Sony releases new DSLR cameras, lenses and flash

May 18th, 2009 - 07:50:58 PM:

Today Sony has released three new DSLR camera bodies that were rumored for some time now. At the same time, they also released some of the lenses that were previewed at PMA 2009. And, last but not least, a new low-power flash unit accompanies the releases.

The new cameras are:

DSLR-A230 (α230)
A new entry level DSLR. It replaces the α200 in the current lineup.
DSLR-A330 (α330)
A new entry level DSLR, with live view and a tilting screen. It replaces the α300 in the current lineup.
DSLR-A380 (α380)
A new entry level DSLR, with live view, a tilting screen and higher resolution. It replaces the α350 in the current lineup.

These cameras are only minor upgrades to their respective predecessors. Most tech data is unchanged. The most important changes are:

  • smaller sizes
  • changed user interface with more extensive user assistance right in the camera
  • HDMI connection on all cameras, and the analog TV connection is removed
  • no CompactFlash slot, but SD card slot in addition to MS slot
  • continuous self timer function, shooting 5 or 3 pictures after a self-timer delay
  • no socket for a wired remote release, but supports the RMT-DSLR1 wireless remote
  • new battery type NP-FH50
  • no vertical grip is available for these cameras.

It's also interesting to see how the cameras differ from widespread expectations and concerns:

  • video support is not included.
  • the cameras still have an in-body AF motor, i. e. they are still compatible with older Sony, Carl Zeiss and Minolta AF lenses.
  • Sony has not gone to MemoryStick-only cameras. While the CompactFlash slot is gone, an SD card slot was added.
  • the live view implementation is unchanged. While some were hoping for main sensor live view, it must be said that Sony's implementation with a secondary sensor in the viewfinder still delivers faster AF during live view. I think for this class of cameras it's the appropriate compromise.
  • the battery type was changed.

The new lenses are:

DT 18-55/3.5-5.6 SAM
This is the new kit lens.
DT 55-200/4-5.6 SAM
This lens is only a cosmetic upgrade from the previous 55-200 to make it match the other new lenses, and SAM was added.
DT 50/1.8 SAM
A portrait lens for APS-C format.
DT 30/2.8 Macro SAM
A 1:1 macro lens for APS-C.

Common to these lenses is that they all contain an in-lens AF motor. Sony calls this lens type SAM, not SSM. Obviously they do not contain an ultra-sonic ring motor as the higher-class SSM lenses, but ultra-sonic micro motors.

Very little information is currently available about these lenses. I will update the lens data sheets as new information comes in.

The new flash is:

This is mainly a low-power compact flash for the three new cameras. The guide number is 20 meters. It can be folded down while mounted on the camera. The flash tube can also be tilted up for bounce flash operation. Another interesting detail is that this flash can also act as a wireless flash controller when mounted on the α900. Until now A900 owners had to use the HVL-F58AM for wireless flash control.

The new cameras are scheduled for a June release, with the α380 scheduled for a July release.