Sony Unveils 3 Alpha d-SLRs

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is expanding its panorama sweep 3D still-image capture capability to three d-SLRs in the company's Alpha line, and is adding 1080i video capture to the d-SLR line for the first time.

Models a560, a33 and a55 all offer next-gen APS-C HD Exmor CMOS imagers, newly advanced high-speed Bionz image processors and will accept the company's Alpha-series lenses with Carl Zeiss optics and FullHD movie recording.

The a560 is billed as a midline 500-series model that will fit into the regular line above the previous a550. The a33 and a55 are billed as new Alpha line extensions utilizing what the company called a "revolutionary" new mirror-technology development that enables a reduced camera body size and weight while increasing shutter and Live View speed.

The a560 (shipping in October at a $650 suggested retail for the body only, or $750 for a kit including an 18-55mm lens) includes a 14.2-megapixel APS-C HD CMOS image sensor and a new Bionz image-processing engine.

Sony also updated its AF sensor for the first time in several years to feature 15 active points with three cross points.

The system uses a dual Live View approach including Quick AF Live View system using Sony's secondary sensor Live View capability. This allows not having to bypass the conventional phase-change AF system during Live View, allowing the a560 to autofocus quickly without interruption or noise. A second system is focus-centered Live View that uses the camera's larger sensors for shots where focus is critical such as macros. It also enables the use of face detection.

Live View images are displayed on cameras' 3-inch 921K-dot articulating LCD screen. Both still images and video are available rapidly in Live View mode.

The a560 will record 1080i video in AVCHD format, offers up to 7 fps continuous shooting in addition to 5 fps shooting with AE and AF functionality. It includes the aforementioned 3D Sweep Panorama function that allows 3D image capture through a single lens and image sensor by capturing two different angles of a subject while recording 7 fps as the photographer sweeps the camera horizontally across the scene. The resulting images are integrated together in the camera to create a single 3D picture that can be played back on new 3D TVs equipped with active-shutter glasses.

The Sweep Panorama function can also be used to create 2D panorama shots with up to 23-megapixel resolution.

The 3D capability was introduced this spring in the company's first two NEX series mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, and later added to a new point-and-shoot model.

Other features in the a560 include an ISO range of 100 to 25,600, and Auto HDR system that improves highlights and mid-tones in low-light shots by integrating three shots together. Also included are a Hand Held Twilight mode and a D-Range Optimizer.

Models a33 (shipping this month at $650 for the body only, and $750 for a kit with an 18-55mm lens) and the a55 (shipping in September at $750 for the body only, or $850 for a kit with an 18-55mm lens) both incorporate a new stationary mirror using Translucent Mirror technology to pass light from the lens to the image sensor and the AF sensor simultaneously, significantly increasing the cameras' continuous shooting and AF performance, for up to 10fps with AF (in the a55), while enabling a reduced body size and 23 percent reduction in weight.

Using the system, the camera performs both ultra high-speed shooting of stills and records HD movies with Phase Detect AF. The capability enables full-time Live View shooting through the 3-inch 921K-dot articulating True Black LCD screen with LED backlighting.

Both cameras have Quick AF functionality for FullHD movies and a new eye-level electronic viewfinder (EVF), called a Tru-Finder, enabled by the more compact mirror system. The EVF has a 1.44 million-dot high-resolution LCD with 100 percent live focusing. The system is said to provide a focal frame that is both larger and wider than conventional optical viewfinders.

The cameras also include Sony's third-generation Exmor APS-C HD image processors, high-speed image processing engine, very high ISO sensitivity (100 to 12,800) through the Bionz image processor, new 15 active point AF with three cross points, Auto HDR, multiple frame capture for digital compositing including noise reduction, Sweep Panorama and 3D Sweep Panorama, FullHD video recording with stereo sound and an HDMI connection.

The cameras also include both Auto and the new Auto+ settings. The latter instructs the camera to take six frames per second for each shot, with each frame including slightly different settings for exposure, shutter speed and white balance to ensure a critical shot is not lost.

The A55 offers 16-megapixel resolution and 10 fps continuous shooting and a GPS function, while the A33 offers 14.2-megapixel resolution, and continuous shooting at up to 7nfps.

Sony also introduced three new lenses, including a 25mm f/2 Zeiss Prime Distagon T* full frame lens due in October at a $1,250 suggested retail.

Also added is the 35mm f/1.8 prime lens optimized for APS imagers. It is due in October at a $200.

The third lens is an 85mm f/2.8 full frame and APS lens due in October at $250.


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