Olympus and Sony confirm business and capital alliance

Olympus and Sony announced the two companies entered into a business alliance agreement and a capital alliance agreement, through which, “the strengths of the two companies will merge,” Olympus says, making it possible for it “to contribute to world medical progress by developing a variety of new medical devices that would not be possible by Olympus alone. In the field of digital cameras, we will seek to achieve collaboration in a manner that further improves the competitiveness of the two companies.”

More to the point for the PMA audience: Sony say it “also believes there are many potential opportunities for collaboration between Olympus and Sony’s digital camera businesses, and are confident that by building on our respective strengths we can also enhance and grow our presence in this market.”

Olympus and Sony say they plan to “explore opportunities for collaboration between their respective camera businesses including transactions involving core components primarily for compact digital cameras, with the aim of enhancing the corporate value of each company.”

The companies say the business and capital alliances are expected to allow them “to combine Olympus’s lens and optical technologies, as well as the strength of its brand and R&D, with Sony’s broad range of technologies including digital imaging technologies and apply them in the rapidly growing medical market.”

The two companies “also aim to enhance their competitiveness, primarily in the area of compact digital cameras, by exploring opportunities for mutually beneficial transactions and collaboration between their respective camera businesses, including the supply of Olympus technologies such as camera lenses and mirror cells to Sony, and the provision of Sony image sensors to Olympus.”

Olympus says it “has been pushing to enhance its financial strength and weighing the possibility of a business and capital tie-up for greater business synergy in the core business domains of medical and imaging.” Olympus decided to ally with Sony, “which is strong in image sensors and other image-related technologies. Partnering with Sony will provide great advantage to Olympus and enable the two companies to exchange various complementary competencies. Investment from Sony will help strengthen our financial base.”

Sony adds it is “aggressively pursuing the growth of our medical business, with the aim of developing it into a key pillar of our overall business portfolio. The business and capital alliances we have agreed with Olympus today will be integral to these plans. By combining Sony’s cutting-edge technologies in areas such as digital imaging, 3D, and 4K with Olympus’s long-standing experience and established foundations in the medical market, we believe that we will be able to create highly innovative and competitive products and generate new business opportunities in surgical endoscopes and other related areas where significant future growth is anticipated.”

The capital alliance agreement calls for Olympus to issue 34,387,900 new common shares to Sony through a third-party allotment. Sony’s ratio of voting rights after the third-party allotment will be 11.46 percent. The price is 1,454 per share.

Olympus executives plead guilty

Former Olympus chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa pleaded guilty to charges of falsifying accounts, the BBC reports, covering up losses of $1.7bn. “There is no mistake. The entire responsibility lies with me,” Mr. Kikukawa said in court on Tuesday.

Two other former executives filed a guilty plea in Tokyo District Court. They face up to 10 years in prison, the BBC adds.

The three admitted to hiding losses dating back to the 1990s, which were brought to light by former chief executive Michael Woodford.

The BBC News report is here.

The Imaging Resource details the scandal here.


Samsung Android camera: Now we’re talking

At the 6Sight conference in June in New York, we proposed a voice-controlled camera using a smart interface such as the SIRI virtual assistant now in beta mode on Apple’s iPhone 4s.

The goal would not be to merely let you snap the shutter with a shout instead of a button-push; instead it would open the real power of photography to everyone who hasn’t learned the intricacies of shutter speed, aperture, focus, and other fine controls, or mastered all the various modes and options on a complicated digital camera.

Just as SIRI all-but understands natural language requests such as “where nearby can I get some Thai food tonight?,” a truly smart camera would let new users say “give me that slow waterfall effect in this low light,” and capture the photo they desire without cracking open the user’s manual.

And while SIRI is currently ridiculed for not understanding many user requests and comments, a voice-controlled camera would have a much better chance of higher recognition accuracy, as the commands and feature requests would all be of a very specific nature: photography.

Samsung’s new Galaxy Camera is the first model to combine an expandable operating system with voice commands. And it *almost* gets us to the scenario proposed above: The ‘Smart Pro’ technology “makes it easy to recreate advanced photographic setups in just a few simple steps for stunning artistic results,” Samsung says. However, while the camera has voice controls, they are limited to the most basic functions such as capture and zoom… Not exactly the tools users have a hard time with. To access the more artistic attributes, users must navigate a menu system — not just speak aloud what they want.

