Sony has presented two new DSLR cameras for the middle of its range: Sony Alpha 500 & Sony Alpha 550. Obviously developped simultaneously and sharing a lot of features, they are offering 12/14 MP APS-C sensors and very good continuous shooting, even in the LiveView mode which has been brought to a very good level of performance.
While lacking video capture, they will probably attract the serious photographer who has a recession times budget, but wants to get the best SLR camera.
Sony A500 and A550 press release
Catch the moment in perfect detail with responsive new DSLR cameras from Sony : Easy-to-use α500 & α550 offer enhanced Live View shooting and superb image quality
• New 12.3/14.2 effective megapixel (α500/ α550) CMOS sensor and new enhanced BIONZ processor for detail-packed, low-noise images with high sensitivity up to ISO 12800
• Auto HDR mode for high dynamic range exposures
• High-speed continuous shooting up to 5fps (with optical viewfinder) and 7fps in Speed Priority mode (α550 only)
• Enhanced Quick AF Live View captures fast-moving action, with Face Detection for beautiful portraits
• Manual Focus Check Live View mode for precise, convenient adjustment of focus and composition
• 90º upward and 90º downward tilt-angle 3″ Xtra Fine LCD (α550) and intuitive new interface for clear, simple shooting
• Class-leading shooting stamina (1,000 shots – α500)
• HDMITM output and BRAVIATM Sync for control from TV remote
Two powerful, feature-packed DSLR cameras from Sony make it easier than ever to capture beautiful pictures, carefree family portraits, stunning holiday memories and action-packed scenes.
The DSLR-α500 (12.3 megapixels) and DSLR-α550 (14.2 megapixels) are packed with advanced Sony technology that combine the spontaneity and freedom of Live View shooting with generous possibilities to realise your creative vision.
At the heart of both cameras is a new ExmorTM CMOS sensor that ensures crisp low-noise images, packed with fine detail and vibrant colours. Sharing powerful on-chip noise reduction techniques with the full-frame DSLR-α900, this advanced sensor works with processing algorithms handled by the newly developed and high-speed BIONZTM engine to deliver premium images plus razor-sharp shooting responses. Dramatically reduced picture noise now allows super-sensitive shooting at up to ISO12800, allowing attractive results when shooting handheld in challenging situations like candlelit interiors.
Thanks to the powerful BIONZ image processing engine, Quick AF Live View now supports even speedier shooting responses with rapid, precise autofocus. This makes it easier than ever to capture beautifully relaxed portraits, dynamic action shots and more.
Powered by the BIONZ image processing engine, fast-moving action can now be captured effortlessly with faster continuous shooting speeds. Sustained shooting speeds of up to 4 fps can be achieved in Live View Mode, rising to 5 fps with the optical viewfinder. New Speed Priority mode on the DSLR-α550 raises the bar further still, shooting at an incredible 7 fps (with AF and AE setting maintained from the first frame ). It’s a powerful creative tool for capturing the nuances of a portrait subject’s changing expression or dynamic action sequences.
In a DSLR debut, Quick AF Live View now features Face Detection, prioritising AF on people’s faces and fine-tuning exposure/white balance settings for crisp, beautiful portraits with natural skin tones. Another DSLR first by Sony that’s already featured on many Cyber-shotTM models, Smile Shutter detects faces in Live View mode, automatically firing the shutter at just the right moment to capture happy, relaxed smiles.
A special new Manual Focus Check Live View mode assists with fine-tuning your composition. Low-noise images can be previewed directly from the CMOS sensor, allowing critical assessment of focus and fine detail, even in low light. The live image offers 100% field coverage, assisted by framing grid lines for precise composition. There’s also a selectable 7x/14x zoom function for a close-up confirmation of focus.
The α500 offers a crisp, high-contrast 3-inch Clear Photo LCD Plus screen with a tilt range for clear, comfortable composition and reviewing shots.
The α550 features a superb (921k dot) 3-inch Xtra Fine LCD screen for critical focusing and photo-quality viewing with class-leading colour, contrast and detailing. The screen tilts up or down over a 90º upward and 90º downward , allowing uncompromised ‘free-angle’ live view shooting in any position. An ambient light sensor automatically boosts LCD brightness for extra screen clarity when surrounding light levels are high while both cameras also feature a clear, bright optical viewfinder with wide 95% field coverage for framing and focusing as an alternative to live view shooting.
Operation of both cameras is brilliantly simple, thanks to a redesigned on-screen interface that provides easy access to functions and settings during live view operation. A unique Graphic Display gives a clear, intuitive indication of how shutter speed and aperture adjustments will affect the final image.
Creative options are broadened by new Auto HDR mode that captures a huge range of shadow and highlight detail in landscapes, interiors and other scenes. Previously accessible only to enthusiasts equipped with a tripod and image processing software, HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a specialist technique that combines two or more frames shot at different exposure settings. The α500 and α550 use powerful algorithms to combine and optimise two successive frames in only 2 seconds, correcting any misalignment between frames when shooting handheld, which is a Sony unique technology. The result is a single HDR image emulating the huge natural tonal range of human vision – with no PC or tripod needed.
The D-Range Optimiser featured in previous DSLR models has been enhanced for even better results with backlit portraits and other tricky high-contrast scenes. The powerful BIONZ engine now optimises image data in real time even in continuous shooting mode, processing brightness and contrast in individual areas of each exposure for balanced, natural looking results. Optimisation can also be selected manually from 5 processing levels.
A Smart Teleconvertor button instantly boosts image size by 1.4x or 2x to extend your camera’s zoom lens range further for frame-filling close-ups.
Like all DSLR cameras by Sony, both new models feature SteadyShotTM INSIDE, the powerful optical image stabiliser that cuts the effects of camera shake by up to 4 EV steps while shooting handheld with any lens.
After shooting, it’s easy to connect both cameras to your BRAVIATM television via HDMI (requires optional cable) for a stunning big-screen view of your shots. Compatible BRAVIATM models automatically switch to PhotoTV HD mode for optimised still image playback with incredible detail, colour and clarity. BRAVIA Sync lets you control image slideshows in comfort via your TV’s remote.
Both cameras let you capture even more incredible moments without the worry of running out of power. The InfoLITHIUMTM rechargeable battery pack (NP-FM500H) of the α500 allows up to 1000 shots (CIPA test, approx. figure) – the highest capacity of any α series digital SLR camera battery to date. The battery of the α550 delivers up to 950 shots from a single charge.
If you’re hungry for even more shooting stamina, the new VG-B50AM Vertical Control Grip holds up to two NP-FM500H batteries. This premium grip gives A500 users an incredible 2,000 shot maximum capacity (α550: 1,900 shots), with automatic switchover between batteries and accurate display of power remaining in % increments on the camera’s LCD. An additional shutter release and dual controls support comfortable, accurate shooting in either portrait or landscape positions.
Also, with Memory StickTM at the heart of the Sony alpha, you have every advantage. The advanced Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX (4GB, 8GB, 16GB or 32GB) is the perfect tool for continuous shooting mode, with the ideal combination of massive storage capacity and blisteringly fast operation. Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX 32GB will never miss the key shot because the number of pictures taken in 1 min is approx 270* photos (in RAW+JPEG/L (12M).Delivered with USB Adaptor, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX 32GB is ideal for users who want to transfer data in high speed: approx. 1700 pictures in L (12M) size at RAW+JPEG mode in 26 minutes.
The DSLR-α550 and DSLR-α500 digital SLR cameras are available from the end of October 2009.