Sony α system

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The Sony α system is a camera system which comprises two different autofocus lens mounts:
Sony's own E-bayonet and Minolta's classic α/Maxxum/Dynax bayonet, both for autofocus system lenses.

A heritage from Minolta

When Sony took over the DSLR development of Konica Minolta in 2006 it decided to use the Japanese system name α ("alpha") of Minolta's AF mount cameras and lenses since the new Sony DSLRs had the same autofocus lens mount (image of the mount, see Minolta Dynax 9‎).

In 2010 Sony introduced the Sony α NEX compact digital still cameras for interchangeable autofocus lenses, supplied with the new Sony E-mount which they share with Sony's flagship NEX camcorders. The Sony α NEX Camera Mount Adapter‎'s first version allows mounting most Sony α system lenses but not most of the old Minolta α system lenses, since it only accepts α lenses with internal autofocus motor-drive. The second version even allows to use most old Minolta AF lenses in autofocus mode and adds a phase detection auto focus. Variants for full (35mm) frame format followed (see 2nd table).

The Sony α33/α55 "SLT" cameras (single lens translucent cameras) proved that the old Minolta AF mount is also good for smart non-DSLR digital system cameras. But some of the old lenses once designed for the Minolta AF mount won't work with the SLTs, especially not with lenses made by Sigma.

From the NEX to a future with fewer cameras

The NEX cameras proved that compact digital system cameras with APS-size image sensor are no bad idea. Meanwhile Sony changed its focus towards full format (35mm frame size sensor) CSC-cameras with FE-mount (E-mount-compatible) whilst the Sony α 99 II of 2016 seems to be the last DSLR derivate produced by Sony - real DSLRs with optical viewfinders were already abandoned in 2011. Ten years later the quite expensive Sony α 1 marks a new paradigma dictated by the market in which most consumers are happy with the compromise image quality of their cellphone cameras. Thus the numbers of sold still cameras, despite of amazing video features, sunk drastically - wordwide. Sony took a large share of imaging sensor market, and its post-NEX CSC camera line, the ILCEs started with the last cheap E-mount camera, the Sony α 3000, and reached its peak now with the Sony α 1. But one product might comfort the users of the old lenses for Minolta AF mount: In 2020 the company offered a quite sophisticated lens adapter for this precious old glass, probably the last product introduced to support the old Alpha lenses.

Sony α system

... camera bodies, ...

  • Sony α 850/900 advanced DSLRs with 24x36mm (35mm) image sensor and α-mount
  • Sony α 700 advanced DSLR with APS-C-size image sensor and α-mount
  • other Sony α DSLRs with APS-C-size image sensor and α-mount
  • Sony α "SLT"s with APS-C-size image sensor and α-mount
  • except Sony α 99, the SLT flagship with 24x36mm (35mm) image sensor and α-mount

All Sony camera bodies with α-mount have a built-in image-stabilizer (SSS=SuperSteadyShot, same as Konica Minolta's Anti-Shake) which moves the sensor during exposure in the same direction as the camera shake movement to follow the lightbeams from the image subject. The anti-shake effect might be like 1-2 f-stops larger aperture for shorter exposure time.

  • Sony NEX/Hasselblad Lunar line: digital compact system cameras (CSC) with APS-C-size image sensor and E-mount
  • Sony NEX-VG ... line: camcorders with APS-C-size or 24x36mm image sensor and E-mount
  • Sony α7/α7R/α7C lines: CSCs with 24x36mm (35mm) image sensor and FE-mount
  • Sony α7S/α9 lines: professional CSCs with 24x36mm (35mm) image sensor and FE-mount
  • Sony α1: extremely versatile CSC with 24x36mm (35mm) image sensor and FE-mount, for enthusiasts and professionals
  • Sony α3000: budget CSC with APS-C-size image sensor and E-mount, very cheap EVF
  • Sony α5000 line: CSCs with APS-C-size image sensor and E-mount, selfie-monitor, relatives of the NEX-5T
  • Sony α6000 line: CSCs with APS-C-size image sensor and E-mount, proper EVF
  • Sony QX1 (APS-C): remote-control only version of α3000, controlled by external app

The anti-shake mechanism is missing in the E/FE-mount camera bodies before Sony A7 mark 2 and α6500.

... lenses ...

  • Sony SAL ... α-mount autofocus lenses
  • Sony SAL ... SAM α-mount autofocus lenses with internal focusing motor
  • Sony SAL ... SSM α-mount autofocus lenses with quiet internal focusing motor
  • Sony SAL ... ZA α-mount autofocus lenses made by Carl Zeiss

... and lenses for use only with APS-size image sensor

  • Sony SAL ... DT α-mount autofocus lenses
  • Sony SAL ... DT ... SAM/SSM α-mount autofocus lenses with internal focusing motor
  • Sony SAL ... DT ... ZA α-mount autofocus lenses made by Carl Zeiss

Sony continued Konica Minolta's tradition of marking its premium autofocus lenses as G lenses, except the lenses constructed by Zeiss.

