Just got this link from B&H, ideal for our US readers – http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/817858-REG/Sony_SLT_A77V_SLT_A77_Digital_Camera_Body.html
It’s for the original A77, body only, at $549.
This is a ridiculously low price for a body with GPS which, bar a small improvement in high ISO performance stated to be 20% (I think it’s a bit more) is not far from the A77 MkII and if you have older flashguns or triggers like the Pixel King set I’ve bought recently remains ideal for flash work.
That is a single shot at ISO 100 using an iLux Summit 600C flash head set on 10fps strobe, with the 16-80mm CZ lens at f/20 (it’s a powerful flash) and wireless triggering. Owl in our studio, working in complete darkness. The A77 didn’t suddenly stop being a great camera because the A77 MkII arrived! At $549 with (apparently) $77.38 of free accessories this ‘holiday special’ looks like a steal.
– David Kilpatrick
Machined from brass and chrome-plated, in the tradition of lens mounts from 50 years ago and not necessarily the best solution for precision or lifetime wear, Fotodiox’s TOUGH E-mount is a replacement body mount bayonet which you can fit to your existing A7R, A7, NEX-7, A6000 or any other metal-mount E-mount body in a few minutes. You need a clean well lit work table, a small engineer’s or large jeweller’s crosshead screwdriver, and a similar flathead screwdriver or old credit card.
The NEX/A bodies are fitted with a three-part lens mount. Here’s what a bonded, single piece, original Alpha lens mount looks like when removed from an old Minolta 7000 –
This mount is stainless steel, which would be prohibitively expensive for a small shop engineering replacement on the E-mount. It’s in two parts, a front surface and the inside with a bonded bayonet spring pressure action, a thin shim with bent ‘arms’ forming three pressure points to hold the lens tight to the mount.
From Fotodiox comes this neat box taking 10 days to the UK from USA –
Since I also ordered a focusing Leica M to E adaptor, my overall value was marked as $80 and I had an £8 admin charge and a little over £7 in VAT to pay.
Inside, the TOUGH E-Mount is boxed and bagged without instructions. For these, you visit the Fotodiox site and watch a video:
Here’s the rear face of the Fotodiox mount, which does not have any second layer of spring metal to grip the lens:
However, as we will see, this component (fixed to the mount for the A-mount design) is a separate loose item which sits in the camera body mount recess on the E-mount, and performs exactly the same function. You could probably remove it and bond it to the new mount.
So, why replace the E-mount on a £1200+ camera body like the A7R, which has a magnesium body casting into which the lens mount is anchored by four screws? The reason given by Fotodiox is that an intermediate plastic moulding is used behind a simple unprofiled mount face, so two parts make up the overall thickness. The tensioning ring sits behind the plastic ring, forming a three-part sandwich to make up the mount. The front mount is a relatively soft, crudely CNC lathed alloy.
Here’s my camera after 10 months of use. This camera has shown signs of light leaks, and has not been sent back for a fix. The mount flange is a completely flat item, relatively thin, and the leaks may be partly down to slight distortion of the front plane face, as shown by uneven wear from lens mounting.
Here’s a detail. You can see the lathe circles on the mount face, and you can see where the metal has abraded and either collected plastic from a plastic lens mount (most likely my MEIKE extension tubes) or paint from a cheap adaptor (my Novoflex and Fotodiox adaptors don’t use paint, they are anodised).
The mount is very simple indeed. It can be removed from all the cameras without disturbing the electronic contacts or the lens release mechanism.
Fotodiox video shows the camera on its back and warns about dropped screws etc. I just prefer to unscrew each screw in turn with the camera held vertically on my table, so that if the screw drops it won’t go inside the camera. Care is taken not to allow the spring loaded lens changing pin to disassemble itself, but that’s really very easy.
One removed, you can compare the Sony ‘washer’ (which is really more or less is!) with the Fotodiox mount – a much thicker unit, stepped to fit the recess on the camera body. A point worth noting is that the original mount has no recesses at all to fit over the four threaded posts on the camera body. Its position is maintained by two pins (at 9 and 3 o’clock) which engage in two holes on the otherwise plain flat rear face of the mount. The Fotodiox mount not only engages with these pins, as it replaces the plastic secondary mount shown below, but also has holes into which the threaded posts fit. It is better proofed against rotation.
You now see the plastic middle part of the sandwich. This is secured by a very thin double-sided tape in places. A flat blade screwdriver or a suitable cut piece of old credit card (or indeed a guitar pick!) pushed gently under the plastic at various point all round will free it. It lifts out easily. Unless you are amazingly clumsy you are not going to go anywhere near the sensor but if you have a clean 40.5mm filter or lens cap around, you can pop it in to cover the sensor safely. I used a 62mm filter to place over the whole mount when checking instructions and looking at the parts, as I don’t want to risk hairs and dust covering the upturned unit.
Underneath the plastic component you’ll find the third part of the mount, the thin flexible stainless steel tensioning ring which acts to pull the lens tight against the front face of the mount. You may note that if your lenses ever begin to seem slack, it would be easy to re-tension this ring by a gentle bend to the three arms. The four screw holes are in metal posts mounted directly into the magnesium body. The plastic ring can be argued to have no effect on precision, as the original mount rests on these posts, leaving the plastic and the stainless tension ring more as a ‘lubricated’ assembly with a little ‘give’, affecting only the tightness of the lens to the body. The plastic has no sacrificial role, as it does in many lenses (Sigma, Tamron, Nikon, and Canon all use plastic to create weak points where the lens will break on hard impact rather than having it shear the body mount off the camera – not sure about Sony).
