Earlier this year Sony said they were working on a 24MP full frame DSLR with built-in image stabilization and they intended to bring it to market by the end of 2008. Well, they did! The Sony Alpha A900 is just that camera, and what’s equally noteworthy is that the price is “only” $3000. When you consider that the only other current high pixel count full frame DSLR is the $8000 Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII, the $3000 price tag seems almost cheap. Nikon’s new full frame DSLR, the D700, is also $3000, but it has a 12MP sensor and Canon’s venerable EOS 5D full frame DSLR (which also has a 12MP sensor) currently sells for around $2200. The Sony Alpha A900 certainly sets a new price/specification standard, at least on paper.
If a 24MP full frame DLSR for $3000 wasn’t enough, Sony added in-body stabilization via sensor shift technology. The specifications indicate higher performance than the system found on their crop sensor DSLRs and they say that it should offer up to 4 stops of stabilization. The obvious advantage of in-body stabilization is that you only pay for it once, and every lens mounted on the camera becomes part of a stabilized system. That means that all wide and normal primes become stabilized, something currently not possible with Canon and Nikon’s approach of putting stabilization in the lens rather than the camera body.
The Alpha A900 uses dual image processors to deal with the large amount of data, which the sensor generates and enable a continuous shooting rate of 5 frames/sec. The ISO range is 200-3200, expandable to 100-6400 via a custom function. While not as wide a range as the Nikon D700 (100-25,600), it’s probably as much as most photographers will need.
While the EOS 5D now seems a little dated, that should change when Canon announces their successor to the EOS 5D in the next few weeks, prior to the Photokina show at the end of September. Internet rumors abound, but it looks very likely that the new “Canon 5D MkII” will have a 20+ MP full frame sensor and my guess is a price around $3000, so it will likely go head-to-head with the 24MP Sony A900 and the 12MP Nikon D700.
Amazon.com has the Sony A900 available for pre-order:
SAN DIEGO, Sept. 9, 2008 Sony is introducing its full-frame, a
(alpha) DSLR-A900 camera, aimed at serious photo enthusiasts looking for traditional SLR
performance with the added benefits of digital photography.
It is designed to deliver ultra-fine picture quality with the world’s highest
resolution, 24.6-megapixel, 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor and fast image processing with a
new dual BIONZ processing engines. The camera is also the first to have a
body-integrated image stabilization system for a full-frame sensor with Sonys
SteadyShot Inside anti-shake system.
One look at the cameras distinctive pentaprism and nostalgic body design will
evoke its full-frame optical performance. It features a bright, clear optical viewfinder
with 100% field of view coverage that would impress even film photography loyalists.
The a (alpha) DSLR-A900 introduction solidifies Sonys position as a leading
camera manufacturer that can meet the demands of serious enthusiasts, said Phil
Lubell, director of digital camera marketing at Sony Electronics. It represents the
best in sensor and image processing technologies and offers enhanced functions,
performance and reliability so photographers can push their creativity to the limit.
Ultra-Fine Images As The Human Eye Perceives Them
The camera’s Exmor CMOS sensor delivers the photographic expressive power of wide angles and perspective that only a 35 mm full-frame sensor can offer, and is designed to take advantage of the resolving power of high-precision a (alpha) lenses. Its high
pixel count and large size provide enhanced image detail and a wider dynamic range for
natural color reproduction and subtle tonal gradations.
The sensor is produced using proprietary Sony planarization technologies to ensure an
ultra-flat surface across the entire imaging area. Instead of a single analog/digital
converter, the sensor uses over 6,000 on-chip, column-parallel A/D converters to convert
analog signals to noise-resistant digital signals at the earliest possible stage. The
result is reduced noise and high-speed transfer of data.
Image processing gets a boost in speed and power from the application of two BIONZ
image processing engines. Large amounts of data captured by the 24.6-megapixel sensor can
be quickly processed to achieve a fast shooting response. Additionally, this dual BIONZ
processing system applies advanced noise reduction algorithms producing images of
exceptional quality and detail, especially at high ISO sensitivities.
