Sony in 2023: from a compact vlogging cam to the most advanced camera ever

Sony A9 III being held by photographer James Artaius
Is the Sony A9 III the most spectacular new Sony camera of 2023? There are five other contenders that might say different. (Image credit: James Artaius)

In 2023, Sony seemed to cram about 5 years of product launches into just 12 short months. It’s true that some of these could be seen as predictable ‘roadmap’ cameras, where existing technologies were repackaged for a different market sector, but we also had brand-new, ground-breaking technological revolutions. That’s just one of many accolades that could be directed at the remarkable Sony A9 III.

But that’s a high-end professional camera for a very specific audience, and with a price tag to match. 2023 also brought a whole series of new Sony cameras designed for novices, enthusiasts and expert photographers.

We weren’t surprised to see a replacement for Sony’s compact ‘rangefinder’ style A7C, but we weren’t expecting two! The Sony A7C II seems the more sensible all-rounder, with the 33MP sensor and much of the video capability of the A7 IV in a smaller body. But for those who want resolution above all else, the A7C R packs the 61MP sensor of the A7R V into a smaller and more portable body.

The new cameras that will probably sell most, though, are the two new vlogging variants launched in 2023. The ZV-E1 puts all 4K power of the A7S III into a cheaper, more vlogging focused body, while the ZV-1 II takes Sony’s clever little vlogging compact and adds a wider zoom for more expansive selfies.

But Sony hasn’t forgotten its long-running A6000 series. The new A6700 takes Sony’s APS-C hybrid range to new heights, essentially packing the 26MP sensor and video specifications of the FX30 cinema camera into a general purpose camera.

And that’s just the camera news. We haven’t even mentioned the lenses yet…

January 2023

The Sony FE 20-70mm f/f G is a brilliant standard zoom that goes wider not longer. (Image credit: Rod Lawton)

Sony starts off strong in 2023, with the release of a standard zoom that covers angles other lenses don’t. The Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G goes wider – way wider – than any other Sony standard zoom, and with a constant f/4 maximum aperture. For photographers who like a slightly wider perspective, it looks like the dream ‘walkaround’ lens for travel, landscapes and everyday photography. It’s not unique – Panasonic has its Lumix S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, and OM System has its M.Zuiko 8-25mm f/4 Pro lens, but it’s the first lens of its type for Sony full frame cameras.

We’re not done with lenses yet, either. Matthew Richards reviews the Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF G Master OSS with its ‘apodization’ filter for softer blur, and the remarkable Sony FE 14mm F1.8 G Master – just a few short years ago, a lens this wide with this maximum aperture would have been inconceivable. Well done Sony!

Also in January, Sigma launches a Sony FE mount Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG DN OS Sport, an incredible 10x super-telephoto zoom for Sony users, and Sony itself hints at a premium Sony 300mm f/2.8 GM OSS telephoto prime, to arrive in… 2024?

We were a little lukewarm about the Sony ZV-1F vlogging camera, which seems a rather weak and unnecessary spin-off from the decent little ZV-1, but in other news there are strong Sony A9 III rumors. It will “100%”  arrive in the next few months, we hear.

February 2023

We review the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 G Master lens, one of many new Sony lenses this year. (Image credit: Gareth Bevan)

The Sony rumors keep on coming. Now we hear a new “baby A7S III for vloggers” will arrive soon, perhaps in March, and separately that Sony is planning a full frame fixed-lens compact camera. Ahem. Yes, well, ONE of those was true.

Otherwise, after the mayhem of January it’s a relatively quiet month, but Matthew Richards does review the new Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 G Master. Is it good? Of course it is! Sony seems to have completely nailed professional premium lens design – at a price.

March 2023

Did you know that Sony has its own Star Sphere camera satellite? (Image credit: Sony)

The Sony ZV-E1 is here! The rumors that surfaced in February are true, and the company describes the ZV-E1 as the "ultimate content creation experience". It is indeed a kind of vlogging version of the Sony A7S III, so Sony has done with its full frame hybrid camera what it did with the APS-C A6000 series (ZV-E10) and its popular RX100 range (ZV-1). Is Sony just reworking old tech to target a new market niche? You decide. We couldn’t possibly comment. The ZV-E1 won’t be cheap, but it will cost a lot less than the A7S III.

This month we also published list of the 10 best selling Sony lenses at US retailer B&H, which was rather interesting, and just as the Sony ZV-E1 rumor ends, another one starts –  this time around a new Sony A6700 arriving some time “before the summer”.

And now for two little-known Sony facts. Did you know Sony almost teamed up with Olympus and Panasonic to develop Micro Four Thirds cameras? And did you know Sony has launched (very literally) its own Star Sphere camera satellite and is now taking bookings for spectators, photography and private orbits. That’s remotely, by the way. You don’t get to go on a satellite. 

