Sony unveils its first video-capable dSLR

The A560 replaces the A500 and the A550, a welcome consolidation in Sony's dSLR product line. The new model adds video-capture capability, a first for a Sony dSLR. It's joined by three new prime lenses.

Sony Electronics

I feel a bit sorry for the Sony Alpha DSLR-A560. It's not its fault Sony chose to announce an innovative new camera technology at the same time it unveiled this update to the midrange dSLR line. Because if the A560 had gotten an announcement all its own, there would probably be a bit more excitement around it--Sony's first dSLR with video capture capability. True, Sony is last to the game, in that respect, but it certainly doesn't look any worse than the competition despite its tardiness.

In a welcome move, Sony has consolidated its sub-$1,000 dSLR line, folding the A500 and A550 into the single A560. Not only does the A560 add AVCHD video capture, it also gets the new 15-point autofocus system and 1200-zone metering, plus the same sensor that's in the NEX models. Here's where it fits in the lineup:

 Sony Alpha DSLR-A290Sony Alpha DSLR-A390 Sony Alpha DSLR-A560 Sony Alpha SLT-A33 Sony Alpha SLT-A55
Sensor (effective resolution)14.2-megapixel CCD14.2-megapixel CCD14.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS14.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS16.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS
23.6 mm x 15.7mm23.6 x 15.7mm23.5 mm x 15.6mm23.5 mm x 15.6mm23.5 mm x 15.6mm
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 3200ISO 100 - ISO 3200ISO 100 - ISO 1600/ 12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 1600/ 12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 1600/ 12,800 (expanded)
Continuous shooting2.5 fps
n/a
2.5fps
n/a
3 fps (7fps without AF)
7 raw/27 JPEG
6 fps (7fps with aperture locked wide open)
20 raw/35 JPEG
6 fps (10fps with aperture locked wide open)
20 raw/35 JPEG
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
Optical
95% coverage
0.83x/0.55x
Optical
95% coverage
0.74x/0.49x
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
Electronic
0.46 inches/1.2 megapixels
100% coverage
1.1x/0.73x
Electronic
0.46 inches/1.2 megapixels
100% coverage
1.1x/0.73x
Autofocus9-pt AF
center cross-type
9-pt AF
center cross-type
15-pt AF
3 cross-type
15-pt AF
3 cross-type
15-pt AF
3 cross-type
Shutter speed1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/100 x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/100 x-sync
Metering40 segment40 segment1200 zone1200 zone1200 zone
Live ViewNoYesYesYesYes
VideoNoNoAVCHD 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080/30p @ 12MbpsAVCHD 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080/30p @ 12MbpsAVCHD 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080/30p @ 12Mbps
LCD size2.7 inches fixed
230,400 dots
2.7 inches tiltable
230,400 dots
3 inches tiltable
921,600 dots
3 inches articulated
921,600 dots
3 inches articulated
921,600 dots
Wireless flashYesYesNoNoNo
Battery life (CIPA rating)500 shots510 shots1050 shots330 shots330 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)5.1 x 3.9 x 3.35.1 x 3.9 x 3.45.4 x 4.1 x 3.34.9 x 3.6 x 3.34.9 x 3.6 x 3.3
Body operating weight (ounces)17.9 (est)19.4 (est)21.1 (est)17.4 (est)17.4 (est)
Mfr. Pricen/an/a$649.99 (body only)$649.99 (body only)$749.99 (body only)
$499.99 (with 18-55mm lens)$549.99 (with 18-55mm lens)$749.99 (with 18-55mm lens)$749.99 (with 18-55mm lens)$849.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/an/an/an/an/a
Ship dateJuly 2010July 2010October 2010August 2010September 2010

And here's how it stacks up to some of the competition:

 Canon EOS T1iNikon D5000Pentax K-x Sony Alpha DSLR-A560
Sensor (effective resolution)15.1-megapixel CMOS12.3-megapixel CMOS12.4-megapixel CMOS14.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS
22.3 mm x 14.9mm23.6 x 15.8mm23.6 mm x 14.8mm23.5 mm x 15.6mm
Color depth14 bit12 bit12 bitn/a
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 3200/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded)ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 1600/ 12,800 (expanded)
Focal-length multiplier1.6x1.5x1.5x1.5x
Continuous shooting3.4 fps
9 raw/170 JPEG
4 fps
7 raw/25 JPEG (medium/fine)
4.7 fps
5 raw/17 JPEG
3 fps (7fps without AF)
7 raw/27 JPEG
Viewfinder
magnification/effective magnification
95% coverage
0.87x/0.54x
95% coverage
0.78x/0.52x
96% coverage
0.85x/0.57x
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
Autofocus9-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
15-pt AF
3 cross-type
Shutter speed1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync1/6000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering35 zone420-pixel 3D color matrix16 segment1200 zone
Image StabilizationOpticalOpticalSensor shiftSensor shift
Live ViewYesYesYesYes
Video1080/20p; 720/30p H.264 Quicktime MOV720/24p Motion JPEG AVI720/24p Motion JPEG AVIAVCHD 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080/30p @ 12Mbps
LCD size3 inches fixed
920,000 dots
2.7 inches articulated
230,000 dots
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches tiltable
921,600 dots
Wireless flashNoNoYesNo
Battery life (CIPA rating)400 shots510 shots1,100 shots (lithium batteries)1050 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)5.1 x 3.8 x 2.45.0 x 4.1 x 3.14.8 x 3.6 x 2.75.4 x 4.1 x 3.3
Body operating weight (ounces)18.621.620.421.1 (est)
Mfr. Price$649 (body only, est)$629.95 (body only)$599 (body only, est)$649.99 (body only)
$799 (with 18-55mm lens)$700 (with 18-55mm lens, est)$649.95 (with 18-55mm lens)$749.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
Ship dateApril 2009April 2009October 2009October 2010

To me, the A560 looks like the first dSLR Sony's had in a long time that should be able to hold its own in the market without simply undercutting everyone on price. And it's got all the whizzy multishot features that Sony puts in its dSLRs, like Auto HDR and Handheld Twilight mode (in the A560 the latter is dubbed "Multi Frame NR").

Sony also took the occasion to announce three prime lenses. There's the pro-level $1250 Zeiss Distagon T* 24mm F2 ZA SSM, and enthusiast-priced ($200) DT 35mm F1.8 SAM and ($250) 85mm F2.8 SAM.

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