Sony Launches Trio of New DSLRs Including Two With New Technology to Increase Autofocus Speeds

Aug 24, 2010
By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist

Sony A55

Sony launched a trio of new digital SLRs this morning, two with something Sony is calling Translucent Mirror Technology which is designed to increase autofocus speeds for still and movie shooting; and a third more traditional DSLR with full HD video capture and 3D panoramic sweep mode.

Sony also announced three new prime lenses in the U.S. that had already been unveiled in Europe last month.

Both the Sony Alpha A55 and Sony Alpha A33 employ Translucent Mirror Technology to help them "continuously and quickly focus (with TTL phase-detection) while shooting stills and recording video—even in full HD," according to Sony.

The 16.2-megapixel A55 ($750, body only) can shoot up to ten frames per second and the 14.2-megapixel A33 ($650, body only) can shoot up to seven frames per second.

To achieve these brisk speeds, the cameras use a "translucent mirror" which lets light hit the image sensor and the autofocus sensor simultaneously. This set-up does away with the moving mirror mechanism that is typical in digital SLRs which helps increase capture speed since there is no "mirror blackout." The absence of a mirror box also makes the A55 and A33 smaller than some competing DSLRs. 

The trade-off is that neither camera has an optical viewfinder, just an electronic viewfinder. The A33 will be available in September and the A55 will be available in October.

Sony also announced the 14.2MP A560, a traditional DSLR with a mirror box and an optical viewfinder. The A560 feature Multi-frame Noise Reduction, Sweep Panorama mode, 3D Sweep Panorama and Full HD 1920x1080 60i video capture.

The A560 camera offers some of the same features of its predecessor, the A550, which introduced Quick AF Live View, 7fps continuous shooting and Auto HDR. It will be available in October for $650 (body only).

Sony also announced the Carl Zeiss Distagon T 24mm F2 ZA SSM (model SAL24F20Z), a DT 35mm F1.8 SAM (model SAL35F18) and an 85mm F2.8 SAM (model SAL85F28) for the first time in the U.S. These lenses were unveiled in Europe in July.

More info in the press releases below.


New Models Offer Continuous Phase Detect AF During 10 fps High-Speed Shooting and Full HD Movie Shooting

SAN DIEGO, August 23, 2010 –Sony today introduced two new cameras (models SLT-A55V and SLT-A33) that adopt Sony’s newly-developed Translucent Mirror Technology, which achieves the highest-level of auto focus speed for both still image and movie shooting.
Translucent Mirror Technology provides performance previously unattainable with traditional DSLR technology. Using the new technology, the55 and33 models can continuously and quickly focus (with TTL phase-detection) while shooting stills and recording video—even in full HD, allowing desired moments to be captured in tack sharp focus, high-definition video. They can shoot continuously at up to 10 frames per second on the55 (and up to seven on the33), achieving shooting speeds that are the fastest in the industry for an APS-C size sensor-equipped interchangeable lens cameras under $1000.

“This is the most innovative Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera that Sony has ever created,” said Kristen Elder, director of the digital imaging business group. “Our Translucent Mirror Technology is one of the most significant SLR structural changes in more than a decade.”

By displaying the images received by the Exmor APS HD CMOS Sensor, picture quality of the camera’s live view image has enhanced drastically.  Coupled with the quick and accurate phase detect AF and 100 percent coverage Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder, the Quick AF Live View feature has been further advanced.

Translucent Mirror Technology
Both cameras are equipped with a translucent mirror, which enables light passing through the lens to be simultaneously received by the image sensor and the auto focus sensor, allowing continuous shooting and continuous focusing at speeds never before possible.  The 55 offers the world's fastest 10 fps high-speed burst shooting with continuous AF (TTL phase-detection) in an interchangeable-lens digital camera with APS-C sensor.

Because of its structure, the Translucent Mirror Technology does away with the motion of raising and lowering the mirror.  The absence of the moving mirror mechanism contributes to making the whole body size significantly compact compared to traditional DSLR cameras.