While the exact feature set announced here is a bit disappointing, given the capabilities in hand, we are optimistic that future apps will provide exactly this functionality. And after all, the whole point of an open OS such as Android is the ability for the user to add new programs and functions, rather than await firmware upgrades or worse, next year’s model.

Sony also announced a new camera with such easy upgradeability, and their own line of “PlayMemories” camera apps; we’ll see how quickly Samsung follows suit, and who is first — perhaps Apple with the iPhone 5 of iOS camera? — to deliver a truly smart camera that delivers complete access to photography’s artistic side with utmost ease and simplicity.



Sony adds WiFi, faster autofocus to ILC — and upgrades via apps

In a first for its line of interchangeable lens cameras, Sony’s new NEX-5R features Fast Hybrid AF autofocus technology, which combines phase-detection and contrast-detection methods to ensure speedy, accurate autofocus in any shooting situation, the company says.

The 99 phase-detection AF points arrayed on the image sensor detect a subject’s distance and quickly lock focus on it, Sony adds; then contrast-detection AF confirms precise details.

The new NEX is also Sony’s first interchangeable lens camera with integrated WiFi “for easy image sharing, saving and viewing.”

Like preceding models, the NEX-5R has a 16-megapixel sensor. The 3-inch tilting LCD adds touch-shutter and touch-tracking features.
The camera will sell for $650 for the body, or $750 with an 18-55mm lens.

Also: You don’t need Android to enhance a camera’s features: Sony says its PlayMemories Camera Apps will “offer a variety of applications that expand camera functionality, personalizing your photographic experience and enhancing your network connectivity.”

Its the first application download service for an interchangeable lens camera, the company says, “and lets you install new functions on demand to boost the capabilities of your camera.”

The system will first work on the NEX-5R. Downloadable utilities will include “Smart Remote Control,” an Android/iOS app with which users can remotely checks the image on screen, adjust exposure and release the shutter of the NEX-5R with a smartphone or tablet.

Other apps available on launch will include:
“Picture Effect+” — expands the artistic treatments;
“Bracket Pro” — shoots a burst of three images at different ‘bracketed’ settings – for shutter speed, aperture or focus;
“Multi Frame NR” — captures a series of images in rapid succession that are superimposed to create one low-noise photo at the selected ISO speed.
“Photo Retouch” — adds a palette of adjustments like brightness, saturation and contrast

More information on the camera is here.

More information on the apps are here.




Sony “videography camcorder” also takes top stills

The NEX-EA50 camcorder from Sony is designed for cinematic event videography — but it will also capture 16 megapixel still pictures with a mechanical shutter that eliminates blur during long exposures, a dedicated shutter release button, and a hot shoe for using traditional flash units.

The 16MP Exmor APS-C CMOS sensor captures 1080p HD video at 24, 25, 30, 50 and 60 frames per second.

The included 18-200mm lens is Sony’s first E-mount lens with a servo zoom. It features auto focus, continuous variable iris, and optical image stabilization. It is electronically controlled by both the zoom rocker lever on the camcorder grip and top handle. Film-makers can achieve a constant zoom speed and smooth, slow zoom, both of which can be difficult to accomplish with manual zoom lenses, Sony says.

The camera reportedly will have a $4500 price tag.



Sony camera goes into Action

“Wherever life takes you,” Sony says, “get a thrilling first-person viewpoint with new Action Cam.”

The new device is Sony’s entry into the ever-expanding field of wearable activity cameras pioneered by such companies as Go Pro.

Sony’s model builds on its particular strengths, with a 16-megapixel Exmor R sensor and fixed-focal length f2.8 Carl Zeiss lens with a 170-degree angle of view. The camera shoots 1080/30p video, as well as the option for 720p at 120 frames per second for slow motion.

The Action Cam comes with a waterproof case for shooting in rain, snow or at depths of 60 meters. “It’s also ideal for shrugging off dirt and dust if you’re battling through a muddy trail route,” Sony adds.

