Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Editorial: End Of Production Of The A700 And Sony's Future Plans

Hello fellow Alphanautics:

I'll be opening a new segment on this blog called Editorial, on which I express my point of view about certain topics relating to Sony and Alpha DSLRs.

As the beginning of this segment, Ill be talking about a certain issue that's been causing a lot of stir in the Alpha mount world: The end of the A700's production.

Reported by a Japanese website, Sony has officially announced the end of production for the A700. Source here , I tried to translate it using Google Translator but it keeps stalling on me.

For a while now, there has been a lot of speculation about whether Sony was or wasn't producing any more A700 bodies and if he A700 had finally reached the end of its product life.
Well, that is confirmed now, it has.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are interpreting this as the end of the world, that Sony wont be making more cameras, that Sony will be pulling out of the DSLR market leaving all of us abandoned, that Sony is now pushing for people that want to upgrade to buy an A900, that Sony's range is now polarized, ad infinitum.

Let's look at some facts:

Fact #1: All electronic devices are inevitably replaced.

This is as obvious as the fact water is transparent. Digital cameras are based on electronic technology. That technology evolves every single day and finds its way to products on a yearly basis or sometimes even sooner.

Electronic manufacturers (computers, TVs, cameras, circuits, mp3 players, cell phones, etc.) and banks have made people to be used to the fact of replacing an electronic device every year. So now, if you have the latest model of a product, you're hip and cool, but that model will be replaced within months.

Every single product has a estimated life: how much time the product will be current before the manufacturer comes up with a new model that its an improvement over the current one.

Cameras are no exception to this, just how many P&S pocket cameras have been released just this year to replace last year's line-up? Same applies to DSLRs, eventually they will be replaced by a model that has upgrades while keeping the same structure or its a complete overhaul.

From the moment the A700 was on stores for the first time, its time started running, and now it reached its end.

Fact #2: The A700 has been current for almost two years.

You read that right. The A700 was released back in September of 2007. As of now, its been current for a year and 10 months.

2 years is a lot of time for an electronic device. So the fact that the A700 lasted this long means two things: a) It's a great camera that only got better with the firmware upgrades released during its lifetime and b) it bought time to Sony in order for it to focus on the A900 and the entry level models.

Now, a lot of people, have been complaining that the camera is outdated. Maybe, but then again, Nikon's D300 is exactly the same age as the A700, that means the all-glorified and all-powerful Nikon is junk too now?

Which brings me to a more disturbing issue; Alpha mount users have been complaining for a LONG while of to how out-dated the Alphas are; lack of Live View, video, swiveling LCDs, blah blah blah.

There has been persistent rumours that Sony will release the A500/550, that the A700's replacement will be Full Frame, that they will all record video and what not. But nevertheless, they are rumours and not confirmed facts.

In the DPReview Sony SLR forum there has been an insane amount of people complaining, moaning, growling, crying and so forth that the current DSLR's offered by Sony are outdated and that there is no light in the horizon as to what will come next.

In my own personal opinion, people who think that they need features like Live View, video, screens that detach from the body and float on the air at the angle you place them in order to take pictures, are people who aren't photographers, but rather snapshooters with a serious lust for features.

Sure, they may, read that, MAY help you take pictures, but that doesn't mean that your pictures will look any better than without them. Just as having expensive lenses doesn't guarantee that your picture will strike people's minds, Live View doesn't make a better photographer, neither does video.

Nikon and Canon have been pushing video in their DSLRs because they needed something hip and cool for P&S shooters to convince themselves that they need a DSLR with video so they will feel right at home. Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax have followed this trend and Sony so far has refused.

What the companies don't tell you is that the video they offer is either limited to 5 minutes per clip, or you got to record on monaural sound, not to mention weird digital artifacts on the video. Sure, some cameras are designed for video like Panasonic's GH1, but you got to record at AVCHD, a format not widely accepted so far.

If Sony hasn't released a body with video capabilities is because they either want to develop the technology so it will be useful and better than the current offers or they aren't just interested in it.

We come back to the point where people right now are complaining about lack of information from Sony.

For some weird reason, Sony users think that they are entitled to receive a newsletter where Sony states the future plans for the DSLR line up. That's just not going to happen unless you work at the DSLR division or you're in management in Sony or you're a major stockholder...

The fact that Nikon has suffered the leaks of the D3, D700, D3x and the D5000 doesn't mean that is a cool thing. The fact that other manufacturers could know what Nikon was planning, helped them to plan accordingly, hindering Nikon's plans.

None of us know what is coming from Sony in the near future, and if you actually do, you surely are under a non-disclosure agreement that if violated, allows Sony to sue your rear for all you got and more. Complaining about the fact that Sony isn't releasing its plans its just as stupid as expecting the CIA to disclose in the newspapers their plans for covert operations.

