Sony Alpha

Sony Alpha
The Sony A-mount on a Tamron SP 17-50mm F2.8.
The Sony A-mount on an α33 camera.

Sony Alpha, also rendered Sony α (Greek letter alpha), is a digital SLR camera system introduced on 5 June 2006.[1] It utilizes and expands upon Konica Minolta camera technologies, including the Minolta AF SLR lens mount, whose assets were acquired by Sony after the end of Minolta's camera operations in early 2006. Sony also has an 11.08% ownership stake in Japanese lens manufacturer Tamron,[2] which is known to have partnered with Konica Minolta and Sony in the design and manufacture of many zoom lenses.

Prior to the acquisition by Sony, the α branding had already been used on the Japanese market by Minolta for their AF camera system (marketed as "Dynax" in Europe, and "Maxxum" in North America.) Sony adopted the name "A-mount system" for the Minolta AF lens mount which has been retained in their new SLR range.[3]

Sony's entry into the DSLR market dates back to July 2005 where a joint venture with Konica Minolta would have resulted in both companies marketing an updated line of DSLRs to the masses. [4] Between 2006 and 2008 Sony was the fastest growing company on the DSLR market, reaching 13% market share in 2008 to become the third largest DSLR company in the world.[5] In August 2011, Sony confirmed that it is working on the production of full-frame Alpha cameras. [6] In May 2010, Sony introduced two Alpha NEX mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras equipped with proprietary Sony E-mount.[7]


List of camera bodies

Sony Alpha 900 with Carl Zeiss 135mm f/1.8, currently the most high-end DSLR in the α system
Sony Alpha 55 with Sony 1680Z (Carl Zeiss)

The Sony Alpha model system works on the principle that the next model up in the series has additional features to the one below e.g. the α330 has the features of the base model α230 but with a tilt-angle LCD and Quick AF Live View; whilst the α380 has the settings and features of the α330 but bumps the resolution to 14.2 Megapixels.

All Sony APS-C DSLRs have Live View, except for the Sony α100, α200 and α700 series. Live View mode features a 1.4x or 2x Smart Teleconverter which digitally zooms in on the subject and reproduces pixels on a 1:1 basis, preventing degradation of picture quality.[8]

The designation 'SLT' stands for Single Lens Translucent (uses fixed translucent mirrors instead of standard glass mirror). Sony SLT can shoot movie files at Full HD 1080p AVCHD with continuous phase detection auto focus.[9]

Along with the α33 and α55 cameras, Sony also announced the Sony α560 which can also shoot movie files at full HD stereo 1080p AVCHD, but with limited manual controls and no continuous AF.[10]

Sony α33, α55 and α560 use the same technology Sony EXMOR APS HD CMOS sensor. The α33 and α55 are SLT based (fixed translucent mirrors) and can take movie files with continuous Auto Focus, whereas DSLRs using reflex mirrors typically cannot, at least not without limitations.[11][12]

Body Model No. Mount Sensor User Level Release date Availability
Full frame DSLR
α900 DSLR-A900 A-mount CMOS Professional September 2008 Discontinued
α850 DSLR-A850 A-mount CMOS Professional September 2009 Discontinued
α100 DSLR-A100, DSLR-A100/S (silver colored body) A-mount CCD Midrange July 2006 Discontinued
α700 DSLR-A700 (only US-model with grip-sensor) A-mount CMOS Semi-pro September 2007 Discontinued
α200 DSLR-A200 A-mount CCD Entry level January 2008 Discontinued
α300 DSLR-A300, DSLR-A300K/N (champagne gold colored set) A-mount CCD Entry level January 2008 Discontinued
α350 DSLR-A350, DSLR-A350K/N (champagne gold colored set) A-mount CCD Entry level January 2008 Discontinued
α230 DSLR-A230 A-mount CCD Entry level May 2009 Discontinued
α330 DSLR-A330, DSLR-A330L/T (copper brown colored set) A-mount CCD Entry level May 2009 Discontinued
α380 DSLR-A380 A-mount CCD Entry level May 2009 Discontinued
α450 DSLR-A450 A-mount CMOS Midrange February 2010 Discontinued
α500 DSLR-A500 A-mount CMOS Midrange October 2009 Discontinued
α550 DSLR-A550 A-mount CMOS Midrange October 2009 Discontinued
α290 DSLR-A290 A-mount CCD Entry level June 2010 Discontinued
α390 DSLR-A390 A-mount CCD Entry level June 2010 Discontinued
α560 DSLR-A560 A-mount CMOS Midrange August 2010 Current
α580 DSLR-A580 A-mount CMOS Midrange August 2010 Current
α33 SLT-A33 A-mount CMOS Entry level August 2010 Discontinued
α55 SLT-A55V (with GPS), SLT-A55 (without GPS) A-mount CMOS Entry level August 2010 Current
α35 SLT-A35 A-mount CMOS Entry level August 2011 Current[13]
α65 SLT-A65V (with GPS), SLT-A65 (without GPS) A-mount CMOS Midrange October 2011 Current[14][15]
α77 SLT-A77V (with GPS), SLT-A77 (without GPS) A-mount CMOS Semi-pro October 2011 Current[14][15]
APS-C interchangeable lens compact digital camera
NEX-3 NEX-3 (with Eye-Fi), NEX-3C (without Eye-Fi) E-mount CMOS Entry level May 2010 Discontinued
NEX-5 NEX-5 (with Eye-Fi), NEX-5C (without Eye-Fi) E-mount CMOS Entry level May 2010 Discontinued
NEX-C3 NEX-C3 E-mount CMOS Entry level June 2011 Current
NEX-5N NEX-5N E-mount CMOS Entry level August 2011 Current
NEX-7 NEX-7 E-mount CMOS Midrange August 2011 Announced

