD (you had to look in the viewfinder, for technical reasons). New DSLRs allow you to look at the LCD, but most can't autofocus and such while you're looking at the screen. Sony's is cool like that.
    Reply
  • MrX8503 - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    Seems like all consumers can think about is Megapixel that, megapixel here, my camera has more megapixels so its better. About 90% of consumers who buy P&S cameras don't even need that many pixels for their 4x6 prints. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    Image quality is of course the most important thing with any camera and lens. With the tiny sensors in P&S cameras the current megapixel race has already reached the point of higher megapixels often creating poorer quality. With those small sensors the smaller sensor sites that come with higher res can be less sensitive to light and actually produce lower sensitivity and poorer pictures.

    The situation is quite different with the relatively "huge" sensors in APS-C and full-frame DSLR sensors. Real resolution is still increasing, but buyers should always take a close look at the high ISO performance of the new higher megapixel sensors to see if sensitivity is being overly compromised for higher resolution.
    Reply

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