Sony South Africa – Alpha Launch

It was with great anticipation that I face the Jo’burg traffic from home to Midrand for the Sony Alpha media launch at the Castle in Kyalami, and what a great launch it was. The main attraction being the two newest models to the Alpha range, the A350 & A300 with their Quick AF Live View, but before we get their, what is Sony’s plans for the future?

As we have mentioned on this site before, Sony by end 2006 had claimed a very strong third place in the Digital SLR market with their only model being the Alpha A100 during that time. South Africa is no different from the global trend and over the past year Sony locally has held a steady 13% of the SLR market here at home keeping them in that third place spot. Perhaps you may want to ask why?

My personal opinion is formed by my interactions with local retailers and personal observations over the last few months. My conclusion is that price wise – comparative to Europe – Sony’s prices locally seem to be fairly competitive, stock reasonably available and service at least on par with other large companies based in SA. Consider also that many store’s shelves in December were packed with a full range of Nikon bodies (from D40 – D300 / D3) and both Sony’s A100 & A700, while the biggest brand in this market segment seemed to only flood shelves with their entry level offerings. Two other benefits for Sony lie with their No1 brand status locally for Audio / Visual products plus Handycam Video cameras. The second benefit, the Minolta lens mounts and Super Steady Shot internal image stabilizer.

Now with the launch of the two new Alpha’s (A350 & A300) Sony add another benefit to their cameras that will tempt potential SLR buyers – Quick AF Live View.

Sure there’ve been a stack of new digital SLR bodies released lately that offer Live View, but Sony’s late entry into the market with this feature is well worth the wait. The reason, there is Live Auto focus in Live View. Let me try to explain the way they did, but without the power point slides.

The way in which most Live View cameras function is that when the shutter is depressed to activate the function, the mirror locks up in order to clear the way for the sensor to view your scene and feed it back to the LCD screen. During this time it is important to know that you do not have Auto Focus, so when you press the shutter to take the image, the camera must first drop the mirror, focus, then lift the mirror and take the shot. While the camera obtains focus and captures the image, you loose Live View.

Sony’s Quick AF Live View is different because the engineers for the Alpha 350/300 developed the cameras in a way that you have auto focus while using Live View. This means that there is far less of a delay between the pressing of the shutter button and the final taking of the image simply because the camera has maintained auto focus the entire time. In action situations this will become essential. The other benefit is that there is less black out time where your live view is not available to view the scene. All I can tell you is that Quick AF Live View works.

Sony have set themselves a goal to pursue and in time claim the top spot in the digital SLR market, and after working with the range of new Alpha cameras yesterday I wouldn’t be surprised if they make it. Sure it wont happen over night but with the current range of bodies and lenses, plus the upcoming launch later this year of a full frame flagship camera and four new lenses, the potential is their.

Part of Sony’s strategy for growing their position in the SLR market locally will be through branding (look out for strong advertising campaigns), strengthening their distribution channels and developing an Alpha Community. This final goal’s wheels are already in motion if you check out the new Sony Digital SLR Recourse Portal.

In conclusion, the launch was informative and the cameras from a first impression great. Below are a few sample shots mainly from the newer Alpha A200, A300 & A350, as we have already recently reviewed the A700. We look forward to bringing you the reviews of the new models shortly.