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Sony To Shatter Full Frame Price Standards With A Sub $1,000 Body?

By Anthony Thurston on January 7th 2015

One of the biggest reasons that newer, or semi-pro/hobbyist photographers do not shoot a full frame camera has always been the price. For the longest time, a photographer could get a top end APS-C body for less than the lowest end Full Frame.

sony_a6000

[REWIND: Fujifilm Announces New 16-55mm F/2.8]

That has changed a little bit now, with the release of more budget friendly full frame options like the Nikon D610 and Canon 6D. Sony’s A7 and A7 Mark II are great examples of affordable full frame options as well. But if a new rumor is to be believed, Sony may have plans to shatter the full frame price barrier.

The new report, over on Sony Alpha Rumors, which is rated an SR2 (so big grain of salt here), states that Sony will release a new full frame e-mount body for around $799 US for the kit. This would be a huge achievement for Sony, as it would be – by far – the cheapest full frame camera, and in many respects, making full frame shooting attainable by even regular ‘consumers’.

sony-a7II-front

Obviously, there is not much to this rumor, and chances are it is bogus. But just think about it for a minute, a sub-$1,000 full frame mirrorless camera. That would be huge, wouldn’t it?

Now if only Sony could pump out new lenses as fast as they are releasing camera bodies…

[via Sony Alpha Rumors]

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

15 Comments

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  1. Jerry Jackson

    There are already plenty of gently used full frame camera bodies currently on the market for less than $1000, so it is only a matter of time before Sony takes the plunge by offering a full frame sensor packed inside a cheap camera body for less than $1000 new. When this happens I’ll be curious to see how long Sony maintains production of new APS-C mirrorless cameras. Full frame sensors are still too expensive to shove into bargain cameras like a $200-$300 Sony A3000, but it’s hard to justify a $600-$800 APS-C camera like the A6000 or A5100 if Sony is selling a full frame camera for $999 MSRP (or even less in retail stores).

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  2. Phil Bautista

    A sub $1k full frame sounds plausible considering the a7 II has IBS. It’s quite possible that they put out non-stabilized bodies for under a grand to fill the niche. I know the a7 is still in the market but didn’t they release the a6000 even though the NEX-7 is still on the market and at a lower price point? It seems Sony isn’t as hungry for profit as much as it is for market share. Their full frame lines haven’t set them as far apart as they would’ve liked from the competition so it looks like price may be the next thing to work on.

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  3. Dave Haynie

    It’s not that full frame sensors are difficult to manufacture — just expensive. Let’s take a typical sensor run. There’s a silicon wafer, and I’m not sure what any given company runs for CMOS sensors, but let’s look at 200mm wafter (what some companies definitely used in 2012) and a more modern 300mm wafer. So the wafer itself may only cost around $500, but after processing, maybe somewhere around $5,000.

    Running this in my favorite chip layout estimator (http://www.silicon-edge.co.uk/j/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=68) and using just the image area (since I don’t know the exact size of each chip), I find I can fit 68 sensors on the 300mm wafter, 27 sensors on a 200mm wafer. Let’s assume only three lost to defects in the 200mm case, and six in the 300mm case (large wafer, more defects), and that means 62 sensors at a raw chip cost of $80.64 for the 300mm case, 24 sensors at a raw chip cost of $208.33 for the 200mm wafer. Packaging, etc. adds cost.

    How about APS-C? That’s a 22.30mm x 14.90mm if you’re a Canon user, so that’s 68 sensors on the 200mm wafer, 170 on the 300mm wafer. Let’s assume that some of the defects were clustered, so we lose five on the 200mm wafer, ten on the 300mm… so that’s 62 sensors at $80.64 on the 200mm wafer, 160 at $31.25 from the 300mm wafer. Clearly, both the march of technology and the shrinking sensor reduce the cost.

    And might as well toss in Micro Four-Thirds, at a sensor size of 17.30mm x 13.00mm. So that’s 103 sensors on the 200mm wafer, 258 on the 300mm wafer. Let’s assume we lost eight on the 200mm due to defects, sixteen on the 300mm wafer… so that’s a yield of 95 sensors at $52.63 from the 200mm wafer, or 240 at $20.66 each from the 300mm wafer.

    What about a P&S sensors, 1/2.3″ = 6.17mm x 4.55mm… that’s a total fit of 2176 sensors on a 300mm wafer. Even if you lost 100, that’s 2076 sensors, raw cost of $2.41 each. And cellphone sensors are often even smaller.

    So once you add packaging, microlenses, Bayer array, backside thinning for BSI sensors, development amortization costs, chip maker markup, camera maker markup, etc… that full frame sensor is substantially more expensive than a smaller sensor. And the cost can go down over time… state of the art these days is 450mm wafers, last I checked. Not sure of those, but various companies have made sensors on 200mm and 300mm silicon.

    There’s also market compression to worry about. If you want to maintain a high-end, you have to be careful about not making the low end too competitive. So Canon’s EOS 6D offers pretty similar image quality to the 5D mk III, but in a less rugged body, much weaker AF system, slower burst rates, shorter bursts, etc… most of that being pretty cheap stuff, but it does leave space between the models. And of course, Canon like most companies wants to optimize profits. So they’re not going take a lower margin on a full frame and choke out acceptance of their higher end APS models that may actually be more profitable.