Other accessories will include a handheld grip that “adds a camcorder-style screen,” as well as adhesive mount packs, and a bike mount.

The camera is $200, or $270 for a model with WiFi — useful with a free app that controls the camera remotely from a mobile device.



Sony phone snaps fast 13MP shots

With “Sleep to Snap,” Sony’s latest phone can switch from a black screen to taking photos in just over a second.

The Xperia T has a 4.55-inch screen and 13-megapixel camera. It captures 1080p HD video.

The phone has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and provides Near Field Communications functionality. Pricing was not announced.




Sony unveils enhanced 3D projector

The new 3D home projector from Sony “encapsulates the latest technology and delivers a premium 3D home cinema experience,” the company says.

The VPL-HW50ES includes Sony’s ‘Reality Creation’ digital signal processing algorithm which it says “restore any information lost when packaging from original content to disc, recreating high quality, color-rich, full HD images.”

Sony adds that its contrast enhancer technology and optimized advanced iris algorithm combine to give the projector a dynamic contrast ratio of more than 100,000:1. The contrast enhancer works by analyzing each scene and then automatically optimizing contrast in real-time by compensating for dark and bright parts of the image. Also, the 3D Crosstalk reduction system enhances the 3D image “even further.”

The projector is also 30 percent brighter than the previous model, without losing color reproduction.

Pricing was not announced.



Sony stacks sensors: Exmor RS

Sony announced the commercialization of its Exmor RS, the world’s first CMOS image sensor incorporating a unique, newly-developed ‘stacked structure’ that helps achieve a more compact size, the company says.

Sony is introducing three models for use in smartphones and tablets, which it says will “combine superior image quality and advanced functionality with compact size.”  Two of the sensors have 13 megapixel resolution; the other, 8MP. Sony will also bring to market three compact auto-focus imaging modules equipped with lens units and featuring auto-focus mechanisms that incorporate these image sensors.

Sony says its ‘RGBW coding’ function can capture sharp, clear images in low light conditions, thanks to using white pixels in addition to conventional red-green-blue. Also, the high dynamic range movie’ function enables two different exposure conditions to be configured within a single screen when shooting, “and seamlessly performs appropriate image processing to generate optimal images with a wide dynamic range and brilliant color.”

More information is here.


Sony handheld pro video camera packs three sensors

Sony says its new PMW-200 camcorder is the only professional handheld camcorder in its class with three 1/2 -inch CMOS sensors and full HD 4:2:2 50 Mbps recording for a high data rate. With other handheld 50Mbps camcorders on the market featuring 1/3 -inch sensors, Sony says, the new camcorder’s 1/2-inch sensors “mean it’s designed to perform exceptionally well with excellent sensitivity and great detail even in challenging lighting conditions.”

The $7,790 camcorder is designed for any type of professional shooting, from broadcast and newsgathering to education and corporate production, Sony adds, and is “one of the most versatile handheld camcorders we’ve ever developed.”

The PMW-200 has a 14x zoom lens with auto focus and image stabilization. The lens has three independent rings for zoom, focus and iris adjustment.



Sony and JVC camcorders ready for action

“As more people want to capture their snowboarding, surfing, mountain biking or other activities,” JVC says it’s hopping into the active market with the Adixxion, billed as a new “action camera.”

The GC-XA1 is $350. It is waterproof to 16.4 feet, as well as resistant to shock, dust, and freeze, and weighs barely a quarter pound.

It captures 1080p HD video and 5-megapixel stills. With its built-in WiFi the camera can connect to a smartphone to use it as a monitor.

The camera comes with a mount for goggles, and a second more flexible mount for helmet, surfboard, or other spots. A wide range of optional accessories are available, including specialized mounts.

Sony showed its as-yet unannounced camera at the CEA Line Show event. The wearable HD video camera is designed for POV and action sports filming, the company says.

It is tiny and lightweight, but houses Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilization technology, Exmor R CMOS image sensor, and an ultra-wide angle Carl Zeiss Tessar lens. “That means whether you’re shredding major powder, jumping out of a plane, or kayaking through an epic waterfall, you’re capturing super high-quality video of it to show off to your family and friends.”

