In the top end, pro level dSLRs, it used to be a choice of Nikon or Canon. Or, used to be.
Sony now defiantly claims to be a third option by launching this impressive new camera that comes out with all guns blazing. The specs are dazzling:
The 35mm full frame CMOS sensor captures 24.6 megapixels; an internal anti-shake system is the first for a full frame dSLR; ISO sensitivity ranges from ISO 200-3200 with expansion to ISO 6400; the D-Range Optimiser offers five image optimisation levels; rear 75mm LCD screen; an Intelligent Preview function simulates the effect of varying the camera settings; nine point, dual cross AF system; HDMI output; dust and moisture protection; five frames per second continuous shooting of RAW images.
You can choose to shoot in auto, Program AE, shutter or aperture priority and manual, relying on the options of multi segment, centre-weighted or spot metering. The shutter operates in Bulb for long exposures or from 1/8000 to 30 seconds.
If you like an easier life, choose from 13 creative style enhancements to lower or increase colour saturation, shoot sunsets/portraits/night shots etc.
The usual viewing scheme requires that you line up the shot with the optical finder, which indicates not only the confirmed focus points but a read out of lens aperture, shutter speed, exposure correction, degree of camera shake reduction and shots remaining.
Images can be saved as RAW files, compressed RAW or a pairing of either with a simultaneously saved JPEG file. And then you get down to the power of the full frame sensor: maximum image size is 6048×4032 pixels — or, in print terms, 51×34 cm at 300 dpi.
Storage is on either CompactFlash Types I/II, Memory Stick DUO cards or the increasingly rarely seen Microdrive; there is no internal memory. Twenty full frame, RAW plus JPEG images can be written to a 1GB card.
With the internal image stabiliser it would be possible to use slower shutter speeds, by a factor the equivalent of 2.5 to 4 f stops. The benefit of the internal approach is that each new lens you acquire needs no more internal elements to dampen camera shake, thereby reducing cost.
An interesting feature of the camera is a special anti-dust coating on the low pass filter to prevent dust adherence — a serious problem with interchangeable lens cameras. Additionally, an anti-dust mechanism vibrates the sensor at high speed every time the camera is switched off.
The review camera was provided with a sensational Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 24-70mm lens. The total package was a shoulder buckling two kilos that could ruin a day’s outing — but this is the price of an image quality you will rarely see outside cameras at this altitude.
The pictures were simply sensational: accurate colour, definition so sharp you could cut your fingers by touching them.