The final step is to place the new mount, aligned with its white dot and cut-outs and screw holes, in the only position it will fit. Please note that the TOUGH wording goes inside and is not shown on the camera front! Again, I don’t place the camera on its back, and prefer the control given by holding both the camera and the screwdriver (which if properly chosen will support the screw). No pressure is needed to locate the screws for a few turns. I rotated the camera so that the screw hole being worked on was always below the sensor. Finally, when tightening up each screw in turn to a firm fit, the camera was laid on its back and my 62mm filter was placed to cover the mount opening, held firmly. You can also just place a finger against the screwdriver on the ‘inside’ while tightening up, so that if for any reason it slips, you block it from entering camera.
Once fitted, there’s little more to say. It looks a touch classier than the cheaply machined soft metal Sony original, it is a snug and perfect fit, and lens mounting has a slightly more solid feel without resistance or any scraping sensation. Fotodiox may be taking the mickey by suggeting you give the old mount to the cat to play with, of course you should keep it carefully. While doing this I discovered that the original old Minolta SR bayonet shares the screwhole locations and almost perfectly matches the overall size of the E-mount. I could actually take a Minolta SR bayonet off the front of some old extension tubes and fit an E-mount in place. This would serve no purpose but it’s a fascinating hint at the pedigree of the new system – it has a three-flange bayonet so similar to the SR mount, introduced 52 years after Minolta’s SLR debut!
Everything worked perfectly as expected once fitted (see notes below). Cost – $39.95 plus shipping. I consider it a good upgrade.
Notes on infinity focus, fit, and light leak issues
While Sony native E mount lenses seem fine, some of my third party adaptors are not fitting well, and very short focal length lenses show that the infinity focus may be affected. If you use lenses 12mm to 20mm on adaptors, proceed with caution. I am not able to get the Kipon tilt shift adaptor to mount without a forceful twist, though a similar age Kipon shift-only adaptor is happy enough (just no longer able to hit infinity with my chosen 20mm lens).
Infinity collimation after tests and measurements – I’ve now checked infinity focus using stars. I’m just OK on all but one lens and adaptor combination, and all Sony E or FE lenses are fine, as they have loads of spare adjustment (no hard infinity stop – they will all focus way beyond infinity and can handle big differences in camera assembly accuracy). Same with LA-EA3 and LA-EA4 adaptors and Min/Sony A lenses, the worst case lenses hit infinity at exactly infinity, most focus just past.
Kipon Nikon Tilt-Shift – extremely tight fit, so tight it has to pulled off the camera physically. Here I’m thinking that some very gently polishing or ultra fine emery (the sort I use for polishing guitar frets) might ease the adaptor.
Novoflex Leica M adaptor – will not bayonet-lock with the new mount, can’t work out if the flanges are obstructing the full turn or the locking pin hole is slightly off position. Fotodiox helical M adaptor locks perfectly. All other adaptors fit and lock comfortably.
Checked my Kipon shift adaptor for Canon and it’s 21.34mm from rear to front flange, and the lens won’t focus on infinity. My plain cheap Canon FD adaptor is 21.16mm and the lens will hit infinity perfectly. On the original mount, the shift adaptor was just OK to infinity – not for stars, but for landscape. So maybe 0.1mm actual difference in front face register to sensor on the Fotodiox Tough mount, compared to the Sony original.
Light leak issue – a day later I had bright full sunshine and was able to position the camera with the mount getting direct sun, and give exposures of 30 seconds to 1 minute with the lens completely stopped down and blocked off, and the ISO set to 1600. The results proved that it’s not the camera mount assembly which has most effect –
The pure black exposure above is from the 28-70mm kit zoom set to 40mm, at f/25, with the lens cap on.
This result is from a Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 mounted using a Novoflex Leica M adaptor, at f/22, with the lens cap on. Simply swapping the Voigtlander adaptor for a Fotodiox helical focusing Leica M adaptor, which has a far wider flange and double the ‘bearing surface’ on the mount and it also a much firmer overall fit, produced the same solid black as the 28-70mm. The 10-18mm also produced a solid black though it was clear that the lens cap lets in a bit of light at the spring clip positions.
To double check, I fitted a disc of Rosco Black Cinéfoil (totally lightproof heavy metal foil you can cut with scissors) into another mount so it sat behind the back of a 50mm lens. This was a Ukrainian shift mount and Zenitar lens. This mount also has a large, black anodised rear surface. No light was admitted. I found that most of my third party adaptors let in light, usually the small angled line/crescent top right, and so did the Sony LA-EA3 and 4. The Novoflex has me surprised and baffled as it let light in over a wider pattern, and it seems to be the best engineered adaptor I have, but the well for the bayonet locking pin is shallow and perhaps too precise as the pin does now not engage (you can feel it just begin to hit the lock position).
(don’t read beyond this point if you don’t like seeing measurements…)
This adaptor works perfectly on other NEX/E bodies and worked perfectly before changing the mount. Relaxing and re-tightening the mount fitting screws, to be doubly sure of correct seating, did not solve the problem. The pin recess in the Novoflex adaptor is 2.30mm wide, and in all the other adaptors measured and also on Sony lenses, from 2.36mm to 2.5mm. The slight wiggle present on Sony lenses when fitted seems to be down to approx 0.07mm tolerance allowed for the locking pin to engage, as this is the part of the mount which limits or fixed the position of the mounted lens. Lenses and adaptors tested, when mounted with the locking pin depressed, can move around 0.5 to 1mm beyond the optimal mounting position.