    There’s a loophole in the market argument, though. Two, actually. There’s no need to protect a higher end model you don’t have. So while Canon’s got EOS C and 1D C 4K cameras selling at over $10K, and thus, doesn’t seem to anxious to offer a 4K mode for under $10K, Panasonic doesn’t have much in the way of higher end m43 cameras to protect (dedicated camcorders, sure). So they offered 4K recording in a $1700 camera (the GH4).

    Panasonic’s also part of the other loophole: desperation :-) With Canon and Nikon controlling about 80% of the interchangeable lens camera market (give or take), and Sony as much as the next 10% last year, that doesn’t give most other companies an easy way to more growth. So they’re more aggressive, hoping to take on the leader. Sony’s A7s is another one, like the Panasonic, shooting directly at the 5D’s dominance in still camera video. So if anyone does put out a full frame at a sub-grand, it’s likely to be Sony. They do have higher end models to protect, but their need to grab market share while still available (eg, gaps like 4K in the competitors offerings) is greater than the need for immediate profits.

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  4. Mircea Blanaru

    I would love to see a Sony full frame camera at a price under 1000$. I am a micro 4/3 user and I expect these cameras will also get cheaper… So great news!! I don’t buy the idea the full frame sensors are extremely difficult to manufacture. Millions (I just think they are) of full frame cameras sold are standing up to my opinion. The wish to maximize the profit keep the price so high…

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  5. Hannu Siika-aho

    There is a quite common belief that full frame sensors cost up to 20 times more than APS-C sensors.

    This first of all because sensor (as any semiconductor) yields are based on average defects per area in wafer. Also, there will be much more waste producing full frame (rectangular) sensors vs. APS-C sized sensors in round wafers. Full frame–pro-grade sensors also have much more strict quality control than consumer-grade (APS-C) sensors, leading to higher rejects rate. In addition to this defect rate increases as the sensor size increases. The manufacturing process also takes longer.

    Considering this all, a $800 camera with a full frame sensor sounds utterly unrealistic…

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  6. Mel Snyder

    Not sure it’s necessary. They already are selling the A7 for $1300, and a lower priced body for most buyers won’t make up for the very much more expensive AF full-frame lenses.

    Of course, if the idea is to simply sell bodies to people who are shooting legacy (film era) lenses in manual focus – which is great with Sony’s image-peaking/magnification system – well, it might make sense. I shoot mostly legacy lenses on my A7, and it’s great – especially 50mm and up.

    The Sony FE mount is a small installed base, so their lenses are expensive, and that same small installed base (and short mount-to-sensor distance) has not encouraged Sigma, Tamron or Tokina to make any AF lenses for it. Excellent Samyang lenses. even better Zeiss Loxia – but all manual focus.

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  7. Dave Haynie

    As sensor yields improve, the larger costs go down. Sony may also have additional motive, trying to build market share, which hasn’t changed all that much since they entered the DSLR market. The first mover puts the downward pressure on everyone else. Also, Sony doesn’t have any APS bodies priced much over $500 (body only, street price), and you can get the lower priced A7 for around $1500. So there’s definitely room in the product line at $999.

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  8. Gregory Davidson

    I’m starting to wonder if I jump ship with Sony too soon?

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  9. Kim Farrelly

    A new mark 1 Sony A7 can be had for about €1000 inc. tax (body only), so not far off the mark there. Good to see this price cracking down a bit.

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  10. Austin Swenson

    There have been rumors like this before about a sub 1,000 dollar Sony full frame, but I’m afraid that it just doesn’t make any sense for how they are marketing their current full frame mirrorless cameras because either you shoot yourself in the foot with bad image quality compared to what is already available, or you will have a stripped down version that not that many people are going to want. They did this with he A6000 and the A5100, where it’s pretty much the same minus a few features, but not that many people talk about it or even say the own it.

    I am much more inclined to believe that the model they might be sniffing around is a newer, upgraded version of the nex-7, because they have always kind of had 3 different levels of both alpha and nex brands before these recent changes. I would like to see a beefy, even more suped up version of the a6000 personally.

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  11. Rafael Steffen

    That would be a huge market change like the PS3 introduced an affordable BlueRay player for customers to buy.

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  12. David Hall

    Sony has really stepped up their game lately. If there’s any truth to it and it’s of decent quality, this could be a game changer for many photographers.

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  13. Stephen Velasquez

    Wow I thought the D600 brought full frame to the masses. I think Sony may be on to something here. You want a high-resolution medium format FF A7R, You want an all around good camera A72/A7. You want 4k external video and great low light A7s. Now FF for under a grand, that is bananas. Sony knows what they are doing. They don’t care about lenses because the cameras are adaptable.

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  14. Steve VanSickle

    I’m pretty confidence that this is a bunk rumor. Or if it’s true, it’d have the image quality of a potato. Because if it was truly competitive quality, wouldn’t they be shooting their current A7-series in the foot?

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  15. Jason Markos

    No matter whether it’s good or not, this would certainly shake up the market and help bring down prices for FF.

    But as you say, they need to get their lens development to catch up!

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