When Sony purchased Konica-Minolta in January of 2006, everyone expected the world's largest digital sensor manufacturer to use the Minolta acquisition to boomerang Sony's entry into the DSLR market. It was soon clear that Sony had ambitious plans for capturing market share in photography's fastest growing market, but the going has been slow.

In the past year Sony has kicked up the pace, beginning with the A700 to compete in prosumer space, followed quickly by the A200 entry-level DSLR, and the A350/A300 DSLRs built with a truly unique and useful Sony implementation of Live View. The Sony Live View is the only Live View that truly behaves like a point and shoot camera in Live View mode. It's as simple as a switch that lets a new user move between Live View and traditional DSLR.

The culmination of the Sony push into the Digital SLR market was unveiled on September 8, after 18 months of hints, speculation, and closed case exhibits at photography events. It is likely that anyone out there who follows photography has at least heard of the A900 - Sony's flagship DSLR and the first to showcase the new Sony 24.6MP full-frame sensor. It also gives the full-frame resolution crown to Sony for the time being, as no other full-frame sensor can claim resolution this high. The closest competitor is the $8000 Canon 1Ds Mark III at 21.1MP.

Sony launched the new A900 in events around the world where invited press and professional photographers were given the opportunity for hands-on time with the A900. It was certainly a controlled environment, with a studio setup with a model and a typical tethered studio shooting product ads. The two environments do reflect how most photographers make their living today, but the manufacturer setups are hardly designed for a competitive comparison. That will have to wait until production cameras arrive in November.

Today we are publishing the A900/Sony DSLR press announcements. You may have already seen the A900 announcement, but we have gathered information on the Sony flagship items together so you can more easily see how the parts contribute to the whole. There was not enough hands-on time to do anything like a thorough analysis of a groundbreaking new camera like the A900. That will have to wait until the release of the A900 in November. However, strong impressions were triggered and we did have enough time with the A900 system to answer many of our questions about the feel, layout, and controls of the new A900. Those impressions are shared on pages seven and eight in our complaints and praise for the new Sony A900.

Full-Frame, 24.6MP, and SteadyShot Integrated IS
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  • yyrkoon - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    If I had any personal gripes with Sony,it would be because of their 'business tactics' in the past with things mentioned by Westley here. Westley made mention of the 'battery issue', but what he did not mention was Sony's bad judgment in the past concerning rootkits.

    Sure, Sony's motivation for installing 'software' on a system without the users knowledge may have had to do with protecting their IP(DRM), but I have to question any company who deems they have the right to take control of any system that does not belong to them. Also, for those who may think that this is no big deal, keep in mind that even USB thumb drives, etc have their own MAC address.

    What does this mean to the end user you may ask ? This means that anyone of us *could* potentially be locked out of the hardware that we payed hard earned cash for at the whim of a company who obviously has serious moral issues.

    Thankfully Mark Russinovich caught this back in 2005, but it took several class action suits, and a court order that made Sony pay up $150 to each affected individual before they stopped shipping the CDs(almost two years later).

    Now onto the subject of lenses. Zeiss also makes Nikon glass, but according to Ken Rockwell (heh yeah I know . . .) Zeiss actually does not make these lenses(some other company in Japan does), and most of, or all of these are MF. Ken Rockwell then goes on to say - "When photographers want quality they use larger format cameras, not 35 mm. " Nothing he says here really matters to me. All I care about is how well any given lens I purchase performs. I suppose the part he mentions going to a different format for quality does sort of make sense, but since I am not a 'professional photographer', my Nikon DSLR will just have to do . . . The thing is though, Zeiss is not the end all be all of lenses, and other manufactures make good lenses as well (Nikon for one).

    I did the research more than 1.5 years ago when purchasing my first DSLR, and at that time, there just was not a broad enough lens selection available for the Alpha 100. Obviously I decided against it(and I do have my reasons), but with shooting pictures with a decent DSLR, I am finding that knowing how to use a camera in the first place makes more of a difference than the 'quality' of equipment used.

    In the meantime, while the latest Alpha may have some desirable features, and can use some seemingly nice glass. I think I would have to pass on the 'latest flavor' of the month. Also seems to be yet another company who can not get it into their heads that the 'big MP penis' *thing* was a last year and before trend. While this year savvy photographers have been asking for, and want more dynamic range . . .

