Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thoughts of the future, from a Sony Alpha A700 user...

Sony Alpha SLTA55VL DSLR with Translucent Mirror Technology (Black)
Sony Alpha A55
 The release of the A55 and A33 translucent mirror DSLR(s) has been met with mostly positive reviews and I have to admit, I like the idea of no mirror slap. Still, I find the A55 to be less than satisfactory.

So, like so many other A700 users, I'm looking to the future to see what Sony will offer in the A77/A7XX DSLR camera body.

Dual Compact Flash Slots & FPS

Let's face it, I don't use Memory sticks, pro or otherwise. Why? Because they are expensive, too small, and too slow. I've also seen them fail on me. Like the plastic cracked open. Never seen it on Compact Flash cards. I can get 32GB 600X compact flash cards from several manufacturers for a decent price. I really can't say the same for Memory Sticks.

SanDisk 32GB Extreme Pro CF memory card - UDMA 90MB/s 600x (SDCFXP-032G-A91, US Retail Package)
32GB Goodness
If Sony wants to keep the MS slots, sure. But let's be practical and make it 2 Compact Flash slots. I also want user configurable settings for how to use those slots; split recording, auto-spill over, raw to one and jpeg to the other, redundant writes in case one card fails... etc.

I love my A700, but there really are things I hate about it. 2 slots, but I have to manually switch between the two... huh.

One of the limiting factors of consumers being able to achieve the documented FPS is because of slow cards.. you know, like those Memory Sticks. If you use both sockets/slots, even with slower memory cards, you'll be able to get those higher FPS.

Speaking of FPS, being able to get consistent FPS would be amazing. 10FPS @ RAW until my card was full would really make my day. So would 5FPS @ RAW until my card was full.

High ISO Performance, Megapixels, Full Frame, and perhaps Pixel Binning?

Let's face it. When you are in a dark aquarium and trying to photograph black nettle jellies, with no flash, shooting at ISO 100-400 is going to net you a whole lot of blurry images. Tried it with a 50/1.4 and seriously, higher ISO would REALLY be welcomed in situations like that. Another situation is that of wedding photography... low light = ALOT of noise and post-processing later. Clean high ISO capability = more sales because you're able to use the camera in more challenging environments.

How about clean ISO up through ISO 6400 and allow for noisier ISO(s) after that? I'd be willing to stay at 12MP if it meant I would get better high ISO performance.

Actually, I'd be VERY happy with the sensor going to 12MP-16MP, full frame, and low noise at high ISO settings. The new high sensitivity BSI sensors with larger sensor sites, and perhaps customizable pixel binning would be AWESOME.

1/8" Flash Trigger Jack

PocketWizard PWP-TR 801-125 PLUS II Transceiver (Black)
The Gold Standard: PW+II
Seriously, it's like a minor add-on, but would mean the large user group of Pocket Wizard users are going to LOVE you for it. No more futzy pc sync port connectors that look like they are begging to be damaged. I've already converted all of my existing Minolta/Sony flash cables to 1/8" jack cables. Why? Because I'm tired of paying a Sony/Minolta tax for proprietary cables and flashes.

Open Up Tethering

Seriously, the market would expand to include a good number of other users: stop motion, time lapse, ipad applications, remote camera control, etc. Let us control the camera remotely by publishing the API or a SDK. The other benefit is that by publishing it, you'll now have other people creating interfaces to your cameras, making the device more valuable and useful, without having to commit time/resource/energy to trying to write a front end. Others will come and do it for you.

Physical Noise, Slapping and Shuttering

Okay, let's face it. Some photographers get a kick out of the amazing sound of the shutter and mirror slap. I used to, but now I'm done with it. I want to shoot without people wondering if someone has a toy machine gun firing in the pews of the wedding. If you're going to do away with mirror slap noise, why not also do away with shutter noise? Having tried the A55 and A33 in the stores, the shutter noise sounds like fake silenced gun shots. A high pitched repeated whining sound.

Would love to have a DSLR like the A77/A7XX be completely silent when it fires off a series of shots. If this means a translucent mirror being in the way, then so be it. But it just seems kinda half-assed, since the implementation is literally within sight of the silent shooting DSLR that has the phase detection AF AND electronic shutter design.