It looks as if the locking pin mechanism is one area identified as a source of light leaks, and that if the pin is not allowed to engage fully (recess too shallow or not accepting the pin) more light will be admitted. All my manual adaptors varied in the depth and exact design of the locking pin well – 1.1mm deep on Kipon, 0.69mm deep on Fotodiox, 1.23mm on Novoflex, 1.1mm on Sony G 10-18mm, 1.18mm on Sony 16-50mm PZ. The 28-70mm which had perfect light sealing also has an unusual locking pin hole, almost perfectly circular not an elongated oval like all the other lenses. This was 1.2mm deep and with a 2.5mm radius. It is obviously perfectly placed and very precise despite this being a non-G, non-CZ, cheap Sony kit lens.
Anyway, 10 seconds with a Dremel and the Novoflex adaptor is now a perfect locking fit ready for another test if the sun comes out again this year.
Sony did say, back in 2010, they would make the E-mount specifications public for all to use. If anyone has information on what tolerances were specified, please let us know!
Update 30/10/14: using a high intensity single LED torch, the Novoflex adaptor problem was eventually narrowed down to light leaking through the mount between high-grade Leica mounts (Cosina Voigtlander, and Carl Zeiss) and the adaptor. Tightening the flange pressure did not cure the fault. No leak is present when using a low-cost Chinese M adaptor on a screw thread lens, which is a firmer fit. The Nokton and Tele-Tessar lenses also show no leak with the Fotodiox adaptor. It’s just an issue with these mounts – probably from the same source, as Cosina assembles CZ Leica mount lenses – and the Novoflex.
Absolutely no light leak can be identified on the A7R body with the new mount fitted. All leaks turn out to have been down to third party adaptors. The LA-EA3 and LA-EA4 give no light leaks, same for all E/FE mount Sony lenses. The Kipon Tilt-Shift (Nikon, $200+) has so many light leaks I can’t map them – every stage of the unit from the lens mount to the body mount, and all the moving parts, admit light; unit dangerously tight on Tought-E mount. Kipon Shift adaptor (Canon FD) admits light freely, especially when shifted. Canon FD plain adaptor, low cost – leaks at body mount. Cheap Minolta MD adaptor – no leaks. Cheap Nikon adaptor – OK at the body mount, lens release catch admits light freely (repaired using black putty compound but ineffective, still leaks light). Cheap tilt MD to Nex adaptor – one strong light leak in mount between some lenses (chrome flanges) and the adaptor, but otherwise light-tight to the body and in its tilt mechanism. Low-cost L39 to NEX adaptor – no problems at all. Ukraine/Kiev/Zenitar 50mm tilt combo – perfect, no leaks in any position. Samyang 122mm f/2 – small local leak at mount (top right crescent issue). 28-70mm FE – absolutely light-tight, no issues. 10-18mm Sony G – ditto, no light leak at all. 16-50mm Sony PZ – no light leak. Tamron 18-200mm – top right crescent issue. Fotodiox Leica M helical, with any lens, no problems. Focus brand Canon EF to FE mount AF adaptor – no leaks. Original 1st gen Kipon 42mm tilt device – no leaks at all.
- David Kilpatrick
I’m using my RX10 to report. This camera is my big Sony dilemma. It’s actually all I really need for 95% of my daily work.
Well, here we are reporting from photokina 2014, the major trade fair in Cologne. I’m only here for the day and a brief stop in tomorrow morning en route to the airport, and my first appointment was with Sony. To be frank, it doesn’t matter that much as everything has already been publicised on many web pages. My only request, to be allowed to take some test frames on my A7R using any of the new FE lenses, was turned down because the lenses were ‘pre-production’. I was not pleased to be standing within earshot when, ten minutes later, the very same 16-35mm f/4 was being made available to another UK journalist not only to use but to take outside the hall into the Messehallen surroundings for ten minutes (chaperoned).
Of course you need a Canon sign over queues. It is after all the brand of herd!
I don’t need an outside scene to assess a 16-35mm – give me a room with vertical pillars (plenty) and some small very intense bare bright light sources (ditto) and I can pretty much do an optical test on such a lens in a couple of dozen frames. The good news is that Sony UK may be better placed to let photoclubalpha (and all the other media I write for) have loan lenses. In the last year, I’ve bought £10k worth and sold £5k worth of Sony and related third party gear to be able to keep up to speed with the rate of new products and their sheer cost.
If equipment had cost this much relative to earnings when I set out in photography, I would never have become a photographer – it would not have been possible. It would have been making a choice – a deposit on a house, a secondhand car, or a camera and three lenses?
And lenses are certainly being rolled out. The new roadmap concentrates entirely on the E-mount systems (FE and E, full frame and APS-C). The Alpha 99 may still be there as a flagship for the A-mount but there’s really nothing here, no news, for A-mount system users.
Hands-on reports from photokina often mean nothing more… hands-on! No pictures allowed with the glass. It looks like a lens, it works like a lens, but it’s really only half a lens.
Unless, of course, it is two times a lens. The ciné targeted 28-135mm f/4 power zoom for FE may have the ghost of a Minolta 28-135mm hiding inside its suit of armour. It’s huge.
In a sealed but rather grubby fingermarked cabinet sat the new lenses – a Carl Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA, a Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS, and a Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS. I wiped the drool marks off the glass with my secret weapon (a packet of tissues) and took some individual pictures.
OK, the glass didn’t clean up all that well and there were many reflections to avoid.
But here is what you need to see – a 90mm macro with an external OSS on-off switch so you do not have to menu dive to perform this function when tripod mounting, as well as a triple range focus limiter. But this len is a real monster. We have to assume it uses internal focusing with a design like this.
