Sony STL A33 and A55 re-inventing the wheel?

Hamish Gill

Tech Support (and Marketing)
Sony have recently announced the new Translucent Mirror Technology Digital cameras


it certainly looks like an interesting idea, and i for one think sony should be congratulated for continuing to be inventive.... although i do slightly feel they are re-inventing the wheel.... not one to speculate on how well this will work, so i will endeavour to let you know as soon as i get my hands on one ... dpreview has already reviewed it here

Press Release:

Light, compact α55 and α33: up to 10fps shooting with high-speed AF tracking and Full HD movie

α55 (SLT-A55V) (16.2 megapixels) and α33 (SLT-A33) (14.2 megapixels)
Ultra-quick shooting up to 10fps with fast, precision phase detection AF
First ever Quick AF HD Movie with smooth, continuous autofocus during video shooting
Enhanced Quick AF Live View and 7.5 cm (3") free-angle LCD, plus Tru-Finder (Electronic Viewfinder) with 100% coverage
Advanced imaging functions including 3D Sweep Panorama, Auto HDR and multi-frame noise reduction
The α (pronounced Alpha) family of interchangeable lens cameras from Sony grows with the compact, ultra-responsive new α55 and α33.

Sony’s first-ever digital cameras to employ Translucent Mirror Technology showcase an innovative optical system that opens up dramatic new shooting possibilities. In contrast with conventional DSLR cameras, Translucent Mirror Technology uses a fixed, translucent mirror that ‘splits’ the optical pathway between the main image sensor and a separate phase-detection autofocus sensor.

High-resolution live image preview with rapid, accurate phase detection autofocus is thus available at all times – either via the angle-adjustable 7.5cm (3”) LCD or precision Tru-Finder (electronic viewfinder). This also ensures that even moving objects stay in sharp focus at all times, whether you’re shooting Full HD video or stills.

Translucent Mirror Technology overcomes other traditional limitations of DSLR models, with its simplified mechanical design shrinking camera size and complexity. This makes the α55 and α33 a compelling choice for casual photographers who want to capture spontaneous family moments and travel scenes with less to carry.

Full-resolution shooting at up to 10fps with precise AF tracking
Ground-breaking Translucent Mirror Technology allows high-speed shooting with the α55 at up to 10fps (α33: 7fps) in Continuous Priority AE mode. This represents the world’s fastest burst continuous AF shooting performance of any interchangeable lens camera with an APS-C size sensor.

A newly developed 15-point phase-detection autofocus system assures rapid, accurate AF tracking, keeping even moving subjects in sharp focus during continuous shooting. This enables the α55 and α33 to capture split-second action or fleeting nuances of expression with portrait subjects.

World’s first Quick AF Full HD movie shooting
The large sensor size Exmor™ APS HD CMOS Sensor inside both cameras lets photographers capture stunning, cinematic HD video footage with beautiful background defocus (bokeh) effects.

Theα55 and α33 also mark the debut of Quick AF Full HD movie shooting. Translucent Mirror Technology enables AVCHD 1080i video shooting with smooth, precise phase detection AF tracking of moving subjects. Real-time video image preview is now possible via the viewfinder – in contrast with DSLR cameras where the raised mirror prevents light from reaching the optical viewfinder during video shooting.

Effortless composition and image viewing
Theα55 and α33 enable exciting new possibilities for framing and viewing highest-quality video and still images. Already prized by step-up DSLR users and enthusiasts alike, Sony’s Quick AF Live View system is now more effective than ever. High-resolution live image preview is teamed with uncompromised phase detection AF performance – even with rapidly-moving subjects.

Tilting and swivelling freely (to maximum 270 degrees) for comfortable framing at any shooting angle, the bright 7.5 cm (3.0") (16:9) Xtra Fine LCD offers superb detail and contrast.

There’s also a precision electronic viewfinder with 1.15 million dot resolution that delivers a clear, bright image with 100% frame coverage. Adjustments to exposure, depth of field and colour can be previewed instantly, either in the viewfinder or on the LCD. Effortless composition is aided further by switchable grid line in the finder and LCD screen, plus a new digital levelling gauge.

Enriched creative possibilities
Theα55 and α33 are compatible with the full range of over 30 A-mount interchangeable lenses and offer SteadyShot INSIDE. This in-body image stabilisation system provides up to 4 exposure steps of anti-shake correction when shooting handheld.

Both cameras also feature 3D Sweep Panorama, allowing photographers to capture detail-packed extra-wide panoramas with a huge field of view. 3D panoramas can be enjoyed on any compatible 3D HD television. The SLT-A55 is also the first α camera by Sony with integrated GPS, allowing automatic geo-tagging of images and video clips.

The new-generation Exmor™ APS HD CMOS Sensor inside both cameras supports a sophisticated range of digital image compositing and processing functions. This gives even greater artistic possibilities to beginners and photo enthusiasts alike.

