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December 23, 2012

The Next Full Frame ALPHA Mount Camera – Pure Speculation and Lustful Wondering

Sony SLT-A99

In this article I’m going to go over the New Sony Full Frame Alpha Mount Camera with Pure Speculation and Lustful Wondering!!

The NEX fanbois on this site have had their time in the Sun speculating about the forthcoming developments for their cute little camera system, but I think it’s about time for us big boys of the Alpha-mount persuasion to start up our own speculation and wishlists.

There’s no doubt that the next new (as opposed to a refreshing of the current lineup) Alpha-mount is going to be a full-frame, and it’s going to be announced, or maybe even with us, by mid-2013. But what is it going to look like or contain?

I’ll start the ball rolling and I invite all and sundry to join in or tear it apart…

 

The Speculation

Full Frame 36MP or 50+MP sensor

- I think it goes without saying that now Sony has given it’s customer, Nikon, a decent period of exclusivity over the 36MP FF sensor in the D800/D800E that they are going to use it in their next FF Alpha-mount body. Or will they skip it altogether and swim into even deeper waters with a 50-or-higher megapixel sensor? We’ve all heard the rumours, do we believe it? 50+MP is a LOT of photosites to contain on a sensor the size of a 35mm negative. It’s even a lot of pixels for a MFDSLR. Is it realistic?

Mirrorless

- yep, I honestly think the next big Alpha-mount camera is going to be mirrorless. The NEX kids have been creaming their jeans over a FF NEX on the horizon – I really think that interchangeable lens E-mount FF isn’t realistic from an engineering perspective and the next big mirrorless release is going to be an Alpha-mount and it’s going to shake up the market like Vesuvius. All the clues point toward it – A99′s on-chip PDAF? It’s a sign, my friends.

XQD memory compatibility

- the A99 was supposed to support XQD memory cards, but it just didn’t make the cut. It doesn’t need it anyway – I’ve got 2x Delkin SDHC 633x UHS-I cards (read 95MB/s, write 90MB/s) cards in my A99 and one in my A77, they are more than fast enough to handle the 24MP FF and APS-C sensors’ output. But think about it, a 36MP or 50+MP sensor belting out images at 12+fps (or faster as in the mirrorless NEX speeds) needs a mighty fast card to handle the created data, especially RAW+JPEG output. XQD can do it. Mark my words =]

Built in Vertical Grip for Double-Battery Power

- this was always slated to happen regardless of the above because the camera is going to compete against the Canon 1Dx and the Nikon D4. No brainer.

>12fps

- the A77 is a fast camera, but it suffers from an overly dense sensor that falters in low-light, and a miserly data buffer that slows it down on full pelt after about 3-seconds. The new FF mirrorless camera I’m positing here is going to be faster and cleaner, the greatest sports camera ever. It will need >12fps burst IMHO.

4K video

- I don’t want to know about it, I want to ignore it and cover up the video buttons, but it’s going to happen. This camera will compete with the RED 4K and cannibalise sales from Sony’s professional video arm…or perhaps it will complement sales from that division. Sony is a clever company, they know how to make and market electronic goods. But 4K in HDSLR will happen, and Sony will do it first. That’s also why it will need XQD memory cards.

It’s going to be called the A9

- this makes sense to me…the first Alphas were mirrored and had 3-numeral nomenclature; the second generation were SLT and came with 2-numeral model numbers…with a mirrorless Alpha-mount they just HAVE to go to a single number designator to keep the sequence intact. PLUS (as if I need more proof) the competing cameras from the Canikons are the 1Dx and D4 – see what I’m saying? What am I saying? That’s what I’m saying o_O