The camera is not as sealed off to damage as the JVC model: Sony will sell separate ruggedized and waterproof housings.

Sony plans to bring the new point-of-view video camera to market in Fall 2012.



Sony compact cam packs large sensor and bright lens

“Travelling light no longer means compromising on picture quality,” Sony says, as its newest camera delivers a larger sensor and brighter zoom lens than competing compact cameras.

The Cyber-shot RX100 has a 1-inch CMOS sensor with a 20 megapixel resolution — the world’s first of its type, Sony says, with “an area that’s approximately four times larger than the 1/2.3-type sensors in traditional point-and-shoot cameras.” The larger sensor “takes in more light while capturing content, resulting in beautiful, detail-packed images and Full HD movie clips with very low noise.”

The sensor is coupled with “exceptionally bright” Carl Zeiss optics: a 3.6x optical zoom lens that offers a f1.8 maximum aperture “to let in additional light,” Sony says, “in contrast to standard point-and-shoot cameras. Similar to high-performance DSLR optics, the lens features seven- bladed circular aperture. This makes it easy to produce images with subjects in sharp focus against a smoothly-blurred, beautifully defocused background.”

With a new image processor, the RX100 extends sensitivity to ISO 25600, and shoots up to 10 frames per second in full resolution.
The $650 camera has a compact aluminium body, and a 3-inch LCD.

More information is here. And here.



Sony waterproofs HD Handycam

Sony is offering a waterproof Handycam camcorder model “that makes capturing your precious memories in high-quality video or still photography easy and worry-free in almost any environment.” It is also shockproof and dustproof, and has a built-in flash.

The HDR-GW77V camcorder capture HD video and 20-megapixel photos. It is waterproof down to 16 feet, and even the 3-inch touchscreen “remains fully operational when submerged.” It has a 10x zoom with optical image stabilization. The Underwater mode adjusts white balance to make colors appear natural.

Sony’s Intelligent Sweep Panorama for still photos is also offered in a camcorder for the first time. The Face and Motion detection ensures moving people and objects “will be reproduced naturally without blur.”

The camera is $700.

More information is here.


Waterproof camera phones from Sony

New rugged phones from Sony are “made to resist life’s challenges without compromising on design or functionality,” the company says.

The 5-megapixel “fast capture” camera in the Xperia go “goes from sleep to snap in just over a second,” Sony says. The phone has a scratch resistant, mineral-glass 3.5-inch display with wet-finger-tracking — it will read a touch even underwater — and the highest level of dust and water resistance in a smartphone, Sony claims. It’s dual-core 1GHz processor runs the Android OS.

The Xperia acro S ups the specs with a 12-megapixel camera with a dedicated shutter button, and a higher-resolution 4.3-inch screen.

The phones are due in the third quarter of 2012.

More information is here.


Big and small interchangeable lens cameras from Sony

The new NEX-F3 compact system camera “adds a whole new perspective to self-portraits,” Sony says, with a 180-degree tiltable LCD: “By simply holding the camera at arm’s length and flipping the LCD screen vertically, users can adjust the on-screen preview image and properly frame photos.”

The newest model in its mirror-free NEX series has a 16-megapixel sensor “identical in size to sensors found in traditional SLR cameras,” Sony says, yielding ISO sensitivity up to 16,000. The camera is $600 with an 18-55mm lens.

Sony also debuted its newest translucent mirror model, the SLT-A37. It has the same sensor as the above F3, and captures seven frames per second in the tele-zoom high speed shooting mode, where the central portion of the sensor’s image is magnified by approximately 1.4x.

The translucent mirror technology in the standard-sized SLR body delivers “a potent combination of fast shooting, non-stop phase detection autofocus and continuous live image preview during still and full HD video (60i/24p) shooting,” Sony says.

The camera has a 2.6-inch tilting LCD, and is $600 with an 18-55mm lens.


More information is here.


Sony transformation stresses imaging as a core business

Sony says it will reinforce its development of image sensors, signal processing technologies, lenses “and other key digital imaging technologies in which it excels,” as it plans to leverage these technologies in both its consumer products (such as compact digital still cameras, digital video cameras, and interchangeable lens digital cameras) and broadcast and professional products (such as professional use cameras and security cameras) in order to further strengthen and differentiate Sony’ overall product line.

