Presented as a camera for demanding amateur photographers, the Sony α68 A-mount camera is the first in the world to have the highest number of AF points: 79. But Sony follows Canon on one thing: no 4K for the masses.
Full HD video is what the newest camera from Sony has to offer. No 4K for the A-mount new model, the α68 that seems as a late reply to all those that pointed a finger at Sony, stating they were dropping their heritage from Minolta days, and in doing so condemning many adopters of the system to a limbo. The A-mount is back, but don’t ask Santa for one, because it won’t be available before March 2016.
The A-mount lens bayonet was introduced by Minolta in 1985 for their AF SLR cameras, which used the names Maxxum, Dynax and Alpha in different regions of the world. When Sony bought Minolta, they adopted the Alpha name, used in Japan, for the system they inherited from Minolta. In recent years, with Sony creating different mounts, the production of A-mount models has been forgotten and some accused Sony of preparing to drop it altogether.
The Sony α68 suggests they were wrong, but it will be interesting to see if this camera will attract many, even if it offers some world’s firsts. The initial comments online all point out for the lack of 4K, and the fact that even at Full HD the camera cannot do 60p, what some would expect to be the least from a Sony camera. In fact, the video section of the Sony α68 is humble by today’s standards. Even Canon, that does not seem to care much about offering 4K in their DSLRs and smaller cameras, offers Full HD at 60p in some models these days, so Sony is, in that respect, a step behind when it comes to the α68. It’s a strange choice, considering what people usually expect from Sony. But the truth is that another recent camera from Sony did not show 4K, and it is also being blamed for that: the Sony RX1R II.
In terms of specifications, the α68 offers 4D FOCUS, apparently similar to the one present on the α77 II, associated with a 24MP APS-C Exmor CMOS image sensor able to deliver from 100 to 25600 ISO in terms of sensitivity. The camera borrows many pro-style features from the α77 II, but goes one step further when it comes to AF, using a phase detection system with no less than 79 autofocus detection points including 15 cross points, plus a dedicated F2.8 AF sensor point for dimly-lit scenes, even in lighting as low as EV-2 where other cameras struggle.
The AF system is also supported by a wide area AF with predictive tracking that locks faithfully onto fast-moving subjects. And thanks to Sony’s unique Translucent Mirror Technology, the α68 delivers constant AF tracking at up to 8fps continuous shooting. Framing stills and movies is easy, states Sony, through the clear, bright OLED Tru-Finder. 100% frame coverage ensures you see exactly what you’re shooting, with high contrast and faithful colour reproduction helping you focus manually with absolute confidence.
Complementing the Tru-Finder, the 2.7-type LCD monitor tilts up to 135 degrees upwards or 55 degrees downwards for comfortable composition from a wide variety of shooting angles. Serious photo enthusiasts will also value the backlit top display that allows quick confirmation of camera settings, whether you’re shooting handheld or on a tripod.
Full HD movies use the efficient XAVC S format for high bit rate recordings at up to 50 Mbps bit rate (30p, 24p) with outstanding detail and low noise. And thanks to Sony’s unique Translucent Mirror Technology, you can enjoy non-stop continuous autofocus that effortlessly tracks moving subjects for crisp, professional looking footage, whichever format you choose to record in.
The Alpha 68 also offers a control wheel on the camera’s rear, similar to the one present on the α7 series, that allows quick fingertip adjustment of camera settings. In addition, 10 customisable buttons can be assigned for instant access to frequently-used functions. There is a front control dial for quick adjustments of settings and a sturdy grip to ensure that you are balanced, even when using heavyweight prime or telephoto lenses.
SteadyShot inside reduces the effects of camera shake for blur-free handheld shooting – at all focal lengths and with any compatible lens. The inclusion of a Multi Interface Shoe and Multi Terminal lets you expand creative options further with a wide range of optional accessories, including flashes, lights, microphones and remote commanders.
The new α68 A-mount interchangeable lens camera from Sony will be available in Europe from March 2016 for approximately €600 body only or €700 with DT18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SAM II lens.
For some this is too little too late, as multiple comments online indicate. Announcing a camera almost five months before its launch is, some suggest, an indication that Sony is not really looking at the APS-C and A-mount markets and simply made this presentation to keep people interested and talking about SLT cameras. It will be interesting to see how this story evolves and if the SLT system created by Sony – yes, this is not a SLR, but a Single-Lens Translucent, as Sony calls it – and the Minolta A-mount it uses will survive. If not, then the Minolta legacy will completely vanish from the world of photography.