There is also the issue of ludicrous speculation as to what will the A500/550 will be: a cut down version of the A700, an upgrade from the A200/300/350 with video, another model for beginners, etc.

Just what exactly do people get out of speculating? Besides wasting time on issues that they got NO control in? Is Sony giving out A900's to the people who actually nail their plans or future camera specs and I don't know about it?

Let's make some sense here; Sony can't afford to have a line-up where there are just entry level models and on the other side there is the top of the line model. That's quitting to a very juicy portion of the market, the bunch of us who know enough of photography to handle an A700 but cant afford or don't need/want an A900. Sony can't leave a gap in there, and it will fill it up eventually.

So yeah, maybe right now the line-up is polarized, but that doesn't mean it will stay that way. Besides, the A700 is still available in the US and the rest of the world. Furthermore, the A700 will always be available! You can STILL find A100's in Amazon!

A lot of people have been threatening to sell their Alpha gear and lenses and go to Nikon or Canon unless Sony publicly states their plans for the next 2 years. I'm sorry people, but that just wont happen. If you cant wait a few months to see what Sony does, then you're entitled to do whatever suits you best, but don't expect that kind of rants and tantrums will make Sony yield.

For some reason, people think that now that the A700 is no longer being produced, that the camera will stop working or that once the new model is introduced, the camera's sensor will melt or the mount will morph in another mount and wont take your lenses anymore. Or just plainly that because its a 2 year old camera and wont have some features that the new one will have, that the pictures out of it will suck for some reason.

For those of you worrying about it, there will be plenty of spare parts for at least 7 years! That's a lifetime for a camera, and I'm sure that in that time Sony will have released more bodies.

Assuming that the A700's replacement is packed with new features and all, THAT WON'T MAKE THE PICTURES OUT OF YOUR CAMERA LOOK BAD. Your camera will KEEP working as long as its parts allow it and you got 7 years to repair it or overhaul it.

Thinking that you need the latest camera is ridiculous.

Thinking that Sony must announce its plans for people not to switch to other brand is ridiculous.

Thinking that you can't make good pictures with a 2 year old camera is ridiculous.

There have been a lot of historical photographs taken waaaaaaaaaaaaay before DSLRs, they were taken with much less featured cameras, with noisy-as-hell film, YET THEY ARE ICONS IN HISTORY.

People are worrying too much about stuff they can't control instead of taking pictures NOW or developing their skills or technique NOW.

The end of the A700's product life is inevitable, a replacement will arrive when the time is right for Sony, there will be spare parts for the A700 for almost a decade, but more importantly, if you got a camera, THE IMPORTANT THING IS TAKE PICTURES NOW AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE CLOUDY FUTURE.

Only a snapshooter worries about not having the latest camera, the latest features, the latest trends. A snapshooter is that guy who thinks that needs expensive cameras and lenses to make great pictures. A snapshooter is just a boring amateur who's pictures are just as interesting to look at as looking how the grass grows.

A real photographer worries about what it can do with its current camera, what else it can shoot, how to improve its techniques, worries about learning new stuff and how to push itself and its camera to the limit. A real photographer is the one who creates images worth looking at and that make you say: Wow!

A real photographer upgrades bodies when it really needs functions in the newer model that will help his process, not just because it has video or two more megapixels in the total resolution.

The world wont end, Sony will keep making cameras, replacement models will come out eventually and they will be replaced further in time eventually.

In the meantime, your only concern should be how to improve as a photographer or what else will you shoot. Leave technological banalities to boring snapshooters and Sony's competition.

Until next time.

P.S. For those of you complaining about the lack of Live View in the Alphas, the A300/330/350/380 offer the FASTEST Live View there is so far in the market. Sony found a smart way to have it without affecting focusing speed, which other cameras from other makers suffer from, the Live View is just too slow or its just meant for static subjects.

Body build of those models is not an acceptable complaint, they may have plastic bodies, but they are solidly built. Of course, if you plan to actually throw them to the floor frequently or let your kid play ball with it, it may not endure it...


  1. Well said just up grade from the A200 to the A700 Sept4 2009 its right for me cause i don't like live view don't like video on a Camera. I own a Sony Handy Cam for Full Video. my ideal of a good DSLR Camera is to take Great Photos that it..

  2. Congratulations on your new A700. Im sure you will appreciate all it has to offer coming from the A200 already.

    I share your view about not needing video or LiveView in a DSLR but some people seem that cant take pictures without those two things. But you dont eat soup with forks, do you?

    Enjoy your new camera and thanks for leaving your comment! :)