The company says it also plans to extend the use of these key technologies across a wide range of business applications, from security to medical, to further expand the scope of its digital imaging business. Sony will target total sales of 1.5 trillion yen and double-digit operating income margin from the consumer, professional and image sensor businesses by FY14.

The move come as Sony announced a series of strategic initiatives to be introduced under the new management team established on April 1, 2012. Sony is positioning digital imaging, gaming, and mobile as the three main focus areas of its electronics business and plans to concentrate investment and technology development resources in these areas.

By growing these three businesses, Sony aims to generate approximately 70% of total sales and 85% of operating income for the entire electronics business from these categories by FY14.

Other steps include “turning around the television business,” creating new businesses, accelerating innovation, and realigning the business portfolio and optimizing resources

In mobile, Sony is integrating the R&D, design engineering, and sales and marketing operations of its smartphone, tablet, and Vaio laptop businesses in order to quickly develop and deliver compelling products to market.

Sony notes it is “largely a new entrant to the medical industry,” but has launched medical printers, monitors, cameras, recorders and other medical-use products, and will target sales of 50 billion yen in this market in FY14. Sony also plans to enter the market for medical equipment components, where its strengths in various core digital imaging technologies offer significant competitive advantages in applications such as endoscopes. Furthermore, Sony plans to enter the life science industry, where the Company can leverage its expertise in technologies such as semiconductor lasers, image sensors and microfabrication.

Sony says it is also drawing on its strengths in audio and visual technologies to aggressively promote the growth of “4K” technology, which delivers more than four times the resolution of Full HD video. “Incorporation of Sony-developed technologies, such as image sensors, image processing compression LSIs and high-speed optical transmission modules into its professional-use and high-end consumer products will pave the way for Sony to continue to expand and enrich its 4K-compatible product lineup,” the company says.

Finally, Sony confirmed it will “reduce headcount” across the entire Sony Group by approximately 10,000 in FY12.




Sony pro cams reduce shake, project pics, capture slo-mo

Sony claims it is providing video professionals “freedom from camera shake” with its new HXR-NX30U, its smallest, lightest handheld professional high-definition camcorder.

The $2,500 “palm-size addition” to the company’s NXCAM line offers “breakthrough Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization technology,” the company says, “to significantly reduce camera shake in challenging shooting applications.” Conventional image stabilization systems typically “float” an individual lens element with a motor drive to compensate for camera shake, Sony says, but its Balanced Optical SteadyShot “combines the entire lens and image sensor assembly into one floating element that moves as a unit to reduce the shaking effect caused by normal motion during shooting.”

The HXR-NX30U records 1080/60p HD video with a 1/2.88-inch Exmor R CMOS image sensor. It has a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens with a 10x optical zoom/26mm-260mm (35mm equivalent).

The new camcorder also has a built-in projector that Sony says lets users play back images of up to 100 inches from a distance of about 16 feet on any flat surface. “This feature is ideal for reviewing footage in the field or on a set, when a monitor is either not available or convenient to use.”


Also: the new NEX-FS700 is billed as a “Super Slow Motion camcorder” and offers interchangeable lens capability.

Designed for high-speed shooting, it captures up to 960 frames per second at reduced resolutions, “ideal for pop promos, commercials and documentaries as well as sports and a variety of events productions,” Sony says. Full-HD images are limited to 120 and 240 frames per second.

The NEX-FS700 camcorder uses a new 4K Exmor Super 35 CMOS sensor with an 11.6 megapixel resolution. “This high-speed readout chip is optimized for motion picture shooting,” Sony says, “giving high sensitivity, low noise and minimal aliasing.” However, the better-than-HD 4k video promised by such a sensor will only be available through a later firmware update, Sony says.

The camcorder will sell for less than $10,000 with an 18-200mm lens.

And: Even “Full 1080” does not quite meet professional HD video standards. It has to also be captured at a very high bit rate — lots of data per second with very little compression — and most consumer  cams don’t qualify.

