Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sony A-Mount: Single Lens Translucent is Still Relevant

Sony A-Mount: Single Lens Translucent is Still Relevant
May 2019, Carl Garrard

Our camera market continues to settle down into what it will become for the future. Like many of you, I was there during its meteoric rise that occurred before smart phones became more common place as everyday imaging devices. And like many of you, I've seen the digital camera market go through quite a few interesting phases after the year 2000. And through all that, I believe that we are now finally at the last stage of what the digital camera market will go through. Today, we have more than enough digital solutions available to us to accomplish our personal and professional photographic goals. As we all should know by now, digital cameras aren't the #1 choice for the majority of personal photography needs anymore. However, DSLR's, DSLT, and Mirrorless all have a place in the market and fill specific needs for dedicated photographers, and all three are necessary.

Sony has been willing to try anything it can to find it's place in the interchangeable lens market since it acquired Konica Minolta, and thus it's been somewhat of a roller coaster ride for those who invested in the Minolta/A-Mount. But I can truly say it may have been an even crazier ride for me than most. I put a lot of effort into spreading the word for Sony's A-Mount early on in my writing, more than any other brand. And I regret none of it.

Looking back now, it was good that I eventually learned to sit back and become a spectator to Sony's evolution, rather than be an emotionally invested patron. And for the last several years I have done just that. Somewhere along the line I stopped writing articles about A-Mount products as I changed my website, expanded my equipment and experiences, and forged new relationships with other companies.  I miss the community, and still have friends I made during this time to this day. Barry, Andrew, Henry!!!

I made a lot of memories with the A850 and A900 DSLR's. Great cameras, still two of my very favorites!

Regardless of whatever has happened along the way, it seems that the Sony Alpha division has finally found a more comfortable niche in the camera market, having earned its place with the successful E-Mount. This is no revelation obviously. First they tried with DSLR's, then DSLT, and finally with Mirrorless. Sony has stopped production with thier DSLR's some time ago sadly. Will the same happen with SLT? This is a question that I see pop up not only in the community, but even with big press sites like DPReview and others.

I certainly hope not. In fact, SLT could be more relevant now than it ever was. I'll explain...

With EVF, processor, and sensor technology being what it is today (the core advantages of SLT), any slight light loss disadvantage that SLT brought to the table has long since been mitigated. In fact, I think the advancement of the technology of these three core components could be leveraged to show off SLT like never before. This argument is mostly evident in the A99 II already, yet there has been three years of advancement in these core components since it was introduced. If they spent R/D money on creating a new PDAF sensor for SLT, there would be no bottle neck for the technology.

With a dedicated and separate PDAF sensor, SLT camera's will always have a potential advantage over cameras with PDAF running off the main sensor itself.

So, what I hope Sony will do, is put together all the latest technology they have into a mid level SLT camera that falls under the 1K price point. This would compete with the Canon XXD series, the Rebel, and 3/5/7 series Nikon SLR', and quite frankly have the potential to blow all of them away. It is also key that it find the sweet spot in terms of pricing, and, be a well rounded package too. These days, brand loyalty isn't what it used to be, so if you just make a great well rounded camera you're likely to pull in buyers from the entire spectrum of consumers. Just make it!

My A57 kicks butt over all the Canon Rebel's I've had in my possession for review. The image quality from its sensor, especially dynamic range, and its autofocusing system, runs circles around any Canon Rebel on the market currently today. I'd even pit the A57 against the Canon 80D, but another camera will be compared to it here. Read further down, and you'll see a surprise.

For example, Sony's A57 was (and still is) a very well rounded camera overall for a great price. It became quite popular overall because of this, and remains a solid buy even today. During its time in 2012, Sony were up against very stiff competition with Canon and Nikon in the DSLR space, so it was a tough battle for SLT. The market has changed since then, a shift towards mirrorless has been Canon and Nikon's primary focus which leaves a window of opportunity has open for the A-Mount.

Now I think is the time to make another SLT camera. Sony must make it very enticing for the price however, so much so that new buyers or current A-Mount users can't ignore it. I know it can be done, and for very little relative investment into new R/D. Sony can't be concerned with competing with the E-Mount either, they just make great cameras and let the rest sort itself out.

Competition is good, even within your own line up. Be brave!

Now obviously Sony need to continue to focus on the E-Mount, that's a given. With more competition than it ever had, it makes perfect sense for them to divert most of their efforts to their bread and butter. That said, it would not be smart to let SLT go quietly away like their DSLR cameras did. There are still major advantages to SLT and the A-Mount, and even more so now with all the new technology that Sony has available.