Autofocus lenses for the E-mount are simply labeled

  • Sony SEL ...

without distinction of APS-C size lenses. The postfix letters Z or G stand for zeiss-made or G-quality. Some lenses include an optical image stabilizer which moves one optical element inside the lens as means of anti-shake. These are marked with OSS.

Minolta compatibility issues

Sony's DSLRs and SLTs and the NEX-7 as well as Konica Minolta DSLRs can be used with the last generation of Minolta's flashguns for the AF SLR-system. Some older flashguns might be usable too but limited to unregulated 100% flash power mode. The Minolta AF bayonet system cameras since the Sony Alpha 99 use an oldstyle hot shoe (for modern electronic flashes only! using old simple hot shoe flashguns might be hazardous!) with the new multi interface contacts scheme instead of Minolta's inverse flash shoe, and some of the simpler NEXes use an own screw mount for miniature flashes. The newest NEX-successors have just in-built flash or also a multi interface hot shoe. Of course an adapter is available for the previous flash generation except the special NEx miniature flashguns.

Sony's α-mount lenses can be used on the old Konica Minolta DSLR bodies. SAM- and SSM-Lenses can be used with a few of the last Dynax/Maxxum 35mm film SLRs like the Minolta Dynax 3L and on Konica Minolta DSLRs. Older Sony lenses with mechanically body-driven focusing (non-SAM/non-SSM) can even be used on the oldest of Minolta's autofocus SLRs like the Minolta 7000.

CSC cameras with the E-mount like the Sony NEXes need adapters to attach Minolta AF lenses and other α-mount lenses:

  • Sony LA-EA1 only for APS-C frame format! It may support AF only for SAM/SSM lenses.
  • Sony LA-EA2 converts a Sony NEX or another E-mount CSC into a SLT by adding a phase detection AF via pellicle. The original design allowed only APS-C frame format.
  • Sony LA-EA3 may support AF only for SAM/SSM lenses.
  • Sony LA-EA4 converts a Sony NEX or another E-mount CSC into a SLT by adding a phase detection AF via pellicle on the quality level of the Sony α99.
  • Sony LA-EA5 is the final product for lenses with Minolta AF mount. It supports all Minolta AF lenses (35mm) as well as compatible lenses, and of course the upward compatible ones from Sony. It is without own phase autofocus, thus more compact than the LA-EA4.

Adapting manual-focus lenses, for example Rokkor lenses of Minolta heritage, needs third-party lens adapters. It is much easier to adapt these lenses on E-mount cameras by adapter than tinkering an adaption to the α-mount by exchange of the old lenses' bayonets.


Table of Sony Alpha system DSLR and SLT cameras and their predecessors with the Minolta AF mount:

classification 2 3, 4 5 6, 7, 8 9
"still video" back Minolta 7000 w/ SB-70 (1987) Minolta 9000 w/ SB-90 (1987)
based on SPxi MS-C1100 (1992)
based on 500si RD-175 (1995)
Konica Minolta DSLR Dynax 5D/Maxxum 5D
/α Sweet Digital (2005)
Dynax 7D/Maxxum 7D
/α-7 Digital (2004)

DSLR era

Sony α100 (2006) Sony α700 (2007)
Sony α200 (2008) Sony α300 (2008)
Sony α350 (2008)
Sony α900 (2008)
full-format sensor (24x36mm)
Sony α230 (2009) Sony α330 (2009)
Sony α380 (2009)
Sony α500 (2009)
Sony α550 (2009)
Sony α850 (2009)
full-format sensor (24x36mm)
Sony α290 (2010) Sony α390 (2010)
Sony α450 (2010)
Sony α560 (2010)
Sony α580 (2010)
Sony SLT

SLT era

Sony α33 (2010)
Sony α35 (2011)
Sony α37 (2012)
Sony α55 (2010)
Sony α57 (2012)
Sony α58 (2013)
Sony α65 (2011)
Sony α68 (2016)
Sony α77 (2011)
Sony α77 II (2014)
Sony α99 (2012)
Hasselblad HV (2014)
Sony α99 II (2016)
full-format sensor (24x36mm)


Table of Sony Alpha system CSC cameras with the new E-bayonet:

sensor frame size APS-C sensor frame size 35mm
(full format)
w/o finder built-in EVF
remote controlled with neither EVF nor screen
optional OVF optional EVF