2012 Sony DI Press Excursion - a Hands On Look at Their Latest Products

(Photo captured using the Sony SLT-A99 - Click to see the full-size image)

As a member of the team here at Steve's Digicams, I was recently able to attend the 2012 Sony Digital Imaging Press Excursion, which took place in San Francisco and Carmel, CA. This year we were presented with the opportunity to use several of Sony's new innovative cameras and camcorders. Each guest received a camera bag full of goodies, including the SLT-A99, NEX-6, and an Action Cam. There was also access to a wide range of A-mount Sony G series and Carl Zeiss lenses for us with the A99, and a selection of E-mount lenses for the NEX-6. Also available to us were the VG30, VG900 and the much anticipated Cyber-Shot DSC-RX1.

Along with these wonderful cameras, we also received several presentations about the cameras as well as presentations from some of Sony's "Artisans of Imagery". These speakers included Andy Katz and David McLain, who presented us with this wonderful piece "The Calling", a high definition video that was shot completely with the Sony A99. You can also see the behind the scenes video here. All of the photographers talked about the quality and ease of use of the A99 as well as its durability and what elements and situations they put the camera's through.

(Photo captured using the Sony SLT-A99 - click to see full-size image)

The excursion included shoots at beautiful landscapes, ranches and wineries where we were really able to put the cameras to the test. Some of our locations included the San Francisco skyline, Big Sur, Carmel Valley Ranch, 17 mile drive, Santa Cruz and the Monterey Aquarium. We also spent a little time around a race track shooting (and driving) exotic cars while they flew around the track. See our samples pages for the A99 and NEX-6 to see shots from most of these locations.

Our first look and hands on with the A99 gave us a great impression of the camera. Although it is a large camera, it is surprisingly light when you pick it up, while still giving you a very solid and comfortable feel. The customization level of the A99 is almost unmatched, allowing you to adjust and set the programmable buttons to any of the camera settings, not just a select few that were pre-chosen for you. This complete customization allows you to make adjustments on the fly without having to spend time looking through the vast menus. One thing that did take some getting used to was the camera having an EVF (electronic viewfinder), instead of the optical viewfinder found on most dSLRs. While it was odd at first for me, the ability to see what the camera was going to capture, since it was all digital, became a greatly appreciated feature and something that was starting to be relied on after just 4 days with the camera. Please stop back to see our full A99 review when it becomes available.

(Photo captured using the Sony NEX-6 - Click to see the full-size image)

Bridging the gap between the NEX-5 and the flagship NEX-7, Sony put some thought into the design and usability of the new NEX-6. It is incredibly easy to use, allowing anyone, with any amount of photography experience to start shooting great photos with it immediately. New for the NEX cameras, the NEX-6 is capable of downloading apps from the Sony store, giving the camera special abilities, shooting modes and apps that allow you to connect and control your camera with your iOS or Android powered smart phone or tablet, and you can ever upload images from the camera to social media sites or email directly from the camera with its built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. We were also introduced to the new 16-50mm electronic zoom lens. It offers a very compact profile and incredibly smooth zooming capabilities, perfect for zooming during video capture. Our full NEX-6 review will be available soon.

As a World's first, Sony's Cyber-Shot RX-1 features a full-frame 24.3-Megapixel CMOS imaging sensor, fixed 35mm Carl Zeiss f/2.0 lens and all of the automatic and manual controls that you expect from a truly revolutionary camera. During the course of the event, it was very hard to get our hands on one of the only four RX-1 cameras that Sony had available (for approx. 20 people), but the brief time that we did have with it gave us some great sample images and impressions. The camera was easy to use and very comfortable to handle. We were able to shoot with most of the available optional accessories, such as the lens hood and electronic viewfinder, which were very nice but really bring up the already steep introductory price of the camera itself. We are definitely looking forward to getting more time with this camera in the future.

Bottom line - Sony's 2012 Digital Imaging Press Excursion was truly an outstanding event, providing us with hands on time with revolutionary and innovative products and a fantastic set of situations and locations to truly put them to the test. We are glad to say that our first hands-on experiences with all three of these cameras left us wanting more time with each of them, and we're excited to get the chance to do some full reviews. With our brief time with these cameras, we were not able to have any time with the two camcorders, but the VG900 rounds out Sony's family of full-frame cameras with a compact, but easy to handle and operate, interchangeable lens pro-sumer model. A huge thanks to the team at Sony for inviting us once again, and for all the great food! Hope to see you all next year!

-by Josh Fate

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