December 27, 2012

Sony All but Promises More Full Frame Video Beyond 2012: Mirrorless, or Otherwise

2012 marked a monumental year for Sony. Not one, not two, but three full frame video or video-capable cameras were announced, and on the same day, no less. One of these constitutes the only full frame camcorder to date, the NEX-VG900, so the historicity really can't be discounted. Doubtlessly responding to consumer and industry feedback, and before the models the company has announced have even been released yet, Sony isn't content to let the waves they've made in our cozy little pond merely ripple back. Instead, they've all but confirmed yet another stills/video camera in production, targeting even more pieces of the market share they've aggressively sought to carve out. In this case, Sony's bringing all the more good news for full frame enthusiasts -- especially those looking past the A99 -- and those DSLR users with positive mirrorless shooting experiences.

The camera has no officially confirmed name yet, but Sony Alpha Rumors is offering its highest-end endorsement for this information, with kudos to The Verge for reposting:

  • These last two weeks I contacted all my best sources and they now all(!) confirmed that the next Sony Full Frame camera will not be a new SLT camera. It will be a Full Frame mirrorless camera!
  • Plan of a FF SLT release in 2013 have been dropped to fully focus the development resources on that FF mirrorless camera. Sony’s main priority is to create a real High End camera. A camera that can have all the functions and capabilities of a DSLR (that means for example fast AF). Sony sees that camera as the one that should bring back some significant interests on Sony FF system.
  • The camera is still in the final stage of development. We can expect the release of the cameras by end 2013 at earliest but early 2014 sounds more likely for now.

The camera will apparently feature an E-mount that will also natively support A-mount lenses, which may serve to invigorate Sony's presence in the realm of self-branded lens mounts (which are clearly dominated by, well, other parties) -- as well sport a form factor a bit bustier than the NEX-7. This may (or, depending on later details, may not) come as a hopeful prospect over the horizon for those who were either disappointed by the performance of one of Sony's recent full frame DSLR offerings, the A99 -- one of the cameras announced on that busy day in September -- or, at least (if they haven't had a chance to use the camera extensively themselves), by reviews of the A99, one of which SAR has also recently shared. Here's a quick run-down of the A99's features, in case you need a little catch-up:

The folks over at PhotoClubAlpha found a strongly mixed bag in the A99, but were outright disappointed in several respects, not least of which is the aforementioned value inherent in a proven lens collection.

Sony lenses are not cheaper, nor wider in range of choice or sources of supply, than Nikon or Canon. There is no collateral benefit when you hand over as much as 50% extra to Sony for their innovative cost-saving technology. In my British Journal review, I concluded that the Alpha 99 was between 30 and 50% over-priced and combined with the cost and limited range of Sony lenses there would be little good reason for any new full-frame entrant to prefer Sony over Nikon or Canon.

The aspect of greatest interest to most of us would be its uncompressed HDMI-out capabilities, which is major -- this can be, however, negated by a full-on purchase unless you already own an array of Sony glass, are looking to invest in as much, or if you're planning an A-series-based shoot as a discreet rental arrangement. This problem, of course, extends to this 'mysterious' upcoming Sony FF camera, though the E-mount support does expand lens options a bit. Then again, at least the A99 offers an interchangeable lens system at all, which is more than you can say can be said for the $2800 RX1. Considering Sony is already looking to "bring back some significant interests on Sony FF system" (I mean, they just announced three FF cameras three months ago), it's not unlikely the video portion will be improved as well -- and given the late-2013/early-2014 release date, don't be surprised if Sony throws in a more modern video codec on which to record, as well.

The yet-to-be named Sony mirrorless camera is reportedly testing two prototypes, with 24 and and 30-32 Megapixel sensors, respectively.

Do you guys agree that the A99 may not be a viable (commercially, at least) investment on the video side of things? In what ways (if any) were you disappointed in your experiences with the more recent full frame offerings Sony has provided thus far? In what ways do you see improvement needed (in mirrorless models or otherwise) for you to consider Sony stills/video camera as a contender to your Canon or your Nikon?

