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Sony's Alpha DSLR logo. Click here to visit the Sony website! Sony announces DSLR branding (UPDATED)
(Thursday, April 20, 2006 - 00:01 EDT)

Sony Electronics Inc. has today announced its planned brand name under which it will market digital SLR products this summer.

Sony announced DSLR plans last January, shortly after purchasing parts of Konica Minolta's camera business including the rights to the company's Maxxum / Dynax lens mount system. No details on the specifics of Sony's planned digital SLRs have yet been released, but courtesy of today's announcement we do know that Sony's DSLRs will be marketed under the "α" (greek lower-case letter "Alpha") brandname.

The news sees Sony continuing a tradition started before the Konica Minolta merger, when Minolta launched its first autofocus SLR camera in 1985. Although that camera (and the other SLR models that followed it) bore the "Maxxum" brandname in North America, and were known as "Dynax" in Europe, Minolta's SLRs were known by the "Alpha" brandname in the company's home market of Japan.

It seems likely that this has factored into Sony's own decision to name its DSLRs "Alpha" - offering a degree of continuity and building on consumer awareness of the brand in Japan. Where Minolta chose different names for each market, though, Sony will apparently use the "Alpha" name worldwide.

In a company press release, Sony states that "Alpha" implies "beginning" and "essential", which it feels embodies its approach to the DSLR marketplace.

UPDATED 2006-04-20 01:38ET: Sony Japan has posted a microsite with some information for Japanese speakers on the upcoming "Alpha" digital SLR series. A Shockwave Flash file on the site includes an image of part of a camera body bearing the "Alpha" logo, briefly nestled between images of Konica Minolta's Maxxum 7D, as well as group shots of lenses, an image sensor, and Sony's Real Imaging Processor.

While much of the body isn't visible, you can see enough to determine that it isn't the same body used in either the Maxxum 5D or 7D models from Konica Minolta. It is of course possible that it is a stock image, or a concept drawing, but it is interesting nonetheless. In the same clip, you can see a brief image of a lens bearing a silver "Sony" badge on the side. To see both, visit Sony's microsite, and click on the "Philosophy" link.

Meanwhile, Sony USA has posted a microsite as well, containing an English-language message from the President of Sony Corp.'s Digital Imaging Business Group, Yutaka Nakagawa. The message from Nakagawa-san reaffirms the company's commitment to the Konica Minolta lens mount, and says that this will be coupled with Sony's own imaging technology to "[give] rise to a new breed of digital SLR camera".

Original Source Press Release:

Sony Marks Entry Into Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera Market With New Symbolic Sub-brand

SAN DIEGO, April 19, 2006 - Sony has established a new brand name for its digital single lens reflex (D-SLR) cameras that will be launched worldwide this summer.

Meaning "beginning" and "essential," the symbol α (pronounced alpha) embodies the spirit of Sony's approach to the D-SLR market. Under this sub-brand, Sony will produce a complete camera system of accessories and lenses to enhance the enjoyment of photography.

The Sony α™ mount system of cameras, lenses and accessories will integrate advanced electromechanical technologies that are key to D-SLR performance, the versatility of the well-established Maxxum® lens mount system, and Sony's renown in imaging devices and technologies. These include CCD and CMOS imaging sensors, as well as other image processing technologies, in addition to overall product miniaturization. People who have already made investments in many of Konica-Minolta's lenses and accessories will be able to take full advantage of Sony's new D-SLR cameras.

"We are expanding our product portfolio to build upon our leadership position in the digital imaging business," said James Neal, director of marketing for digital imaging products at Sony Electronics. "Our approach to D-SLR camera design and engineering will allow us to offer a new high-performance system for today's digital camera users, as well as welcome the millions of Konica-Minolta owners who have Maxxum interchangeable lenses that are currently in the market."

Sony is already handling support and repair service for existing Konica-Minolta digital and film cameras, as well as related lenses and accessories in the U.S. A dedicated call center and strong levels of web support have been established for these customers.

There is more information available about the new sub-brand at www.sony.com/dslr. Sony camera and related product support for Konica Minolta customers is also being offered at www.support.sony.com/EN/KM/service.html.

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