Come on! Give us the stealthy and silent DSLR! We really really want it!


Look, I'm not big on the video yet. But even I realize that the number of formats, frame rates, and bitrates is ultimately limited by software and by hardware throughput. A 600X 80MB/second write CF card will be more than able to handle 25mbps(3-4MB/second) 1080P/30 or 1080P/24 video.

Instead of limiting the "consumer" hardware so that people will buy your "pro" hardware, how about making the "consumer" hardware the best that it can be, to get the customers, then sell them on the "pro" hardware, which has better build quality and better connections for studios and on-site filming?

Seriously, the only one you are crippling with cripple-ware inside of your otherwise fine products is yourself. Give your customers and supporters more reasons to love your products and to sing their praises.

It's a software issue to take a 12MP sensor and produce the variations of video formats: 480i/p, 720i/p, 1080i/p @ 10/15/20/24/25/29.97/30/40/50/60 fps. While you're at it, how about letting people manually configure the shutter speed at any of the video frame rates as well as including a variable neutral density filter so that it works properly for a given aperture/shutter speed?


So.. in almost every case, the ability to shoot infrared is limited because of a filter. How much would it REALLY cost to have that filter be auto-switchable with a menu option or a special hot key? Like... hit the toggle, and the filter flips and is replaced with a filter that is IR friendly. Then, you can shoot photos and videos in IR and actually see what's going on in live view.

Pocket Wizard Transciever?

How about building a Pocket Wizard Plus II into the camera? :) Please? Pretty please? Or at least, provide a slot for the communication module like the Sekonics have. Would be awesome and would make life ALOT easier when the "hotshoe" teasing kicks in. Seriously.

Weather sealing, Custom Brackets, etc.

Yes. Please please please make the cameras more weather sealed! Dust, moisture, sand, etc. are not our friends. Also, perhaps partnering with some of the camera hardware makers, like RRS, for some beautiful custom brackets... or better yet, perhaps make the bracket slot mount part of the vertical grip and camera edge... that would be nice.

In Summary, Please Deliver.

Sony Alpha DSLRA850 24.6MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
Sure, it's an "upgrade"...
It's fair to say I'm pretty loyal to the Minolta and now Sony brand. I've literally waited years between cameras. However, waiting takes its toll. Especially when you realize that after all of that waiting, you really didn't get all that much of what you wanted, but you got alot of what you really didn't want.

The A700 has a kind of middle of the pack placement. It feels and behaves in a very professional and rugged manner. It is a workhorse of a camera. However, it's missing features that boggles the mind. The lack of support for it is likewise boggling. I see the trend of the A33/A55 cameras and how the consumer level base is being fairly well supported, which is great. However, I'm seeing the prosumer(A700) and the professional(A850/A900) being neglected. The A900 was discontinued and replaced with the A850, which has a anemic 3fps shooting speed. Seriously, I tried it in the store and thought it was broken or something. Then I realized, I was used to 5 FPS on my A700. It's been years and no replacement for the A850/A900 is in sight... and as an A700 user, I feel like I'm on a deserted island waiting for rescue that will never come.

A while back, I seriously considered dumping Sony for Nikon. I was selling off a good number of my Sony gear and then stopped, when I realized I still had a decently working camera and I didn't want to have to buy my whole set again. Not before I sold off my vertical grip, which I missed dearly at some recent weddings.

My point is, it sucks to feel like one is being ignored. I'm looking towards Jan/Feb 2010 with baited breath... but I'm not sure if it is because I'm eager to buy into replacement Nikon gear or if it is because I'm eager to buy the A77/A7XX replacement body. Sony, please deliver on a worthy successor to the A700, which was a good successor to the Konic Minolta 7D, which I also owned.


  1. I wish they listened to people like you who take the time to speak up. Just got my a55 and right off the bat high pitch whining noises during video. The grip is so small my hand cramps, literally hurt after half an hour of shooting.


  2. Yeah, the whining noise can probably be addressed by changing the lens or by using an external mike. :/ As for the grip, yeah, that was a serious deal breaker for me.

    I'm hoping the A77 will have a larger grip similar to the A700. Got my fingers crossed for this summer.

    The A580 is basically an A55 without the SLT design, though I think it also loses the continous auto-focus, but is bigger in the hand.