Link:

[via The Verge]

Your Comment

24 Comments

The NEX VG900 looked very interesting on paper to me but by all accounts the image quality just isn't up to challenging my 5D. Lets hope this new camera is more FS100 in quality rather than VG20.

December 27, 2012

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Stu Mannion

Yes the VG900 turned out to be a consumer level "first in the world" thing you usually see from the likes of JVC. The same A99 sensor was fitted to an E mount and just poorly line-skipped down to 1080p. Line skipping causes awful aliasing and loses you the low-light advantage.

If Sony develops a proper downsampling FF 135 video system it would let them catch up to Canon's low light capability. Fitted to an E mount they could provide PL (with in-camera digital crop to S35) and EF adapters that really, actually do work. (I doubt the current generation of EF to E adapters have FF 135 coverage...anyone?) Give it the same overcrank capability of the FS700 and some of the build and ergonomics of the F5 (incl 4K capability) and they'd have a camera I'd consider paying $10K or so for.

December 27, 2012

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Peter

Yep. The VG900 was severely disappointing in the resolution/aliasing department, but then again, for what it is, that may be acceptable for those looking for a full frame camcorder at that price range?

December 27, 2012

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Why not offer other mounts?

December 27, 2012

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Ricky

Because then people might actually be interested in purchasing it I guess, rather just sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting im not buying another set of lenses in a weird mount as soon as they see a Sony make a DSLR that's actually really good story oh look Canon's about to release another camera that doesn't even shoot 1080p!

December 27, 2012

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Chris Lambert

So true. Best comment I've read on this issue. :)

December 27, 2012

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|) /\ |\/| | R

I think Sony's real competitor is Panasonic, not Canon or Nikon. Current Canikon users have so much money invested in their lenses to consider the switch to Sony/Panny (regardless if there are NEX adapters or m4/3 adapters). But for a person starting out with no gear at all? I think thats where Sony or Panasonic have an edge due to many video friendly features they offer. Sony's in particular has: focus peaking, in-body IS, video friendly dslrs/mirror-less a various price points (A57, NEX5N, A65, NEX7,A77), 60fps at full-HD, ability to use legacy A-Mount lenses (which you can get for cheap and will be image stabilized which can save you a ton of money), and an upgrade path that includes many great camcorders.

I appreciate the steps Sony is taking in terms of offering a lot of unique features that users have been begging Nikon/Canon to implement and it's a shame not a lot of folks won't even give them the time of day.

December 27, 2012

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The features on the A99 make me salivate, but the lens options kill me.

December 27, 2012

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I bought the A77 last year and was quite dissappointed by it`s video features, I sold it off to my brother who is very happy with it shooting stills (We have more than a dozen lenses) This year I got the A99 and what can I say - the camera is fucking awesome!!! I use it for fun and in January it`s going to have it`s first real shoot.

December 27, 2012

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Mariano

The big question is if it can do 4K video.

Not perfect 4K video (probably it will have aliasing or be soft at pixel level). But I bet you could make a really nice downsample from it...

People forget that 4:2:0 4K 8bit scaled down to 2K is 4:2:2. And if you have some noise in the image, you get more tones than 8bit too, potentially 10bit if dithering / noise is just right and compression doesn't get in the way.

4K 60p would be even better!

December 27, 2012

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I just purchased a couple A99's. Yes, this meant bailing on my two Canon 60D's and lenses. So far, I don't have the "buyer’s remorse" and it seems to be the perfect DSLR (if there is such a thing) for video.

I capture a lot of interviews and a lot of b-roll, and the faster I can be, the better. For me, being fast means more creativity. A swivel screen was very high on my list of priorities. Yes, I could add an external monitor, but that requires more time. Headphone output was also way up there on my list of priorities. Now, I no longer need the audio recorder.

I am disappointed it does not have zebras (hopefully that will come with a firmware update), a digital zoom to check focus in video mode, and a digital zoom for video recording. It has 24 megapixels, with 2 being needed for video, why can't I have a lossless digital zoom??

Anyway, although I've only used them on two video shoots, I have no regrets yet.

Anyone interested in some used Canon gear? :)

December 27, 2012

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It's smart that they are not going with the Alpha mount. That is such a limiting mount because of the flange length. E-Mount all the way. Sony is on fire lately.

