Photography, Sony and Minolta's legacy

I have often heard various comments about Sony not being a “proper” camera company, so I decided to write a few words to correct such thinking.

Here is a list of notable (in my opinion) Sony cameras. It is extremely shortened though and doesn’t discuss all they have brought to the camera industry - links to more information can be found at the end of this post or by googling.

Before Minolta :

Sony Mavica (1981) - this is where the story begins with a prototype for an electronic SLR still video camera - it was the first of its kind and the direct predecessor of digital cameras; the first cameras were released in the late 80s, although, apparently, the prototype has been used during the Olympics in 1984;

Sony Mavica MVC-C1 (1988) - Sony’s first consumer electronic camera;

Sony DSC-F1 (1996) - the first Cybershot;

Sony DSC-D700 (1998) - Sony’s first foray into all-in-one SLRs;

Sony F828 (2003) - the first consumer CCD digital camera;

Sony DSC-T1 (2003) - a real compact at 17mm thickness;

With Minolta : 

Sony a100 (2006) - albeit a fine camera, this one was really a regular DSLR, but it shows how Sony followed firmly in Minolta’s footsteps just after the acquisition; 

Sony a900 (2008) - best viewfinder, highest resolution sensor and first FF camera with in-body image stabilization;

Sony a300 (2008) - dual-sensor design for improved Live View and camera performance (Olympus had this approach first, but with a lesser implementation);

Sony a850 (2009) - cheapest FF camera on the market;

Sony a55 (2010) - first SLT camera and the switch to EVFs for Sony; SLT was the natural evolution of the dual sensor setup;

Sony NEX-3/NEX-5 (2010) - Sony’s first mirrorless cameras;

Sony NEX-7 (2011) - Sony’s first advanced mirrorless cameras and, as far as I am aware, the first mirrorless with an integrated EVF;

Sony RX1 (2012) - first digital FF compact;

Sony RX100 (2012) - yet another proof of Sony’s miniaturization prowess;

Sony a7 (2013) - first FF mirrorless, if we are not taking into account Leica rangefinders;

Sony a7 markII (2014) - introducing in-body image stabilization to the a7x line, still unique to Sony for FF cameras;

Sony have been at it for a long time and this without even taking into consideration the video side, which I find to be very relevant. In terms of innovation (relevant to photographers), the only other company that has done as much during the last ten, or so, years, would be Olympus, in my opinion. In the consumer and prosumer markets, Sony have constantly delivered some of the most amazing packages and have a long history of sophisticated all-in-one designs and miniaturization. Actually, it looks like the period just after Minolta’s acquisition was the most problematic one, maybe because they tried to follow too closely in Minolta’s footsteps. I am confused as to the main reason of their purchase, but my uneducated guess would be that they simply saw a cheap way to gain market share and take on the big two; the know-how that also came with the package was just a bonus. I would dare to say that they didn’t do a great job in the beginning, simply relying on existing Minolta technologies, and that cost them. However, currently, they seem to be back on track and concentrating on their strengths.

From Sony:

Camera history:

Articles from long ago:

Reviews of some Sony cameras - more links after the links:

Photo of the Sony Pro Mavica MVC-7000