Sony’s IFA Press Conference: First Details

Sony’s IFA press conference has just concluded, with Kazuo Hirai – president and CEO of Sony – taking to the stage and revealing a whole array of new products and services, which I’m sure we’ll hear more of in the coming days.

Kazuo opened the show speaking of how he’s made changes to “revitalise Sony’s electronics business”, discussing how each product the company are revealing at Berlin this year is based on “innovation quality and engineering excellence” coupled with “information from consumers”.

After a brief appearance from Masura Tamagawa, President of Sony Europe, who mentioned Sony’s recent EISA awards wins, and announced Sony Europe’s plan to deploy 4K X9 Bravia TV units to UK stores, along with trained staff, allowing consumers to get a hands on with the impressive tech. Furthermore, Tamagawa spoke of Sony’s new Digital Pictures showcase at Pinewood Studios, which will also allow users to “test and explore” the latest Sony innovations, including 4K.


On with the show.

Hirai said how he was excited to be bringing breakthrough technology to the stage today, and first up was Sony’s Digital Imaging range – that’s cameras to you and I.

It will come as no surprise that the hugely popular CyberShot RX1 family is expanding, and with that, the first entirely new product on display today was the RX1R – which removes the 2012 model’s low pass filter in favour of sharper images and is now, according to Kaz, “perfect for panoramics”.

Following this came the announcement of the Rx100 Mark II, which brings a host of new bells and whistles, including WiFi, One-Touch NFC compatibility, and an improved HD CMOS sensor. The NFC features in particular are interesting to me, which whilst including the expected screen-mirroring and the like, also include options for paired smartphones to act as remote control inputs.

Sticking with imaging, Kaz unveiled Sony’s new Music Video Recorder, the HDR-MV1, which in collaboration with FIFA could see a hopeful young musician’s track recorded by Sony Music’s very own Ricky Martin. Yeah, I thought that was a bit odd too; The MV1’s dual-mic setup should certainly provide some astounding audio for YouTube hopefuls, either way.

Folowing that oddity, there was the AS30V, Sony’s new ‘Action Cam’, which boasts 11.9mega-pixels as well as full HD 60fps recording and Sony’s SteadyShot features alongside true GPS meta-data and NFC functionality.

Kaz then introduced two new VAIO models – the new Flip which takes inspiration from the Duo range, but instead of sliding between laptop and tablet “mode”, it opens up like a normal laptop, then you can flip the screen over then re-close. Bit odd, but it looks nice and functional.

The tap 11 is a thin-but-powerful slate PC that sits on the same competitive line as Microsoft’s Surface.

After Vaio Sony’s President moved on to what is undoubtedly one of the biggest talking points of the show, 4K.

Coining the phrase “memories will never fade”, Kazou announced the 4K Handycam, the FDR-AX1, which will be launching globally next month.

Next up, TVs.

The newly announced Sony Bravia X9, available in 55 or 65 inch variants, has a new slimmer bezel, a swanky Triluminous display, and as with almost everything else on show,  comes with NFC and smartphone features. That’ll be launching next June, for £4,000-£6,000. Expensive, maybe, but it will auto-upscale all your old 1080p content, Kaz assures us. If 65-inches isn’t big enough for you – ooh, Matron! – Sony’s 4K Home Theater ES Projector is also coming to Europe in “autumn”.

It’s no secret that Super-thin TV sets generally have terrible sound, and Sony know this. You’ll be wanting the new HT-ST7 soundbar too then. A UK release window or price wasn’t discussed today though, unfortunately.

Kazuo then went on to talk about other Sony products, which presumably we’ll see more of on the show-floor in Berlin, including a new Walkman and range of outside-noise-reduction headphones. Oh, and something called the PlayStation 4.

We’re about half way in to the short show now, and Hirai has reached into his pocket. What could this be, I wonder?

Xperia Z1.

Very little new was announced, perhaps given all the leaked info prior to today’s reveal this is not altogether surprising, but still a little disappointing. Kaz didn’t speak for too long of any particular technical-specification on stage aside from confirming a Snapdragon CPU and “improved battery life”, instead opting to devote his time to the handset’s “omnibalance design” – the tempered glass and one-piece aluminium frame which grant the handset its water-proof USP.

As we’d previously heard, the Z1 does indeed feature Sony’s G-lens camera, with a 1/2.3″ sensor, which will snap 20.7mp stils and full HD video. There was also a mention of “clear image” which affords users of the camera an upto 3x digital zoom, with zero loss of clarity. Also confirmed was the rumoured Z1 display – a Triluminous full HD 5″ screen, with Sony’s X-Reality image enhancing software ensuring simply stunning visual output.

Sony’s new flagship needs new apps though, right? “Only in a Sony” Hirai quipped, detailing the Social Live, Info Eye, Timeshift Burst and AR Effect camera apps for Xperia z1.

Three of these new features don’t really appeal to me, personally. Social Live is effectively a live streaming app, which will post direct from your Z1’s camera to Facebook, and Info Eye is Sony’s own take on the ‘photo-search’ option other companies have been doing for a while; Snap a famous landmark, and Info Eye will use image-recognition technology to tell you all about it, or let you search the web for related content, for example – Google already do that. AR Effect is another relatively un-exciting gimmick, this one allowing you to add an augmented reality overlay – read, dinosaurs – to your live photographs before firing the shutter. Sorry Sony, but you’re not going to make me spend £500 with that.

Now, Timeshift Burst, however, here’s the interesting bit. This mode allows the Z1 to record “61 images in 2 seconds”, then letting you cycle through the images to find the perfect picture for your PlayMemories album, Sony’s cloud-based image sharing service which, coincidentally, was announced to be expanding to new territories “soon”.

Lots of talk about the Z1’s camera then, and yet still Kaz wants more.

Challenging his team to deliver RX100 picture quality on a smartphone, he says, is the idea behind the QX10 and QX100 – clip-on Cybershot cameras which “takes an Xperia Z1 from smartphone to premium compact camera”. Both these new bracket-camera-attachment-things will include WiFi and one-touch NFC pairing, and are said to work with not only the Xperia range, but iPhones and other smartphones too.

The Qx10 offers a 10x zoom and Sony’s G Lens at 18.2 megapixels, whilst the premium QX100 model opts for a same setup as the Rx100 Mark II camera revealed earlier – a Carl Zeiss lens, 1″ 20.2 mp sensor, 3.6x focus etc.

A trail of sorts for the z1 was then shown, with various Sony employees sharing their passion for the design and innovation of the product. The only thing left for Kaz to discuss regarding the Z1 was its impending release, which, is coming “starting next month”.

So, a lot on show, and in a little under 45 minutes, Kaz really rallied through the announcements too. With promises to “continue to stimulate the senses in ways only Sony can provide, Sony is poised to lead from the front” Hirai declared, and with this exciting new tech, I don’t think they’ll go far wrong.

More info on all the products unveiled will be coming out of Berlin shortly.

Sony’s IFA Press Conference: First Details

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