Monday, July 9, 2007

Fauxtokina 2007: Sony speculation and predictions

Sony Sensors

  • Rumored is a bigger 1.1x sensor, but rumor is what it is until it sees the light of day
  • 12mp 1.5x sensor, in the Nikon DSLRs, expected to be in the new Sony mid-range DSLRs, and perhaps in newer Pentax/Samsungs.
  • 10mp 1.5x sensor, found in Nikons (D80, D40x), Sony A100 and Pentax K10D/Samsung GX10.
  • 6mp 1.5x sensor, a budget sensor that continues to go with the "new" Pentax K100D Super (and presumably the upcoming Samsung equivalent), along with the Nikon D40.
  • "R1" 1.7x sensor?. It seems like it was a single purpose sensor as it was not used by any other model. Two years later it's unlikely someone will pick it up, although at 10mp it would still make a nice prosumer camera!
  • 2/3" sensor revival?. The last ones were the 8mp sensors of 3-4 years ago. The last camera to use this presumably was the Samsung Pro 815 (Juen 2005). Will we see a 2/3" revival? Perhaps if Sony decides to revitalize the Minolta A-series?
  • 12mp 1/1.7" sensor. This was a jump in size from the 1/1.8" sensors of the past. The Sony W200 is believed to be the first one to be using it. Kodak and Casio have announced two new 12mp cameras, but they have been known to use other people's sensors (Sharp?) when they try to jump ahead in the megapixel rat-race. Will this sensor find its way in the line-ups of all the usual suspects replacing the 10mp 1/1.8"? Ironically, none of the recent Sony cameras are using the latter. I do not expect a megapixel jump until 2008.
  • 8mp 1/2.5" sensor. Too early for another jump in megapixels for sure. Probably 2008 before/if there is another jump. Their 2007 line-up has five of these already (H7, H9, T100, T20, W90) from PMA 2007.

    Sony DSLRs

  • Flagship? The flagship is expected sometime in 2008, some are saying it might be a 1.1x sensor, with Nikon having first dibs on it. They already talked about a flagship at PMA 2007. Will it be full frame, near full frame or APS-C? An A1 or an A300? Will they make a development announcement in the next couple of months, or will we just have to wait and see? Will the flagship be in the spirit of the Minolta flagships of the past, or will they try to match/outdo the Canons and Nikons for prestige purposes? Only time will tell!
  • Mid-range? The mid-range rumors are buzzing, an announcement is imminent they say (July 9). Expectation is for a 12mp 1.5x APS-C mid-range DSLR, expected to compete with the likes of the Canon 30D/40D, Nikon D80/D200, and Pentax K10D/+ and Olympus E510. Some are calling it A200 already. This is almost guaranteed to happen based on what Sony has said in the past (eg PMA 2007).
  • Entry-level? Based on what Sony has said the A100 will continue to slide (in price and features by competition) and become the defacto entry-level for Sony. Despite the fact that Sony makes 6mp APS-C sensors, they do not seem to be interested in making a 6mp entry-level like Nikon and Pentax. After all, they have the two older Minolta DSLRs to cover that... The A100 was announced in June 2006.
  • The Minoltas (for reference) The 7D was announced in Sept 2004, and the 5D in July 2005.