And here is another surprise. Like Fujinon XF lenses, the forthcoming CZ 35mm f/1.4 has an RX-style third f-stop clicked aperture ring, with an A setting at the extreme beyond f/16. My guess is that there is also an RX-style click disengager round the back, making this a superior lens for ciné but almost certainly needing a firmware update for camera bodies as it is the first A or E mount (electronic aperture) lens to feature an on-lens aperture control.
Then we have a neat 28mm f/2 AF for FE, joining the Carl Zeiss Loxia manual focus, electronic function 35mm and 50mm lenses shown elsewhere on the stand (one day I may feature these if we find them exciting enough).
This lens has two optional adaptors – very much like the adaptors for the 16mm E series pancake, a 0.75X wide angle (converts it to a 21mm f/2) and a fisheye (converts it to a 16mm f/2).
I would say many of the size advantages of the A7 full frame camera series are completely negated by all of these new lenses and by the adaptors. What we actually need and want is a handful of properly compact sensor-matched lenses, smaller perhaps than the existing 35mm f/2.8 FE, and not a range of lenses which increases the overall size of a mirrorless kit to the point that you might as well have a DSLR. It’s not quite that bad, they are still a bit smaller overall, but here’s the 28mm converted to fisheye:
I’ll leave you with the test set-up for the A6000 and lenses –
I’m off for a meeting with Sigma. Just got ten minutes to find them!
- David KIlpatrick
Professional photographers in Europe can benefit from valuable help and extra peace of mind with the launch of Sony Imaging PRO Support. There’s no membership fee for the service, which is offered to professional photographers who own qualifying Sony α camera bodies and lenses.
Following its successful launch in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Sony Imaging PRO Support makes its official European debut in Germany from April next year, followed by rollout in other countries.
A dedicated telephone help desk gives professional photographers expert support with using their camera equipment.
There’s a free collection and return service for units requiring repairs, plus a free back-up loan unit which helps to keep professional photographers up and running.
In addition, enrolled Sony Imaging PRO Support customers can benefit from a free twice-yearly image sensor cleaning service and firmware check-up to keep their cameras in top condition.
To be eligible for the service, professional photographers must own multiple Sony high-end α cameras such as α99, α7 series and Sony G or Carl Zeiss lenses. The details about the application and service will be announced closer to launch date.
Capture One Express (for Sony) RAW converter and image editing software will be bundled with Alpha and Cyber-shot cameras in future.
The ‘Capture One’ RAW converter and image editing software from Phase One has been newly adapted for Sony. ‘Capture One Express (for Sony)’ will be provided at no extra charge to users who purchase an α interchangeable-lens camera or Cyber-shot RX digital still camera. This image processing tool incorporates an advanced RAW image processing engine to enable delicate images to be finessed to deliver a high-quality finish.
Refer to the following website for details: www.phaseone.com/en/Imaging-Software/Capture-One-for-Sony.aspx
This website will go live at 10:00 Central European Time on 16/09/14
From Sonyalpharumours (with the links all very neatly arranged, probably from Sony’s own sources) details of firmware updates for the RX10 and the RX100 MkIII. Surprise at our end about the RX100 update, since the camera has only been on the market a short while, and the internal batteries used to maintain the date (etc) usually have a seven to ten year life!
So, how on earth did they discover that a ‘low remaining life’ of this battery could cause problems? Time travel? Ah, that’s the answer – someone will have accidentally set the date to 2021, making the camera think its internal battery needed replacing because Sony will have put into the system a lockout which occurs at the end of the expected life for this component.
All those of you with Epson professional printers over five years old, who have managed to download a service manual, will know how this works. The printer is programmed to commit suicide and tell you that a certain service component needs replacing; the engineer’s manual tells the engineer to inform the owner that the printer has reached the end of its useful life. Another printer sale!
RX10 firmware download at Sony US, Sony Germany, Sony UK, Sony France, Sony Italy, Sony Spain, Sony Holland, Sony Belgium, Sony Austria, Sony Switzerland, Sony Norway, Sony Sweden, Sony Portugal. It adds following improvement:
Enables shooting 60p/30p/24p/120p movies in the XAVC S format that supports high bit rates (1920×1080) 50p/25,(1280×720) 100p, (1920×1080) 60p/30p/24p, (1280×720) 120p
Note: When shooting a movie in the XAVC S format, ensure that an SDXC card of Class 10 or faster is used.
If you don’t use Windows, most of these links do not work – Sony Australia has a Mac OSX link.
RX100m3 firmware download at Sony US, Sony Germany, Sony UK, Sony France, Sony Italy, Sony Spain, Sony Holland, Sony Belgium, Sony Austria, Sony Switzerland, Sony Norway, Sony Sweden, Sony Portugal. It adds following improvement:
This update improves stability in rare cases where the unit does not turn due to low remaining life of the internal back-up battery (used to maintain the date and time)
The publishers of Photoclubapha now also produce ƒ2 Freelance Photographer – again. This is the magazine we launched in 1999 and sold in 2006 after launching Photoclubalpha as a website. Now it’s back with us and better than ever (there are very few photo magazines like this around – the latest issue weighs 44og and has book quality paper).
You can access a special page (not visible on our website) for a subscription with a £5 discount, UK only. We’re sorry that can not discount overseas subs, but with the sheer weight of this publication the postage accounts for most of the cost – for example, six issues posted to the USA can cost us as much as £41.10 out of the £41.70 subscription (from which Paypal takes over £2!) and we only make it work by using a mailing house to bypass the regular printed paper service.
