Monday, July 16, 2007

Will Sony turn Pro?

Sony set to announce expansion of Alpha DSLR Line
Full Frame Professional and Midrange model expected

Will a Sony Alpha line be able to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of Konica-Minolta...
When Konica Minolta corporation sold off its camera division to Sony last year it was a bittersweet announcement. The loss of both Minolta and Konica was a bit of a blow to long time camera buffs. Both companies had a rich history of innovative cameras and world class in-house optics. Both companies had also struggled to keep pace with innovations and marketing since the beginning of the autofocus era in late 1980's.


Konica dropped out of the SLR business with the advent of autofocus and focused on a fantastic selection of rangefinder cameras, finishing up with the Hexar RF, an innovative rangefinder that put Leica's flagship M system on notice. The Konica RF took Leica M lenses (as well as its own excellent Hexanon lenses) and had features Leica had neglected to give the M for 20 years. Dante Stella tells the Konica RF story on his website "Hexar RF: The final Frontier?". Sadly it looks like the Hexar RF died with Konica, but who knows, Sony is a chip & sensor powerhouse who supplies all the major digital camera makers, if the new Leica M8 Digital is a success who knows what we may see from Sony.

Minolta was a autofocus innovator and brought to market the first autofocus SLR beating competitors Nikon and Canon by several months. Although Minolta had quite a bit of success with its Maxxum AF line it choose never to develop a professional model, however it did create one for Leica, the R system, modeled after a pre-af Minolta camera chassis. With the advent of digital Minolta made a conscious decision to make the transition and to develop a semi-professional digital SLR. The Minolta 5D & 7D was the result, innovative cameras to bring Minolta strongly into the new century. Unfortunately after releasing the 7D it did not look like Minolta would follow soon with a Pro model capable of the robustness and features found in the models from Canon and Nikon. It looked like Minolta was going to repeat the same path it had with autofocus relegating it to a bottom feeder in the SLR world.

Hello Sony....
Est. 1958
In march 2006 Sony Inc. purchased the camera division of the floundering Konica-Minolta Corp. Sony had never made an SLR camera but they had power and money, not to mention momentum that Konica-Minolta sorely lacked. Sony quickly announced they would re-design the Minolta 7D and rename it the Sony Alpha. The same name Minolta used in Japan for its Maxxum cameras.

The Sony Alpha A100 is an updated Minolta MaxxumD with full use of all previous Minolta Maxxum and Rokkor lenses. It is still not robust or feature laden enough to be considered a Professional camera but it is superior to most entry level DSLR's and has a foundation of lenses that are certainly professional quality.

The big question for the moment is where will Sony take things from here?
2 new Alpha models are expected to be released within the next 12 months. As well as several new pro lenses. Speculation has been that Sony will be releasing a full frame sensor Professional Alpha camera. This is big news if it turns out to be true. Hopefully Sony will be able to accomplish what has eluded Konica, Minolta, and many others for a long time....

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