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Sony Enters d-SLR Fray

San Diego, Calif. — Sony officially announced its first digital SLR today, hoping the cachet of the Sony brand and customer base of Konica Minolta will allow it to penetrate this increasingly crowded market.

The 10-megapixel a (alpha) DSLR-A100 will ship in July with a 18-70mm lens for an estimated $1,000, $900 without lens.

The A100 features a 10.2-megapixel APS CCD and a range of new technologies, including a Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) and the “Bionz” image processing engine. The former is a hardware-based image analysis technology to improve color reproduction; the latter supports quick burst modes and efficient power management, Sony said.

Thanks to the processor, the A100 can burst at 3 fps at the highest JPEG resolution to the capacity of a memory card. It also offers a 3 fps burst to six RAW images or three RAW/JPEG images. The included lithium-ion battery can power the A100 up to 750 shots per full charge, depending on usage and environment.

The A100 will also offer a dust-reduction system — called anti-dust — that combines a special CCD coating with a vibrating sensor to minimize dust build up when lenses are swapped out. The CCD is coated with indium tin oxide, which prevents static build-up (static attracts dust). When the camera is turned on or off, the CCD vibrates to shake off dust particles.

In addition to Konica Minolta’s lens mount, which makes the A100 compatible with existing Maxxum lenses, the A100 will use its CCD-shifting mechanism to reduce camera shake. Sony incorporated this CCD-shift technology (which Konica Minolta called Anti Shake) under its Super SteadyShot brand. The camera also offers light sensitivities to ISO 1,600 and a maximum shutter speed of 1/4,000 of a second.

Additional features for the new SLR include the “eye-start” auto focus, which begins the autofocus process before the shutter is depressed, a 2.5-inch LCD, and support for Compact Flash Type I/II and Memory Stick PRO media (through a supplied adapter).

Working with lens partner Carl Zeiss, Sony developed three branded lenses including an ultra-wide, 16-80 mm Vario-Sonnar T* zoom model and two fixed focal length telephoto models — a Planar T* 85 mm and Sonnar T* 135 mm.

Sony introduced a total of 19 lenses and a variety of additional accessories, including flashes and alpha-branded carrying cases, to compliment the release of its new SLR.