Lenses and Tele-converters

The α lens mount, originally known as the A-type bayonet mount was introduced by Minolta in 1985 as the world's first autofocus system. As a result, virtually all Minolta AF lenses are supported on Sony DSLRs, and many Sony lenses work on Minolta's film and digital SLRs.

During the initial introduction of the α system in 2006, Sony announced 19 lenses and 2 tele-converters, of which the majority are rebranded Konica Minolta lenses. MSRP and month of introduction are included for these lenses, below.

At the 2007 PMA Trade Show, Sony unveiled several new lenses, but has referred to them only in qualitative terms, not providing specific specifications. As a result, these newly announced lenses are not included in this list.

On 18 May 2009 Sony introduced the first A-mount lenses to feature their new SAM (Smooth Auto-focus Motor) in-lens auto-focus motor for more lens-specific AF Speed improvements and silent operation. This introduction was made with the new X+30 series camera bodies (α350 + 30 = α380). These new bodies retain an in-body focus motor for backward compatibility with the historic lens collection. In addition, the new bodies utilize HDMI output for display on HDTV sets and feature dual memory card slots for both Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Pro Duo chips as well as SDHC media format, while eliminating CompactFlash support.[16]


DT "Digital Technology", lenses for APS-C size sensors.
G "Gold" Series, Sony's line-up of professional grade telephoto lenses.
ZA "Zeiss Alpha", manufactured and designed lenses by Carl Zeiss specifically made for Sony Alpha cameras.
SSM "SuperSonic Motor", performance oriented in-lens ultrasonic motor used on some Carl Zeiss and G series lenses.
SAM "Smooth Autofocus Motor", a cheaper alternative to the SuperSonic Motor offered on some entry level lenses since 2009.

Rebranded Konica Minolta Lenses

Lens RRP Release Date
Zoom Lenses
DT 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 US$650 Aug 06
DT 18-70mm f//3.5-5.6 US$200 Jul 06
DT 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 US$500 Jul 06
24-105mm f/3.5-4.5 US$470 Nov 06
70-200mm f/2.8 G SSM US$1999 Aug 06
75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 US$230 Jul 06
Prime Lenses
16mm f/2.8 Fisheye US$1000 Oct 06
20mm f/2.8 US$680 Oct 06
28mm f/2.8 US$250 Oct 06
35mm f/1.4 G US$1400 Oct 06
50mm f/1.4 US$350 Jul 06
50mm f/2.8 Macro US$480 Jul 06
100mm f/2.8 Macro US$680 Jul 06
135mm f/2.8 Smooth Transition Focus (STF) US$1200 Oct 06
300mm f/2.8 G SSM US$6000 Sep 06
500mm f/8 Reflex US$700 Oct 06

Rebranded Tele-converters

Model RRP Release Date
1.4× Tele-converter US$600 Sep 06
2× Tele-converter US$650 Sep 06

