Here at MegaPixel.co.il we recently had a chance to interview Mr. Takashi Yasuda, General Manager for Alpha product marketing in Sony Europe. We discussed a variety of general topics as well as different issues we recently encountered in our review of the Sony A77.
The last time we had a chance to interview Mr. Takashi Yasuda from Sony Europe was during Photokina 2010. Two years later and we have a another chance to question him on some of the new technologies Sony had been working on.
Q: How surprised where you by the successes of the NEX-7 success?
A: NEX-7 was developed based on customer feedback and consumer demand to create a new segment in the market that had never been really explored. With the advanced technology and features of our existing successful NEX system, we were pretty confident that the product would be well received.
Sony A77 – semi pro SLT (Credit: Ofir Iluz/MegaPixel.co.il)
Q: What lessons did you learn from the A77? What will the next gen (A99/other upcoming FF cameras) do better?
A: Current technical performance of our A77 has been widely praised all over the world and we are proud of the achievement with this model. We have set a real quality standard and proven how serious we are with our SLT cameras. We are now studying the successor of the A900 model, but we cannot comment any further on future product development.
Q: Do you think there is still a necessity for optical viewfinders in Pro level cameras?
A: Yes, we know some photographers prefer to have OVF for this level of camera. However when we consider the role of this level of camera, a quick and precise control / adjustment of exposure, color, focusing etc. combined with the ability to never miss the moment, are very important elements to allow photographers to achieve a high quality of photo expression and creativity. To think about it, EVF is a very suitable finder as the result that can be reflected is real-time.
With the launch of A77 and the new OLED TruFinder, we think that our EVF technology is now mature enough to compete and beat optical view finders. The simple ability to judge color, exposure and the depth of field in live, before even taking the picture, is a massive change in photography itself. The EVF also brings with it a full set of viewing functionalities like histogram, level gauge, focus zoom check etc. and even simply its capacity to “see” in very dark conditions where an optical finder would be blind.
Is the future OVF or EVF? (Credit: Ofir Iluz/MegaPixel.co.il)
Q: Why are you so slow in releasing new NEX lenses?
A: We have released 7 lenses so far and 2 optical converters in 20 months of NEX E-Mount existence and new lenses are coming in 2012. We also offer a LAE-A2 converter that gives access to over 30 Sony A-Mount lenses with ultra-fast autofocus and auto exposure functionality. We do not think it is a slow process. Also keep in mind other competitors in the mirror-less segment launched their systems much earlier than Sony in early 2009. But be assured that our system will continue to grow.
Q: Do you think there is a market for a FF mirrorless camera (and what that market might be)?
A: We are carefully listening and studying the customer voice for our product development. At this stage NEX-7 is fulfilling the demand on the high-end mirror-less segment, but we will continuously monitor market demand and adapt our line up if necessary.
Q: Video in DSLR cameras is becoming more and more important – sound recording in video is however somewhat neglected – recently both Nikon and Canon added headphone jack and sound monitoring on their FF cameras – will you consider going one step further and adding XLR inputs (maybe as a dedicated external sound grip for your future FF cameras – just like high-end video cameras have)?
A: We carefully take into consideration the sound quality aspect of video in our product development. At this stage we cannot comment on future product development.
A77 – integrated GPS – is WIFI next? (Credit: Ofir Iluz/MegaPixel.co.il)
Q: Both Canon and Nikon prefer to sell expensive external WIFI and GPS modules for their high-end cameras. Sony on the other hand integrated the GPS into the A77 – should we expect WIFI to be integrated on future FF Sony cameras as well (as opposed to a dedicated external unit)?
A: WIFI or GPS functionality needs differ by customer target groups (entry, pro etc.) and also depends on services offered around the technology. Our integrated GPS technology opens new functionalities when used with the latest Sony software or services like PlayMemories. We will adapt our product offering depending on each categories needs and functions available to take benefit of those technologies.
The following questions are the result of our recent in-depth review (Hebrew) of the A77:
Q: Is there any solution for the grainy look in the viewfinder in low light and What about the time it takes for the display to transition between a bright environment and a low lit one (and vice-versa)?
A: In extreme low light, EVF can show grainy aspect, but keep in mind an optical viewfinder would not be able see anything. So we do not think this is a discomfort but a benefit for the consumer that they can enjoy framing even in nearly full darkness, which is impossible with an optical view finder. We have not seen reports of specific issues on transition from bright to low light at this stage, but we will carefully monitor customer feedback regarding this and continue to do our best to always improve our products.
Q: Even with firmware 1.04 the viewfinder is still too slow to switch back and forth to the LCD – we understand that you are working on a new firmware that might improve that but did you consider the option to recognize movement in front of the sensor from a greater distance and turn on the viewfinder earlier but turn off the display off just when the sensor is 100% sure the person's eye is indeed close?
A: We will continuously work to improve operations but keep in mind other live view systems on traditional DSLRs need the mirror to switch up and down and the OVF is totally blacked out during these operations, requiring a button activation to switch between one another. So we do not think the current operation of A77 is bad. Improving distance eye sensor detection could also affect operation in a negative way and become very annoying for customers.
Larger Panorama? Sony A77 (Credit: Ofir Iluz/MegaPixel.co.il)
Q: On our A77 test unit the shutter bottom was too soft and it also had the tendency to shoot (usually twice) instead of focus when half pressed in high-continuous mode – is this something specific with our test camera or something else?
A: We have not been informed by our customer support of any such issue at this stage.
Q: Nikon cameras allow focusing on liveview mode anywhere on the frame (using contrast AF) – this is really helpful with macro and other shots done on a tripod – will you consider adding this feature future firmware (or future products)?
A: We cannot comment on future product development.
Q: This is something we mentioned back when we did our NEX-5 review in 2010 but sadly was not corrected even on the A77 – the panorama is still not composed of full size images (the height is just 1856 px although the full 24MP height of the A77 is 4000 px) – many pro photographers will not even consider using the panorama feature if it will not be composed of full size (and especially full height) images – how do you respond to this and can you fix this in firmware (or is this a processing power limitation)?
A: We will continuously study how to improve our functionality but we already provide extremely high image quality with 23 megapixels files with our Sweep Panorama function.
Q: The object tracking feature has a great potential but from our experience it simply doesn't work as we hoped – it can't really track fast moving objects – cars not to mention children/pets or birds flying – it also track the closest thing to the camera – the more logical use in our view will be to track a movement in the frame – is this something that you can add/change/fix?
A: The target lock and track function has already been implemented but is of course limited to the AF area coverage. From our experience, our A77 can fully track a high speed subject (especially in video mode) as long as the subject is within the AF area, which is currently something no other competitor camera can do. The contrast AF technology by using the main image sensor is at this stage too slow to perform an AF tracking on all frame.
Q: Smile detection on the A77 is a nice addition but we found it not very useful since you can't use it along with the timer if you want to set it and go join your friends/family in the photo – it also doesn't stop – maybe you should add a default for a maximum of 5 shots in a sequence.
A: Thank you for your suggestion.
Q: when magnifying an image on the camera LCD you immediately go into 100% – this is good but with 24MP going back out is a slow process – did you consider adding bottom options that will allow to also go in or out by larger increments (say – 25%/50%/75%/100%)?
A: We will study any improvement on operation but this setting is matching customer demand.
Q: What is the reason behind the A77 file saving system (where the videos are saved in a different folder than the images – unlike almost all other cameras)?
A: We will come back [to you] later [on that] but this is related to the file formats.
This is an English version of an article originally published on the Israeli Photography website MegaPixel.co.il