Photokina 2014: Sony interview - 'we still need to create more lenses'
|Shigeki Ishizuka, SVP Corporate Executive, Deputy President of Sony's Imaging Products and Solutions Sector and President of Sony's Digital Imaging Business Group. Pictured at Photokina 2014.|
At Photokina last week we sat down with Shigeki Ishizuka, the global head of Sony’s Imaging Business. As well as talking us through Sony's current Alpha strategy, Ishizuka-san also explained why the name 'NEX' was dropped and told us a little about how Sony's sensor business works.
Could you summarize Sony’s camera strategy in one sentence?
We want to make serious cameras. In terms of our compact cameras, for example, the RX-series is the core. They’re differentiated from our competitors by offering big sensors, great picture quality and sophisticated cosmetic design.
How important are new photographers to Sony compared to experts or enthusiasts?
In business terms, entry-level users, or amateurs are very important because there are so many opportunities. Traditional photo enthusiasts might be fond of using more traditional systems such as those from Canon or Nikon. They stick to those ecosystems, since they have a lot of lenses. But beginners might not have those kind of loyalties. We want to stimulate the interest of those customers in photography.
But we also need to earn a good reputation among professionals and higher-level amateurs. It’s kind of a chicken and egg situation. So firstly, our strategy is to get that reputation with enthusiasts. That’s why we started to make these serious, high-end cameras. And for the moment, we think, it is proving successful.
Do you think there is a gap in your lineup for a truly entry-level RX-series camera?
Yes and no. We are attracting a lot of new customers with the original RX100. It might look like a serious camera, but from an entry-level users’ point of view they can still take a good photography with a single press of a button. Any amateur photographer can use an RX100. The RX100 III is the top end, but we’re continuing to run all three RX100-series cameras together - the RX100 has now been on the market for more than two years.
|The RX100 has been on the market for more than two years but continues in Sony's RX-series lineup as the current entry-level option.|
Will this strategy continue? Last year’s flagship becoming this year’s entry-level option?
Yes, we will keep the products on the market for as long as we can. This is a different strategy to the one we’ve used in the past. It’s good for us and also for the customers and retailers.
How do you go about persuading someone who might be invested in another system to switch to Sony?
It’s not easy for people to switch, and we understand that. But right now some of those customers are buying our cameras and lenses in addition to their existing equipment. They appreciate the advantage of mirrorless equipment, which is twofold: light and small. The smaller the better and the lighter the better. In the past, small, light cameras often weren’t capable enough but after the introduction of the A7, there are no excuses.
With the Alpha a6000 and the SLT-77 II the focus was improved so much that older mirrorless models look slow. This is the kind of innovation that removes the ‘pain points’ from buying mirrorless cameras. And gradually we’re gaining customers, from new entry-level buyers to high-level amateurs and enthusiasts who are traditionally Canon and Nikon customers.
There are three Alpha 7 cameras on the market now. Can you give us an idea of how they’re selling, relative to one another?
The Alpha 7 is the standard model, and it attracts a wider range of customers. The A7R is a resolution-oriented camera, aimed especially at customers that do things like landscapes. Before we introduced the A7S we didn’t know who would buy it. At the moment, a lot of videographers are interested in it. Last week we attended the IBC conference in Amsterdam and already a lot of journalists were using the A7S for video.
How important is video to the the Alpha range as a whole?
Well historically the photo industry and video industry were completely separate. From Sony’s point of view we had been doing, but independently. But thanks to certain technological developments, the two have come together and now there is no great distinction. So we can make use of a common platform and create very specific, customized products according to customer feedback.
The A7S is clearly a capable video camera, but ergonomically it is obviously designed in the same way as the A7 and A7R, for still shooting. Was it an experiment?
No. From what I’ve heard, in recent years a lot of professional photographers have needed to start creating video as well as stills - doing two jobs. One camera which can do both - like the A7S - is potentially better.
We had an issue with the A7R with shutter vibration reducing resolution in certain situations. How do you incorporate feedback like this from your users?
We take the feedback and make note of it, and we use it to improve the next generation of products.
Under the ‘Alpha’ brand you currently have two lens mounts - A and FE. How long do you see those two mounts running side-by-side?
We have one system - the Alpha system. Of course the origin of A and E mounts might seem different from a customer’s point of view, but they are fully compatible with one another using adapters. I don’t want to separate those mounts into two ‘systems’. That’s why we stopped using ‘NEX’ in favor of using a single family name - ‘Alpha’.
Before you made that change did you find that customers saw NEX and Alpha differently?
Yes. When we introduced the first NEX models we were going after new users, and families. So the image might have seemed ‘cheap’.