SLT A-Mount retains two major advantages that come to mind immediately which have great appeal to professionals and enthusiasts alike:

1. Much wider range of lenses available- photographers like cameras, but they marry their lenses. This fact alone is a huge reason to keep SLT.

2. Separate PDAF sensor has the potential to always be more efficient and accurate than on sensor PDAF, hence faster and more accurate tracking especially so in lower light levels.

Other SLT A-Mount advantages over E-Mount include:

1. Less overheating issues during video
2. Better handling bodies with better ergonomics
3. Better battery life (and larger batteries)

Sony need SLT as an additional offering, putting all their eggs into one basket is not a good idea, as evidenced above.

Sony's A58 wasn't very popular. The plastic lens mount and 20mp sensor weren't crowd favorites and set a tone upon it's announcement. In addition, it was introduced during a very competitive time against DSLR makers.

Our camera market is more and more becoming an exclusive enthusiast and pro market. Many enthusiasts have several types of cameras which include DSLR's and mirrorless both. The key to enticing buyers is really simple. Just make a really well rounded and competitive camera for the right price. Sony's A58 and A68 were competitively priced, but fell slightly short of being the well rounded SLT buyers wanted overall. Certainly both cameras have their fans, but even those fans have justified criticisms. When I saw the announcements fly by, all I could think is that Sony were cutting too many corners and not being serious about SLT, so I ignored them as a viable purchase. I'm sure I'm not alone there.

An attractive price no doubt, but ultimately the A68 cut too many corners to become popular as well. The plastic lens mount, older 24mp sensor, max 1/4000th shutter, and lack of weather sealing set it apart from the A77ii.

However, it should be said that the A68 was much closer to being a well rounded package of the two. Again, I think Sony cut too much out of it though. Limiting the shutter speed, reducing build quality, and using older LCD parts weren't enticing choices, and thus kept many users from taking this announcement more seriously. I have a different proposal than something like the A68, and one that I think Sony should consider. They should fuse the 6/7 series cameras into one model going forward, and update the A99II as well.

So let's say Sony made say an A78, for example. Included, should be an even more modern PDAF autofocus system, a newer 24mp sensor/ processor,  some level of weather sealing, and include the best EVF and LCD as well. Not only would that be a well rounded package on paper, they would suffer few additional development costs since the sensor/processor, EVF and LCD would be used on other cameras too. Further, its vital that this package come in under $1,000 USD. I think that would be a very enticing offer to current SLT users and breath life back into the system. Just a thought is all.

But it's not just a spec sheet that makes a camera enticing. Canon have proved that cameras can still sell well, even if they don't beat their competitors on all the specifications. What Canon do well, is that they make their cameras easy and mostly pleasurable to use on a consistent basis. Most of the time they make what they have just work well, as long as we aren't talking about the quality of their video (cough). You get the point. Eliminate frustrations and glitches, and just make a camera and its functions enjoyable to use. To me that is the magic formula.

Two or three solid cameras in the SLT lineup are all that is needed to keep the A-Mount going minimally. One or two at most being APS-C, the other being full frame. I don't think that is asking for much, and it will make Sony continue to appear stronger as a camera maker heading into the future. Slowly letting the A-Mount fade away isn't the right decision if that is the direction Sony are headed. I have no idea what Sony's plans are currently (they haven't made any official announcements), but I hope Sony don't end up putting all their eggs into the mirrorless basket.

Yesterday I ponied up for my own A77 II to show my support for the A-Mount. My review of this camera will be my first A-Mount review since 2012. I'm looking forward to it! Sony A77II Digital SLR Camera Best Current Price

Sony, please save a couple of your eggs for the A-Mount and SLT, it's worth it. Don't forget about your loyal base, it will harm your longevity in the market if you do. Honestly I think that would be a bad long term decision no matter how popular mirrorless seems to be these days.

And just to show my old A-Mount friends I mean business, I put my money where my mouth is. I just purchased the Sony A77II to support Sony's A-Mount, and also to do a review here. This will be my first full length A-Mount camera review in quite some years.

If you feel like I do about the SLT line, I think it is worth letting Sony know. In order to do that, your best bet is to join the community page and make it known. Here you can give them feedback on SLT cameras and the A-Mount.

Join Sony Community (Sony Interchangeable Lens Camera Page)

Stay focused.

