Ask A-mount Sony users how they feel about the upgrade path for their dream cameras and you’re likely to suffer the burns of acid rain.
I, myself, have been complaining a lot about the shortcomings of my photon-converter of choice : the A7r. Mind-bogglingly slow wake up times, a shutter loud enough to send a sleeping cat into cardiac arrest, a button layout that seems inspired by the cheeks of a teenager on a pure sugar diet, the list goes on. Not to mention the shaky reliability of my previous NEX cameras and utterly abysmal customer service at the time !
It does appears that Sony, in their massive charge to conquer the global sensor market have left one key stakeholder dehind: the customer.
While clawing their way out of financial hardship, Sony have led what could be compared to a huge military charge on one fortress: the sensor market.
All companies attempt to leverage their assets to the max to turn work into cash. Sony’s asset is sensor technology.
Over a few short years, they have transformed from a walkman manufacturer to a camera maker that many, myself included, far prefer over household names such as Nikon, Canon or Leica. In spite of the frustrations vented above, my A7r consistently delivers the best photos I have ever seen (after owning a Linhof 4×5 super Technika, a Mamiya 7, a Nikon D800e and other landmark cameras).
Let’s not forget that, during that same period, other have been busy rubbing the veneer off their overpriced mid-20th-century offerings to use the brass underneaths as a sales pitch, continued to impose their outmouded incremental numbering system to cover up a permanent status-quo (800-810, 7000-7100-7200, who the heck cares anymore?) or glued together two 2010-tech APS sensors into a 50Mpx flotation buoy.
Sony’s credentials as a serious camera manufacturer aren’t looking so bad now, are they ?
But the real charge ahead has been hidden, played in the C-suites, and resulted in Sony providing sensors to almost all of the major players (Nikon, Olympus, Fuji, Sony themselves …) And it has been fueled by raw innovation. The kind of innovation that has been able to offer unparalleled dynamic range and noise management in the tiny pixels required by a 36Mpix masterpiece, made us dream about curved sensors, layered sensors, shifting sensors, and promises years of goodies to look forward to.
According to more tech-savvy co-author Philippe, Samsung are also up there in terms of quality, though nowhere near in terms of volume (hence price). Sony’s charge has been uncompromising and successful.
And if taking care of imperfections got in the way of achieving the desired results, Sony probably rightly prioritized image quality and innovative thinking.
And I thank them for it.
Here’s the thing, though. When do you declare that good is good enough as start taking into account the little details you have left behind and that are adding up into a large ergonomic debt?
Where do you draw the line? There’s no doubt in my mind that Sony will be soon be able to offer cameras that will outshine the A7r in all aspects of image quality. Somehow this doesn’t tick my box, though.
If, tomorrow, Sony were to offer the following 2 cameras:
which would you choose?
I’d probably opt for the first but Philippe has no second thoughts about buying the latter.
All this is hypothetical, and the next high-end Sony body will be none of these two options but some mix of the two. But have we reached a point where IQ is so good that we should seek improvement at the expense of innovation?
Judging by success of 16Mpix cameras from various manufacturers, I’d be tempted to answer positively. Megapixel count is no longer a strong enough incentive to lure the crowds. And the fact that forward-thinking Canon have just counter attacked with a 50Mpix from the 80s probably confirms this 😉
Whatever Sony reveals in the coming months, I’m pretty sure it will feature a subtle blend of high res, innovative thinking and lackadaisical ergonomics that will both enthrall and exasperate me. But I will be the first to order it, and not only to inject fresh blood into my aging system.
However we feel about some aspects of Sony’s production, they are pushing the boudaries while others cover up aging tech with brass polish and pink leather. And, in a world where democracy is threatened by extremism and deliberate dumbing down of the masses, voting with our money has become an important social act. I will vote for Sony, in spite of the irrate or desperate moments of the past. I will vote for innovation.
However, can’t we all think of another vast corporate that has been driving innovation – and is now treading on Sony’s ground – that has not let user experience and design play second fiddle to pefromance ? AAPL ring a bell ?
So, Sony, please continue to surprise us. But why not hire the new Jonathan Ive and suprise yourself as well ? Win win ?