Sony has announced a smaller and lighter replacement for the NEX-3 interchangeable lens camera announced last year, and a new member of its innovative translucent mirror Alpha camera range. The NEX-C3 gets more megapixels, has been given a new user interface with redefined photographic terminology and battery life - a weak spot on the first NEX models - is said to be up to a fifth longer. The A35 replaces the A33 and has also been given an image quality boost, gains some new live-shot effects and offer seven frames per second burst shooting (although at the expense of some resolution).

Sony says that its replacement for the NEX-3, the new alpha NEX-C3, is the world's smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera with an APS-C sized sensor (23.5 x 15.6 mm). Its almost six percent lighter than its predecessor - at about 8 ounces (225g) - and is a good deal smaller at 4.31 x 2.36 x 1.29-inches (109.6 x 60 x 33 mm) thanks to a reduction in the dimensions of the internal circuitry.

Sporting a new body shape with a metal top and streamlined grip, the new camera also receives a new 16.2 megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor. Sony is introducing a brand new Photo Creativity interface that replaces technical terms like aperture, exposure value and white balance with terminology that might make more sense to non-professional camera users - such as background defocus, brightness and color. Experienced users still have the option of a traditional interface, with some useful configurable soft-keys for direct access to important controls.

With the new Picture Effect setting, users can choose from seven effects with 11 variations while shooting stills or video - such as Posterization, Retro Photo or Soft Skin. This new functionality will also be available to existing NEX-3 and NEX-5 cameras through a firmware upgrade that'll be available from June 20.

Other features include 3D Sweep Panorama, which produces extra-wide images for later viewing on a 3D TV, Auto HDR that burst captures three images at different exposures for more impressive color dynamics and Handheld Twilight and Anti-Motion Blur modes, where six exposures are combined for low light or fast-moving photographic clarity.

Turning the camera's control wheel at the rear will give users a live preview of the effect that the chosen settings will have on the finished photo and its possible to combine two or more settings for advanced creative effects. Also to the rear is the camera's 3-inch, high contrast LCD display with tilt functionality for improved viewing angle and a crisp 921,600 dot resolution.

The NEX-C3 is camera compatible with the new Class 10 memory cards and benefits from a 30 percent battery life boost, now offering around 400 still images per charge. Connectivity takes the shape of USB 2.0 and HDMI.

The new camera will come with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens and is available from August for US$650. There will also be a black-only model available with a 16mm lens for US$600.

Sony has also announced a new SEL30M35 30mm, F3.5 macro lens which allows users to get as close as 0.95 inches (24 mm) from the subject. The lightweight (about 4.9 ounces/138.9g) lens employs one ED glass and three aspherical lens elements and benefits from quiet autofocus operation, both in still and video modes. It will be available in October for US$250.

A new style-matched HVL-F20S travel flash will be available from August for US$150 and has an adjustable head and is powered by the camera via the Smart Accessory Terminal mount.

The new SLT-A35

Sony's innovative translucent mirror technology lets most of the light through the mirror to the sensor while redirecting some up to the viewfinder, which gives the user the advantage of continuous through-the-lens 15-point phase detection autofocus for stills and video.

Replacing the A33, and joining the A55, the new A35 camera has a 16.2 megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor and a BIONZ image processor. There's up to ISO12800 standard sensitivity, with an extended mode offering up to ISO25600, and real-time output from the image sensor via Quick AF Live View.

Users can preview images on the 3-inch Xtra Fine LCD to the rear (which has the same TruBlack technology and resolution as the alpha NEX-C3 above for high contrast display) or through the TruFinder electronic viewfinder with 100 percent frame coverage, 1.15 million dot resolution and three selectable grid line patterns. There's an on-screen Help Guide to assist new photographers with camera functionality and a useful customizable top panel-mounted button which can recall any of 14 most-used functions.

At full resolution, the camera offers continuous shooting at 5.5 frames per second but Sony has also introduced something called Tele-zoom High Speed Shooting, which magnifies the middle of an image (and so reduces the overall resolution) for burst shooting at up to 7 frames per second. The company says that this feature (together with tracking autofocus) will make the capture of fast-moving objects easier.

The new Picture Effects function also features in the A35, and the standard and 3D panorama sweep modes and Auto HDR make it through from the previous model. It's capable of 1920 x 1080 high definition AVCHD video, compatible with the full range of 32 alpha-mount lenses and can also handle the new Class 10 memory cards. There's also a 30 percent increase in battery capability - now promising 440 still shots with the LCD or 420 through the viewfinder.

An 18-55mm kit zoom lens version of the new A35 will be available in August for US$700, or the body-only can be purchased for US$600.

Sony's A33 and A55 cameras can get the new Picture Effects technology courtesy of a firmware upgrade available from June 20.

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