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21st February 2010
PMA 2010: Sony surprises with video-enabled DSLR and hybrid mirrorless camera design studies
by Ian Burley

Video comes to the Alpha DSLR line up and Alpha will also be Sony's hybrid brand

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So much for PMA being short on exclusives this year. As I'd hoped, Sony showed off some design studies for its planned hybrid mirrorless interchangeable camera system, joining Panasonic Lumix, Olympus, and Samsung. Sony also showed mock-ups of two new AVCHD video-enabled DSLRs, a new 24mm Carl Zeiss Distagon T* lens, and a new G-series 500mm f/4 telephoto. Both are full-frame compatible.

First, a look at the hybrid concept models

While there had been some rumours that Sony would join the Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four Thirds consortium, it's clearly not going to happen that way. Sony, like Samsung, is using the larger APS-C sensor format, which is ideal for Sony's production of Exmor CMOS sensors for the Alpha DSLR range.

By sharing the same sensor format as the Alpha DSLR range, one can speculate the Sony hybrids will be able to use Alpha DSLR lenses. I just hope that Sony doesn't follow Samsung's example and design-out AF and metering compatibility with Alpha DSLR lenses.

And we can assume Sony's hybrids will be branded Alpha, judging by the models on display.

Sony has gone for the flat-top design and has come up with something vaguely akin to a cross between a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 and an Olympus Pen E-P1.

Although there is no actual lens mount in the lens-less model (above), it appears that the distance between the lens mount plane and the sensor (flange-back distance) is much shorter than with Samsung NX or Micr Four Thirds hybrids.

Sony describes its hybrid project as an "Alpha Anytime-anywhere DSLR Quality Ultra-compact Interchangeable Lens Camera"

These are two guys (above) from Samsung, who seemed to talk like engineers, eagerly examining their rival's work.

One thing that is apparent from the view provided by the mirror is that the design concept models are fairly chunky.

We're not quite sure what this enormous un-marked lens was meant to symbolise in the hybrid display case!

It was great to see some nuts and bolts evidence of Sony's hybrid plans. As I see it, this and other initiatives in the melting pot from various manufacturers promises a vintage Photokina show late in September.

Alpha DSLR news

If there is one increasingly visible weakness in the Sony Alpha DSLR line up, it's the lack of video capability. Sony is the only mass market DSLR brand not to offer interchangeable lens cameras with video. But two Alpha DSLR mock-ups here at PMA clearly address this:

Judge the size of this Alpha mock up by the size of the standard kit lens. The body is tiny and it's AVCHD video enabled.

This much larger, enthusiast or semi-pro model is also AVCHD video-enabled.

Carl Zeiss fans will no doubt be pleased to see this, apparently functional, example of a new 24mm f/2 Zeiss Distagon wide angle T* optic.

Alpha-toting professionals should also be very pleased to see this new 500mm f/4 G-series stabilised telephoto.

Finally, here is a view of the 'control panel' on the new G-series 500mm f/4.


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