Cameras that combine DSLR functionality and the convenience of interchangeable lenses with a compact footprint have become the new wave in recent times, with the likes of the Olympus EP-1, Panasonic Lumix G2 and Ricoh GXR hitting the market. Now Sony has announced two diminutive additions to its Alpha line of digital SLRs - the NEX-5 and NEX-3.
While the NEX-5 - which claims the current title of the world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable lens digital camera - is leading Sony's drive into this space, both units feature impressive credentials including a newly-developed 14.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, high-speed burst shooting of up to 7fps at full-resolution, high-resolution tilt screens and, in a first for the Alpha line, a Sweep Panorama mode with 3D compatibility and HD video recording.
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Excluding grip and mount, the NEX-5 measures 24.2mm at its slimmest point and the NEX-3 is just over 1 mm wider at 25.4mm. The NEX-5 also features a magnesium body which keeps the weight down while still providing protection against the bumps and scrapes of field photography.
According to Sony, theBIONZ processor delivers precise autofocus and minimal shutter lag and the newly-developed Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor is the key to "extremely low image noise and creative defocus effects that are familiar to DSLR users".
On-camera playback is via a 3 inch, 16:9 widescreen LCD display (920,000 dot resolution) with an auto-brightness function and "TruBlack" technology for greater contrast. The screen that tilts up 80 degrees or down 45 degrees to cater for awkward shooting positions.
Both cameras have dual memory card slots for both Memory Stick and SD media plus HDMI out.
HD video recording and Sweep PanoramaThe NEX-5 shoot full HD (1920 x 1080i) in AVCHD format while the NEX-3 shoots 1280 x 720 p in MPEG4. Both cameras have a dedicated Movie REC button and are compatible with the ECM-SST1 Microphone for stereo sound capture.
In Sweep Panorama mode, the cameras shoot a high-speed burst of frames while being moved horizontally or vertically with the shutter button held down. The images are then stitched into a 23 megapixel panorama covering a maximum of 226 degrees. Sony has also promised a firmware upgrade later this year which will enable panorama shots to be viewed in 3D.
Both cameras also feature updated in-camera high dynamic range (HDR) capability. First introduced by Sony on the DSLR-A550, this function combines three shots taken at different exposures into a single image. Additional shooting modes include Face Detection, Smile Shutter, Anti Motion Blur Mode and Hand-held Night Shot.
Interchangeable lensesThree three E-mount lenses have also been announced - a low-profile 16mm F/2.8 "pancake" lens, an 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 zoom and an 18-200 F/3.5-6.3 zoom. Both zoom lenses have in-lens Optical SteadyShot image stabilization and the pancake lens can be used with the an Ultra Wide or Fisheye Converter to increase field of view.
There's also a n optional LA-EA1 Mount Adaptor which extends compatibility to the Alpha family of 30 lenses along with other legacy A-mount manual focus lenses.
User interfaceA control wheel and two soft keys provide access to camera settings on what Sony describes as a "never get lost" menu. The interface includes on-screen shooting tips and a help guide and when using an E-mount lens, the control dial allows users to preview depth of focus changes on the LCD.
The Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras will hit shelves mid-year. Stay tuned to Gizmag for an in-depth review.
Sony NEX-5 and NEX-3 Key specs:
- Resolution - 14.2 effective megapixels (approx.)
- Image sensor - Exmor APS HD CMOS (23.4x15.6mm)
- Processor - BIONZ™ image processor
- Lens compatibility - E-mount; (with adaptor, MF only, exclude power zoom lenses) Sony α lens, Minolta and Konica Minolta AF lens
- ISO Range - ISO 200 - 12800
- Continuous advance shooting - Up to 2.3 fps / 7 fps in speed priority mode (AF/AE fixed)
- Precision digital zoom - 10x
- Autofocus system - Contrast AF (25 multi-point /Centre-weighted/Flexible Spot)
- Metering system - Metering by main image sensor (49-segment Multi light metering, Centre-weighted, Spot)
- Shooting functions - Face Detection; Smile Shutter; Sweep Panorama (3D ready); iAUTO; Auto HDR; Anti Motion Blur Mode; Hand-held Night Shot
- Creative styles - Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, B/W
- Display - 7.5cm (3”) Wide type XtraFine TruBlack LCD (921k dot resolution), angle adjustable 80◦ up/45◦ down
- Anti-dust system - Coating on low pass filter, plus image-sensor shift
- Interfaces - HDMI out (with PhotoTV HD and BRAVIA Sync); USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
- Shooting stamina - 330 shots approx. (CIPA standard)
- Media - Memory Stick Pro Duo, Pro-HG Duo; SD memory card, SDHC memory card, SDXC memory card
- Supplied accessories - Shoulder strap; Battery; Charger; USB cable; CD‑ROM; Flash
- Colors - Black, silver
- NEX- 5 - AVCHD: max. 1920 x 1080i, 17Mbps
- NEX-3 - MP4: max. 1440 x 1080i, 12Mbps (NEX-3)
Weight & size
- NEX-5 - 287g (10.1oz) with battery and Memory Stick PRO Duo; 110.8×58.8×38.2mm (WxHxD) - Min. Depth 24.2mm (without grip & mount)
- NEX-3 - 297g with battery and Memory Stick PRO Duo; 117.2×62.6×33.4mm (WxHxD) - Min. Depth 25.4mm (without grip & mount)
- α NEX-3 with 18-55mm Lens - US$599.99
- α NEX-3 with 16mm Lens - US$549.99
- α NEX-5 with 16mm Lens - US$649.99
- α NEX-5 with 18-55mm Lens - $699.99