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...