It is going to cost between US$6,000 and US$8,000, body only

- yes it is. I think Sony are done being the cut-price cousin to the evil Canikon empire. They don’t need to compete on price for much longer because their name and reputation is starting to win hearts and minds in the very competitive marketplace. People will pay more for the perception of quality, that’s how Apple still sells laptops and desktops filled with outdated hardware, and BMW/Mercedes Benz still sell cars at twice the price of equivalent locally made models that are mechanically identical and often better. Plenty of people buy MacBook Pros over the far superior (and cheaper) Origin EON-17s because of the perception they are getting a superior machine for the extra thousand bucks. That’s why dumbasses spend $150K+ on a BMW M3 rather than save their hard earned money and enjoy the same balls-out experience in an $80K HSV GTS (or one of these for you Yanks). After years of hard work, market growth and brand-recognition Sony cameras are going to start being priced according to desire rather than sales. It’s inevitable. Besides, all their other consumer stuff costs a motza already.

Alright, that’s my speculation out of the way. On to…

 

My wishlist:

  • They do away with the video function altogether – not gonna happen but a kid can dream
  • They keep the same NP-FM500H battery to remain consistent throughout the Alpha-mount range (notable exceptions excluded of course A33/A55) – I don’t care if the battery is underpowered compared to the Canikon equivalents, it’s a standard that we can carry from one body to the next. Batteries aren’t cheap and they’re not easy to (ethically) dispose of. Keeping the same battery is common sense, plain and simple
  • QuickNavi menu – it’s awesome, try it
  • They do away with the unnecessary creative modes – they’re unnecessary in a Pro-level camera and add extra unwanted levels to the menu system, pure WOFTAM
  • Weather-sealed & dustproof, shockproof up to a 1.8m fall – why 1.8m? that’s how far it is from my eye to the tarmac
  • Kai from DigitalREV picks one up to “review” it and soils himself at how awesome it is – and by soils, I mean he actually poos himself while wearing white or linen trousers and Allambie giggles and points. Canon-lovin’ poo-pants numbnut…
  • They give me one for free for talking them up for 5+ years now. I mean, seriously, where’s the kudos, Kazuo Hirai? Where’s my free super-camera?! =]
 

So What do You Think???

Well, that’s about all I can pull out of my butt at the moment. What do you reckon? Am I talking the sense or am I just dreaming?

–AL

 

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About the Author

Alan
I am a visual artist and photographer living and working in South East Queensland. I've been using a Sony DSLR/SLT camera since I made the big jump from 25-years of devoted film use in 2006. I like to create expressive and unique images using HDR, lightpainting, strobes and long exposure. I'm also knee-deep in a commercial photography start-up where I'm learning respect for the more traditional ways of making pictures. Website | Google+ | Blog




18 Comments


  1. Mark

    Sounds like a great camera might be a little out of my price range. Moving from an a350 thinking about an a77. Any rumors on changes to the a77 in the near future?


    • Hi Mark, I made the leap from the mighty A350 to the A77 and it was a quantum leap at that. The various updates and patches so far have really gone a long way to improving what few short-comings the A77 came with when new, especially if you’re a JPEG shooter. If you get a decent UHS-I memory card (such as the Delkin Devices 95/90) you won’t even notice the A77′s woefully inhibiting buffer size too much unless you’re shooting JPEG/RAW at 12-fps. I’ve not heard a peep about any updates for a new version of the A77, but Sony don’t normally produce MkII or MkIII versions of their cameras, so the updated A77 may be an A78 or similar. I reckon get the A77 now, take advantage of the current v1.06 firmware, and make sure you get the excellent 16-50/2.8SSM lens to go with it, too. Happy shooting :)


  2. Jay

    Awesome Article Al, and yes I am an official Nex-6 Fan boy ;) or whatever the heck you Aussie’s call it!!

    First off, $8-9000 is a huge jump in price point for Sony!! that is more than twice the price of their Flagship SLT-A99 your currently packing no?

    The Kai from DigitalREV part had me rolling!!!

    I want more power!! Twice the battery life atleast preferable.

    Mirrorless would be nice, but I don’t know if the technology will be there yet.

    The Shock Proof also sounds awesome, but 1.8m is going to cost some serious cash!!

