Sony is a company that in some ways, came out of the blue when it comes to photography. Years ago they bought the Minolta camera business and therefore the Alpha lineup of lenses and cameras. Since then, they’ve made it evolve over time. Speak to certain circles of photographers (IE the very old school ones) and they’ll only prefer the likes of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Fujifilm–you know, companies that weren’t really known for electronics before getting into the photo industry. However, Sony has worked to keep the Minolta heritage alive–and it has also evolved as time has gone on.
So let’s explore what’s still in their system.
Before I get deeper into this article though, I’d like to also point out how camera systems have evolved based on their heritage. At one point, Canon had an absolutely fantastic lineup of FD lenses but then abandoned it to move forward with the EOS lineup. The EOS lineup has been established for many years now and their cameras have also evolved considerably. Where Canon used to use Eye Focus detection systems, they now has a much more advanced Dual Pixel AF system. Similarly, Nikon has started moving to the E format lenses though still using the Nikon F mount. What this does is effectively eliminate the ability to control the aperture on a film camera but still allows for it to be done on digital bodies. And so companies surely do evolve but also do keep parts of who they truly are alive and well.
Let’s look at the case of Sony.
The Alpha Logo and Lineup
Back in the day, Minolta had a lineup of lenses and cameras that were under what they call the Alpha mount. The logo’s nuances have changed a bit over time to become more and more refined, but both the mount and the logo still stay the same. In fact, years ago they had a camera called the Minola Maxxmum 7–which was also called the Minolta A7. Of course, Sony would continue to use the A series moniker until they decided to come out with the NEX lineup. Later on, Sony nixxed the NEX name and put everything simply under the Alpha lineup. Confusing? In the short term yes because a consumer couldn’t tell if a camera was A mount or E mount. But in the long run, they’re all simply just Sony’s cameras. What’s more, Sony chose to call all of their cameras the same exact thing in the same way that Nikon does. This is a variation off of what Canon does where a Rebel will be called one thing in the US and a totally other name in other parts of the world. On that train of thought, a more unified naming convention and strategy unites the ideas of the newer cameras under the older banner.
As you can see with the Sony a9 above, the logo isn’t white but instead golden. That’s to show off that the camera is a flagship model. Despite them being a whole new series, the Sony 6000, Sony 5000, Sony a7, and Sony a9 lineup of cameras still have a decent amount in common with their predecessors.
The Mode Dials
This may seem like such a minute detail to think about, but there is something about the Sony mode dials that still sort of harken back to the older Minolta cameras. Of course, Sony decided that it’s a great idea to put automatic modes on cameras like the A9, but the older Minolta engineers didn’t feel that some of the other modes were that important.
However, again, if you look at the older Minolta a7 mode dial, you can see some very subtle details that are still there such as the font used, the spacing, etc.
The Flash System
This may sound crazy, but trust me when I say that it really isn’t that insane. Sony, when they took over the Minolta camera system, used the Minolta style of hot shoe. It’s very proprietary and normal flashes didn’t fit it at all. But after some time, Sony announced that they would be changing things to work with their new multi-interface shoe. This is a more standard shoe that made it easier to work with a variety of accessories. Despite the shoe itself changing, a whole lot still remains the same from the Minolta days. For example, there is no way to do second curtain flash with a radio trigger wirelessly. You have to do it with a dedicated flash put into the hot shoe. Otherwise, this just isn’t really possible. Certain things have indeed changed though like HSS; but even Sony’s own wireless radio triggers can’t allow their flashes to do second curtain sync, slow sync, etc.