    Sony non-DSLRs
  • Sony has clearly disciplined their announcement strategy, with predictable announcements for the W-series, H-series and S-series between CES and PMA of each year. The T-series, being a trendy bijou, continues to be all over the place, as expected.
  • R-series? The R1 experiment was announced in September 2005. Two years is a long time, but for this camera perhaps Sony is using a mid-range DSLR cycle as opposed to a consumer digicam cycle. The camera had its share of big fans and not-so-big fans when it came out. I would be interested to see a follow-up. Since the next two Sony DSLRs are expected to be a mid-range and a flagship, there is room perhaps for another try at the R-series
  • F-series? The last F-series was announced in August 2003. That's an eternity ago. Will we see a revival? Hope yes, probably not.
  • Minolta A-series? While the shiny Minolta Z-series may consider itself an older cousin of the Sony H-series, the Minolta A-series was (surpingly) not revived under the Sony banner. Infact this camera looks ideally suited to slide in between the entry-level DSLR, the R1 and the W-/T-/H- series of Sony. One problem of course is that there hasn't been a new 2/3" sensor in quite a while. The last one to come out was the A200 (Sept 2004), A2 (Febr 2004), A1 (August 2003). The A-series was born out of the evolution of the Dimage 7-series and the short lived 5-series.
  • H-series The H-series is a February series. The H7 and H9 came out in Febr 2007, the H2 and H5 in Febr 2006 and the H1 in Febr 2005. Expect nothing until February 2008 :-) (That was easy!)
  • N-series Another easy prediction is a 12mp version of the N2, named... N3! Sony makes the sensors after all. The N2 (Photokina 2006) and the N1 (Oct 2005) point to a fall announcement for the N3.
  • LiIon 1/1.8" W-series The W200 was the first to use the new 12mp Sony sensor at PMA 2007. Its predecessor, the W100 was at 8mp (PMA 2006). Interestingly none of the W-series are using the 10mp sensor (not yet anyway). This is clearly a PMA cycle.
  • LiIon 1/2.5" W-series The W90 actually has 8mp and the W80 has 7 megapixels, just to confuse us :) The entry-level was the W35 and W55, at 7mp, with LCD size differentiating (Jan 2007). The W70 was at 7mp at PMA 2006. The W30 and W50 were 6mp in Febr 2006, differentiated by LCD size. This is clearly a CES-to-PMA release cycle.
  • AA-based W-series The last two of the series were the W5 and W7 in Febr 2006 at 7mp and 5mp 1/1.8" respectively. The debut of the line, the W1 came out in Feb 2005 at 5mp 1/1.8", inspired perhaps by the Sony V1 experiment. Sony switched these to LiIon in 2006, partly to make them smaller. I would say do not expect anything new here, but the S800 clearly points to the possibility of a revival. A slightly more advanced version of the S800 could easily be a W-AA-series! Why? Well why did they announce the S800 in Europe? It seems out of the blue. Were they testing the waters?
  • S-series Just like the S80, the S800 was introduced quietly in Europe in May 2007, as an 8mp 1/1.8" 5x optical camera, the first S-series with a 5x optical lens. This is the first time since the S45 that the S-series gets a 1/1.8" sensor. The S700 and S650 differentiate on screen size, but they both have a 7mp 1/2.5" sensor (Jan 2007). Sony was smart in having almost all their models at at 7mp. The S500 was quietly released in the middle of 2006, while the S600 was a CES 2006 product (6mp, 1/2.5"). The triple digit series made the jump to 1/2.5" sensors from 1/2.7". Prior to those, the S90, S80, S60 and S40 quartet came out in Febr 2005. All of them had 4mp 1/2.7" sensors. This is clearly a February release cycle.
  • T-series, 5x The debut of the 5x folded optics T-series was the 8mp T100 at PMA 2007 with SuperSteadyShot (IS).
  • T-series, 3x The 8mp T20 IS (PMA 2007) followed the T50 (7mp, IS, Photokina 2006), T10 (7mp, IS, Aug 2006), the T30 (7mp, IS, April 2006). The T30 was the first T-series with IS (Super Steady Shot). Prior to that, the 6mp T9 (Nov 2005), 5mp T5 (Aug 2005), 5mp T7 (March 2005), T33 (Jan 2005), T3 (Aug 2004), T11 (April 2004) and the one that started it all, the 5mp T1 (Oct 2003). One minor note is that the T-series started with 1/2.4" sensors but the recent models are using the more standard 1/2.5" sensors. Being a fashionable and trendy stylish line of cameras, a new model every 3-4 months is almost a must to keep them "fresh". I doubt they are going to increase the megapixels at 1/2.5", but they will probably make some improvements to justify the new models. If nothing else, perhaps a more budget-y version for the masses? Or bigger LCDs? Can't really predict what, but there will be something T-series for sure.
  • G-series A classic Sony experiment, the G1 may have surprised some by being "stingy" on megapixels. Perhaps so it won't fill up the on-board hard disk as fast :-) This came out in March 2007, so I wouldn't expect anything else until next CES/PMA.
  • V-series Revival? The V3 (Aug 2004) and the V1 (Aug 2003) came out a long time ago. Revival? I say why not, but it's probably not. Let's not forget the V3 was really an update from the S85 (June 2001), not a direct follow-up to the V1 experiment. Fall 2007 is exactly three years after the V3. Coincidence? :)
  • P-series Revival? The P200 came out in Jan 2005, the P150 in July 2004 (tested the new sensor), and the P100 in Feb 2004/ Revival? Nope! As iconic as they were of the Cyber-shot series, Sony has moved on with the T-series being the new face of the franchise. Nevertheless a 12mp version of a modernized P200 could sell in electronics chain stores and wherever megapixel-hungry consumers are shopping.
  • M-series Revival? The M2 came out in Sept 2005, and the M1 at Photokina 2004. Nothing came out in this series at Photokina 2006, so it is safe to assume this (hybrid) experiment is over.
  • L-series Revival? The L1 was another one of Sony's famous experiments, this one more on the low end, a tiny 4mp 1/2.7" camera (August 2004). Perhaps intended to compete with the smaller Canon Elph series with fixed lens or the Kyocera/Contax of the time. That was it. Should we expect a revival? Probably not.

    What to expect from Sony in the rest of 2007? (pure speculation!)
  • Will they revive the Minolta A-series? (They should!)
  • Predicted names of speculated models: N3, A1, A10, P300, A200, A300, V5, W8, W9, T-something, eg T40 or T60

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