    4k Video?? Possible to match that new incredible TV Sony came out with recently?

    Hmmm, so many possibilities!!

    How much do you think this will weigh??

    Thanks again,
    Jay


    • I’m sticking with the NP-FM500H battery – you want twice the battery life, carry a second $40 battery or get a vertical grip (although this will have the vertical grip built-in anyway). It’s nothing to change a battery, even easier than changing a roll of film and you get far more than 36-exposures out of the current battery. You even get a handy visual warning when its getting close to battery swap time. If this new camera takes a different battery, my backup camera will take a different battery – ergo I probably won’t buy the new camera. Universality is far more practical from a number of angles than extra kw/h’s.


      • Jay

        Very good points Al, but the current battery is several generations old. Due for an update know??

        Perhaps a universal compartment area that will take old and new batter with a simple insert or something. a very easy fix for legacy batteries!!

        Jay


      • Was just reading that A99 review by that guy on that website you pointed me at (sorry, New Year’s Day hungover) and he’s suggesting same NP-FM500H battery with updated internal cells. That will work for me fo’ sho’ coz then I only have to update my 2 chargers, not my 10 batteries, and they’ll still be useable in the existing camera bodies, too :) Ouch, my head…


      • Jay

        Updated cells would work!! Especially after reading your real world shot count the other day, I’m totally on board ;)


  3. Freddy

    Mirrorless would be nice !!!

    XQD and :

    For vidéo. (NEX -VG900R ?)

    XAVC
    HD 4:2:2
    10 bits
    100 Mbps

    Please Mr Sony…


    • Yes, I reckon mirrorless will be just groundbreaking enough for Sony to pull it on us in this big camera. I’m not too sure it will be easily accepted at first — same as the SLT technology a few years back — but people will come around because of image quality and speed. I even held off SLT and considered jumping ship to Nikon (D700) but after a long time of using my A77 (and now the new A99 in my bag) I’m just fine with it.


      • tokyojerry

        Mirrorless is where it’s at. I also recently bought the NEX-6 and love the camera. I also dumped the Alpha A65 on auction. It’s a reduction in size, weight, bulk, and same sensor (APS-C) for same sensor and pretty much the same capabilities, I’d rather carry around the Sony NEX-6. Now, if a mirrorless full frame comes out for the NEX series, I’ll be on it in a heart beat. If not, even for the Alpha series, if it does go mirrorless, I imagine there will be a corresponding reduction in size / weight from the current equipment. I am hoping for a full frame in the NEX-series first however. The RX-1 compact size and weight is appealing, but the lack of EVF, ILC, and the high ticket price is not.

        On a side note… video capability is not going to go away any time soon. If any thing, it is going to advance. One of the main reasons I switched to Sony (Panasonic a 2nd) is because of it’s superiority in video. AVCHD is a high compression algorithm co-developed by both Sony and Panasonic. If all I want was a snapshot shooter, then, there is a lot of good stuff in the Canikon world, which has a legacy and history in photography. For me, the video capability being ‘present’ along with the photography is a valuable aspect for me. So, as for your wish list ‘hoping video is going to go away’. Sorry to disappoint, but… NOT going to happen. (^J^)


      • Jay

        Very good points about the video in particular Jerry ;)

        Thanks for sharing!

        Jay


      • Hi Jerry :-) You’ve delivered no disappointment at all. While I do agree and concede video on DSLR/SLT is here to stay, I don’t have to like it which is why it’s abolishment is only on my wishlist. I really don’t think it has a place on a high-end stills camera. For instance, a wedding photographer isn’t going to stop shooting stills to film a segment with his prime shooter; nor is it a wise economy for him to have an extra 5D3/D800/A99 consigned exclusively to video duties. A mid-range body turns in the same video performance so fill them with the gimmicky stuff that attracts impulse purchasers and HDSLR users. Or he can use one of the cute little NEX cameras adapted to suit his primary lens system, regardless of brand.

        But Sony is a market leader in video tech and will continue to showcase that whenever they get a chance, which is clever market strategy.

