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Sony to unveil 'Alpha' next week

Company's first ever DSLR

Sony will finally enter the DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera market next week, it announced today.

Sony's first DSLR camera, which will carry the Alpha brand-name, will be shown in Tokyo on Tuesday and unveiled to the UK press on Wednesday.

Single-lens reflex cameras use a mirror placed between the lens and the film or image sensor to project the image to the camera's viewfinder. The mirror moves out of the way when the picture is taken. They typically support interchangeable lenses and are preferred by professional and serious amateur photographers over the compact point-and-shoot models that dominate the digital camera market.

Sony said in July last year that it had begun developing a DSLR model. Competition in the compact camera market is intense and DSLRs typically carry higher price tags and have better profit margins. There is little compatibility between interchangeable lenses from different camera makers, so users are generally reluctant to switch brands once they have invested in several lenses.

Sony will use the Alpha lens mount (called Dynax in Europe and some Asian countries and Maxxum in North America) developed by Konica Minolta. Sony began developing the camera with Konica Minolta and acquired some of the camera-maker's assets this year when Konica Minolta withdrew from the camera business.

About 16 million lenses have been produced for the Alpha mount, according to the two companies. A key advantage of this mount is that it relies on an autofocus system in the camera body. This means that as auto-focus technologies improve and owners replace their cameras, the lenses can continue to be used.

Sony is one of a number of digital camera makers moving into DSLRs. Earlier this year Panasonic unveiled its first DSLR camera, the DMC-L1, which was developed with Olympus.


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