Well this weblog is fast becoming a rumor site, more's the pity. Still, as there's an instruction manual floating around the web for the Sony A850, and, having seen it, I would say appears to be genuine. With this year's Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA), the world's largest Consumer Electronics trade show, not that far off (from 4th to 9th September) in Berlin, I reckon we'll see it launched there.
The overall spec and looks are close to the original A900, but offers 3fps shooting and lacks the close to 100-percent viewfinder accuracy (see above). This should make the A850 considerably cheaper. Along with economies of scale, I would say the A850 body is likely to have a street price of around £1500 or $2000 in the US, maybe even less. Anyone remember what we said here? Expect Canon to follow suit.
I can honestly say I wouldn't be surprised to see the day when APS-C will be relegated to digital compacts. It's a marketing strategy that will eventually marginalize those camera makers who can't follow. Pretty much a repeat of what happened in the late 1980's and early 1990's when Pentax and Olympus practically left SLRs to Nikon and Canon, and produced some excellent compacts instead.
As things stand now, that looks like Panasonic and Olympus to me, unfortunately. Pentax could possibly reverse the trend, as Nikon are desperately trying to do right now, without alienating their APS-C customer base. Call it sitting on the fence, but it's happening.
Not that I want that to happen you understand, I like them all. I have no preference. There are models that I like over others for sure, but I like cameras and lenses, not brands. That said, there are some brands that repeatedly get it right. Nikon did this better than anyone else, till the introduction of their AF lens range in the mid 1980's.
What was their tie up with Minolta at the time? Can anyone tell me? Those people I've asked that do know, won't tell me.
In case you're not entirely familiar, the Nikon lens AF lens range was almost a carbon copy of the Minolta AF lens range introduced in 1984. It wasn't just the AF mechanism that was identical, many of the lens designs including optical formulae bore more than a passing resemblance. It was for this reason, and the obvious fact the Canon EOS AF telephoto lenses focused faster, that Nikon lost a lot its credibility.
Certainly, Minolta and Nikon were either of the same keiretsu or closely related in someway (take a look here for a better understanding), but diametrically opposed to the Fuyo keiretsu, of which Canon was and still is a member.
Further back in time, Nikon was part of the Mitsubishi zaibatsu, one of the four major conglomerates in Japan up to the end of WWII and are still a core member today. Sony is outside of any keiretsu, so we have strong competition between Sony, Canon and Nikon.