April 2023

The Sony World Photography Award 2023 winners are announced, but one entry is withdrawn. (Image credit: © Boris Eldagsen / Sony World Photography Awards 2023)

A bit closer to Earth, Sony releases an upgrade for its Airpeak S1 drone, a high-end, high-priced aerial platform for its full frame mirrorless cameras. The Airpeak S1 gets RTK (Real Time Kinematic) positioning, a new Gremsy PX1 gimbal and improved battery life.

The winners of the Sony World Photography Awards 2023 are announced – and all credit to Sony for promoting photography, not just cameras – but one winner rejected their award after submitting AI-generated imagery, prompting questions about photography, ‘promptography’ and the role of AI in art.

After the launch of the Sony ZV-E1, we published a Sony ZV-1 vs ZV-1F vs ZV-E10 vs ZV-E1 comparison just so that WE knew what the heck each one did. We published some more rumors about the upcoming Sony A6700 which we were a little worried about but turned out to be pretty close to the mark, and Samyang announced an AF 35-150mm F2-2.8 FE full frame zoom, its second for the Sony FE mount. It’s not just the maximum aperture that got us interested, but the price too.

May 2023

The Sony ZV-E1 is like a vlogging version of the Sony A7S III but without the viewfinder and cheaper. (Image credit: Gareth Bevan / Digital Camera World)

So, Sony launches a new vlogging camera! No, this isn’t a left-over Sony ZV-E1 story. In fact we have a full Sony ZV-E1 review for you this month. No, this is a new Sony ZV-1 II, an update to Sony’s original compact vlogging camera. So what’s new? The main difference is a much wider 18-50mm equivalent zoom, compared to the  24-70mm equivalent of the original. Sony has correctly figured that if we want to spend our lives walking around filming ourselves and the wonderful things that we do, then we need a wider-angle lens. The 24mm equivalent lens on the old camera was just not quite wide enough for arm’s length shooting to include both you and your surroundings.

Otherwise, things were pretty quiet in May, though the new Viltrox AF 16mm F1.8 FE looks like an extremely useful ultra-fast, ultra-wide prime at an equally useful price.  7artisans, meanwhile, announces a budget 24mm f1.4 in Sony APS-C E-mount. And when we say budget, we MEAN budget.

June 2023

Sony updates its little ZV-1 vlogging camera with a wider lens for easier selfies. (Image credit: Sony)

So in the wake of its launch last month, we review the Sony ZV-1 II. Are we impressed? Um, ah… well, not exactly. Sony’s fixation with vlogging cameras starts to make sense after we report that 48% of Sony's sales come now from vlogging cameras

And this month we take a break from speculating about the upcoming Sony A6700 to speculate about the upcoming Sony A9 III, which will definitely arrive before the 2024 Olympics and probably sooner. Like most mid-high end Sony cameras now, we expect the A9 III to use CFexpress Type A memory cards. These are smaller than CFexpress Type B and Sony has engineered dual SD/CFexpress Type A memory card slots that can take both types. However, CFexpress Type A has come under fire for being more expensive than Type B cards, lacking their ultimate speed and not having the same maximum capacities. Well Sony has well and truly fixed that last complaint with an incredible new CEA-M1920T 1920GB CFexpress Type A card. Yes, that’s practically 2TB. How much will it cost? Don’t ask.

Now Sony users may not be familiar with the name Irix, but this premium lens maker had been producing optics for DSLRs for some time – and it’s now released two of its lenses in Sony FE mount. The Irix 15mm f/2.4 Dragonfly is an ultra-wide prime with a click/de-click aperture ring designed for smooth iris adjustments while filming, while the Irix 150mm f/1.8 Macro Dragonfly is a fast, longer-range macro lens again with a click/de-click aperture ring.

July 2023

The Sony A6700 is launched. Is Sony's new flagship APS-C camera the ultimate hybrid stills/video tool? (Image credit: Sony)

The Sony A6700 is launched! As expected, its a flagship APS-C hybrid camera to replace the Sony A6600 and with a series of advances that boost its video capabilities in particular. With hindsight, a lot of its key features were to be expected, including the new 26MP sensor first seen in the Sony FX30 and the dedicated AI processor that made its debut in the Sony A7R V but is now spreading across the Sony range. The A6700 has IBIS too, and even now only Sony’s flagship APS-C models get this feature. So how does the A6700 compare against its predecessor, the A6600? Our Sony A6700 vs A6600 comparison checks the specs.

Sony is getting into the whole video/filmmaking ecosystem now, with its own range of digital mics. The latest Sony ECM-M1 is said to be Sony’s “most versatile sound capture tool to date”, an 8-in-1 camera mounted digital mic with multiple pickup patterns.

