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April 19, 2006 – Sony wants to play hardball in the digital single lens reflex market, so the company today announced that its higher end line of digital cameras, lenses, and accessories will be marketed under the new α (alpha) brand name. The Sony α brand name will distinguish the pricier, more professional grade line from Sony’s Cyber-shot series of compact digital cameras. The new Sony α digital single lens reflex cameras will be launched worldwide this summer.
According to today’s press release, α means "beginning" and "essential," and "embodies the spirit of Sony’s approach to the D-SLR market." The Sony α DSLR line won’t exactly be a beginning though; it will be more of an expansion. The manufacturer will use the same lens mount that Konica-Minolta Maxxum DSLRs used. Konica-Minolta stopped making digital cameras a few months ago and sold their remaining technology and patents to Sony.
"We are expanding our product portfolio to build upon our leadership position in the digital imaging business," said James Neal, director of marketing for digital imaging products at Sony Electronics, in today’s press release. "Our approach to D-SLR camera design and engineering will allow us to offer a new high-performance system for today’s digital camera users, as well as welcome the millions of Konica-Minolta owners who have Maxxum interchangeable lenses that are currently in the market."
Sony’s α brand DSLRs come just when most electronic manufacturers are releasing their first attempts at the single lens reflex model. Panasonic introduced its first DSLR, the L1, just over a month ago. With help from Pentax, Samsung also recently developed DSLR technology and have since displayed two models.
With point-and-shoot sales growth slowing, manufacturers are turning to the more lucrative DSLR sector. According to market research firm The NPD Group, twice as many DSLRs will be sold in 2006 compared with last year. The numbers will climb through 2010, although the average selling price of a DSLR will decrease. The NPD Group predicts the average DSLR will cost $737 in 2010, whereas the average is expected to be $942 this year.