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Sony announces DSLRs with see-through mirrors

August 25, 2010: Sony Australia has announced two new DSLR cameras, the Alpha 55 and Alpha 33, that adopt a newly-developed ‘Translucent Mirror Technology‘.

By replacing the conventional DSLR mirror box with one that contains a fixed translucent mirror, the A55 and A33 deliver full-time, TTL phase-detection auto-focusing during live view, movie shooting and high speed continuous shooting.

The fixed translucent mirror does not need to be raised and lowered each time the shutter is released. This enables light passing through the lens to be simultaneously received by the image sensor and the autofocus sensor, allowing continuous shooting and focusing at speeds never before possible. The result is highly responsive camera performance, with what Sony claims is the world’s fastest continuous shooting at up to 10 frames per second with continuous AF on the A55, and up to 7 frames per second on the A33.

‘Adding these new models to the popular [Alpha] range has redefined the DSLR category so that everyone from novice photographers, through to experienced enthusiasts, can capture stunning digital still images at up to 10 frames per second and Full HD movies with fast and accurate AF,’ said Maurice Satya, product manager for Alpha cameras at Sony Australia.

Sony says that Translucent Mirror Technology makes the A55 and A33 the world’s first cameras to maintain continuous phase detect AF when recording Full HD AVCHD movies (1920 x 1080 / 60i, 50i). With fast and precise phase detection AF continually tracking subject movement, a subject that moves quickly to or from the camera is kept in focus, even when there is a shallow depth of field.

Users can benefit from fast and precise auto-focusing during movie recording through the cameras’ 15-point phase-detection AF system, another first for an interchangeable lens camera. The newly-developed system incorporates three cross sensors, vertically aligned in the centre of the frame so users can enjoy fast and accurate AF operation, whether in still image or video mode.

Resolution of the A55 sensor is 16 megapixels while the A33 has a 14 megapixel sensor – both CMOS.

The cameras also feature a newly developed ‘Tru-Finder’, an electronic viewfinder with 100 percent frame coverage and an effective resolution of 1.15 million dots. It allows for a range of on-screen displays within the viewfinder, including a digital level gauge, histogram, guide lines and real-time creative style preview. The 3-inch Xtra Fine LCD screen also has a built-in intelligent brightness control that assures a clear, natural view by automatically adjusting luminance and saturation on-screen in response to ambient lighting conditions.

Multi-frame NR (noise reduction) automatically captures six frames and combines them into a single JPEG image, which reduces image noise by approximately two ISO steps and boosts effective sensitivity as high as ISO 25600. Similarly, Hand-Held Twilight shoots and combines six frames into a single photo, suppressing blur to enable clear night-scene imaging without a tripod or flash. Auto HDR shoots and combines three frames into a single high dynamic range (HDR) photo with rich shadow and highlighting detail.

The new cameras are equipped with a new AUTO+ mode that analyses the scene and shooting conditions, sets optimal aperture and shutter speed, and automatically activate advanced features such as burst shooting for fast-moving subjects and Auto HDR for backlit subjects.

3D Sweep Panorama mode is also featured on both cameras and when activated, allowing photographers to capture impressive, ultra-wide panoramic photos in 3D by simply sweeping the camera in a horizontal direction.

High ISO sensitivity of up to 12800 and an AUTO ISO range of ISO100 – ISO1600 enable the A55 and A33 to capture quality hand-held shots in low-light conditions.

The A55 is the first Alpha camera with a built-in GPS that can tag images with the geographical coordinates of the location where they were taken. When viewed on a computer using the bundled Picture Motion Browser (PMB) software or on a compatible BRAVIA TV equipped with the Photo Map function, the geo-tagged images are displayed on a world map.

Both cameras support Memory Stick and SD cards. With the Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, movies and photos can be transferred up to 4 times faster than when using the Memory Stick PRO Duo Mark2.

The new A55 and A33 cameras are available in Australia from September 2010. The A55 has an RRP of $1249 (body only) and $1399 with a single kit lens.

The A33 has an RRP of $949 (Body only) and $1099 with a single kit lens.

…and new lenses

Sony has also announced three new lenses:

The SAL24F20Z 24mm, f2.0 is a Carl Zeiss lens with 35mm frame coverage, SSM focusing, a minimum focus distance of 19cm, rear focus, a non-rotating front element, 72mm filter diameter, 9 elements in 7 groups with 2 aspheric elements and an RRP of $1999 .

The SAL85F28 is an 85mm, f2.8 max aperture lens with 35mm frame coverage, SAM focusing, a minimum focussing disstance of 6ocm, 55mm filter diameter, 5 elements in 4 groups and an RRP of $399.

The SAL35F18 is a 35mm, f1.8 with APS-C frame coverage, SAM focusing, a minimum focussing distance of 23cm, 55mm filter diameter, 6 elements in 5 groups and an RRP if $399.

A video clip on the new cameras can be viewed on the Sony Australia YouTube channel.

COMMENT: If like me you are of a literal frame of mind, then a ‘translucent mirror’ in a camera would cause you to pause and reflect. A translucent surface lets light through but diffuses it – so why don’t the images from these cameras come out all ghost-like, and a whiter shade of pale? I’ve put the question to Sony. Maybe they just thought ‘translucent’ was such a cool-sounding word that they’d use it anyway!

…And the opaque response from Sony was: ‘This is purely a naming right. For the majority, “translucent” simply means “partly see through”.’

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