What’s next for Sony?
When Sony unveiled the A7 and A7R at a press conference in October 2013, there was gasp of excitement from the audience because we were looking at the world’s smallest full-frame interchangeable lens cameras and the first-ever full-frame mirrorless cameras. The difference in size between these two mirrorless cameras and the popular Canon EOS 5D Mark III announced the previous year was astonishing.
At £1300/$1699 for the A7 body only and £1700/$2299 for the A7R without a lens, the prices were also pretty exciting – for comparison, the 5D Mark III’s body-only launch price was £2,999/$3,499.
At the launch event, I spoke with one of the Japanese managers who had flown in specially. He was keen to find out my opinion of the cameras, what I thought they lacked and if there was any room for improvement. I mentioned that touch control would be nice, especially as the cameras had tilting screens. He asked me if I thought that professional photographers would want that and whether it would be considered a serious feature. I replied that it’s helpful, making a camera quicker and easier to use in certain situations. So yes, many professional photographers would use touch control but they wouldn’t want it to be at the expense of button and dial controls.
As our conversation went on it because clear that the company was very keen to be seen as a serious camera manufacturer, one that was innovative enough to introduce the first full-frame mirrorless camera, but one that wanted to keep stay within quite traditional lines.
A couple of generations into the A7 series, Sony became a serious contender in the camera market and one that is often credited as really firing interest in mirrorless cameras amongst ‘serious’ photographers.
One of the most common criticisms of Sony cameras is that their menus are long, complex and not especially well organised. Thankfully, this was addressed with the Sony A7S III and the A1. And hopefully, the new menu style will continue into future Alpha cameras such as the Sony A7 IV, which can’t be too far from being announced.
With the A7S II and A1, it also seems that Sony has finally embraced touch-control in a more meaningful way. The A7S III even has a vari-angle screen, something that lots of people have been asking for on an A7-series camera.
Probably as part of its desire to be seen as a serious camera manufacturer, to date, Sony has concentrated on producing high-quality lenses with fast apertures and uncompromising optical construction. That’s great, and most of the lenses are fantastic, but they’re also very expensive and often big and heavy, which can make them seem a little bit unbalanced on the small A7-series bodies.
I’ve spoken with a lot of photographers who have been attracted by the small size of the A7 cameras but have been put off by the size of the lenses.
So it’s great to see the recent introduction of the Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G, FE 40mm f2.5 G, FE 24mm f2.8 G lenses, each of which weighs less than 175g. And they all measure 68x45mm, making them attractively compact. Similarly, accepting 49mm filters, means that you don’t have to carry bulky filter holders.
It’s got me thinking that perhaps Sony is now entering a new phase. It’s created the serious camera lineup that it always wanted, and they’re backed by great lenses, but now it’s time to expand in a different way. I suspect that the company is looking to attract more people who are put off by big expensive lenses and are prepared to accept a few compromises here and there to get a more portable system that they can take everywhere.
Of course in the process, the engineers are also creating small alternative lenses for photographers who also own the bigger more expensive optics.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Sony introduces over the next few months.