The Most Innovative Camera Manufacturer

When most people think about Sony, they imagine video game consoles, TVs, phones and other electronic gadgets. One thing that most people do not think of is Sony as a camera manufacturer. Most people who do not follow the camera industry only know about Nikon or Canon. The truth is that not only Sony produces its own cameras it also sell sensors to other manufacturers including Nikon, Canon, Fuji etc.

History:

Sony has been making cameras since early 1980s with mix success but it made headlines when it bought out the ill fated Minolta’s camera division. During the initial period Sony used Minolta technology to launch few DSLRs under the Sony Alpha line. These DSLRs were received with mixed opinions and they failed to make any big ripples in the established Canikon market.

In 2010 Sony not only introduced the world’s smallest mirrorless camera (Nex-5) under the NEX banner but also introduced world’s first Single Lens Translucent (SLT) camera. In following years Sony released multiple NEX and SLT models including a full frame model Sony A99.

sony_A99

Sony Alpha A99 – Sony’s first Full Frame SLT

After the success of NEX and SLT lines Sony continued to push innovation and breaking traditional camera design rules and 2012 introduced worlds first full frame fixed lens camera (Sony RX1). This camera featured a Full Frame sensor and a fixed Carl Zeiss 35mm F2.0 lens. Sony RX1 wasn’t just a unique camera but also a sign from Sony of things to come.

Sony_RX1

Sony RX1 – World’s First fixes lens FF camera.

In the same year, realizing the fact that Point and shoot market is dying it’s slow death due to advancement in camera phone technology, in Sony introduced a 20.2 megapixel camera with a large 1″ sensor and enough controls and RAW support to make any enthusiast/pro excited. Sony RX100 not only proved to be a big success for Sony but also proved that even with the declining market there was still a place for large sensor P&S camera.

Sony RX100

Sony RX100

 

In October 2013 Sony wowed the world by introducing the world’s first auto focusing full frame mirrorless cameras. Sony A7 line didn’t have just one or two camera but instead three similar cameras but with very different internals.

  • Sony A7 for everyday shooting.
  • Sony A7r with it’s 36mpx sensor for landscapes or high resolution applications.
  • Sony A7s, a low light monster with highest ISO setting for 409,600 and the ability to record 4K videos.
Sony A7 family

Sony A7 family

Other than the cameras that I high lighted above, Sony also produced another exception fixed lens camera called Sony RX10 that featured the similar 20.2 megapixel 1″ sensor as the RX100 series but with an exceptional Carl Zeiss 24-200mm f/2.8 Lens.

Sony RX10

Sony RX10

Sony of Today:

With the introduction of the Sony A7 series Sony was able to penetrate a lot deeper in the camera market and unlike other camera manufacturers Sony cannot be accused of thinking out of the box. On the other hand Sony does get criticized for having hands in too many things at one time and not giving the followers enough piece of mind that they won’t abandon them in future. The reason for this insecurity is Sony’s ever changing vision about their cameras and camera line.

After the Minolta buy out Sony assured the Minolta loyalists that it won’t abandon them but with the introduction of Sony NEX and then Alpha line mirrorless cameras Minolta (A-mount) dropped out of Sony’s focus with not much development or new lens introductions. We are seeing a similar trend with introduction of full frame A7 line as Sony seems to be focusing more on the full frame line than the APS-C.

Other than some inconsistencies of vision from Sony camera division, it has been one of the most innovative camera manufacturer in current market. Sony is constantly pushing envelope of camera technology and while other manufacturers bask in the fading light of the past Sony continues it’s effort to create its own light.

Currently Sony has a very vast portfolio of camera products that can cater to beginners to Pros alike. Some of these cameras are not only class leading but some have a class of their own with no competitor or alternative in the market.

– Point and Shoot: (Cyber-Shot)

Cybershot line is one of the most diverse camera lines in not just Sony’s portfolio but probably in the camera market on the whole. Under this banner Sony has everything from cheap P&S cameras to unrivaled Sony RX1, RX100 and RX10.

– QX Line of Camera Modules:

This is another Sony product that did not have any rival in the industry when it was introduced few years back (Olympus is currently the only other manufacturer who recently introduced a similar products). The idea of QX line is that it’s a complete camera with lens and brain which is controlled by a cellphone connected to it. QX module connects to the cellphone via it’s own Wifi network. Once connected all functions of the camera can be controlled via an app on the cellphone.

Sony QX100

Sony QX100

Sony QX100 attached to a cellphone

Sony Alpha SLT:

This currently Sony’s only camera line that follows traditional DSLR form factor. Currently this line features to sensor sizes, APS-C (Sony A77 II) and full frame (Sony A99). Both of these like feature Sony’s Translucent Mirror Technology.

Sony A77 II

 

Sony Alpha Mirrorless:

This line of cameras was originally introduced as NEX few years ago but recently Sony rebranded the line and dropped the NEX title. Currently this line has multiple models but among them the most popular one is the Sony A6000 that has similar APS-C sensor like the other cameras but feature one of the most advance auto focusing that rivals many DSLRs.

Sony A6000

 

Sony A7 Series:

Last but certainly not the least is the Sony’s latest and greatest mirrorless camera series that is causing the big two lose some sleep over. In current line up Sony A7 has four cameras that all feature full frame sensors but with different configurations. Sony A7, A7 II feature 24 megapixel sensor while Sony A7r and Sony A7s feature 36 megapixel and 12 megapixels sensors respectively.

Since this is currently Sony’s latest and greatest it is not possible that it does not have something a feature that does not accompany “world’s first” or “world’s best” attached to it. A7 brought us “world’s first” auto focusing full frame camera and with the introduction of A7 II Sony added another world first to their camera line and that was the inclusion of In Body Stabilization (IBIS). This technology moves the sensor to compensate for the vibrations or handshake making even the non stabilized old lenses stabilized. Making it possible to shoot at very slow shutter speeds without the need of any support.

The Future

We live in very exciting times where advancements in technology is blurring the lines between different fields. Not too long ago it was a thought of fiction that people will be using their phones as their cameras or using their cameras to directly share pictures online. As camera manufacturers see shrinking market shares they have to constantly innovate to keep their piece of the pie and when it comes to experimentation and combining different technologies Sony is spearheading this movement.

As a camera enthusiast, I don’t always agree with the Sony’s direction or their lack of commitment but one thing that I will always praise it for is that Sony is never afraid to think out of the box and to try new things unlike the Big Two who have been playing it “safe” for years. Hopefully, Sony will force them to get off their laurels and stop churning out newer model of cameras every few years with little to no innovation.

    

Source: Sony Global site and Wikipedia

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One thought on “The Most Innovative Camera Manufacturer

  1. Very educational article! Sony is the most innovative company indeed: no other “big name” manufacturer is offering a full frame mirrorless with IBIS. Sometimes they are too innovative IMHO – I couldn’t ever understand why in the world I would need a QX camera, if I can get an RX100… 🙂

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