So this is really a benefit for UK visitors only – though we’ve left the Europe and Worldwide options in place.
I guess that Zeiss must be working right now on full frame Touit lenses, because this is unprecedented value for those able to buy in dollars without steep shipping charges, duties or taxes – however, the links they emailed out today led to a wrong page on their USED section, and after a lot of digging to get the right URL, the offer is needless to say on back order – and B&H are taking a Jewish holiday from June 3rd to 5th so you’d better jump in quickly before close of biz on June 2nd.
BOTH the Carl Zeoss Touit 12mm f/2.8 and 32mm f/1.8 lenses for the E-mount for only $919 from B&H with free US expedited shipping (they do not cover full frame and I’ve tested them and found a fairly tight image circle). They are stunningly good for NEX-7, NEX-6, A6000, A3000, A5000.
Here are the actual image circles of the three Touit lenses (12mm, 32mm and 50mm f/2.8 macro which is not in this deal) on A7R, without applying any distortion or vignetting correction. All the lenses have an Adobe profile and in the case of the 12mm this enlarges the image circle substantially. Normally, this means the lens is a true 12mm equivalent with the profile applied and the actual focal lenth could be closer to 10.5mm.
First, the Touit 12mm without lens profile
Now, the Touit same shot but converted from raw applying the built-in lens profile (conclusion – the profile applies to an APS-C frame and does little good to the outer field on full frame – you are better off using the lens without the profile, including on APS-C, if you want maximum wide-angle coverage)
Then the 32mm f/1.8 on the A7R (like the shot above, at full aperture – image circles generally do not get larger when you stop down, if the edge is as well-defined as these Zeiss lenses)
Finally, the 50mm f/2.8 macro to complete the reference. All pictures taken from behind the counter of the Carl Zeiss stand at The Photography Show – hence the great lighting and subject-matter…
Today, Sony confirmed a rumour – no doubt started as a result of pre-production tester leaks – that the A7S would have a completely silent all-electronic shutter mode. This is not the same as the Electronic First Curtain shutter found on the A7, A99, A77, A6000 and so on but conspicuously absent on the A7R. Nor is it the same as the near-silent leaf shutter terminated exposure mode of the RX100 models, RX10, or RX1 models. It’s completely free of all mechanical action and totally silent.
A7S seen with LA-EA4 and 24mm f/2 Carl Zeiss. I’ve got the adaptor, and this lens – they do work well on the A7R, but I don’t use them as my tiny Voigtlander Color Skopar SL II 20mm f/3.5, mounted on a Nikon fit Kipon tilt-shift adaptor, delivers the goods without the bulk or the battery drain. The 24mm also works well on the LA-EA3 adaptor without SLT mirror, but focusing is excruciatingly slow.
The silent shutter has been implemented as a firmware upgrade to the early production samples and future stocks, along with several other important firmware enhancements – all of which will have Sony owners wondering why improvements to their six-month old or one-year old purchases are not equally forthcoming. These are however improvements to a £2,100 camera body which will not hit the shops until the end of July 2014.
The firmware fixes and upgrades are:
α7S now offers a ‘Silent Shooting’ mode
ISO range for Movie Shooting extended to ISO100 – 102400, expandable to ISO100 – 409600
Dynamic Range extended to 15.3 stops as sensor RAW output
The silent mode is an option, and we would guess it carries some penalty in terms of available shutter speeds or noise performance. They say “For situations where absolute silence is required on a shoot, such as nature shoots or behind the scenes at a movie production, the α7S will offer the user the ability to activate ‘Silent Shooting’, thus making the photographer as unobtrusive as possible.”
A further upgrade is the expansion of the ISO range when shooting movies (previously limited to the native range). The α7S now offers the ability to shoot between ISO 100 -102,400 (native range) and is expandable to ISO 100-409,600 whilst still shooting capability remains at a staggering ISO 100-102,400 (again, the native range) expandable to ISO 50-409,600. The sensor’s dynamic range has also been further extended to 15.3 stops sensor RAW output. Technical note: as the bit depth remains unchanged and is presumed to be 14-bit ARW, this enhancement implies a modified raw gamma curve.
Other system improvements
You may wonder why we’ve pretty much given up reporting on new Sony products. Despite running three photographic magazines, we can’t easily get hold of review samples as all three magazines are professional or enthusiast market only. I’ve now run out of money and can’t afford to buy any of the new cameras or lenses, as the rate at which they have been released and the price levels make this difficult, and the dramatic collapse in secondhand values has clobbered my recent workround of buying-testing-selling. Things like the 28-70mm FE OSS lens for the A7 are worth almost nothing (under £200 used even from a UK dealer now) and most gear is losing 35-40% of its launch month value within two or three months. Also, the performance of much of this kit tends to be flawed or just not that impressive. It’s really hard to justify spending thousands on Sony gear which then turns out to be very ordinary, when companies like Olympus, Fujfilm, Nikon and Canon only need an email or a phone call to send test kit out just as soon as it’s available.
To work further against Sony’s interests, so much of the older Minolta and other optical gear I have been trying – even something as basic as my 70-210mm f/4 ‘beercan’ on the A7R with LA-EA4 – produces such beautiful results. What money I have spent recently has been on adaptors and on vintage lenses including Voigtlander, Canon and Nikon. I’ve not lost a penny on buying and selling these to find the best choices.
Sony also has a habit of organising London press events starting at 10am which, because of the nature of London, pretty much demands an overnight hotel stay unless you happen to be based within the M25 ring. I’m 400 miles away with no intention of ever being closer. I’m willing to spend the two or three hundred pounds needed to be at a mid-day event in London, despite the fact that it generally only produces ten minutes with a product subject to a ‘no images may be used’ embargo, and all the major websites already had it a month before and the full details were all over the web before I boarded the early morning train. So that’s why I have not really felt an urgent need to work hard and put my company’s (my!) money into giving Sony free advertising.