Now Sony is offering pro-level capture with 50 megabytes per second. The PMW-100 has a 1/2.9-inch Exmor sensor, 10x optical zoom lens, and 3.5-inch LCD. It also records four-channel audio in 24-bit uncompressed 48kHz.

“Advancement in digital imaging technology has enabled professional journalists and videographers to cover stories by using portable devices such as mobile phones, DSLRs and consumer camcorders,” Sony says. “However, when compared to main-stream shoulder mount camcorders, there is still a significant gap in image quality, ease of editing and data management. The PMW-100 achieves the best of both worlds, by recording full broadcast quality MPEG HD422 video within a hand-held form factor.”

Pricing was not announced.



HumanEyes files patent infringement lawsuit against Sony

3D imaging developer HumanEyes Technologies filed lawsuits asserting that certain Sony cameras, mobile phones, and related software infringe two of its patents on the creation and display of 3D images.

HumanEyes’ U.S. Patent Nos. 6,665,003 and 7,477,284 are based on inventions made at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by company co-founder Professor Shmuel Peleg and his students, which generate 3D panoramic images by combining portions of multiple images recorded by an ordinary camera. “This discovery makes it possible to bring inexpensive 3D photography to digital cameras and mobile devices and was the basis for founding HumanEyes Technologies,” the company says.

HumanEyes asks the United States International Trade Commission and the United States District Court for the District of Delaware to institute an investigation into Sony’s infringement and to permanently bar Sony from importing the infringing products into the United States —including at least 32 of Sony’s Cyber-shot and DSLR digital camera models and at least 10 Xperia mobile phone models.


Sony updates translucent mirror camera

The Alpha A57 SLR from Sony boosts its ISO to 16,000, and the continuous shooting rate to 12 frames per second.

The camera has a 16-megapixel APS-sized CMOS sensor, and also captures 1080 HD video at 60p, 60i or 24p frame rates, with enhanced object-tracking AF.

The camera has a tilting 3-inch LCD, and is priced at $700, body only.

The translucent mirror design directs incoming light to the image sensor and the autofocus sensor at the same time, Sony says, allowing full-time continuous AF during both still and video shooting. The new model comes about a year and a half after the Alpha A55 introduced the translucent mirror design.




Sony cameras offer long zooms, GPS, WiFi

Sony debuted five new cameras that zoom from 16–30x, with some models providing backside-illuminated sensors, GPS, and WiFi.

The H90 has a 16-megapixel CCD, 16x lens, and 3-inch LCD, for $250. The HX10V improves the sensor to an 18-megapixel BSI CMOS, and adds GPS for $330.
The HX20V’s has a 20x lens  for $400. The HX30V adds WiFi connectivity for $420.
The HX200V features more SLR-like styling, to better house its 30x zoom (27-810mm in 35mm format). It’s $480.

The advanced aspherical lens element in the HX30V and HX20V models “produces outstanding results with a design drastically smaller than comparable 20x lenses in previous models,” Sony says.  “The thinly-designed lens, which requires highly sophisticated glass molding to create, allows the camera chasses to remain as compact as possible.  In addition to its strong zoom capabilities, the new “AA” lens can focus at a minimum distance of approximately 1 cm for stunning, clear macro shots.”

The HX200V, HX30V, HX20V and HX10V have autofocus speeds of approximately 0.13 seconds in daylight and 0.21 seconds in low-light shooting.


Sony also debuted four new cameras that “represent the ultimate in versatility for the compact camera space.”

The TX66 has an 18-megapixel BSI sensor, a 5x zoom, and an OLED touchscreen for $350.
The WX150 adds an 10x zoom lens while maintaining a slim case; sans touchscreen, it’s $250.
The W690 also has a 10x zoom, touchscreen, but 16-megapixel CCD, for $180.
The TX20 has a 16-megapixel sensor and 4x zoom. The water-resistant model is $330.
Each of the new models shoots full HD video.

The WX150 and W690 are the world’s thinnest 10x optical zoom cameras, the company says, “slimmer than any other 10x compact cameras currently offered in market.”



