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Sony looks to change the world of DSLRs

By dpreview staff on Jan 11, 2011 at 19:41 GMT

'We really can change the world' says Masashi 'Tiger' Imamura, President of Personal Imaging & Sound Business Group in an exclusive interview with dpreview.com. The company will try to bring together all its technologies to produce a worthy successor to the A700, he told us in a talk that also touched on the future expansion of the NEX system and the company's position on 'full frame' models.

'After the merger [with Konica Minolta] our system was very similar to a traditional DSLR - very similar to Canon and Nikon. They have more heritage than us: traditional DSLRs are a mixture of optics, mechanics as well as electronics. We're coming from the AV industry so we have a lot of unique technologies we can put into our cameras. Now we have merged our resources into one place (Tokyo), we can bring our knowledge from Alpha, NEX, Cyber-Shot and camcorders.'

'There has been a lot of discussion about what an Alpha DSLR should be. We've been focusing for some time on utilizing our unique technologies. The translucent mirror is one and it performs very well. We want the A700 replacement to be in line with that kind of step forward, we want it to be superior to its competitors, that's why we couldn't make it sooner,' he said. But, he assured us, the results will be worth waiting for: 'With the A33 and 55 we tried to look at the problem and get rid of some of the old hassles - the A700 successor should be like that.'

Meanwhile, the NEX concept will expand in several directions, he said: 'The concept of the NEX 3 and 5 were for people who already have a compact stills camera and want to take a step up, but see a traditional DSLR as big, heavy and hard to use. We think these models are a very good fit to those customers. But also there are customers using NEX in addition to their DSLR, so we're planning to expand NEX in a more easy way, a lighter way, but we'll also expand to make models that have more manual control and more DSLR-like capability.'

Imamura repeated the enthusiasm he expressed at Photokina for the use of legacy lenses on the NEX system: 'with lens adapters, people can combine their valued, heritage lenses with a very advanced digital body. We didn't expect that kind of usage. There are lots of interesting things we can do for those types of customer.' The wait for these models may not be too long - at a formal dinner after our interview he told the assembled journalists that: 'the successors to the NEX-3 and NEX-5 are on the horizon.'

But the company's ambition doesn't end there, he said: 'As well as the easy-to-use and DSLR capabilities, we're also thinking about the camcorder style shooters and technologies. The NEX VG10 is one example of that. The barriers between compacts, DSLRs and camcorders will merge - not necessarily in a single device but with technologies and capabilities being shared between them. Our mission is to create new markets - we don't want to make the same products as everyone else and just cannibalise each other in the existing market.'

When asked about full-frame, he said Sony was still committed: 'When we started in DSLR we said that if we have DSLRs, a full-frame camera must be there. But we are working on a lot of products and there is a limit to our engineering capacity. The time will come when I can give more detail. When we announce a full-frame camera we want it to be a big step forward - another technological development might be needed so I say to people: Please stay tuned.'

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