updated 08:40 am EDT, Tue May 11, 2010
Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 claim edge over MFT rivals
Sony fired its opening salvo in mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras by launching the Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5. Elaborating on an early reveal, Sony sees both as trumping Micro Four Thirds cameras through their sensors. Either has a 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor that reaches APS-C size; the dimensions match those of most DSLRs and are about 60 percent larger than with the MFT system, cutting back on noise while allowing sensitivity as high as ISO 12,800.
The two also promise a relatively simple interface with a 3-inch, 921,000-pixel preview LCD that can provide both full manual control as well as a streamlined UI that puts settings like aperture in layman's terms. The panel articulates vertically for off-angle shooting and is uniquely designed for higher contrast and better visibility outdoors.
Without the need for mirrors, the two have the distinction of being the first Alphas with video and shoot footage at different maximum resolutions. The NEX-3 captures up to 720p in MPEG-4, while the NEX-5 can record in H.264 up to 1080i. Either camera can also take advantage of high-speed shooting: they can shoot at up to 7 frames per second at full resolution and, with a July firmware update, will get the same sweep panorama mode that many newer Cyber-shot compacts already have.
The cameras themselves will ship in July and will have a unique mix of lenses and accessories. Every model will ship with a small hot shoe flash; the base kits with 16mm f2.8 pancake lenses will cost $550 in NEX-3 garb and $650 for the NEX-5. An 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens bundle will lift the prices to $600 and $700. An 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens is also coming, but it won't ship until the fall and so far is only being listed as coming by itself for $800. A viewfinder and a stereo mic will be options but haven't received their prices.