DigitalCameraReview.com
Sony Alpha NEX-7, NEX-5N Debut
by DCR Staff -  8/24/2011

By Grant Hatchimonji and Allison Johnson

Sony introduces two new mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, the re-styled NEX-7 and the NEX-5N. Both offer 1080 HD video recording along with usability and performance updates.

Sony Alpha NEX-7
Headlining the NEX-7 spec sheet is the 24.3 megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor that's also included in the A77 and A65 announced today. The NEX-7 will offer an ISO range of 100-16000 and 1080 HD video shooting in AVCHD at 60 or 24p.

The camera body has a new look compared to its NEX predecessors. It boasts a total of three control wheels - two on the top deck and one on the back, a combination that Sony calls a Tri-Navi interface. The NEX-7 is also equipped with a new OLED electronic viewfinder with an XGA (2359k-dot). The user interface offers customization of the control wheel functions, and the NEX-7 offers the same soft keys that previous generations used.

The whole package has a more traditional rangefinder look and feel, with a texturized grip wrapping around the front and back of the camera. It offers a tilting 3.0-inch 921k-dot LCD on the back panel and a built-in pop-up flash along with an accessory shoe for compatible Alpha flash units.

Sony Alpha NEX-5N
Where the NEX-7 takes a style departure from the first NEX cameras, the 5N maintains the industrial-chic look. It houses a 16.1 megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor capable of recording 1080 HD video at up to 60p. ISO range stretches up to 25600, which Sony claims is the very highest among mirrorless cameras to date.

Speed-wise, the NEX-5N can keep up with the fastest mirrorless cameras with a 10 fps burst rate. The tilting 3.0-inch LCD has added touch functionality, lending itself to a redesigned user interface. A new clip-on OLED viewfinder will be available separately for purchase. Like all NEX and Alpha cameras launched alongside it today, the NEX-5N will accept SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media along with Sony Memory Stick Duo cards.

New E-mount lenses and accessories
A new Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA, E 50mm F1.8 OSS and E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS are introduced for the E-mount system. Also launched is an optional LA-EA2 Mount Adaptor with Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology built in. Compatible with the NEX-5N and NEX-7, this adaptor will allow these cameras to use phase-detection AF for still and video recording with most A-mount Alpha lenses.

Taking the NEX-5N and NEX-7 for a test drive
The NEX-7 is distinct in both appearance and handling. We tested out the ergonomics of a pre-production model recently, noting that the location and placement of the three wheels were very comfortable. All were easy to reach and use, offering a comfortable level of resistance when turning the metal knobs.

Sony alpha NEX

Though the NEX-7 was very sleek, it was noticeably heavier than the lightweight NEX-5N. It was still much lighter than a DSLR, and quite comfortable to hold. Those with bigger hands may want to test out the NEX-7 before buying, though.

The NEX-5 has an even sleeker, minimalist appearance. With a magnesium-alloy body, it felt great in the hands thanks to a generous grip. It was very fast and responsive when shooting, seemingly able to match its touted 0.02 shutter lag time. The touch screen worked as well as it should. There are a few physical buttons available to the user, but we didn't find ourselves using the physical keys too often.

Sony alpha NEX

Pricing and availability
The NEX-7 will cost $1350 with 18-55mm zoom lens or $1200 without and is expected to be available in November. Expect the NEX-5N in September, priced at $700 for an 18-55mm kit and $600 body only.

New E-mount zoom E 55-210mm will cost $350 and is expected to arrive in October. The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T8 E 24mm F1.8 will sell for $1000 and the E 50mm F1.8 OSS is expected to cost $300. Both of these lenses will arrive in December.