Sony today announced it will be releasing two interchangeable lens digital cameras: the NEX-3 and NEX-5. The cameras will be available in late June. Interchangeable lens cameras straddle the line between advanced compact cameras and digital SLR cameras, and Sony is targeting users who would otherwise be interested in an advanced compact or super-zoom camera.
The NEX-3 and NEX-5 camera bodies weigh only 297g and 287g respectively, and they are smaller than the current crop of interchangeable cameras from Panasonic, Olympus, Ricoh and Samsung. The NEX-5 is the more stylish camera, with a slightly more refined design; the NEX-3 is a little more ‘boxy’.
The new cameras will be compatible with Sony E-mount lenses, but an adapter will be available so that A-mount lenses can also be used. That means that the NEX-3 and NEX-5 can be used with a huge array of existing lenses in Sony’s line-up. New lenses in the E-mount line up include a 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens (SEL16F28), an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens (SEL1855) and an 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 tele-zoom lens (SEL18200).
The NEX-3 and NEX-5 both feature an APS-C sized, 14.2-megapixel sensor — a similar size to the sensor in the Samsung NX10 and larger than the Micro Four Thirds sensors employed by the Panasonic GF-1 and Olympus PEN E-P1 cameras. It’s approximately five times larger than the sensor in a traditional compact camera such as Sony’s Cyber-Shot DSC-TX1. The larger sensor allows more light to be captured and can produce a much shallower depth of field than a compact camera, leaving you with a crisp foreground image and a blurred background.
Both the NEX-3 and NEX-5 bodies are small and a mode dial has been foregone in favour on on-screen mode selection. The menu systems on the two cameras vary slightly, but they are both easy to use once you understand where to look and which buttons to press. There is a big focus on new users with these cameras — there are plenty of user aids to help people understand what different settings do. Tasks such as changing the depth of field can be accomplished via a setting called Background Defocus Control, which lets you blur the background by turning the jog dial on the back of the camera — you don’t even have to know anything about aperture values.
Firmware upgrade enables capture of 3D images
Sweep Panorama mode, which is a technology that is available in Sony’s Cyber-Shot compact cameras, is available on both the NEX-3 and NEX-5. The implementation has been improved: you can now take a sweeping panorama shot in full resolution, rather than a cut-down resolution as was the case with Cyber-shot cameras. Furthermore, 3D Sweep Panorama mode will be able to shoot 3D images, which can then be played back on Sony’s 3D televisions. The 3D functionality will be available via a firmware upgrade when the company's 3D televisions are released in July.
Both cameras can shoot video (the NEX-3 shoots at up to 720p while the NEX-5 shoots at 1080i) and both can use SD cards in addition to Memory Stick Pro DUO. Neither camera has a built in optical viewfinder (FDA-SV1), but both have a flash. If you’re keen to do a lot of video recording, there is also an optional external microphone (ECM-SST1).
NEX3K (single lens kit): $849 -- includes 18-55mm zoom lens
NEX3D (twin lens kit): $999 -- includes 16mm lens and 18-55mm zoom lens
NEX5K (single lens kit): $1049 -- includes 18-55mm lens
NEX5D (twin lens kit): $1199 -- includes 16mm lens and 18-55mm zoom lens
NEX5H (travel zoom lens kit): $1699 -- includes 18-200 tele-zoom lens