Historically, Sony is seen by many people as an electronics company, not necessarily as a photography company. Do you think that this is still a problem?
There is still some problem with that, but my strong message to the market is that Sony is a serious photo manufacturer. We are strengthening our lens lineup as well.
How much Minolta is left in Sony?
Some of the old Minolta lenses are still very good - especially some of the long zoom lenses. In my team there are several former Minolta engineers, but our team is bigger now than Minolta’s was. So we can design new lenses completely from scratch [for the requirements of digital].
Sony is clearly putting a lot of effort into creating new lenses - where do you think you need to do more?
The number. There are 13 lenses for the E mount currently but we still need to create more lenses to compete with other manufacturers. We’re catching up. One consistent request from our customers is macro lenses and wide-aperture lenses.
Do you think you need a big lens lineup to be taken seriously by professional photographers?
We certainly have a lot of work to do to gain a good reputation with professionals - like long zooms for sports and so on. But we also need to make more affordable, light and small lenses.
Is the AF system in your mirrorless cameras capable of predictive focus tracking in the same way as a conventional phase-detection AF system?
That depends on the lens. If we made a new lens, something like a 300mm or 400mm, yes - it would be possible with the new ‘4D’ focusing system in the a6000. But in terms of speed the AF system in the Alpha 7 cameras is a little slower.
|The a6000 features Sony's most sophisticated AF system of any one of its mirrorless products. Good enough, the company claims, to shoot sports and fast action.|
So you’re not aiming the A7-series at sports photographers right now?
No, the A7 [series] isn’t capable of professional AF performance, but the a6000 is good enough for sports events.
So are you focusing on improving AF performance in the next generation of FE mount cameras?
I want to, yes.
Sony sensors can be found in cameras from several different manufacturers. How does your sensor business work?
When we make sensors we put them in several categories. [At any given time] one category of sensors is reserved purely for Sony cameras - we don’t sell them to other companies. Like the sensor in the A7S. But once we’ve enjoyed this advantage we might sell them on later, after some time has passed. This is the second category. The third category of sensors is completely generic - the sensors are created for use internally and to sell externally, to anybody. China or Taiwan or wherever.
Do you think that full-frame is the biggest size sensor that an enthusiast could ever need, or is there an opportunity for bigger sensors?
Bigger than full-frame? Of course there is opportunity there for medium format but it’s a niche. For now, thanks to developments in full-frame we can satisfy this need but there may be room to explore this opportunity [in the future].
How has the QX-series been received? What kind of feedback have you heard?
In the beginning, we had a lot of demand from gadget lovers, who really liked it. But after that initial boom was over we’ve had a very stable level of business. It’s maybe still a niche, but this is our challenge. This year we introduced the QX-1, an interchangeable lens-type QX camera. While it might still be a niche a lot of customers are interested in it for astrophotography, for instance, to attach to telescopes.
|The new QX-1 is effectively a standalone sensor and lens mount, minus lens, to which any E-mount lens can be attached.|
Although we marketed them as modules that you can attached to your phone, most QX users don’t attach the lenses in this way, they use them remotely. This has been very interesting.
Jun 28, 2016
May 7, 2017
Jul 23, 2016
May 29, 2016
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
I own it
I want it
I had it
Out of stock
|Base, w/ 24-70mm|
Out of stock
|Base, w/ Battery Grip|
Out of stock
|w/ 28-70mm, Base|
|w/ 28-70mm, w/ Battery Grip|
|w/ 28-70mm, w/ 55mm f1.8|
|w/ 28-70mm, w/ 70-200mm|
|w/ 16-50mm, Base|
|w/ 16-50mm & 18-135mm, Base|
|w/ 16-50mm & 55-200mm, Base|
|w/ 16-50mm & 55-300mm, Base|
|w/ 18-135mm, Base|
|w/ 55-200mm, Base|
|w/ 55-300mm, Base|
|It's good to be at home by Nightcrawler12|
from Best photo of the week...
|Tiny tree by Kaappo|
This year, plenty of amazing cameras, lenses, accessories and other products came through our doors. As 2017 winds down, we're highlighting some of our standout products of the year. Check out the winners of the 2017 DPReview Awards!
Maybe you want better photos in low light. Maybe you're tired of digital zoom. Whatever the reason, if you're looking for a capable, beginner-friendly camera to grow and learn with, we've got you covered.
The Olympus 17mm F1.2 promises to open up new possibilities for Micro Four Thirds shooters seeking razor-thin depth-of-field and smooth, 'feathered' bokeh. Take a peek at our extensive sample gallery.
Are you a speed freak? Hungry to photograph anything that goes 'zoom'? Or perhaps you just want to get Sports Illustrated-level shots of your child's soccer game. Keep reading to find out which cameras we think are best for sports and action shooting.