Carl Zeiss lenses

Lens RRP Release Date
Zoom Lenses
Vario-Sonnar T* DT 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 ZA US$750 Apr 07
Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm SSM f/2.8 ZA US$1600 Feb 08
Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35mm SSM f/2.8 ZA US$1900 Feb 09
Prime Lenses
Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZA US$1370 Oct 06
Sonnar T* 135mm f/1.8 ZA US$1480 Oct 06
Distagon T* 24mm f/2 ZA US$1250 July 10

Rebranded Tamron Lenses

Lens RRP Release Date
Zoom Lenses
DT 18-250 f/3.5-6.3 US$580
DT 55-200mm f/4-5.6 US$180 Released with SAM Mar 2009
28-75mm f/2.8 SAM US$800 Sep 2009
11-18mm f/4.5-5.6
18-200mm f/3.5-6.3

Sony-designed Lenses

Lens RRP Release Date
Zoom Lenses
DT 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6 US$500
70-300 f/4.5-5.6 G SSM US$800 Apr 2008
70-400 f/4-5.6 G SSM US$1600 Feb 2009
DT 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM US$200 Mar 2009
Prime Lenses
DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM US$125 Mar 2009
DT 30mm f/2.8 Macro SAM US$175 Mar 2009
DT 35mm f/1.8 SAM US$200 Jul 2010
85mm f/2.8 SAM US$250 Jul 2010

Other accessories

Flash system

iISO flash shoe used on Alpha DSLR

The hot shoe on Sony DSLRs (carried over from Minolta's Maxxum/Dynax/Alpha and its bridge digital DiMAGE A1/A2/A200 series) is not of the standard design used by most other camera and accessory manufacturers. Adaptors, however, are available.

The first two flash models released by Sony (HVL-F36AM and HVL-F56AM) are, like the first generation of lenses, rebadged models of the Minolta Program Flash 3600HS(D) and the Minolta Program Flash 5600HS(D). Later on Sony expanded its flash system further, allowing advanced wireless flash control, including grouping of external flashes into groups with full ratio control.[17]

The HVL-RLAM is a ring-shaped LED continuous light, adapted for macro photos of static objects. The Sony flash system does not include a ring flash.

Model Guide number [m] ISO
HVL-F20AM 20 100
HVL-F36AM 36 100
HVL-F42AM 42 100
HVL-F43AM 43 100
HVL-F56AM 56 100
HVL-F58AM 58 100
HVL-MT24AM Twin macro flash

Vertical control grips

Grip VG-C70AM for Sony α700

Vertical control grips were released to numerous Alpha DSLRs, though with exception of most recent entry-level DSLRs: α230, α330, α380, α290 and α390. The new α65 will also get no vertical grip. All the vertical grips are sold separately.

Model Bodies
VG-B30AM α200, α300, α350
VG-B50AM α450, α500, α550, α560, α580
VG-C70AM α700
VG-C77AM α77
VG-C90AM α850, α900


  1. ^ "Sony enters the D-SLR camera market with innovative technologies to expand the creative possibilities" (Press release). Sony. 2006-06-05. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  2. ^ "Stock Information" (Press release). Tamron Co., Ltd.. 2006-08-04. Retrieved 2006-08-11. 
  3. ^ "Sony decides α as new brand for digital Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras" (Press release). Sony. 2006-04-20. Retrieved 2006-09-29. 
  4. ^ "Konica Minolta and Sony agree to jointly develop digital SLR cameras" (Press release). Konica Minolta Holdings, Inc.. 2005-07-19. Retrieved 2007-06-10. "Konica Minolta Photo Imaging, Inc. and Sony Corporation have reached an agreement to jointly develop digital Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras." 
  5. ^ "dSLR Worldwide Market Share, 2006-2008". Retrieved 24 March 2010. 
  6. ^ Olivier Laurent, British Journal of Photography. "Sony still planning full-frame camera." 25 August 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  7. ^ "Sony introduces world's smallest and lightest interchangeable lens digital cameras" (Press release). Sony. 2005-05-10. 
  8. ^ Smart Teleconverter
  9. ^ Sony SLT-A55 Review:
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ DP Review: A35
  14. ^ a b Imaging-resource: Sony Alpha SLT-A77
  15. ^ a b DP Review: Sony SLT-A77 Hands-on Preview
  16. ^ "Sony reveals new A380/330/230 camera bodies with lenses with 'SAM' AF technology" (Press release). 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  17. ^ "New Sony α (Alpha) flagship flash unit expands creative possibilities with quick shift bounce" (Press release). Sony. 2008-06-19. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 

External links



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