Sony has outlined plans to shake off what it claims is a general perception that compact system cameras are ‘inferior’ to DSLRs. And the firm has pledged to continue developing new technology and lenses in a bid to tempt photographers away from their established Canon and Nikon systems.
One of the technologies Sony hopes will help win over detractors is 4D Focus – which it describes as a ‘rapid’ AF autofocus system with a wide horizontal, vertical coverage, and ‘high predictive precision’.
4D Focus is used in Sony’s Alpha 6000 CSC, for example.
AF was one of the system’s biggest drawbacks in the early days of CSCs, despite initial success of the format in Asian markets attributed to their small size compared to DSLRs, explained Yoshiyuki Nogami, senior general manager at the marketing division of Sony Japan’s Digital Imaging Business Group.
Today, mirrorless cameras can – at a given price point – deliver the same image quality as SLRs, Nogami told AP staff in a wide-ranging interview at Photokina in Cologne, Germany.
He called for more market ‘education’ to help change the photography world’s perception of CSCs.
‘Our point is that we want to get rid of a general image that mirrorless is a bit inferior to an SLR…’
Nogami said Sony has found it relatively easy to persuade consumers to upgrade from compacts to CSCs, but admitted: ‘Shifting from Canon and Nikon to our full-frame mirrorless is a challenge because they [photographers] have to get rid of their lenses if they want to completely shift.’
Nogami agreed that one way of pulling photographers away from their established Canon and Nikon systems is by building a range of suitable Sony CSC lenses.’
Lenses are now the key strategy for Sony’s CSC future, and it already seems to be paying off.
Photographers are keeping their existing kit, but, unlike before, they now have an Alpha 7 with maybe one or two prime lenses in their kitbag, as a second system, said Nogami. Lens adapters also help Sony lens sales, to some extent at least.
Nogami agreed there is room to develop different levels of lenses within each Sony system, even an entry-level lens for the Alpha 7, for example.
He explained, however, that lens development takes time. ‘It’s not easy – more difficult than developing a camera body.’
Asked whether Sony will launch dedicated CSC lenses designed for video, Nogami replied: ‘As a brand I don’t know. We will see how this 28-135mm [a motorised G-lens, on show at Photokina] is received by the market.
‘If it is a big success, it will really accelerate our development plan.
‘But it’s not so easy to develop video lenses. So, we will take it step by step.’
What is clear is that the launch of the full-frame Alpha 7 did a big favour to the perception of mirrorless market, because professional photographers started using one, said Nogami.
‘We started with the full-frame RX1 which was very well received by pros, and this Alpha 7 is, more or less, a changeable-lens RX1 – they also love that one…
‘Mirrorless is on a nice wave right now, we really feel it and – having visited stores in Germany recently – I have seen that large specialist photo stores are behind us.’
Germany leads Sony’s CSC market in Europe market followed by France and the UK.
Nogami declined to name Sony’s best-selling CSC model worldwide, but said that the Alpha 5000 and 6000 models have proved popular.
Asked about the future of Sony’s A-mount SLT cameras amid a growing CSC market, Nogami suggested that Sony has no plans to abandon these photographers, and is closely monitoring their feedback.
‘Of course there are many, many A-mount supporters from the Minolta age, so we will listen to their voices and we have to keep those customers on our side.
‘When we introduced the Alpha 77 Mark II, there were many 77 owners ready for a Mark II … we have to treat them fairly.’
Meanwhile, will we see a Sony camera dedicated to taking selfies? Nogami certainly appeared excited about the market potential of the massively popular self-portraits, adding that, from a business perspective, demand for Sony’s lens-style cameras are ‘not up to where we wish’.
‘There are young girls in China who are spending $1,000 on a selfie camera – it’s unbelievable,’ he said.
Nogami predicted that 4K video, as used by AP for the cover shot of its 20 September issue, is not about to go mainstream for stills photography anytime soon, however.
‘Of course, from the movie point of view, it’s a matter of time before 4K becomes mainstream, but it will take some years I guess.’
Yoshiyuki Nogami was speaking to Chris Cheesman, Nigel Atherton and Andy Westlake