The A77 is coming — and a note on why I shoot Sony now

Sony yesterday announced the Alpha A77 “SLT” (single-lens translucent) camera. This is the successor to the A700 as Sony’s top-of-the line APS-C camera and at the same time the successor to the A55 and A33, the first SLT cameras released last year. The best discussion of the A77 available right now, as far as I can tell, is over at Luminous Landscape.

This matters to me. I shoot Sony. When I abandoned Pentax a year ago, instead of going with either of the safe choices (Nikon or Canon) I decided to go with Sony. Why? No doubt partly because I’m a contrarian. It was also partly because Nikon and Canon DSLRs don’t have image stabilization built into the body, which strikes me as, well, a big disadvantage of the Nikon and Canon systems. But I chose Sony mainly because it is clear to me that digital cameras are now primarily electronic devices and Sony knows more about electronics than Nikon and Canon combined. While Nikon, Canon and Pentax are trying and to a great extent succeeding at making digital versions of their classic film cameras, Sony is busy trying to make new kinds of products. Personally, I think the NEX bodies are nutty and I’ve said so here; but nobody listens to me and apparently they are selling like hotcakes. As for its alpha-mount cameras, the A55 made history last year and the A77 looks like it will do the same again this year. Sony makes the best sensors around, and the sensor is the most important part of a digital SLR body. My primary body, Sony Alpha A580 (which is basically an A55 but with an optical viewfinder), gets top grades from the independent DxO Mark testing site, besting even the Nikon D300s, which costs twice as much. Not saying that Nikon or Canon don’t make great cameras. They do. A large majority of the best photographers in the world prefer Canon or Nikon. I could in all honesty switch to either line this afternoon, and if I win the Texas lottery, perhaps I will pick up a few high-end bodies from both of those makers. I’m not a fan-boy for Sony. Still, Sony is really innovating, and since innovation for its own sake is meaningless (see Ricoh or Sigma), I hasten to add that Sony’s innovations are, in very large part, major and valuable successes.

Sony seems to understand at a deep level just how digital photography isn’t just a matter of digital capture, but rather, a fully digital workflow. Sony understands that most photos (at least by serious photographers) get processed after capture, and moreover, that photos, once processed, go on to be shared via digital media like the Web.

Anyway, I for one am excited about the imminent arrival of the A77.

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Postscript…

I’m not saying I’m rushing to order the A77 myself. There were some issues with the A55 SLT and flash use, and since flash use is critically important for me, I’m going to have to confirm that those issues have been resolved. I’m not sure I need 24MP, although I don’t see that as a huge problem. More important, there is, at the moment anyway, some doubt about whether the A77’s image quality will be as good as the image quality of the A580. More megapixels does not mean better image quality, certainly not automatically. See for example this comparison of the new A35 with the A580; the A35 apparently has a sensor identical to or similar to the one in the A55, which is (as I understand it) the same as the one in the A580. But the A35 rates lower in every category than the A580, presumably because of the SLT design. Have to wait a month or two until the tech-heads have had a chance to work with production models of the A77 and we can see the results. I would also like to hear more about whether a full-frame SLT (A99?) is coming. Some rumors suggest that it is. If that is the case, I might skip the A77 and jump to the A99. Anyway, no decisions have to be made this week!

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