        Cheers :-)


  4. Sounds like a beast of a camera you’re positing, but may be a tough sell for Sony try to go to the head of the class with their first DSLR-bodied mirrorless. You make a good case for their putting the technology in the alpha line, but perhaps a step up or down from the a99 first to get the market’s toes wet before they jump in with the big bucks. I could see spending $3800 for a 36 megapixel mirrorless alpha or $2200 say for a 25 megapixel one. Once that camera gets accepted and demonstrates the potential of the technology to the market, they pull out the big 50+ megapixel sensor and throw caution to the wind with their masterpiece to compete with the 1Dx’s and the D4′s. Nice article though. Whether you’re right, or I’m right, it’s good news for us Sony fans.


    • Hi Jonathan and thanks for the positive comments :) I’m sticking by my estimation of Sony’s introduction to the big league. The A99 is such a brilliant photographic tool with so few faults (even on the v1.0 software!) I think this is their market tester. I don’t think $6k would be too much to ask of the semi-pro/pro level Sony user who is already kitted out with a fortune of ‘G’-series and Zeiss Alpha-mount glass. Once the technology I’ve speculated upon has been accepted by that demographic, the new features will trickle-down to the enthusiast and entry-level models, akin to the relationship between Formula 1 racing and the family sedan.

      I’m happy to modify my sensor prediction, though – I think 50+MP may be on the cards but further down the track, like you’ve said. The existing 36MP sensor has plenty of life in it, for sure. And regarding the rumoured 50+MP, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest it may be a stacked sensor, similar to the 46MP(?) Foveon that Sigma has been sporting. Not real 50MP real estate as it is commonly accepted, though.

      I took the link to your website, btw, just to see if you were THAT Jon Stewart — you certainly have some beautiful images from some amazing locations. Bravo, Sir! :)


  5. whiteheat

    Hi Al

    Good points one and all. My thoughts by way of riposte to your points:

    1) Pixel density on the next FF is always a point for speculation. Even the current 24 MPx sensor is good enough for most people, even landscapers. Sure, more pixels for landscapers is always welcome, but for the rest of us, the extra pixels are just overkill to point of being counter productive in terms of noise, space on drive used and PP time (even my lapotop – quad core i7 with an SSD, takes an age to process these RAW files when you have a reasonable number of them to do at one time. Truth be told, 24 MPx is about 8 MPx more than most people need. The 16 MPx standard was a very useful size for pixel numbers and density.

    Sony’s next FF sensor will be what it will be and I have no idea what it’s going to be. All I’d wish for the nex sensor to have would be a greater dynamic range and less noise at all ISO levels.

    2) Yep, mirrorless is the way to go and it is where Sony are going. The question is will the mirrorless PDAF system be mature enough and capable enough to grace the next FF or will it come of age in 2 generations time? (i.e. not the next FF camera but the one after that).

    3) As for cost, the trend has always been more for less, more bang for buck. So, I disagree that the cost will be in the $6K to $8K range. Sony, like most other manufacturers, want to sell their product by the bucket load. If the camera was priced that high, they’d never achieve the numbers sales wise. I think that the cost is likely to be in the $2K to $3K bracket but there is an outside chance that it will come in between $1K and $2K. It may be that the goal will be to eliminate APSC and M4/3 (and all those odd Canon sizes) as a sensor size by having a FF sensor what could be produced for much the same price as these other sensor sizes. Sure, the sensor itself could be switchable to allow for APSC and M4/3 crops if required.

    4) Having the same model of battery for use throughout the DSLR range has been a good thing, something that our Nikon brothers wish they had and look enviously on us Sonites for. All Sony has to do now is to continually reduce the power consumption of successive cameras. That will push the shots per charge figure up.

