After expressing my concern about the future of the Minolta photographic system (with Konica-Minolta recently leaving the photo market, orphaning KM digital single lens refelx cameras like the Maxxum 7D), it was opportune to come back on this while Sony just presented its first Digital SLR (DSLR), the Sony Alpha A100.
I sincerily believe that the arrival of the new camera is very good news for Minolta fans (as I have been for years). Sony just demonstrated its will to enter this market with all needed power and courage. Even if the Japanese manufacturer certainly has lost most of the brio it had in the Akio Morita years (time when Sony shattered preconceptions with the Walkman whose brand quickly became a household common name), the Sony Alpha A100 has taken critical strategical steps to serve the prosumer photo market.
Instead of starting with an easy-to-design product which would be a replacement for the previous Dynax/Maxxum 5D and Dynax/Maxxum 7D, Sony chose to start at a logical price point (just below $1000) but with very distinguishing features that may appear as terrible competition:
- A 10 M-pixel sensor (straight to the high-end)
- In-body image stabilization associatd to sensor cleaning by shaking the sensor (a nice differenciation feature)
If you add to it a notable effort to launch a whole set of optical lenses (about twenty of them, including new Zeiss-designed primes ; flashes), you start to see a broad picture of Sony decided to reach the head of the pack of high-end photo camera manufacturers.
This is an attractive market where financial margins are still enough to feed an innovative company. But it is also a market where Canon and Nikon will not let anybody else approach the meal that is served for them. Sony just decided that they wanted to be #1 in the Digital Single Lens Reflex camera market.
We can wish them luck, indeed. It won’t be easy. But nobody can say that this is a half-baked attempt. For us, observers of Sony or Minolta users, it means that Sony’s will is real and it is no longer necessary to worry about the future of the Minolta system. In the past, Lords, Earls, Baronets have been known to give their title to a worthy commoner in order to ensure the continuity of a lineage. Minolta probably found a worthy heir.