Cameras

Sony Unveils DSLR-A700 Flagship with 12.2 CMOS Sensor and HD Output

The new alpha touts a 12.2 CMOS sensor that utilizes column-parallel conversion, promising low noise. Calling it the “world’s first built-in HDMI Output” SLR camera for HD viewing, the new A700 includes a high-resolution LCD monitor, 11-point AF sy

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September 6, 2007 – Following a slew of SLR announcements made by other manufacturers last month, Sony today launched its sophomore digital SLR, the α (Alpha) DSLR-A700. Among its touted features are a new 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and a built-in HDMI Output for viewing high definition images on a HDTV. Also featured are a high-resolution LCD monitor, 11-point autofocus system, 5fps burst rate, new navigation interface, and Creative Style settings. The Sony alpha DSLR-A700 body will retail for $1400 and the kit, which includes an 18-70mm lens, for $1500 when they go on sale in October. The DSLR-A700 P kit with the new 16-105mm lens will retail for $1900 beginning in November. 

Sony's first digital SLR, the Sony DSLR-A100, was launched in June 2006. The DSLR-A700 is the second in what is anticipated to be a growing product line of Sony digital SLRs. Sony will keep the alpha A100 on the market to cater to entry-level SLR consumers. The A700 is geared for the prosumer market and competes with the recently announced Canon 40D and Nikon D300. 

Like many SLRs announced this summer, the A700 uses a CMOS sensor instead of a traditional CCD sensor like the A100. Dubbed the "Exmor" image sensor, the updated APS-C size CMOS chip measures 23.5 x 15.6mm and uses Sony’s Column-Parallel Analog-to-Digital Conversion techonolgy that promises low noise, better image quality, and faster speeds. The on-chip A/D conversion is the first of its kind, said Mark Weir, Senior Product Manager for Digital SLR Cameras at Sony Electronics, in an interview with DigitalCameraInfo.com.

"There are significant advantages in speed [and] power consumption," said Weir. "What’s coming off the sensor is a digital signal and therefore largely immune to noise pickup as it passes through the camera."

As part of the dual noise reduction system, the Sony A700 also uses an updated Bionz engine that reduces noise during RAW data processing, before compression and encoding. 

The Sony A700 has a built-in HDMI port for HD output. Like Sony's spring line of point-and-shoots, the A700 camera can capture at high definition, that is, at a 1080i x 1920 pixel resolution. Combined with the compatible Sony-branded Bravia HDTVs and other high definition-enabled televisions, users can view their images on the big screen. 

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"Up until now, televisions have been optimized for moving image playback and as we know, that may be optimal for still image playback. As high definition penetration in the U.S. increases, we believe there will be a new way of enjoying still images…and that is to view still images on high definition televisions."

To further enhance photo viewing, Sony boosted the monitor resolution on the SLR. Whereas the previous Alpha had a 230,000 pixel resolution on its 2.5-inch screen, the A700 employs an all-time SLR high 920,600 pixel resolution for its 3-inch LCD, according to Sony. With more than 260 dots per inch, the LCD screen is for suited for on-the-spot review that has yet to be surpassed by competitors, according to Weir.

"Part of this camera is focused on excellence in capture, but part of it is excellence on viewing," said Weir.

Sony also made improvements in autofocus and handling. The Sony A700 is equipped with a new sensor on the hand grip that activates the autofocus system when touched by the user. The autofocus system has been updated from 9 to 11 points that employs an f/2.8 horizontal sensor in the center. The f/2.8 sensor enables a higher focus precision when using wide aperture lenses, according to Weir. There is also a new AF/MF control located by the right-hand thumb area to engage focus automatically or manually.

The A700 has additional buttons and controls to directly access frequently used settings including exposure compensation, white balance, and ISO sensitivity. Users can customize up to 28 settings on one of the three user memories or save 15 frequently used items to be accessed by pressing the on the Function (Fn) button.

Users who prefer to select options using the LCD screen can utilize the new Quick Navigation System. The Quick Navigation System rotates with horizontal or vertical camera use and allows users to control settings with two control wheels.

In addition, the A700 possesses 14 Creative Style settings that allow users to tweak contrast, color saturation, brightness, and zone matching. The Creative Styles include settings such as "Night View," "Autumn Leaves," and "Vivid."

Sony also updated the Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) that was introduced on the A100. The DRO now allows users to select from five shadow recovery and contrast levels.

In terms of external design, the A700 sports weather-resistant seals to block out dust and moisture. The camera is constructed of magnesium alloy with an aluminum interior. The shutter has a speed of 1/8000 of a second and a 100,000 shutter cycle life. Sony’s Anti-Dust system is also included on the A700.

Sony also updated the viewfinder from a pentamirror to a pentaprism viewfinder. The optical glass viewfinder has a 0.9x magnification with 95 percent coverage.

The DSLR-A700K package comes with an 18-70mm kit lens, the same lens as the Alpha A100 kit. The DSLR-A700P bundle comes with a new DT 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, equivalent to 24-157.5mm in 35mm format. Users can also opt to attach a vertical accessory grip.

Like the original Alpha A100, the Sony A700 has two memory card slots; one for CompactFlash Type I or II and one for the Memory Stick PRO-HG. The camera runs on a new InfoLithium (NP-FM500H) battery that's backwards compatible with the A100.

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