updated 01:00 am EDT, Wed June 8, 2011
Sony NEX-C3 and Alpha A35 made official
Sony after a long run-up upgraded the bases of both its NEX and Alpha camera lines. The NEX-C3 is cast as the smallest camera to have both an APS-C sized sensor and interchangeable lenses with an even smaller frame than the NEX-3. Despite the size shrink, it should be easier to use for newcomers: a Photo Creativity mode, much like Canon's Creative Auto, puts concepts like aperture or white balance into simpler terms without sacrificing the full PASM controls or programmable shortcuts.
Picture Effect is equally new in the software and applies filters with live previews to the shot, including a desaturated look as well as a "toy camera" similar to a Lomo. Multi-shot modes range from automatic high dynamic range and anti-blur compensation to 3D sweep-guided panoramas.
Inside, the camera has been upgraded to a 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, although it still shoots 720p video. Battery life has been given about a 20 percent lift and now captures about 400 shots. A three-inch LCD is still the only real method to preview shots out of the box.
The NEX-C3 should be available in August in a kit with a 16mm pancake lens for $600 and an 18-55mm zoom kit for $650. Along with supporting all the other E-mount lenses, the C3 will be followed up by a 30mm, f3.5 macro lens that can get as close as 0.95 inches to the subject while keeping focus. The new glass will only ship in October but should cost $250. NEX-3 and NEX-5 owners get Picture Effect and better manual focusing in a firmware update on June 20.
For DSLR users, the Alpha A35 replaces the A33 and gets a new 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor along with a new Telezoom High Speed Shooting mode that grabs only a portion of the sensor image but, combined with the translucent mirror that gives it quick refocusing, can shoot at seven continous frames per second. Full resolution shooting still works at 5.5FPS, even with continuous autofocus tracking, and makes the A35 one of the fastest cameras in its class.
Picture Effect carries over to the larger camera, as do battery life increases (up to 440 images). Sony peaks normal light sensitivty at ISO 12,800 but can invoke an ISO 25,600 override.
Sony plans to deliver the A35 in August for $700 in an 18-55mm kit or $600 by itself. Another June 20 firmware update is coming and will give Picture Effect to the A33 along with an update that gives high-speed wireless flash syncing to the A55. Either gets an improved interface that brings in the option to reprogram the dynamic range button to other tasks.