Friday, 6 November 2015

The Sony A-68. A kick in the proverbials

When you were a kid, can you remember a time when you wanted some toy or item so badly that you pestered your parents night and day to get it? And when Christmas day arrived, you were first down the stairs to find under the tree a parcel of the right size and shape. But when you opened it, rather than finding the item you wanted, you found it was a cheap knock off which despite your parents assurances you knew it would make you the laughing stock of the school and neighborhood.

If so, you will understand how I feel today after the announcement of the new Sony DSLR, the  A-68.

If you are a Canikon user, you may not appreciate that being a Sony DSLR owner has not been an easy time over the last 18 months.

When you buy a SLR camera, you are not just buying the camera, but committing to an eco-system. As you become more experienced, you commit more to it by buying myriad accessories and lenses. At the same time, you are looking to upgrade your system  as you get better and you reach limits with your present camera.

Canon and Nikon users never have an issue here. The respective companies are fully committed to the SLR line and users can be assured of a continual replacement/upgrade path.

It is not so easy with Sony.

Since the last DSLR Alpha camera release (the A-77 Mk ii), their have been mixed messages by Sony's on its long term commitment to the A-series DSLR line. These have swung between ambiguous to totally negative. At the same time Sony has embarked on an almost continual release cycle of its A7 mirrorless cameras.

To say as a Sony DSLR owner that we have felt unloved is to put it mildly. Many (including  me) felt that Sony wanted to having nothing more to do with the DSLR market and were happy to leave us in the lurch.

So you would think that we would all be letting out a huge sigh of relief  now that Sony have just announced the release of a new A-Series camera, the A-68.

Unfortunately, nothing in Sony world is ever that simple.

Maybe it is because we have been used to Sony pushing the camera technology boundaries recently with their mirrorless cameras range, but I had high hopes for this camera. This would be a chance for Sony to do in the DSLR market, what they have been doing in the mirrorless world and producing a world beating  quantum leap in DSLR camera design.

It was not to be.

What we got instead was a mis-mash of old technologies flung into a oversized camera. At the same time Sony left out key features to differentiate it from the A77 Mkii.

Basically this is what we got
  • The EVF from a A6000
  • The (poor) rear screen from the A-58
  • The plastic lens mount from the A-58
  • The sensor and (and by all accounts rather good )the AF system from the A77 mkII
This was all flung together into a plastic body, not much different in size to the rather large and hefty A77 mkII

To add to that, the camera does not support wi-fi (so no remote tethering) and its frame rate has been severely diminished from the A-58

Of these decisions, the two that really hurt is the rear screen and the wi-fi. As I have stated before, I really hate the rear screen on my present camera, and with the cost of good LCD screens continually dropping, it seemed a no brainer to get a half decent screen on it.  However someone in Sony felt we could manage with a screen that would of looked tardy on a 10 year old smart phone.

As for the wi-fi, the ability to remotely access and control a camera via wi-fi is a fantastic capability. It seems incredible that any camera produced today would not have it. But Sony in their wisdom thought otherwise.

I really had high hopes for this camera, both as a potential upgrade path to my present kit and as a sign of  commitment by Sony to the A-series DSLR family. 

This does neither. 

It produces a camera without enough advantages to upgrade to, or to attract new users to the system. At the same time, it again raises questions on whether Sony is really committed to DSLR's or would like to quietly move us to their more profitable professional mirrorless line.  If this camera had been brought out a couple of years ago, it would of been acceptable, but now it looks poor compared to competitor cameras at the same price point.

In many ways I wish Sony had never produced this camera. I would of been happier if they had just said they were killing off any more development and then we could move on to some other camera system. By producing this camera, they again shown that the company thinks more about it's bottom line than it's customers and for me again raises the question whether I want to commit my long term photographic future to such a company.

Not a good day to be a Sony user

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