Writers from the Spanish photography website quesabesde.com had a play with the new A500 and A550 at the Berlin IFA 2009 tradeshow and there is a very nice write-up on the site (in Spanish).
While there they collared the representative from Sony and asked the question that everyone has been asking. How is it that, when the likes of Canon and Nikon are bringing out new video-capable DSLRs every other week, Sony for all its pedigree in consumer video can contrive to bring out stunning new cameras that pack in every conceivable feature bar video?
This is an excerpt from quesabesde’s article and my translation below.
“Sin ánimo de resultar cansinos con este tema, una vez repasada la apabullante lista de prestaciones y novedades de la nueva pareja Alpha no dejamos pasar la ocasión de preguntar a uno de los representantes de Sony por la ausencia de la función de grabación de vídeo en el cuadro de especificaciones de los nuevos modelos. La respuesta no nos sorprende demasiado. Sony es una compañía de vídeo -nos explican- y cuando dé este paso será para ofrecer una prestación sin limitaciones en el enfoque, los controles manuales y demás parámetros. Esperemos que la espera -valga la redundancia- no se prolongue demasiado. En todo caso, nos preguntamos si esa promesa de futuro no afectará al presente de estas réflex.”
“At the risk of becoming tiresome on the subject, after reviewing the mind-boggling list of features and innovations on the two new Alphas we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask one of the Sony reps about the absence of video recording functionality. The answer didn’t come as much of a surprise. Sony is a video company, they told us, and when they take that step it will be to offer a feature set without limitations on focusing, manual control and other parameters. We hope that the wait, and we think it’s worth restating this, will not be too long. In any event, we have to ask ourselves whether that promise for the future might not have an impact on these new DSLRs right now.”
So there you are. You can have it when it’s perfect. They have standards to live up to and can’t quite get there yet with a DSLR. It’s a technology thing.
Well, it certainly doesn’t make sense as a marketing strategy thing. Sony have a very long way to go to get anywhere close to the scale of dominance that Canon and Nikon now enjoy. Getting established Canon/Nikon shooters to switch to Sony is going to be a very hard sell. Even where Sony models match or beat the spec for a lower price, those diehards will already have made a huge investment in proprietary glass, and in any case Sony’s lens range is still fairly sparse.
Sony have quite clearly realised this and are trying to build up DSLR market share by turning their attention to photographers just making the step up to DSLRs from digital compact (point and shoot) cameras. They are hoping to attract anyone who loves their point and shoot but wants better image quality and interchangeable lenses without necessarily having to become a photo geek. So they produce DSLRs which do not take former compact camera owners too far out of their comfort zone.
The problem for Sony is that these same people have got rather used to getting video out of their point and shoot cameras. The lack of video on the Sony DSLRs will be a showstopper for a large proportion of them.
The other possibility is that internal politics at Sony may be holding things up. But that is pure conjecture on my part. At senior executive level, Sony should be able to work out that they would be better off incorporating video now, even if it’s not 100% as they would want it, because they would sell a damn sight more units now and that would pay dividends quite quickly in terms of establishing long-term market share.