In an exclusive
interview AP talks to Sony’s deputy president of digital imaging, Toru
Katsumoto and senior marketing manager, Tetsuya Numata, about the company’s
launch of the world’s first full-frame SLT, the Alpha 99

Q. First
question, why has it taken so long?

A. When we
invented the translucent mirror technology we focused on the technology to get
the best performance for digital imaging. To that end we made the Alpha 77
first and then progressed to full frame. It needed a lot of development for the
bigger translucent mirror itself. The dual autofocusing system using the two
phase-detection focus detectors was also one of the key technologies we wanted
to achieve for the Alpha 99 and it took a massive effort to do these things.

Q. Are you
nervous about how a full-frame SLT will fare in the market? Do you think the
higher-end user will adapt to it?

A. We know many
people still love the conventional DSLR with its moving mirror but the SLT has
many advantages such as the continuous autofocus system and the EVF [electronic
viewfinder]. Many people love an OVF [optical viewfinder] especially for
full-frame products but we believe an EVF is better. We’re looking forward to
hearing the editorial reaction to this product.

Q. You decided to
stick with a resolution of 24-million-pixels, is this now enough for users?

A. We think the
balance between the pixel count and the sensitivities, plus the speed of reading
from the image sensor is very important, especially for movies. So, with the
technology we have in 2012, this sensor has the best balance of resolution,
sensitivity and video functionality. If we had gone up to 36 million pixels we
couldn’t do 60p video or produce the same sensitivity levels. When the
technology improves we can increase the pixels.

Q. This camera
[Alpha 99] is obviously pitched against semi-professional models such as the
Canon EOS 5D and Nikon D800, do you think Sony will go to the next stage and go
for a top professional-level camera?

A. It is a
possibility. We work closely with Sony’s professional group and have already
made the FS900 professional video recorders. We have to see what the marketing [department]
requests of us, and what kind of camera is needed as a priority. Many
broadcasting companies and cinema people have been asking for a stills camera
with DSLR styling plus video functionality for professional use.

Q. The Minolta
hotshoe was claimed to be the strongest and best on the market, so why have you
changed for a standard ISO hotshoe?

A. Of course, the
Minolta hotshoe was very attractive with the quick attach and remove functions.
However, people have been requesting standard ISO shoe accessories with the
Alpha and NEX models, and even Cyber-shot cameras. For instance, on the new RX1
we have a standard ISO shoe with additional contacts so we can attach standard
ISO shoe accessories, as well as more advanced Sony accessories. We would like
to sell more, and on the customer side they now have the chance to both types
of accessory.

Q. Is the AF system
quick enough for tracking and is it as fast as the Nikon and Canon pro systems?

A. Together with
the independent phase-detection sensor, we can do quick autofocus. We can also set
the limit of the focus zone [using the AF range], which is very new to this
kind of camera, and very convenient.

Q. The A99 features
dual SD slots, why was the XQD memory card not used?

A. The XQD consumes
a lot of power. It is very quick but, in terms of consumer benefits, we felt
the SD and memory stick were better options as they are less power hungry.

Q. Who do you think
will use the AF range mode? Is it mainly for professionals?

A. Not
particularly. Although it will appeal to professionals, we think everyone can
see its value.

Q. Was there a
reason why Wi-Fi doesn’t feature on the Alpha 99?

A. Wi-Fi will be
good for all cameras, but for us it made more sense to start with the NEX.

Q. Do you think the
RX1 could eventually be redesigned as an interchangeable lens camera?

A. It is a
possibility, I think. For the RX1, though, we wanted to make it as small as
possible, which was why we used a fixed lens.

Q. Do you see the
RX1 as a ‘statement’ product to show what is possible or do you think it will
have high sales?

A. This is not a
mass-market product. We are trying to appeal to people who need high picture
quality, and understand the value in this product with regard to this. In that
respect, we expect to target the professional looking for a second camera or
the high-end amateur customer.

Q. With there be
any lens adapters for the RX1, such as a wideangle or telephoto adapter?

A. Possibly, though
at the moment there are no plans for this. The camera does feature the custom
button, the smart zoom function, and as it has 24-million-pixels so there is
enough resolution to zoom in.