Sony releases DSLR-A500 and DSLR-A550

August 27th, 2009 - 05:00:07 PM:

Shortly after releasing three entry level DSLRs, Sony has announced another two DSLRs.

Sony α500, α550

The new releases are:

DSLR-A500 (α500)
A mid-range DSLR with a 12 MP APS-C sensor and live view.
DSLR-A550 (α550)
A mid-range DSLR with a 14 MP APS-C sensor and live view.

These releases make a lot of sense. The α230, α330 and α380 have been further reduced in features and performance compared to their predecessors. This left more space open in the lineup for mid-range cameras, something to fit between the entry level and the advanced (α700 or upcoming successor) and (semi-)pro (α900) level.

While the earlier releases are clearly aimed at former digicam users who want to upgrade to a DSLR, the new cameras are probably more attractive as an upgrade for former film SLR users or current owners of the α100 to α350.

The two cameras are virtually the same. The α550 only has a slightly higher image resolution than the α500 and a higher resolution display.

The main new feature of these cameras is the dual-mode live view. The first mode, “Quick AF Live View”, is the same as in the α300, α350, α330 and α380. One surface of the pentamirror viewfinder can be tilted to redirect light to a secondary sensor in the viewfinder housing. In this mode the main mirror stays down, and phase detection AF is used. In the second mode, the main mirror flips up and the shutter opens, and the main sensor is used to take the live view image. This mode allows very precise manual focusing, because there can never be a discrepancy between viewfinder image, AF sensor image and the image that is actually taken. In this mode AF is not possible.

As with the latest α230 and α3xx, there is an SD card slot instead of a CF card slot. The ISO sensitivity has been increased to 12800 (although it has to be seen if this setting is really usable). There's also BRAVIA Sync and a standard Mini USB connector. An auto HDR function was added. The battery is a NP-FM500H, as used by the α700, α850 and α900. All in all, the two new cameras are a mix between the α700 and the α3xx series.

For the new cameras there is also a common new battery grip VG-B50AM. The α230, α330 and α380 no longer had a battery grip. Sony also brought back AEL.

These two cameras can not be considered a replacement for the α700, as the names already suggest. There is still a considerable gap between the α550 and the α850. Sony further diversifies the Alpha line of cameras, and there's still room for a advanced APS-C DSLR with a true pentaprism, AEL, DMF, Program Shift, MLU, CF slot, studio flash socket, etc.

It's remarkable how Sony has managed to release a total of 5 new DSLRs in such a very short time, and the α700 replacement is rumored to be not too far away.