Sony Launches Awaited High-end Alpha DSLR Camera

Two years after entering the digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera market, Sony has capped off its Alpha range of cameras with a high-end model that features a full-frame sensor and 24.6-megapixel resolution.

Sony is aiming the camera at serious photographers and it carries a price to match: around US$3,000 for the body alone.

Behind the lens of the Alpha 900 sits the full-frame image sensor that Sony first unveiled earlier this year. A full-frame sensor is the same size as a 35mm film frame and is about double the size of the sensors used in most other digital cameras with interchangeable lenses. The sensor was developed by Sony and is a proprietary unit that integrates 6,000 analog-to-digital convertors.

Sony said the inclusion of the convertors in the sensor means analog signals are converted to digital at an earlier stage so noise is reduced. It's also faster than feeding the entire frame into a single convertor, the company said.

The sensor works hand-in-hand with two of the company's Bionz image processing chips to capture and deliver images. The processing speed of the system means continuous shooting at full resolution is possible at up to 5 frames per second.

To match the new sensor full-frame lenses are required for full resolution. Optics specifically designed for use with earlier Alpha digital cameras with the smaller sensors can be used on the Alpha 900 but the resolution of the images will be lower.

Other features include an in-camera anti-shake system and the ability to evaluate different camera settings without taking multiple shots. By pressing the depth-of-field button the camera grabs a preview image. Using the 3-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) it's possible to try different white balance settings and adjust the dynamic range and exposure compensation before taking an actual shot.

The camera has a built-in HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) connector so it can be connected to a TV for photo viewing and records to MemoryStick or Compact Flash cards. It measures 156 millimeters by 117mm by 82mm and weighs 850 grams.

The Alpha 900 will be available later this year. In Europe it will launch in October and in the U.S. in November.

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