PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux

29Aug/097

Sony A850 ties with Olympus E-P1 and Pentax K7 for cameras of the year?

[This isn't much a posting, I apologize.]

A 24x36mm stabilized sensor with 25 million pixels for less than $2000 by next year. The camera is small and well built, its viewfinder is spacious and bright. What does that say about the high end of the APS-C camera market? Does it still have room for high profit margins?

Starting next year it’s going to be difficult to price an APS-C camera where the D300s is today. We’re supposedly 4 days away from the unveiling of the Canon 7D, a high-end APS-C camera if rumors are true. Will the 7D be an outlier in its genus already on the day it is launched? Meanwhile the internet price of the D700 has fallen in price to almost $1000 less than what I paid for it in Massachusetts – unable to hold a premium price.

When I wrote the title above I had a moment of pause. Neither Nikon or Canon really deserve the label of camera of the year. They need some real innovation and soon. A high quality imager does not necessarily imply a large and heavy camera system with a premium price.

Side note

I was heartbroken when I read the rumor about Zeiss abandoning their digital rangefinder project because they felt it wouldn’t sell to pay for itself. I don’t quite believe it though. Maybe I’m in denial.


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  1. When I read a thing like that about Zeiss, I can’t help but think something else is afoot.

    A D700 for $2K….hmmmm. That might be the real benefit of the Sony.

  2. Right, that statement from Zeiss would be completely appropriate if the camera will end up being a Sony HEXAR, for instance. That’s what I tell myself.

    The A850 is different than a D700 though and might be more compelling to some people than a $2K D700 (which I agree with you is basically inevitable). It’s hard to ignore that the A850 has 25MP, a true ISO-100 and stabilization on the sensor.

    Olivier

  3. The A850 is somewhat a bittersweet pill, it is exactly what I want, however my investment is in Nikon (tilt shifts and ZF lenses that I dearly love). I would like to think that Nikon will follow Sony’s lead and produce a D700x (or whatever, sigh) within $500 – 1000 difference of the A850, however the sad fact is that Nikon’s dealer cost prices continue to creep ever upward. A case in point is the new 70-200mm f2.8 VR II, it’s cost approaches twice the Canon equivalent whilst the new D300s has so little margin that it’s barely worth selling. It would seem that Nikon is using rebates to control their prices, and you just can’t predict where they’ll be 6 months into the future.

    Of course the irony is that Sony’s relationship with Zeiss has produced some great lenses, and were I to step back in time knowing what I now know it would have been a tougher decision between brands. In fact I’d go so far as to say that were my ZF lenses available for the Sony then it would certainly be too close to call.

    As to the Zeiss rangefinder… It makes me very sad. I would like to share the optimism that you guys have but, well, just like the E-P1 I feel any attempt not made by the ‘traditional’ rangefinder manufacturers will be a bastard child. Probably designed with good intents but little substance for those that want a rangefinder not a fancy liveview interchangeable lens pocket camera. Or just consider me bitter, lol.

    Or, if you don’t mind selling some internal organs and re-mortgaging the house why not the rumored (and very, very, very enticing) Leica M9? It seems that the digital rangefinder future is in their hands (I can’t help but feel frustrated that the Epson R-D1 variants didn’t fly on this side of the Pacific, a little bit of choice and competition would have gone a long way).

    • I share your thoughts vis-a-vis the Sony/Nikon dilemma. I too would probably not choose the D700 over the A850 if I were given the choice.

      As for the 70-200VR-II against the Canon competitor. The new lens hasn’t yet seen a price drop and the Canon has seen many in its long long life. Part of the point is that the Canon is old and soft, I’m in no way enticed by it.

      About rangefinders and the E-P1 cautionary tale… would you say that Sony is a “traditional” camera company? No, yet here we are crying about Nikon’s fumblings against Sony’s success. So I think there is room for a company trying to cut a name for itself to look backwards and deliver something surprising.

      The R-D1 is a good example of this: Epson is not even a camera company at all. Sure, granted the R-D1 is basically a Voigtlander Bessa, but still Epson did feel compelled to do this to leave their mark. It’s too bad that they made the R-D1 back in the day where silicon sensors were marginally useful. If they did the same with a D300-level sensor the camera would have a long useful life in front of it still.

      • “About rangefinders and the E-P1 cautionary tale… would you say that Sony is a “traditional” camera company? No, yet here we are crying about Nikon’s fumblings against Sony’s success. So I think there is room for a company trying to cut a name for itself to look backwards and deliver something surprising.”

        Well, count me as one of those hoping for a nice surprise! My only concern is that Sony has a history of innovation on their ‘showcase’ products (surely a digital rangefinder is a showcase!?!). What I mean to say is that I don’t really want anybody to re-invent the wheel so to speak, I would be more than happy with a $3000-4000 Zeiss Ikon with a memory card slot, processor and sensor (I’d really want full frame, honestly) instead of film. I can live without a screen and menu system even seeing as I shoot B/W I don’t need to worry about WB, give a switch for standard film WB’s such as tungsten or daylight for example.

        But then as I say, anyone designing a digital rf by my choice of specs will probably experience a market flop, lol.

        You are right about the R-D1, I would like to have seen a R-D2, but alas they seem to be only interested in minor upgrades.

  4. Just found this blog. Nice. Personally, I am a Nikon-lover. But, I am intrigued by the new stuff Sony has got going on. Imaging Resource and Photocrati just did some nice reviews (including a field test) of the A850. Seems to be getting good marks for performance. For aesthetics–I give it a thumbs down… not sure that really matters. Beauty is skin deep, right?

    • Thanks for the kind words.

      I would love for Nikon to win all. The argument for Sony right now is that they’re willing to upset the comfortable establishment in order to steal share. The A850 is a good example of that.

      Beauty kind of matters. A bit. I find the A850 styling quite “retro” and I like it. It’s also important to get it in your hands – it’s like 20-30% smaller and lighter than a D700. That’s just awesome in my book, the D700 is just a fat larded camera (still my best camera…).


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