December 27, 2012

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Gene Sung

I love my A99 for stills, but for video - kind of disappointing. I thought in combination with a FF stills sensor you have to decide between soft (5d3) or aliasing/moire (D800), but Sony has successfully put both in one cam. The A99 produces a soft image (not so good to sharpen in post as 5d3) with a lot of aliasing/moire - congratulations! Good dynamic range and perfect for shallow DOF shots - that's it.
So I see improvements in downsampling...

December 27, 2012

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Adl

The 1DX and 1DC offer proper downsampling in a current FF 135 DSLR. It's not clear if the 1DX will get clean HDMI, and it doesn't have a headphone jack, but if I absolutely had to have stills and video in one camera that would be the one for me. I generally use my 5D3 gripped anyway, although many rigging systems (e.g. follow focus rails) aren't expecting the lens to be as high as that, and it's nice to have a smaller format for steadicam etc.

December 27, 2012

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Peter

All this work, if the 5d3 is soft - take off the AA filter - looks much sharper???

December 27, 2012

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Mike

Sadly no...this idea was floated by Philip Bloom and his assistant in the first days of the 5D3. The change affects aliasing at the 22MP level, and by the time it is pixel binned down to 2MP you really can't see much difference. However, you will get aliasing and moire in your stills. A huge waste of time and money and I think all the cameras in the experiment have had the OLPF put back in by now.

With line-skipping cameras a snap-in OLPF can be a lot larger radius of blur and can make a difference. So it can work on the 5D2 and the D800, without much loss of sharpness and detail.

The BMCC's lack of an OLPF is a different story. That sensor is shooting at if I recall correctly native resolution to the RAW image, and the aliasing/moire they are getting is severe in the test shots that have been posted. So you could get rid of the aliasing with a snap-in OLPF but because there is no downsampling you won't be able to recover the lost resolution and detail. So they have opted in the stock camera to leave off the OLPF and just give a false sharpness effect via the aliasing.

The lack of this false sharpness effect is why some people initially found the 5D2 video to be sharper than the 5D3, but a sharpness effect from aliasing is an ugly and blotchy kind of sharpness, and moire of course ruins your shot irretrievably when you come upon it. Without full-res monitors to check it's very hard to notice if the moire is just from the monitor downsampling or the sensor.

December 27, 2012

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Peter

Oh man.. here's to hoping they learned from the last batch of cameras.. but I wont be surprised if its another disappointment...

December 27, 2012

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Xiong

Sony have a product line to protect; it's pretty unlikely they will release anything to challenge the BMCC. So ultimately, who cares?

December 27, 2012

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Ant

Does Canon sit still or update firmware for the 1D/5D in response to Sony? I would think most shooting Canon would have loaded ML to get peaking, zebras, wave form, etc, etc, etc. Or am I just too simple minded?

December 27, 2012

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Mike

I may be stating the obvious here, but the CC Wide Time effect in After Effects can get rid of mild moire. Just set it to 1 or 2 frames offset. It's not a guarantee, but better than nothing.

December 28, 2012

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Nikki

the A mount was just a non-starter, and it didn't help that the video quality was just so so. sony needed to either destroy canon dslr in video quality, or at least offer a more compatible mount. it's good to see them going to E mount. sony has some great features in their dslr but not everything is altogether in a tempting package yet.

December 28, 2012

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Global Shutter?

December 28, 2012

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wsmith

Don't be silly.

December 29, 2012

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Ant

I would be interested in an E-mount quality DSLR replacement. I have a Sony FS100 for video and a NEX-7 for snapshots but do most stills with a 5DII. I like some things about the Sony A99, but not the mount. With the E-mount on my FS100 and even the little NEX-7, I can use nearly any lens made. I have a Metabones "smart" adapter for using my Canon and Zeiss ZE lenses on the FS100, and also Nikkor to E-mount adapters for using old Nikkor lenses. If I wanted to use Leica M lenses or Voigtlander equivalents, no problem because there are adapters to the E-mount system. Same for PL to E-mount. Not so with the A99. That mount is a deal killer for me.

February 28, 2013

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Bill Pryor