By eliminating the need to raise and lower the mirror between shots, the technology makes it possible to achieve focusing while images are captured. Existing systems can only focus in the interval between image capture, limiting the ability to track fast moving subjects.  The cameras also have continuous Advance Priority AE Mode and will automatically adjust for the best exposure to help you get the most professional looking results.

High-Speed Capture with Auto Focus
Additionally, a newly developed 15-point AF system assures ultra-fast, high precision focusing. The high-speed shooting with continuous Phase Detect AF tracks rapidly moving subjects accurately. You can capture the decisive moments that you might have otherwise missed.

Creative Video Capture
The continuous phase detect AF also works in movie shooting for the first time in the world. The Translucent Mirror Technology also allows the 55 and 33 to be the first cameras to ever maintain continuous phase detection AF while recording Full HD AVCHD video.  With fast, precise phase detection AF continually tracking subject movement, even fast action and subjects that move quickly towards or away from the camera are easy to keep in focus.

With a large 16.2 megapixel (for the 55) and 14.2 megapixel (for the 33) Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, background defocusing effects can be easily captured. The APS-C sensor size is nearly 20 times larger than a traditional compact camcorders’ 1/2.88 type image sensor, providing more creative control.

Compatible with all A-mount lenses, video and photography enthusiasts alike can choose from macro to telephoto lenses to achieve their desired artistic effect.

Full-time Live View

Full-time Live View offers unprecedented freestyle shooting versatility with fast, precise AF using either the viewfinder or LCD monitor. The 55 and 33 have a fully articulated 3-inch 921,600 Xtra Fine LCD with TruBlack technology with 100 percent coverage.

The Tru-Finder eye-level viewfinder provides an unprecedented combination of 100 percent coverage and 1.1x magnification for easy and natural framing. By combining Translucent Mirror and Tru-Finder technologies, 33 and 55 are the first interchangeable lens digital cameras to offer movie recording with the familiar eye-level shooting style – a significant advantage in fast moving and extreme lighting conditions (bright sunlight and low-light situations). 

The variable angle tilt LCD is adjustable to accommodate shooting from low or high angles. The electronic view finder has a high-resolution effective 1.15 million dots conversion Xtra Fine LCD display, is bright and easy to see even in low light, has a selectable shooting parameter display and shows the effects of exposure and white balance adjustments.

Advanced Shooting Features

With an Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, BIONZ® high-speed image processing engine and ultra-high ISO sensitivity (ISO 100-12,800), the 55 and 33 cameras offer advanced shooting features. These make it easy to get the best shot, even in difficult lighting conditions.

Auto HDR shoots and combines three frames into a single high dynamic range (HDR) photo with rich shadow and highlight detail. Multi frame NR shoots and combines six frames into a single photo, enabling smooth low-light imaging at half the noise level. Hand-held Twilight shoots and combines six frames into a single photo, suppressing blur to enable clear night-scene imaging without a tripod or flash.

3D Sweep Panorama technology creates two images from a single frame, enabling panoramic photos to be viewed in 3D on compatible 3D systems and other devices that support 3D technology. Using the 55 model, built-in GPS capability enables global positioning coordinates to be recorded along with the date and time. HDMI connectivity enables stunningly beautiful PhotoTV HD display of images on compatible Sony BRAVIA® TVs.

AUTO+ (Advanced Auto) mode offers the same benefits as Auto mode and more, resulting in cleaner, more dynamic pictures and fewer missed shots. The camera automatically recognizes the correct scene mode, then quickly shoots and combines up to six shots to produce images with greater clarity, optimum dynamic range using Auto HDR technology and lower image noise using 6 shots layering technology.

The new cameras accept both Memory Stick PRO Duo™ (including Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo) and SD (including both SDHC and SDXC formats) media (all sold separately).  With a 30MB per second transfer rate, Sony’s Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX offers the best performance of all memory cards whether in continuous shooting mode or transferring data to other media.
A new dedicated microphone (models ECM-ALST1 and ECM-CG50) will also be available.

Pricing and Availability
The 55 and 33 cameras will cost about $750 and $650 (respectively) for the body only and about $850 and $750 (respectively) for the body and 18-55mm zoom lens.  The33 camera will be available in September and the55 model will be available in October at Sony Style retail stores and at authorized dealers nationwide.

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