  • melgross - Wednesday, September 17, 2008 - link

    Yes. Right now, most of Sony's lenses are old, and not intended for digital sensors. There are a few Zeiss lenses, which are certainly good, though not quite up to the standard of their third party offerings for Nikon, and now Canon. But their Sony models do auto focussing, which the Nikon and Canon models do not.

    It's surprising that their sony models, at the prices that they sell for are not weather sealed as Canon and Nikon's own lenses are.
  • Heidfirst - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    1. Sony have made it very clear all through the A900 development that they do not consider the A900 a Pro body (albeit capable of being used by a Pro).
    I guess a proper Pro body (or several) comes later if they decide that they really want to seriously target that market.

    2. the reason that there is no increase in burst speed in APS-C mode is that Minolta/KM & now Sony have never had a shutter/mirror mechanism that can do more than 5fps i.e. it's the shutter that is the limiting factor not the image processing abilities.

    3. batteries - yes, it's dear compared to generics but it's no dearer than equivalent Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax genuine batteries.
    & I've got to say that it's a great battery in terms of performance so I don't need as many.
  • Keepitpro - Sunday, September 14, 2008 - link

    Sony is an Industry standard in broadcasting with their video cameras, expect it to become a reference standard in photography as time passes. They have the engineering power to solve problems, and almost an unlimited budget to make things happen. They are the freshman in the SLR market and already making good decisions, it's only a matter of time before they get all of it right. The other question to factor in is how the photo industry will accept Sony as a future industry standard. Artist and photographers tend to stick with what they know and love. Lets see how their incredible marketing team handles that. It might be Sony take over, PS3 stile.
    Only time will tell.
  • Milleman - Sunday, September 14, 2008 - link

    Looks interresting, but there are a few things that stops me from buying right now. First, it's the first of its kind in a new breed from Sony. Some functions and engineering is just great, while some other seems premature or even absent. Onther big backlash is the batteries. I don't wanna end up with a "Sony-only" choice of battery source. I have have a friend that is tied to the Sony batt-packs, and he claims it is really a pain in the ass.

    For now on, I'll probably wait until Nikon or Canon turns up with a similar 24 MP unit, just because of what I mentioned.
  • roweraay - Sunday, September 14, 2008 - link

    Actually, the entire range of Konica-Minolta engineers are in Sony's employ and you cannot get any more expertise than that, from a photography perspective, regardless of manufacturer. As far as electronics and sensor technology is concerned, Sony has been doing that for a while, including as a supplier to Nikon.

    Bottomline, in the "DSLR", the "D" aspect is covered through Sony's own expertise/know-how and the "SLR" aspect is covered through the prior Konica-Minolta engineers.

    I would not have too much concern about Sony being new to this field.

    They did have some mis-steps when the A700 was initially released one year back, by applying NR onto RAW (BAD in my book) but they have completely reversed course, with the upcoming release on Sept.16th, of Firmware Ver.4, which completely changes things for the better.

    Now the RAW files are virgin-untampered-RAW-files (with the NR-OFF setting) and is unbelievably detailed even at ISO 6400 and seemingly has even more luminance data in it than its peer, the Nikon D300 (which shares roughly the same sensor).
  • chiew - Sunday, September 14, 2008 - link

    how much is sony paying you ;)

    i'm going to wait for some side by side comparisons by phil askey, etc before putting my money into something that isn't even on the market yet.
  • rjm55 - Sunday, September 14, 2008 - link

    I suppose if you have already decided to buy Canon or Nikon then waiting for Phil's side-by-side makes sense. You can always be sure Canon or Nikon will be the winner in Phil's reviews. And dpreview and their parent Amazon are obviously paying me nothing.
  • chiew - Sunday, September 14, 2008 - link

    are you saying you are more qualified to compare cameras side by side than phil or any other site's reviewers? dpreview was just one site i mentioned
  • KorruptioN - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    It has been generally seen that Phil favours his Nikons and Canons over something "different", such as a Sony. Cameras that are technically stronger but are of the "different" nameplate earn lower final ratings than a camera from one of the proven stablemates.

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