Sony launches NEX-3, NEX-5 interchangeable lens cameras

by Reads (110)

Making good on a promise from PMA 2010, Sony launches today the NEX-3 and NEX-5 mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Each camera is outfitted with a 14.2 megapixel Exmor APS CMOS sensor, a 3.0-inch tilting LCD, and a Sony E-mount for use with three new Sony lenses designed for the NEX system.

Sony NEX-3

Sony kindly provided us with a full-production NEX-5 model. For our first hands-on impressions and sample images, head on over to the NEX-5 First Look. If it’s raw specs and data you’re after, then keep reading below.

The Sony NEX cameras will rely on a 25-point contrast AF system. A BIONZ image processor will handle the information recorded by the third generation Exmor sensor’s 14.2 megapixels. Measuring 23.4 x 15.6mm, Sony boasts that the news sensor is 60% larger than competing Micro Four Thirds sensors.

Sony NEX

Like Panasonic and Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds cameras and Samsung’s NX series, the NEX-5 and NEX-3 do not have the mirror box of a traditional DSLR, allowing for a more compact design. This also means that users will depend largely on the tilting 3.0-inch, 921,600-dot LCD for framing and composition. A clip-on optical viewfinder will be available for an extra $199.

Three E-mount lenses are introduced with the NEX cameras. They are:

  • 16mm f/2.8 wide angle prime
  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom
  • 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 telephoto zoom

The 16mm prime will accept two accessories: a 12mm wide angle converter and a fisheye converter. The 18-55mm and 18-200mm zoom lenses will feature Optical Steady Shot stabilization.

In addition to Sony E-mount lenses, the NEX-5 and NEX-3 can accept alpha-mount lenses with use of an adapter. By removing the mirror box, the flange back distance of the NEX cameras is reduced to about 40% of a traditional DSLR’s. There’s no built-in flash on either model. They will, however, ship with a small clip-on flash accessory that attaches to the camera’s “smart accessory terminal.” Both cameras will shoot up to 2.3 fps in burst mode.

Unlike many of Sony’s alpha DSLRs, the NEX-5 and NEX-3 will record 1080p HD video. The NEX-5 will offer a 1920 x 1080 resolution at a 60i framerate in AVCHD format as well as 1440 x 1080 30 fps MP4s. The NEX-3 will not offer the AVCHD option but will record 1080p at 30 fps.

The new NEX cameras carry over many features from the Cyber-shot ultracompact point-and-shoot line. Auto HDR mode will capture and combine three images (exposed for highlights, shadows, and midtones separately) to create a photo with a wider apparent dynamic range. Previous Sony cameras captured two images in Auto HDR mode.

A new user interface has been developed for the NEX cameras. Citing the reduced camera size and large LCD on the back panel, Sony designed the NEX-3 and NEX-5’s UI around just a couple of “soft keys.” Graphics on screen will indicate the settings assigned to each of the camera’s buttons in various modes and menus. Sony has also included 80 pages of beginner’s tips on capturing better images.

Pricing and availability
The NEX cameras will become available in July 2010. As a kit with the 16mm prime lens, the NEX-5 will cost $650 and the NEX-3 will cost $550. With the 18-55mm zoom lens, the NEX-5 kit will retail for $700 and the NEX-3 for $600. The NEX-3 will be available in red, silver or black, and the NEX-5 will be available only in silver or black. The 16mm prime will sell for $250 and the 18-55 will cost $300. The 18-200mm zoom will be available in the fall for $800.

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