Still yearning for an Aperture replacement? Here's a quick overview of RAW Power, a Raw image editor for iOS that pairs with the Mac application introduced in 2016. Take a look at some of its capabilities.
Video features have become an important factor to many photographers when choosing a new camera. Read on to find out which cameras we think are best for the videophile.
Tech lover Albert Lee was one of the first to pre-order the intriguing 16-camera module Light L16. Two months in, here's what he has to say about using this not-so-little computational camera.
The public art installation featured blurred portraits, ostensibly captured by the artist under that same underpass... except they weren't. They were actually portraits of comedians, pulled from the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival program.
Edelkrone has upgraded its SliderOne with a SliderOne Pro and introduced a new generation of Wing and Wing Pro models, all while simultaneously improving the app that controls its entirely lineup.
People have waiting a long time for the Canon 85mm F1.4L IS lens, but how does it compare to Canon's 85mm F1.2L and Sigma's 85mm F1.4 Art? Phillip Pettit of Lensrentals took all three lenses for a spin to find out.
Affinity Photo for iPad, one of the first full-featured Raw editors designed specifically for tablet use, has been named Apple's Best iPad App of 2017. And what's more, it's currently 50% off!
VSCO Messages allows VSCO X subscribers and free users alike to share text, images, photo editing 'recipes', VSCO journal entries and more.
Flickr has revealed their top 25 photos of 2017, and there are some truly stunning shots in the mix.
Testing of the Canon G1 X Mark III is well underway, inside of the studio and out. We've just added it to our test scene comparison tool, where you can take a look at its performance side-by-side against peers like the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V.
Whether it's a trip to the beach for some snorkeling or scrambling up a 10,000 ft volcano, the Olympus Tough TG-5 proved to be a great travel companion for Jeff. That's why it's his 2017 Gear of the Year.
Last year, the DJI Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 Professional took top honors in our end of year buying guide. Read on to find out who it this year for beginners, consumers, prosumers, and professionals at a price tag less than $2,000.
Meyer Optik Goerlitz is resurrecting yet another classic lens. This time, the company has set its crowdfunding sights on the Primoplan 75mm F1.9, a lens originally manufactured in a run of just 2,000 back in the 1930s.
The folks at Kolari Vision—an infrared camera conversion company based in New Jersey—recently tore down a brand new Sony a7RIII, giving everybody a peek at the camera's much-improved weather sealing.
Resource Travel's Brandon Cunningham recently joined The Giving Lens for a 10-day adventure in India. A trip he won't soon forget, to a country that left him in "sensory and soul overload."
Meet the new Freefly Movi, a handheld gimbal stabilizer designed by cinema stabilization pros for use with the iPhone. Freefly is calling this little beast "the world's most portable, adaptable, and intuitive cinema robot."
Photography portfolio site PhotoShelter is adding their voice to the growing group of online companies that are speaking out in favor of net neutrality, and against the FCC's upcoming vote to kill it.
The Direct app would replace the current Inbox on the Instagram app, doing for Instagram what the Facebook Messenger app did for Facebook on mobile.
Qualcomm's latest high-end mobile chipset offers higher frame rates and a wider color gamut, among other important camera improvements you can expect to see in next year's flagship smartphones.
Photographer Josselin Cornou recently got trapped in a blizzard in the Snowy Mountains of Australia with his Fujifilm GFX 50S and new Tamron 15-30mm F2.8 lens. Find out how they held up to 110km/h winds and -15°C temperatures.
While film nostalgia reaches an all-time high, Seattle-based pro photographer Sofi Lee is turning back to 'digicams' made between 2008 and 2011.
The fixed prime lens camera market may be a bit niche, but it's here that you'll find some of the best cameras you can buy. Sensors ranging from APS-C to full-frame are designed to match their lenses, which cover ranges from 28-75mm equivalent, so image quality is top-notch.
With a capacity of 512GB, Samsung's new UFS chips take built-in storage on smartphones to desktop-PC levels. Will this eliminate the need for microSD slots?
Photographer Josh Rossi decided to go big for this year's Christmas card, so he recreated the Star Wars: The Last Jedi poster using himself, his wife, and their two kids.
In response to a NY Times article about how some traffickers were using Instagram as part of the illicit animal trade, Instagram has added a content advisory screen that pops up to warn users any time they search for hashtags "associated with harmful behavior to animals."
Kodak is expanding its instant photography lineup today with the release of the Kodak Mini Shot Instant 10MP camera. A tiny little digital camera that spits out either 2.1 x 3.4-inch or 2.1 x 2.1-inch prints.