-Carl Garrard

Sony A77II Digital SLR Camera Best Current Price


  1. Carl- what's got into you, an article about Sony and the A-Mount? Wow! :)

  2. Haha, I know. It's been a while. I think it needed to be said, so I said it. Looking forward to the A77II!

  3. The A-68 has the same sensor as the A-77II:,Sony%20ILCA-77M2

    The main reason the A-68 wasn't real popular is because Sony didn't advertise it and reviewers ignored it.

  4. Hi Ed,

    I guess it depends on what data you are looking at (DXOMark testing disagrees). However, considering Sony designed the A68 using so many older parts (EVF/LCD/SHUTTER/PROCESSOR), and the conflicting data, it's a reasonable assumption they used the older sensor from the original A77. That, or it's just a difference in processing. I'll look into it more. Regardless, there's a very slight advantage in image quality in the A77II vs. the A68.

  5. Data from the link you sent:
    Sony ILCA-68 9.95 1210 8.60
    Sony ILCA-77M2 10.27 1504 8.91

  6. Yes. you are correct. Sony did cut corners with A-68. But the A-68 sensor data is much closer to the A-77II than the A-77:,Sony%20ILCA-77M2,Sony%20SLT-A77V

    Furthermore, the A-68 includes AF micro-adjust, a focus limiter for all lenses and, the same focusing module as the A-77II. It is head and shoulders above any other $600 camera on the market - even today.

  7. Likely then it is a difference in the processing then. Also, I gave praise to the price of the A68 ;). I agree with you about it being a great deal, my point was only that the general market didn't or, it would have sold more.

    I'm looking forward to testing the A77II and the 70-300mm G SSM II combo out. Maybe I'll do a review on the A68 next! :)

  8. Take a look at this Ed.

    The stated ISO values are lowest with the A68 of the three. If you equalized the ISO values, it would be almost on par with the A77. As is, its sports score is the lowest of the three but closest to the A77. We're splitting hairs of course, but it appears to me that the sensor isn't the same as the A77 II. Also take a look at the Dynamic range chart, besides base ISO, the A68/77 are almost identical.

    All this is really no big deal in real life, its just the data I looked at that gave me the clues on the differences in the sensors.

    1. Good point. I had not looked at that comparison.

  9. I'm still looking for the sensor model number on both, lol! Never can be too sure!


  10. E- and A-mount user here. From a Sony business or non-Sony user, I don't see a point in investing in A mount today.
    1. E mount lenses are far better than old A mount ones, we even see more engagement in 3rd party supply (Tamron and Sigma haven't updated their lenses for quite some time and are lagging behind their CaNikon offerings). And it's not even that those old lenses are cheap: prices remain surprisingly steady, even in the used market. One would think that everybody is selling off their old A-mount gear but apparently this is not happen – at least here in Europe. ZA lenses are as expensive as they used to be and too expensive compared to the E-mount competition. What is cheap are the old plastic-fantastics or generation-old 3rd party lenses. But they won't pull any new users to the system.
    2. On-Sensor AF is far superior in the field vs. a separate AF module. Even if it's only to get rid of micro-adjustments that never really worked excellent. Look at the A9 or A6400: they run circles around every DSLR and SLT. Even my old A6000 is much better than my A77 (don't tell me the A77II is a leap ahead).
    3. Overheating and ergonomics are tied to the body style, not to the lens mount. Sony could release a big DSLR-like E-mount body – and I hoped that the A9 would have been such.
    4. Concerning battery life, I think the new Z battery is on par or even better than the A mount battery. If not, at least a DSLR-like body would solve the issue once and for all.

    So all in all, as much as I'd like to see a new A-mount camera or lenses, personally, I have to be frank and accept that this would only be a present to the existing and shrinking A mount user base.

    Instead Sony should use the A99II body to cramp in the latest E mount tech to be used with their latest big GM and long tele lenses. That would attract all the DSLR lovers from CaNikon, Sony and Pentax that need such ergonomics for several reasons (hands, lenses, workflow). And while they're at it, they should add a perfectly native-like A-mount adapter for all us old users. If Canon and Nikon can do it, why can't Sony?

  11. Update: The A77II I received had to go back to the retailer. It was a defective body so it had to be returned. Will update shortly.

  12. I am eagerly waiting for the A700 and A77 reviews. I do not like the concept of the A77ii because it has dropped the auto focus infrared assist light and the Minolta hotshoe.