Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Photographic Future, Part 2

Sony α900
Part 1 elicited some interesting responses, both in the comments section as well as via email.I'll address the email response first. The email made three interesting points about Sony:
  • Sony hasn't shown the camera multi-generational commitment to photography that other companies have.
  • Letting their α700, which was a capable camera, and their α850 and α900, which were excellent, be discontinued without any clear replacement at the time is worrisome. It feels like Olympus all over again, only more so.
  • Sony has a lack of mid-range lenses. They have enough low-end zooms, and their "G" and Zeiss high-end lenses are as good or better than anything made by the other 1.5x and 1x camera companies. If Sony makes exactly the combination you want, buy it because it's great – and quite possibly the best available from anyone. But don't hope that Sony'll eventually make its current system into the "right" system someday.
I could offer the Sony α77 as a partial defense for the α700, but that doesn't answer the accusations about lack of support for the discontinued α850 and α900. There's a rumor about the α99 coming Real Soon Now (read Photokina) as a replacement for the α900. Sony may have let the α700/α850/α900 models slip into the void, but Sony has something they've continued to develop against, and that's the Sony Alpha lens mount, which is the old Konica/Minolta, and earlier Minolta lens mount. Olympus has no such long-lived mount. Only Canon and Nikon have made such a commitment to their mounts, with Nikon's F mount going back to 1959. Only Leica has a mount with as long a life. Sony may let bodies come and go, but the Alpha mount soldiers on tying decades of lens technology to bodies.

I could further add that Sony has been developing the Sony Translucent Mirror Technology (SLT) for use in its DSLR camera line, but that brings up a final point in the anonymous email:
  • I know a number of photographers who use Sony cameras, but they've never replaced their old Sony with a new Sony.
Unlike Kirk I have heard a number of photographers who own and use older Sony complain of the EVF on the current crop of Sony SLT cameras. I've read that they won't trade away their α850 and α900 for any current SLT camera, and are turning a baleful stare in the direction of the α99, if as rumored the α99 is the SLT replacement for the α900. Many photographers want the OVF that the older Sony DSLRs provide, especially the α900. The anonymous email helps confirm that for every photographer who embraces the SLT and EVF, there are one or more that do not want it.

My take on EVFs is complicated. I much prefer the Olympus VF-2 over the 4:3rd camera series E-3x0/4x0/5x0/6x0 dark and narrow pentamirror those cameras used. However my E-1 and E-3 used bigger, brighter pentaprisms. And nothing quite matches the optical viewfinder on the OM-4 I have. That tends to lead me to prefer pentaprisms. This isn't the place to compare pros and cons of the OVF vs the EVF. It's a comment on the problems of acceptance certain key features of the Sony SLT cameras face, which will effect their overall success in the marketplace and longevity.

Going back to Sony's high end lenses, I've looked at both the 70-200mm f/2.8 and 70-400mm f/4-5.6 'G' lenses. Both price in at a cool $2,000/lens. Compare those prices to the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 Zuiko Digital high-grade lens which costs a more moderate $1,200. I can believe that the optical performance of the Sony lenses would exceed that of the Olympus lens, but the Olympus lens is environmentally sealed whereas the Sony's are not. Trying to find sealed versions of Sony lenses to match what Olympus has to offer in 4:3rds is nigh impossible. And spending that much money on a lens that requires a special baggy to keep out the water when it rains is a bit silly. And yes, here in Florida I have gotten caught out with my Olympus 4:3rds cameras in monsoon weather and not worried about the equipment.

Rumor has it that Sony will release a new 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at Photokina. I'm curious to see if it will be environmentally sealed.