Auto HDR is now refined further compared with previous-generation α models. Data from a burst of three frames at bracketed exposure values is automatically combined, creating a single image with extended highlight and shadow detail Multi-frame Noise Reduction ‘stacks’ a high-speed burst of six frames, creating a single low-noise exposure that boosts effective sensitivity as high as ISO 25600.

The new cameras accept both Memory Stick PRO Duo™ (including Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™) and SD (including both SDHC and SDXC formats) media (all sold separately). Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX 30MB per second transfer rate offers the best performance during cameras' continuous shooting mode or when transferring the data to another media.

The new α55 and α33 Single Lens Translucent mirror cameras by Sony are available from September 2010.


  • SLT-A55V_483x413.jpg
    21.1 KB · Views: 27
We are at the beginning of a period of market-change almost as dramatic as the change from film to digital. During the past decade, cameras went from beginning early attempts through clearly adolescent technology and now to mature cameras. Customers bought to the point that the market shows signs of drying up. Most potential customers now have cameras, and the camera companies are looking to open up third-world markets for initial buyers. For a couple of years it was simple - P&S for snapshooters, dSLRs for enthusiasts and working photographers.

Now the P&S market is being whittled at by the camera phones and dSLRs are mature enough not to need replacement as each generation comes along. If Nikon never made another generation of cameras, I would be content to continue using my D700 forever. It is going to take some awesome innovation, currently beyond my imagination, to make me trade. While the last decade was spent just getting it right, the next decade will be spent on innovations dramatic enough to make already contented shooters wave their plastic in camera stores.

My only criticism of the D700 is not of the camera itself, but rather a congenital condition of its species. DSLRs are large, heavy and noisy. Viewing and shooting requires a flapping mirror that contributes to the size of the camera and even more so to the noise. Even with LiveView, they must be held up at eye level - with a few exceptions - making them very conspicuous. Really lousy design for decisive moment or street shooting. Their big advantage is that the lenses can be changed to provide the optimum for any given photographic task. The disadvantage is making the shooter into a packhorse - lugging all this gear. This is being addressed by mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses. Panasonic and Olympus have adopted the Micro Four Thirds standard, while Samsung and Sony have proprietary APS cameras with their own lens mount standards. This has resulted in smaller, lighter and quieter cameras with much of the versatility of a full-sized dSLR.

DSLRs use phase detection focusing which can be very fast and accurate with the right combination of body and lens. LiveView cameras - P&S and the first wave of mirrorless - use contrast detection focusing which is much more problematic, slower and often MUCH slower. In the Sony, the translucent mirror is not used at all for viewing, simply for directing a portion of the light at a phase-detection sensor array. While Canon once produced a film SLRs with semi-transparent pellicle mirrors, in the mid-1960s and Nikon the D2H in the early 1970s, the primary purpose was to overcome the lack frame-rate of SLRs with flapping mirrors or to keep it simple for lower cost bodies.

Sony is using existing technology to produce fast focus, so it may or may not be reinventing the wheel. Perhaps more like adapting a wheel to be used as a pulley. In any case, it is a simple solution to a problem, and means that the sensor is protected from dust particles. It also permits continuous-focus while shooting up to ten frames per second, and full-time focus when doing video.

There is the potential for a lot more. I shoot with a GPS mounted in my flash hot-shoe. That should be moved into the camera and be a standard part of the camera. Since many cell phones have it, mass production has lowered the price greatly.

The Sony lets you sweep the camera through an arc to shoot a panoramic shot. It also has limited in-camera HDR. Samsung has P&S cameras with monitors front and back, so you can see yourself when doing self-portraits. Nikon has a P&S with a tiny projector built in. The Sony has multi-exposure noise reduction, which may avoid the smearing of conventional noise reduction. Similar technology would allow focus-bracketing and stacking for near infinite depth of field automatically. This would be a compelling feature for macro-photography. Casio has been pioneering extreme frame rates for slow-motion or motion-analysis photography.

During my working years I used a considerable variety of cameras on a daily basis - 35mm and medium-format rangefinder and SLRs and on occasion large-format view-cameras. I also have a few highly specialized camera - one-trick ponies - that do their trick far better than can be done by trying to adapt a general purpose camera to do the same. Up to now, this has been mostly lacking in digital cameras. Yes, Nikon and Canon have made cameras slanted to the needs of sports shooters, but they are also general purpose cameras.

I expect we will see a number of one-trick ponies show up in digital form, and I recently bought one the first. The Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D W1 is brilliant. It is nicely pocketable, so I do use it as a carry anywhere camera. But its strength is in shooting stereo photographs and movies. I think the Casio high speed cameras also fall into this category. Interesting times ahead.
Some interesting points Larry, And you are right, there are some interesting times coming in photography equipment!

Sorry about the slightly half hearted article related to this, I will get better with time... You are all welcome to comment on new release cameras... I shall be doing it when I spot interesting things in new released equipment