2.25.2013

Smaller, Cheaper, Lighter, Faster. It's Sony's Rebel.

I'm a fan of the Sony a57 camera. It's got a great 16 megapixel sensor in a pretty decent body, coupled with an electronic viewfinder. The thing I like best about the camera is the really decent, HD video I can get out of it. To be honest, if there was one thing I'd change about the camera it would be the EVF. No, I don't want an optical finder, but the EVF in the a57 is an LCD version that's not as detailed or clear as the EVFs in the Nex 6, Nex 7, A65, A77, A99 or RX1. The a57 would have been a perfect intro/tyro camera if it had been launched with the OLED version of the finder. But then would anyone have ever needed to upgrade?

Well, along comes the a58, and while it takes one or two steps backwards (black plastic lens mount??), it does comes with the higher spec finder. It keeps the same battery as the a57 (and most of the rest of the Sony SLT line) and it's also going to be bundled with what Sony is referring to as "an improved version" of their 18-55mm kit lens. And I am not unimpressed with the current kit lens.

When I first engaged with the Sony SLT system I bought two of the best cameras they had available at the time, the a77s. A couple of months later I bought an a57 as a lighter, cheaper, carry around/throw down camera and used it mostly with smaller and lighter primes in the place of a point and shoot camera. While the finder isn't as good as its older siblings the actual images are great. Right in line with competitive 16 megapixels cameras from Pentax and Nikon (in fact, it was the same imaging chip).

At one point Ben needed a better video rig so I passed the a57 camera, the kit lens, a Rode shotgun mic and a 55-200mm lens along to him and he's made good use of it. I thought I'd just go through life with the two a77s but I missed having a cheap camera that I could kick around, leave in the car and spill red wine on without too much worry so I picked up another one.

Now I'm getting ready to pass along that a57 (or sell it) and pre-order an a58. Why? Because it's cheap, has a much improved finder, has the latest generation Sony imaging chip inside and, did I mention that it seems as though it will be priced under $600 with a new kit lens?

The interesting thing about digital imaging now is how the new generations of consumer targeted cameras are getting really great sensors in them. Nikon users are beside themselves with impatience waiting for the availability of the new 24 megapixel D7100. And can you really blame them when you find out that it comes with a new sensor that sports NO anti-aliasing filter? I've always felt like that was one of the sole advantages of the Leica digital M's and the medium format cameras; the lack of an AA filter gave a better rendering of really fine detail which leads to a greater impression of sharpness and overall file quality.

Also, reading between the lines of the Nikon press releases it seems as though Nikon will be adapting some sort of on chip distance measuring meant to speed up camera AF (a la the V1 series) in live view and video. Who knows, with all the improvements Nikon seems to be making in the pursuit of good video performance do you think it's only a matter of time before they move to a mirrorless APS-C camera? Or even a fixed mirror camera?

While the Sony a58 doesn't use the new 24mm anti-AA non-filter the Nikon sports it is the first Sony camera out of the gate with a brand new 20 megapixel imager. Seems like a step down from their current 24 megapixel rectangle, as expressed in the Nex 7 and the a77, but if Sony is able to provide the same kind of great dynamic range with better noise characteristics at high ISOs then I'm sure many will embrace it.

I love it when companies make cheap cameras that, in the hands of people who know what they are doing, can perform in the same ballpark as much more expensive and feature laden cameras.

Who needs a fancy point and shoot when you can get so much performance for so little in cameras like these? And who needs behemoth cameras when the on sensor performance is so incredibly close? At some point it really is all down to the lens on the front and the brain in the back of the modern cameras. Almost like the days of film.....

The one thing missing on the a58 that I'm waiting to confirm is a plug for an external stereo microphone. If I'm wrong and they have included one then nothing stands in my way. We will extend the line...













8 comments:

Howard said...

Kirk, per Sony.ca the canadian site; go ahead and pre order your new toy

http://store.sony.ca/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=100803&storeId=20153&langId=200&productId=8198552921666536167#specifications

3.5mm stereo minijack

Kirk Tuck said...

Yippee!!!!

Graham said...

The a58 has 60i or 24p v the a57's 60p and 24p. I like the thought of a better EVF and sensor, but for a secondary video body, 60i is a deal breaker.

I'm always amazed why Sony chooses to cripple some feature of it's new bodies. I have tether support with my a700 and a850, my a77 doesn't.

Carlo Santin said...

What I have always liked about the a57 is the fold-down rear screen for some waist-level shooting with fast focus. My Nikon D5100 has a flip out screen (only useful on a tripod really)but focusing with live view and rear lcd is just brutal, pretty much unusable unless you are doing portraits of rocks. I tend to use a folding lcd about about 50% of the time, especially when I'm out and about on the street. I may yet end up with an a57 or a58, they are priced very nicely, and I'm starting to tire of the Nikon DX system.

Bill Beebe said...

Yes, Canon introduced the EOS Rebel G film camera with plastic lens mount in September 1996. No, I don't like plastic mounts (lens or bayonet), but then, the Rebel G went on to totally dominate the introductory SLR market, so who am I to argue with success? I have a feeling that the plastic bayonet on the new 18-55mm will work just fine with the plastic lens mount.

Kirk Tuck said...

From the movie The Graduate: "Plastics."

Michael Matthews said...

Once this item is in hand and tested, it would be very interesting to read a post comparing the a58 to the gaggle of competitive offerings. Your extensive familiarity with Olympus cameras and lenses and with the 24mpx Nikon sets the stage for really meaningful comment. I'm one of those aged-out guys on a limited budget who wants the best of everything for less than $1K.

Bob Janes said...

I think the microphone will fit in via the new flash shoe...