Well, there’s a new Alpha 77 – the A77II. It has much improved AF, the new hotshoe, some WiFi stuff and the GPS has been removed. Neat though the WiFi and NFC may be, my main use of this is for remote control not tweeting photos, and for remote control rigs there are much better camera choices than a heavy A77 body with no possibility to control the zoom from an iPad/Android phone or whatever. The RX100 and RX10 hit the mark for this. The slightly gritty 24 megapixel sensor is still a slightly gritty 24 megapixels, and removing the GPS is just downright perverse. I have a Nikon D5300 sitting here which does everything I need in a gritty 24 megapixel APS-C format, with GPS, for a great deal less.
And there’s a great new RX100 MkIII which has a new Carl Zeiss 24-70mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8 zoom, a pop-up EVF, unbelievably good video (not far removed from the A7S 4K abilities and high bitrate encoding of HD1080p) and a more flexibly hinged screen. I do think this will be worth it for new buyers, but I didn’t bother with the MkII. The MkI only cost me £350 slightly used, it lives in pockets and shoves into compartments of bags, it has a lenscap adapted to ensure this treatment does not damage its fragile lens-front cover, and it goes to 100mm equivalent which is more use to me than extra lens speed at 70mm. The old MkI may only by f/4.9 at 100mm equivalent, but it is respectable f/4 at 70mm and the same f/1.8 at 28mm. It’s knockabout travel camera, a car glove-compartment camera, capable of delivering shots which any photo agency or library will accept.
The RX100 III will start shipping in Europe at the beginning of July 2014 and will be priced at approximately £700. I’ll get one when I break, wear out, or lose the original but I might just opt for a Nikon 1 system kit instead. At least they have a GPS you can add, unlike Sony – it will soon be two years since the Multi Function Accessory Shoe was unveiled, and the GPS module for it is still not even on the horizon.
Sony’s successor to the Alpha 77 improves all-round performance in line with the enhanced 24 megapixel sensor also found in the new A6000 E-mount camera. Key points are that the AF array now covers most of the image area (this is a mixed blessing as Canon 7D owners quickly found out, having active AF points near the image edge can produce some very unwanted results unless detailed control is offered of the AF behaviour – we shall find out when we test the camera); that the high ISO performance is 20% better, meaning the new A77 II should be as good as the original NEX-7 in this respect; and the entire rig is much faster though we would guess it also demands very fast SD or MSProDuo cards.
We are currently in touch with Sony to determine whether GPS has been omitted from this body, as the launch specification makes no mention of it, and if so, whether Sony is anywhere nearer releasing the separate GPS module originally planned for the Multi-Function Accessory Shoe (another key upgrade present in the revised camera). Update: there is no GPS in the camera and Sony doesn’t seem to know what we are talking about.
Full audio level control, something we have pressed for as a firmware upgrade for the original A77, is now provided. It’s also got the fashionable but almost useless WiFi/NFC functions (almost useless in a camera which can shoot 60 continuous JPEGs at 12 fps or produce 24 megapixel raw files). If you really want to upload your latest selfie, shoot the damn thing on your smartphone, says the man whose A7R is kept in Airplane Mode because that way you at least get a decent battery life… Sony only has this one photo in the Europe media library right now (but if you click it you get the full sized file).
Slightly tongue in cheek, as WiFi can indeed be enormously useful for remote viewing and control – but that all depends on how the connectivity works and will remain to be seen. It’s a bit heavy for a drone copter but great for a 20 metre sky pole if it’s got the right functions.
What follows is the Sony press release and specification table.
You can pre-order for only $1,198 (body) from B+H and we reckon this is a very fair price for the spec.
- New A-mount camera with world’s highest phase-detection AF point count – 79 points with 15 cross points
- Translucent Mirror Technology delivers ultra-fast, intelligent AF tracking and up to 12 fps burst of up to 60 full-resolution frames
- 24.3 megapixel Exmor™ CMOS image sensor delivers wide ISO 100-25600 sensitivity range
- XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ and 3-way tiltable LCD
- Tough magnesium body with dust- and moisture-resistant seals
- BIONZ X™ processor for pro-quality images and Full HD 50p video
- NFC/Wi-Fi for One-touch sharing and remote control by mobile
From dynamic sports to the sudden flutter of a startled bird: the new α77 II stays locked right on target, frame after crisply-focused frame.
Building on the heritage of Sony’s much-loved original α77 and α700, the α77 II gives advanced amateurs a string of exciting enhancements in a tough, weather-resistant body that’s up to any challenge.
Image quality is boosted while sensitivity is increased by approximately 20% compared to the α77 for flawless, exquisitely-detailed stills and Full HD video, even in low light. Non-stop continuous burst shooting stamina is enhanced and there is a clutch of pro-friendly new video functions for movie makers.
Best of all, the α77 II rips up the rule book with an advanced phase detection autofocus system. With approximately 2x wider coverage area than the previous α77 model, it outpaces the AF capabilities of many professional cameras.
New-generation 79 point phase detection AF system
For the first time ever, the α77 II features no less than 79 autofocus detection points, including 15 cross points within most frequently-used central area of the sensor. This aids super-accurate focusing, even with horizontally-striped subjects that confuse many other cameras.