    5) I strongly get the impression that Sony is trying to make a camera that is all things to all men. In that respect, video and creative modes will be staying on. I agree that from my perspective, the video is a waste of time and money, possibly along with plenty of other features, but I am not everybody. If I wanted video capability, I’d be investing in a focused device for the job, i.e. a handycam of some description. By the way, I wander if on handycam websites/forums, there are people complaining about the stills capability on their handycams being a waste of time and money?

    6) Good to see you expressing so much brotherly love for Kai :)

    7) I’ll have one of those free cameras whilst you’re at it!


    • Howdy, mate, thanks for the positive comments :)

      I fully agree with the 24MP ceiling – it’s far more than I needed when I bought the A77, and it’s perfect now I’ve got the A99. Honestly, though, I don’t think the Nikon D700 will ever be beaten for a low-light camera regardless of current marketing hype and technobabble, and that’s had 12MP used right. But the current brandwars seems to be headed toward the old megapixel battlefield (unfortunately led by the D700′s replacement) and as long as Sony is the biggest sensor manufacturer & supplier in the World it’s their battle to lose. It’s gonna get bigger, but I only hope it gets smarter. My wife one said to me, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” so hopefully they’ll put those extra photosites to good use ;) I personally think 16MP is perfect for APS-C (as in the awesome Pentax K5-IIs for instance) and 24MP works fine for the FF crowd.

      As for mirrorless, I think we’re there now. If you look at the evolution of the NEX5, for instance, it’s currently at the third generation and it’s been a gradual improvement [sic] all along the way. The NEX5n was (and remains) an astounding piece of kit and I believe (don’t quote me) the NEX5r is better again. The NEX6 is third-gen tech and everyone has nothing but good things to say about that. The next mirrorless releases will be 4th Generation and another substantial leap over the last. The A99′s sensor-based PDAF is evidence of an evolution in the Alpha bodies as well. I’m confident we’ll see mirrorless in this upcoming pro-body. If not, then a mid-range or entry-level model to pave the way.

      I’m going to stand up to the pricing thing – does the Canon 5D3 cost less than the 5D2 did at release? Nope, it’s substantially more and it doesn’t even provide a hell of a lot of “improvement” over the older model. Prices don’t go down, they only go up.

      And while I’m on this point, where is this notion that the A99 is overpriced coming from? The D800 and 5D3 are considerably dearer. The A99 is more expensive than the D600 and 6D but it’s waaaay above those plonker models (especially the mediocre 6D) so to call the A99 overpriced is subjective and cynical. Probably something started by the evil Canikon Alliance or Kai ;o) /rant

      For Yaksmas, I bought my 14-yo wannabe filmmaker son a little Sony Handycam (HDR-CX190E) and a basic filmmaking kit to encourage his creativity. That entry-level camcorder can film the same quality video as my big bucks A99 AND take stills images while the camcorder is recording video. Now that, IMHO, is a useful and clever addition that keeps the camcorder market to keep it distinct from the HDSLR market.

      Happy new year, mate! :)


  6. Great article – some cool speculation

    A few other things that would be cool:
    - Tethered shooting (wifi tethering built in?)
    - Built in shutter triggers (eg. to shoot lightning, timer intervals)
    - A new generation of ttl/hss radio triggered flash units (that work without delay;)
    - Apps for additional functions (like we are seeing with nex)
    - Agree that it must have quick navi (I can’t believe the Alpha 77 was missing it)
    - I’d also like to see those funky lock dials that prevent you from accidently changing your settings (which I think the A99 has)


    • Cheers, Gavin :) I’m not too sure I am interested in wifi in a camera yet which is why I left it off. Wifi tethering would be cool, though, but seeing as how I use Linux it would most likely be useless to me anyway. The shutter trigger idea is great, though. I hadn’t thought of that so consider that added to the wishlist. I mean, how damn hard can it be? All the current models can take a photo when it detects a smile which is a far more complicated algorithm than a flash or interval trigger. I’m not too keen for apps, lets keep them for the plonker models.

      I wonder if a future update to the A77′s firmware could carry the Quick-Navi interface? That would be a total winner update in my book :)



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