Sony’s Android camera app pre-captures pics

The “pick pic camera” Android App from Sony takes pictures before and after the shutter clicks, letting you “shoot, and pick your best shot from past and future.”

Sony Digital Network Applications’s pick pic camera smartphone application “allows you to record photos right before and right after the moment you pressed the shutter button, along with that very moment,” the company says. “You will then be able to pick the best shot among the pictures taken and save it as a still picture.”

Also, “the app is a perfect match” for taking pictures of moving objects such as kids, pets, and group pictures with everyone smiling, Sony adds, as distinct recording modes optimize the time interval between images to help ensure the best shot is captured.

The $2.50 Android software is available here.
More information is here.



Hirai replaces Stringer as Sony CEO

Sony appointed Kazuo Hirai as president and chief executive officer, effective April 1, replacing Howard Stringer, who will become chairman of the board of directors in June.

Hirai is currently executive deputy president, and has “distinguished himself through his work in the PlayStation and networked entertainment businesses.”

Stringer says work on his succession started three years ago.

There was no honeymoon for Hirai: Sony posted a $2.1 billion net loss for October-December — and warned of another upcoming $2.9 billion annual loss.

The full announcement is here.



Sony to invest in Olympus?

Reuters reports that fiscally-troubled Olympus be rescued by a competitor: Sony.

Fujifilm Holdings is also a reported potential investor, although it might face more regulatory issues than Sony. Both companies are apparently more interested in Olympus’ medical equipment business than its cameras’ Fujifilm already holds about a 10 percent share of the diagnostic endoscope market.

“Sony, which has relatively little experience in the healthcare sector, supplies image sensors to Olympus and is considered keen to tap into its lucrative business in diagnostic endoscopes, where it holds a 70 percent global market share,” Reuters says.

Olympus executives over many years hid $1.7 billion in accounting losses; the company recently announced it is suing 19 former execs.



Sony improves back-illuminated CMOS sensor

Saying they’re aimed at future camera phones, Sony developed next-generation “stacked” back-illuminated CMOS image sensors with RGBW coding and HDR movie functions to “realizes higher image quality and superior functionality in a more compact size.”

Sony says its RGBW coding function “allows images to be captured with low noise and high picture quality even in low-light conditions,” thanks to a white pixel added to the conventional RGB array; its HDR function “allows brilliant color to be captured even in bright settings.”

The three new sensor models, with resolutions from 8 to 13 megapixel, will begin sampling in March 2012.

More information is here.


Sony adds live transmission to Bloggie camcorder

Bloggers are all but TV newscasters with the latest Sony consumer camcorder.

The Bloggie Live is the world’s first full HD pocket camera capable of live video streaming with built-in WiFi, Sony says. The MHS-TS55 model captures HD video and 12.8 megapixel stills. It has a stereo microphone, LED light, and 3-inch touchscreen.

The Bloggie Live streams video in real-time thanks to Sony’s partnership with Qik Video, a mobile video sharing service from Skype. ”Once live streaming begins, friends and family can view the video instantly on a computer, smartphone or tablet no matter how far away they are,” Sony says. [However, the full HD is apparently stored on-camera, not streamed.]

The $250 camera works with any WiFi hotspot including mobile hotspot services from leading wireless carriers, the company adds. Also, free PlayMemories Mobile application wirelessly transfers files from the camera to a phone or tablet.

Sony also debuted its Bloggie Sport camera, the MHS-TS22, billed as “a worry-free, portable camera perfect for everyday use, no matter what the environment, indoors or out.” The $180 rugged device is shockproof, dustproof, and waterproof down to 16 feet of water for an hour. It has an “underwater mode” which adjusts the white balance for underwater conditions to make colors appear natural, and a 2.7-inch touchscreen.

More information is here.




Sony unveils new high-speed cards

Sony says its latest storage cards “give a whole new meaning to speed and performance for digital imaging enthusiasts.”

With support for the XQD specification for high-speed, high-performance digital image capture at up to 1Gbps and 125MB/s, write and read, the cards can be used in SLRs to capture up to approximately 100 frames in Raw format in continuous shooting mode, Sony says.

The XQD cards will come in 16 and 32GB capacities.

More information is here.