Sony has released a new digital SLR as the the flagship of its range, featuring what it claims is the industry’s first ever 24.6 effective megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor. Developed by Sony, this sensor’s ultra-high pixel count and large size – equivalent to a 35mm film frame – deliver extraordinary image detail and wide dynamic range, according to the company.

Complementing the extremely high native resolution of the sensor, Exmor performs on-chip analogue/digital (A/D) signal conversion and two-stage noise reduction. Sony says that this guarantees ultra-low noise image files that take advantage of the resolving power of high-precision Alpha lenses.

The new dual BIONZ processors handle massive amounts of image data at extremely high speed. Noise reduction algorithms are applied prior to RAW data conversion and then again during image processing. The dual BIONZ™ processors also underpin the camera’s shooting responses, allowing sustained 5fps continuous shooting at full 24.6 megapixel resolution.

The camera has 9-point AF system, supplemented by 10 focus assist points to assist subject detection, improved out-of-focus detection to reduce focus hunting and a dedicated F2.8 sensor for enhanced AF accuracy with wide aperture lenses.

The Alpha 900 feature SteadyShot Inside, an enhanced in-body optical stabilisation system delivers up to four steps of anti-shake correction with all compatible lenses.

The Alpha 900 has a ground-glass optical pentaprism viewfinder that Sony says offers exceptional brightness and a field of view covering 100 per cent of the full-frame sensor's imaging area.

Shots can be evaluated on the 3.0-inch Xtra Fine LCD with a 921,000-pixel resolution (921k dot). There’s a wide choice of index view options to simplify best-shot selection, plus a full-featured RGB histogram and shooting information display.

The LCD display quickly switches to Quick Navi mode, allowing rapid on-the-fly adjustment of camera settings without disturbing your creative workflow.

A new Intelligent Preview function simulates the effect of White Balance, D Range Optimiser and exposure level on the LCD screen without actually taking a picture. By simple confirmation on the camera, all the new settings are applied to take the next picture. Sony says this simplifies precise control over the final image in complex setups.

The Alpha 900 is ruggedly constructed from a high-tensile aluminium chassis with magnesium alloy body panels. Viewfinder, card slots, controls and other sensitive areas are protected from dust and moisture by rubber seals for worry-free shooting. The inside of the camera is also protected by an anti-dust system that safeguards the full-frame sensor from the effects of dust entering the body during lens exchange.

For stable, comfortable handling in portrait or landscape orientations, the optional VG-C90AM Vertical Grip holds up to two high-capacity batteries for extended shooting time and all the major controls are available in vertical holding for easy operation. The grip has also been designed in same high quality material as the a900 with magnesium alloy and rubber parts.

There’s now wide range of compatible a lenses to fully realise the incredible imaging potential of the camera’s full-frame sensor. The choice of premium G series optics by Sony is joined by the high-power 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM telephoto, featuring a High-torque Super Sonic wave Motor for fast, silent AF operation.

Also from Carl Zeiss, the Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35mm F2.8 ZA SSM is a fast, high-performance wide angle zoom that’s ideal for interiors, landscapes and challenging photo-reportage applications.

The Alpha 900 will be available from October 2008. Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35mm F2.8 ZA SSM and 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM lenses will be available from early 2009. Pricing has yet to be announced.