Of course, a month can’t go by without more lens news, and this month it’s that Sony is has announced the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 Macro G II, an update to its popular mid-range zoom, and lens supremo Matthew Richards, on the ball as always, has a full Sony FE 70-200mm F4 Macro G OSS II review. He also reviews the inexpensive but effective Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro, and Viltrox announces a 75mm f/1.2 AF telephoto prime. That’s a lot of glass! Don’t get too excited, though, as this is for Sony APS-C cameras, not full frame.

August 2023

Sony launches two replacements for the original A7C, and the A7C II and A7C R represent substantial upgrades. (Image credit: Sony/Digital Camera World)

So then August happens. Sony launches not one but two Sony A7C replacements. The Sony A7C is like the ‘rangefinder’ version of the Sony A7 III. By the same token, the Sony A7C II is like the Sony A7 IV crammed into a smaller box, while the Sony A7C R does the same with the 61MP sensor of the Sony A7R V.

All right, we’re impressed. However, our reservations about this design persist. Reviews ed Gareth Bevan gets a sense of deja vu in his Sony A7C II review, noting the single card slot and awkward handling with larger lenses. It’s also not the first time Sony has repackaged existing tech in a different design to make a ‘new’ camera. 

It’s not the only Sony to suffer from big-lens-small-camera syndrome. Our Sony A6700 review also points out the rather underwhelming viewfinder – but does praise the 4K video quality and AF tracking.

Always busy, Sony has another new lens for us this month. This time it’s the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master II, an updated version of a popular original. Is it good? Of course it’s good!

September 2023

So which camera should you get? The Sony A6700 or the Sony A7C II? (Image credit: Sony)

Sony takes a break from launching cameras in September, so we take the opportunity to catch up a little to figure out where these new cameras fit in and which is best – the Sony A7C II vs Sony A6700 comparison is especially tricky, but we think we have an answer for you. It sounds trickier still, but our Sony A7C II vs A7C R comparison actually reveals some pretty simple decision making.

October 2023

Sony launches two new digital mics, including the twin-mic ECM-W3 wireless kit. (Image credit: Rod Lawton)

Sony has two new microphones for us! We review the Sony ECM-S1 Streaming Mic, which is like a desktop USB mic but without the USB – it’s wireless, and the Sony ECM-W3 Wireless Mic, which is a two-mic wireless kit with a range of up to 150m (with line of sight). Both make use of Sony’s MI digital hotshoe interface and are going to be of most interest to existing Sony users.

But look, just when you thought it was safe, rumors about another new Sony camera are building. The Sony A9 III will be the world’s fastest camera, and we will not have long to wait.

November 2023

The Sony A9 III's global shutter brings unprecedented speed and power. (Image credit: Sony)

Ha ha – it got here quicker than we thought! The Sony A9 III is announced on November 7, and everything we ever imagined or speculated about is true, plus some other stuff besides. Central to all of its amazing specs is the A9 III’s global shutter – the first time ever for a full frame sensor. It means a distortion-free electronic shutter, flash sync at any speed, 120fps full resolution burst speed and 4K 120p video. Still dizzy with the implications, Editor James Artaius delivers his Sony A9 III review, though a full assessment of this ground-breaking camera will take some time.

Sony also announces a collaboration with the Associated Press (AP) to combat fake images with in-camera authentication, and comes out on top in TIME magazine's Best Inventions of 2023 list with the Sony A7R V and FX3 both triumphing in their categories. 

Back with lenses, we have a field test of the new Sony FE 300mm f/2.8 GM OSS super-telephoto prime, and Viltrox releases a new 20mm f/2.8 AF lens for Sony full frame – and it's under $160!

December 2023

Will we get a Sony A7S IV in 2024? (Image credit: Sony)

After an incredible year in which Sony launched no fewer than SIX new cameras, the rumor mill keeps on churning and we look ahead to possible new Sony cameras in 2024.

Top of the list is a possible Sony A1 II. The original Sony A1 was in its time the pinnacle of digital imaging technologies, but has since been overshadowed by the 61 megapixels and AI processor of the Sony A7R V and the blinding speed of the A9 III.

The venerable Sony A7S III is surely overdue for an update, but it’s hard to see what Sony could with a new Sony A7S IV without a new sensor. Could it be that the Sony ZV-E1 is the last roll of the dice for Sony’s powerful but ageing 12MP platform?

There is speculation too that a Sony ZV-E10 II might be on the cards. Sony’s 24MP sensor is pretty old now, so a newer model with Sony’s fresher 26MP sensor, as used in the FX30 and A6700, could be a smart move.

Whatever 2024 has in store, if it’s anything like 2023, we are going to be very busy indeed…

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Rod Lawton
Contributor

Rod is an independent photography journalist and editor, and a long-standing Digital Camera World contributor, having previously worked as DCW's Group Reviews editor. Before that he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar, as well as contributing to many other publications. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more. Rod has his own camera gear blog at fotovolo.com but also writes about photo-editing applications and techniques at lifeafterphotoshop.com