There’s also a dedicated F2.8 AF point placed horizontally in the centre of the sensor. This centrally-mounted sensor supports apertures up to F2.8, ensuring maximum AF precision when using large-aperture lenses. The AF system also performs well in low light, accurately locking onto subjects in scenes with illumination levels as low as EV-2 (ISO100), where even the human eye can struggle to discern fine detail.
Vast amounts of metering data from all 79 focus points are processed by a brand new AF algorithm that’s been fine-tuned in extensive field tests. This predicts the subject’s next movement, combining AF metering data together with data on the subject’s position. AF precision is further improved when Lock-on AF is used, recognising the subject from its colour as well as its position in the frame.
Whether you’re framing through the viewfinder or on screen in Live View mode, Sony’s unique Translucent Mirror Technology maintains razor-sharp tracking focus on your subject, whether you’re capturing stills or Full HD movies. This powerful new system is less likely to be distracted by other objects – like a rogue balloon moving across your shot at a football match. It performs brilliantly in low-light conditions, capturing crisply-focused images of moving subjects on moonlit nights.
There’s a suite of sophisticated new AF functions that make the most of the new 79-point system. Expanded Flexible Spot mode maintains focus even if the selected AF point loses track of the subject, activating eight surrounding AF points that recognize the subject. In combination with AF-C AF mode, this dramatically increases performance with moving subject.
Lock-on AF mode lets users select one of four AF area modes (Wide, Zone, Flexible Spot or Expanded Flexible Spot). Once its target is acquired, the camera keeps tracking as long as the shutter button remains half-pressed. As the subject moves or framing changes, the camera automatically selects the most appropriate AF point from the 79 available. When subject movement is too fast for the new Expanded Flexible Spot mode alone, it’s combined with Lock-on AF for class-leading tracking performance.
For even greater control, the degree of subject-tracking duration can be fine-tuned in five steps (when shooting still images in AF-C mode). With subjects whose movement is predictable, a low setting reduces the risk of the camera focusing on another object suddenly entering the area around the subject. High settings deliver more responsive focusing – ideal when you’re rapidly shooting different subjects at different distances, such as wildlife. AF Tracking Duration can also be selected between High, Medium and Low during Full HD movie shooting.
Other new features include an Eye AF function that precisely detects and focuses on the subject’s eyes when photographing people. AF Range Control allows AF to be limited to a specified range, with five AF Tracking Duration settings to optimally match the subject’s motion. There’s a Balanced Emphasis mode that complements the release and focus priority modes by providing the ideal balance between focus and release timing. Users can manually select the most appropriate mode to shoot the situation and their precise creative objectives.
Shoot a continuous burst of 60 full-resolution frames at up to 12 fps
Continuous shooting stamina outpaces many professional cameras, too. The α77 II can capture a non-stop burst of up to 60 full-resolution JPEG images at a maximum continuous shooting speed of approximately 12 frames per second (in Continuous Advance Priority AE mode).
24.3 megapixel Exmor™ CMOS image sensor with improved sensitivity
A showcase for Sony’s world-leading expertise in imaging sensing technology, the 24.3 megapixel Exmor™ CMOS image sensor features the same gapless on-chip lens structure as used in the acclaimed α7R and α6000. Thanks to an array of latest-generation imaging innovations, it now offers 20% greater sensitivity than its predecessor that offers the same pixel count. Together with flawless image detail, low-noise performance is assured across a wide sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25600.
The high-resolution sensor is partnered by the same evolved BIONZ X image processor featured in the α7 and α7R. Around three times faster than Sony’s previous BIONZ engine and optimised for the α77 II, it employs detail reproduction, diffraction-reducing and area-specific noise reduction technologies that contribute to amazing image definition, rich colours and textures with stills and Full HD video.
See things your way with OLED Tru-Finder and 3-way tilting LCD
Framing and focusing is a pleasure through the clear, bright XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ with 236,000 dot resolution. With three times higher[i] contrast and resolving power, it faithfully displays exactly what’s in the final image, letting you accurately judge the effects of adjusting focus, exposure and other settings before firing the shutter. A wide viewing angle and high eye-point are complemented by a newly-expanded choice of brightness settings, plus colour temperature adjustment for even more comfortable, accurate composition.
As featured on the full-frame α99, the α77 II also features a detail-packed 3.0-type (7.5 cm) Xtra Fine LCD that moves three ways for near-limitless creative flexibility. Easily shoot from high or low angles, in portrait or landscape orientation, handheld or with a tripod. WhiteMagic technology significantly improves screen visibility, even outdoors in direct sunshine.
You’re always in control with expanded custom functions
Evolved from the original α77, separate control dials in front of the grip and behind it allow intuitive, fumble-free adjustment of camera settings without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. Lavish customisation options now allow a total of 51 functions to be assigned to 11 buttons.
Up to three frequently used groups of shooting mode and other settings can be stored in memory and recalled easily via the mode dial. In addition, an exposure mode dial lock function has been inherited from the a99 to prevent accidental mode changes.
Tough enough for serious enthusiasts
The tough, light magnesium body of the α77 II is engineered to withstand the demands of serious enthusiasts in search of that perfect shot. Positive, comfortable handling is enhanced by the large, contoured grip. Dust- and moisture-resistant seals around main buttons and controls are complemented by double-layered protection around all openings including media slot and terminals. In addition, the camera’s durable shutter unit is rated for 150,000 activations.
Pro-style movie shooting with continuous AF
The a77 II can record Full HD 60p and 24p movies using the AVCHD 2.0 format. As with still shooting, Translucent Mirror Technology enables full-time phase-detection AF, ensuring accurate focus tracking with fast-moving subjects while you’re capturing video.
