Sonyu2019s deputy president of digital imaging, and senior marketing manager discuss the launch of the Alpha 99 and the RX1, and the possiblity of an even higher-end professional body

In an exclusive

interview AP talks to Sony’s deputy president of digital imaging, Toru

Katsumoto and senior marketing manager, Tetsuya Numata, about the company’s

launch of the world’s first full-frame SLT, the Alpha 99

Q. First

question, why has it taken so long?

A. When we

invented the translucent mirror technology we focused on the technology to get

the best performance for digital imaging. To that end we made the Alpha 77

first and then progressed to full frame. It needed a lot of development for the

bigger translucent mirror itself. The dual autofocusing system using the two

phase-detection focus detectors was also one of the key technologies we wanted

to achieve for the Alpha 99 and it took a massive effort to do these things.

Q. Are you

nervous about how a full-frame SLT will fare in the market? Do you think the

higher-end user will adapt to it?

A. We know many

people still love the conventional DSLR with its moving mirror but the SLT has

many advantages such as the continuous autofocus system and the EVF [electronic

viewfinder]. Many people love an OVF [optical viewfinder] especially for

full-frame products but we believe an EVF is better. We’re looking forward to

hearing the editorial reaction to this product.

Q. You decided to

stick with a resolution of 24-million-pixels, is this now enough for users?

A. We think the

balance between the pixel count and the sensitivities, plus the speed of reading

from the image sensor is very important, especially for movies. So, with the

technology we have in 2012, this sensor has the best balance of resolution,

sensitivity and video functionality. If we had gone up to 36 million pixels we

couldn’t do 60p video or produce the same sensitivity levels. When the

technology improves we can increase the pixels.

Q. This camera

[Alpha 99] is obviously pitched against semi-professional models such as the

Canon EOS 5D and Nikon D800, do you think Sony will go to the next stage and go

for a top professional-level camera?

A. It is a

possibility. We work closely with Sony’s professional group and have already

made the FS900 professional video recorders. We have to see what the marketing [department]

requests of us, and what kind of camera is needed as a priority. Many

broadcasting companies and cinema people have been asking for a stills camera

with DSLR styling plus video functionality for professional use.

Q. The Minolta

hotshoe was claimed to be the strongest and best on the market, so why have you

changed for a standard ISO hotshoe?

A. Of course, the

Minolta hotshoe was very attractive with the quick attach and remove functions.

However, people have been requesting standard ISO shoe accessories with the

Alpha and NEX models, and even Cyber-shot cameras. For instance, on the new RX1

we have a standard ISO shoe with additional contacts so we can attach standard

ISO shoe accessories, as well as more advanced Sony accessories. We would like

to sell more, and on the customer side they now have the chance to both types

of accessory.

Q. Is the AF system

quick enough for tracking and is it as fast as the Nikon and Canon pro systems?

A. Together with

the independent phase-detection sensor, we can do quick autofocus. We can also set

the limit of the focus zone [using the AF range], which is very new to this

kind of camera, and very convenient.

Q. The A99 features

dual SD slots, why was the XQD memory card not used?

A. The XQD consumes

a lot of power. It is very quick but, in terms of consumer benefits, we felt

the SD and memory stick were better options as they are less power hungry.

Q. Who do you think

will use the AF range mode? Is it mainly for professionals?

A. Not

particularly. Although it will appeal to professionals, we think everyone can

see its value.

Q. Was there a

reason why Wi-Fi doesn’t feature on the Alpha 99?

A. Wi-Fi will be

good for all cameras, but for us it made more sense to start with the NEX.

Q. Do you think the

RX1 could eventually be redesigned as an interchangeable lens camera?

A. It is a

possibility, I think. For the RX1, though, we wanted to make it as small as

possible, which was why we used a fixed lens.

Q. Do you see the

RX1 as a ‘statement’ product to show what is possible or do you think it will

have high sales?

A. This is not a

mass-market product. We are trying to appeal to people who need high picture

quality, and understand the value in this product with regard to this. In that

respect, we expect to target the professional looking for a second camera or

the high-end amateur customer.

Q. With there be

any lens adapters for the RX1, such as a wideangle or telephoto adapter?

A. Possibly, though

at the moment there are no plans for this. The camera does feature the custom

button, the smart zoom function, and as it has 24-million-pixels so there is

enough resolution to zoom in.

  • Jaap Stil

    I checked the A99 EVF at the Photokina (and compared it to the A900 reflex VF) and found it a disappointment. When moving the camera, light sources seem to jump, suggesting a too low refresh rate.
    The amount of detail falls way short to that of the reflex. Looking at spotlights for instance shows them represented by oval white spots whereas in the reflex version one can still see the gleam in the reflector.
    Only under low light conditions is the EVF superior.

  • clippingpathzone

    Very informative tutorials.

  • Joe

    When he said “Many broadcasting companies and cinema people have been asking for a stills camera with DSLR styling plus video functionality for professional use.”

    Is he referring to the A99 or a future camera?

  • jerome

    Well, Mr. Katsumoto, since you ask for our “editorial reaction” to the SLT in a full frame product:
    my reaction was to buy a Nikon D800. Sorry, I tried the new EVF in the NEX 7, and I don’t want it in a full frame SLR. I see the use for video and for some photographers, but not for me. And it certainly is not comparable to the viewfinder of the A900.

    Now, having tried the Nikon, I still prefer Sony lenses, so if you change your mind about the “SLT only” policy, I will be back.