What’s still missing from Sony’s mirrorless camera range…

Sony a1 firmware update

When it comes to firmware updates Sony has had a lot of upset from users in recent months, and rightly so because they don’t give you anywhere near as many interesting updates as the competition. The Sony a1 was a rare exception in that it got a significant bump in image quality with a new 8K 500Mbit 4:2:2 10bit mode. Other cameras such as one of my personal favourites, the RX1R II full frame compact have never had a single firmware update. Not one!

Sony is likely going to have to change this, and I have some suggestions for what they should add.

Anamorphic mode

Super 35mm and full frame 4:3 open gate and 3:2 modes would put Sony up there with Panasonic for supporting anamorphic lenses. This would ideally have support for all the common squeeze factors between 1.33x and 2x anamorphic, and should have a de-squeeze function for normal monitoring & playback in-camera with the LCD & EVF. That’s the minimum to ask really.

Preset custom crop modes

Sony’s clear-image zoom works very well especially on the higher resolution cameras like the a1 or a7r line. You can even put C-mount Super 16mm lenses on there and shoot 4K at 2x crop like a GH6. Unfortunately the camera never remembers the crop when you cycle the power or change from video to stills mode. It would be great to store a crop factor in a list and be able to label them i.e. “Super 16mm” for quick access and for the camera to remember the last selected crop. It would also be handy to have the option of one button press to cycle between them rather than going into a menu to select them the slow way.

In-camera LUT support

Pretty self explanatory really, if Sony can match the Panasonic S5 II in this department and allow us even to bake LUTs into the final footage, it would allow proper custom image profiles to be selected in-camera (and shared online) rather than being limited to the settings provided in Creative Styles and Picture Profiles. Then, nobody would complain about Sony colour again!

In-camera RAW recording

With Canon, Nikon, RED, Blackmagic and Sigma having RAW recording without needing an external device, it is time Sony stepped up to join them. The Nik0n Z9 and Z8 with N-RAW demonstrates RED are open to making licensing deals and technology transfers over the long-successfully defended patent on internal compressed RAW recording.

Synchro scan

To fine tune the shutter speed would be ideal especially since Panasonic has had this feature since 2014!

More action on the firmware update front

It really is necessary to step up to the level of Panasonic, Fuji and Nikon when it comes to offering more new features for free.

Top panel LCD

Sony have been very conservative in the camera design department. Most of their full frame cameras look and feel almost identical. It would be good to start mixing it up a bit like Fuji and trying more different form factors. When it comes to E-mount, they only really have two kinds of bodies – The a7 type camera and the A7c / A6600 variety. On their pro model, the a1, it should really at the very least have a top-panel LCD instead of a consumer camera mode dial.

Better rear LCD

Sony have the worst rear screen quality of all the manufacturers. Smaller, less bright, it as if they have kept to the same type of LCD panel for a decade. Sony’s smartphones have amazing OLED panels. Why not their Alpha mirrorless cameras given these cost many, many times more?

A less rubbish playback poster frame for video recordings

Navigating through video files in-camera, it really is appallingly bad!

Film style bracketing for stills

Sony should take a leaf out of Fuji’s book and put in a picture style bracketing mode in Alpha cameras. To have 3 JPEGs, one in black and white and two colour ones graded differently is really useful for quickly seeing which style shoots a particular shot and gives you a direction to follow in post.

Internal ProRes recording

Fuji again leads the way here as they have ProRes LT for smaller file sizes, plus the other flavours, and it’s very smooth to edit. Obviously something for Sony to consider, to compete with the X-H2 and upcoming Panasonic S1H II.

Internal E-ND aka FS5

I can only dream?

Summing up

There’s nothing too radical in this list and nothing the competition doesn’t already have. In some cases, we’re on the 5th iteration of a single model of mirrorless camera and basic features are still missing.

The electronic variable ND on the FS5 came out nearly 10 years ago and still hasn’t found its way onto an Alpha camera.

Anamorphic has been all the range for even longer and Sony has ignored it.

I suppose Sony considers a lot of this stuff niche but when you add it all up from the list above it is quite a big chunk missing from their arsenal.

Hopefully this will change, both with future hardware and future firmware updates.