A number of advanced features appeal directly to serious moviemakers, including three-level AF tracking sensitivity adjustment, a pro-style Zebra function and audio level metering. There’s also the addition of a clean HDMI output that allows viewing on an external monitor and recording without compression to an external storage device.
One-touch wireless connection and smartphone remote control
On-board Wi-Fi allows one-touch connection for easy shot sharing with your Xperia™, NFC-compatible Android smartphones, tablets and VAIO. A single touch also activates Smart Remote Control, linking the camera to your mobile phone enabling you to fire the shutter from a distance.
Lenses and accessories
Covering focal lengths from wide angle to telephoto, a family of 32 A-mount lenses offers an extensive choice of creative tools for visual expression.
The line-up includes glassware to fulfil just about every artistic need, from high-performance G Lens™ and ZEISS® models that deliver world-class quality to the unique Sony STF (Smooth Trans Focus) lens that produces extraordinarily smooth background bokeh. Premium G Lens models feature precision aspherical lenses, ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass, an advanced Nano AR Coating and other advanced Sony optical technologies that contribute to high resolution while also enabling beautiful bokeh effects.
ZEISS® lenses are jointly developed by Sony and ZEISS, a name that is well known to discerning photographers worldwide, making full use innovative and ground-breaking optical technologies. Superb contrast and high resolution that extend right to the edge of the frame are highly famous hallmarks of the ZEISS brand.
The optional VG-C77AM grip enhances camera operability by offering remarkable holding and operational ease during vertical shooting.
α Library app
Sony has also today released a new “α Library” application for tablets which includes two types of content. “α Lens catalog” showcases the entire line up of α lenses and provides key information and specifications about which lenses are best suited to different types of photography. The bi-annual “α Magazine” showcases the boundless fun of photography. The new α Library is available for download on Google Play and the iOS App Store from today.
The α77 II A-mount interchangeable lens digital camera from Sony is available to pre-order now from www.sony.co.uk. It’s on general sale in Europe from Summer 2014.
α77 II technical specifications
||Interchangeable lens digital camera with built-in flash
||Sony A-mount lenses, operation with Minolta/Konica Minolta lenses confirmed
||APS-C type (23.5 x 15.6mm), “Exmor” CMOS sensor with primary colour filters offering approx. 24.3 effective megapixels
|No. of pixels (effective)
Approx. 24.3 megapixels
||BIONZ X™ image processor
|Image Quality Modes
||RAW / RAW & JPEG / JPEG Extra fine / JPEG Fine / JPEG Standard
TTL Phase-detection AF
|79 points (15 points cross type) with centre F2.8 sensor
EV -2 to 18 (at ISO100 equivalent)
Wide/Zone/Center/Flexible Spot/Expanded Flexible Spot/Lock-On AF(Wide/Zone/Center/Flexible Spot/Expanded Flexible Spot)
Single-shot AF (AF-S), Continuous AF (AF-C), Automatic AF (AF-A), Direct Manual Focus selectable
||Speed (approx., max.)
||Continuous Advance Priority AE: Maximum 12 frames per second
Continuous shooting Hi: Maximum 8 frames per second
Continuous shooting Lo: Maximum 3 frames per second
|No. of frame recordable* (approx.)
||[Continuous Advance Priority AE mode] Extra fine: 53 images/Fine: 60 images/Standard: 64 images/RAW & JPEG: 25 images/RAW: 26 images
[Continuous shooting] Extra fine: 56 images/Fine: 75 images/Standard: 93
images/RAW & JPEG: 26 images/RAW: 28 images
|ISO Sensitivity Range
||Still Image: ISO100 – 25600 (1/3 EV step), (ISO numbers up from ISO50 can be set as expanded ISO range.)AUTO: ISO 100-25600, selectable lower limit and upper limitMovie: ISO100 – 12800 equivalent (1/3 EV step)AUTO ISO 100-12800 equivalent, selectable lower limit and upper limit
|HD movie record
||Recording format: AVCHD 2.0 / MP4Video compression: AVCHD:MPEG-4 AVC/H.264MP4:MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
||XGA OLED, 1.3 cm (0.5 type) electronic viewfinder (2,359,296 dots effective resolution), with 100% frame coverage, five display modes and grid line display modes.
||7.5 cm (3.0-type) wide type TFT with WhiteMagic technology. Tilt angle: 150 degrees upward and 180 degrees downward. Rotation angle: 180 degrees clockwise and 90 degrees counter-clockwise.
||Charge protection coating on image sensor and image sensor shift mechanism
||AUTO (Intelligent Auto/Superior Auto) / Scene Selection / Sweep Panorama / Continuous Advance Priority AE / Movie (P/A/S/M) / Programmed AE / Aperture priority / Shutter-speed priority / Manual / Memory recall (MR1/2/3)
|Exposure Metering System
||1200-zone evaluative metering
||Still images: 1/8000 to 30 sec/Bulb;Movies: 1/8000 to 1/4 (1/3 step), up to 1/60 in AUTO mode (up to 1/30 in Auto slow shutter mode)
||Bracket: Cont./Bracket: Single, With 1/3EV, 1/2EV, 2/3EV, 1.0EV, 2.0EV, 3.0EV increments, 3 /5frames
||Memory Stick PRO Duo / Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo / Memory Stick XC-HG Duo / SD memory card / SDHC memory card (UHS-I compliant) / SDXC memory card (UHS-I compliant)
||Approx. 142.6 mm × 104.2 mm × 80.9 mm
||Approx. 647g (body only)Approx. 726g (with battery and Memory Stick PRO Duo)