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2006.04.21

Less than a month after Konica-Minolta shut-down its photo division accross the world, Sony released a droplet of information in the form of a short press release and announcement web-site.

The annoucement says 3 things, only one of which is new:

  • Sony DSLR cameras will use the Konica-Minolta lens mount.
  • The cameras will be launched this summer.
  • The name Alpha will designate Sony’s DSLR cameras.

To be clear, the only Konica-Minolta technology that is known to be implemented in Sony Alpha cameras is the lens mount. The annoucement does not say if flashes and other accessories will be compatible with Konica-Minolta ones, just that accessories will also be launched. Sony sensors, which were previosuly used in Maxxum cameras anyways, will be used, in addition to Sony image processing.

This still leaves in suspense if Sony Alpha cameras will include KM’s Anti-Shake, Sony’s Memory Sticks and Sony’s Info-Lithium batteries. Since Anti-Shake was the most talked about feature of Konica-Minolta DLSR cameras, there is a great chance that it will be used on at least some Sony Alpha models. The use of Sony Memory Sticks is more nebulous though. Sony may be tempted to use Memory Sticks to direct more consumer money into its pockets and lock them into its prorietary format. However, Sony also makes Compact Flash Type II cards which are already supported by high-end Sony fixed-lens digital cameras. This means that Sony at least understands the appeal of Compact Flash cards in higher-end devices. As for the batteries, most people would hope for AA batteries, but that is not likely to happen.

Even though these cameras will be launched this summer, there is no word on availability. A launch means that Sony will give names to the cameras and release general specifications for them. Typical availability is 3 to 6 months after a launch. Since Konica-Minolta was already collaborating with Sony on DSLR cameras, we hope that availability will prompty follow the launch, perhaps at Photokina, in late September.

As for the Alpha brand name, it may be new to Sony but Konica-Minolta cameras were already known with the Alpha name is Japan. Since Japanese people in general have strong brand loyality, it comes with little surprise that Sony would keep the Alpha brand. The comforting underlying message is that Sony is keeping some things the way Konica-Minolta had them. This message is directed at Konica-Minolta users which Sony would like to count in its market-share as quickly as possible. What most Konica-Minolta users want is for Sony to keep more than just the name, but also the ergonomics and thoughtfulness of the products which they use.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium.


One response to “Sony Alpha”

  1. Doug says:

    This is, of course, the big buzz with orphaned KM users. It can be assumed Sony’s main interest was the minolta lenses, which Sony does not have, They are of quite decent quality, and there are many owners around the world.

    But, as you mentioned in your previous post, the “Anti-Shake” is the feature that hopefully will be continued. What is unique in the KM system is that the body holds the mechanism, not the lens. It will be interesting to see if Sony makes a serious play towards the upper end of the market. If so, they will demonstrate to Canon and Nikon that buyers will want high end products, but with a more sensible and cost effective approach to anti-shake. Put it in the body where the purchaser only buys it once rather than in the lens where it has to be bought and paid for everytime you buy a lens.

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