World’s First Anti-Shake System for a Full-Frame Sensor
The camera’s newly-developed, body-integrated SteadyShot Inside unit achieves an
anti-shake effect equivalent to shutter speeds faster by 2.5 to 4 stops. This new unit
provides stabilization for Sony, Minolta and Konica-Minolta wide angle, large-aperture
lenses, which is difficult for lens-integrated systems.
State-of-the Art Optical Performance and Responsiveness
The ultra-bright viewfinder with 100% field of view coverage and 0.74x magnification
enables accurate framing and preview. It features a high-power condenser lens, an eyepiece
with high reflective-index glass, and a multi-layer, anti-reflective coating on every
optical surface to deliver its extraordinarily bright and accurate view.
Additionally, the focusing screen is user-replaceable, with additional L-type (grid
pattern) and M-type (super spherical acute matte) screens sold separately.
The camera’s newly-developed autofocus system consists of nine wide-area sensors
with 10 assist points for improved tracking of moving subjects. A center dual cross sensor
comprised of two horizontal and two vertical line sensors as well as a dedicated f/2.8
sensor are included to achieve greater precision, especially when using fast-aperture
It also offers high-speed continuous shooting of 24.6 megapixel images at five frames
per second. A newly-designed mirror box features a unique parallel-link mirror mechanism
that moves on two horizontal axes to accommodate both 100% viewfinder coverage and the
body-integrated image stabilization system without increasing the camera’s size. The
mirror box also has a new moving magnet actuator, a high-powered coreless motor for a
faster shutter charge, and a magnet catcher to minimize mirror bounce and light refraction
within the box.
Versatility to Unleash Creative Possibilities
The model’s innovative intelligent preview function takes the guesswork out of
setting up a shot and the hassle of taking multiple shots to achieve a desired effect.
After pressing the depth of field preview button, the camera grabs a RAW
preview image which is processed and displayed on the LCD screen. You can then fine tune
white balance, determine the best level and effect of dynamic range optimization, adjust
exposure compensation and check histogram data, all before you actually take the picture.
Preview images are not recorded on the camera’s memory card, thus saving capacity.
Other key features aimed to expand creative options include the Dynamic Range Optimizer
(DRO) with five levels of user-selectable correction as well as DRO bracketing for
enhanced scene analysis and graduation optimization. EV bracketing with Â±2EV range makes
it easy to create high dynamic range composite images.
Thirteen creative styles can be selected to enhance images and then fine-tuned by
customizing contrast, sharpness, zone matching and other parameters, while 3
user-programmable memories provide instant access to as many as 26 different mode
Powerful RAW file processing control is put in the photographer’s hands with the
included Image Data Converter SR3 software that delivers faster file processing speeds,
easy adjustment of image parameters, Dynamic Range Optimization and a new Peripheral
Illumination function that compensates for corner light fall off.
With the camera’s HDMI output and Photo TV HD mode, your creative output can be
enjoyed on a compatible HD television. This mode brings the look of actual printed
photography to the television, by fine-tuning such image parameters as sharpness,
gradation and color.
Comfort in Your Hands
Its construction features rugged, lightweight magnesium alloy with moisture-resistant,
rubber seals for buttons and dials, an anti-static coating to prevent dust adherence to
the imager, and a high-endurance shutter rated for more than 100,000 release cycles.
It has a 3-inch, Xtra Fine LCD screen (921K) makes it possible to check focus and image
quality with accuracy. It incorporates an easy-to-see display with a quick navigation menu
to easily access common functions without interrupting your creative flow. A backlit LCD
panel sits on top of the camera and displays key settings.
System Expansion with New Accessories
The A900 camera will be accompanied with an array of accessories like the
recently-announced Sony HVL-F58AM flash unit with its innovative Quick Shift Bounce
system, powerful performance with a guide number of 58, and wireless auto flash ratio
The Sony VG-C90AM vertical grip offers the same ease of operation when shooting
vertically as horizontally, with its button layout and low-position shutter-release
button. It also houses two InfoLITHIUM batteries (sold separately) for longer shooting
Where to Buy
The DSLR-A900 body will be available in November for about $3,000 along with related
accessories. You can pre-order the camera from amazon.com: