New Gear: Sony Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5 cameras promo

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The NEX-5 comes in black and silver.

Just a few months ago at PMA, Sony made it clear that the next extension of its Alpha brand would come in the form of an HD-video-shooting interchangeable lens compact. Now, those prototypes have become full-blown cameras in the form of the new NEX-3 and NEX-5, which will be hitting shelves in July. Both come packing the same new 14.2-megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, which is almost 60% bigger (23.4mm x 15.6mm) than what you’ll find inside a micro four thirds body. Both can capture HD video and stereo audio via the built-in microphone, but the NEX-3 tops out at 720p, while the NEX-5 can crab 1080i video in AVCHD format. Despite the extra sensor real estate, both bodies are impressively compact. The NEX-5, which has a magnesium alloy body, weighs just 10.1-ounces (with battery and media) and the NEX-3 checks in at 10.5-ounces. Compare that to the 11.1-ounce Olympus E-P2 and the 10.1-ounce Panasonic Lumix GF1.


To accompany its new pint-sized bodies, Sony has introduced three new E-mount lenses: The 16mm (35mm equivalent: 24mm) f/2.8 ($250), the 18-55mm (35mm equivalent: 27-83mm) f/3.5-5.6 OSS ($300) and the 18-200mm 35mm equivalent (27-300mm) f/3.5-6.3 (fall, $800). The compact barrels are made from brushed aluminum and have steel mounts. They also boast ultra-quiet AF motors, enabling continuous autofocus during HD video capture. If you’re not satisfied with three lens options (and you have a little extra room in your bag), the optional LA-EA1 Mount Adapter allows both NEX cameras to use the full range of Alpha lenses, plus a “huge range” of other legacy A-mount lenses if you don’t need AF. It’s worth noting that there’s no internal image stablization on the NEX bodies, so you’ll have to opt for the 18-55mm lens if you want to enjoy the Optical Steady Shot functionality.

In keeping with the compact part of its lineage, both the NEX-3 and NEX-5 have a redesigned and simplified interface, as well as a handful of Sony’s specialty shooting modes like Hand-Held Twilight, Auto HDR and Anti-Motion Blur. Units will ship with the standard Sweep Panorama feature that they offer in other compacts, but a coming firmware update will allow both of the NEX cameras to capture 3D Sweep Panoramas, which can be played back on compatible 3D HDTVs.

Both models sport an impressive 3-inch TFT TruBlack LCD displays with 921,600 pixels and 100-percent Live View coverage. The screen can be angled approximatley 80-degrees upward and 45 degrees downward to allow for shooting at unique angles.

While the bodies lack a built-in flash, a clip-on flash, which attaches via the smart accessory terminal is provided in the box. If you want the FDA-SV1 Optical Viewfinder or the ECM-SST1 Stereo Microphone, you’ll have to buy them sparately. There will be two different kits available at launch, including the NEX-5A ($650) and NEX-3A ($550), which come bundled with the 16mm prime. The NEX-5K ($700) and NEX-3K ($600) come with the 18-55mm zoom.


NEX-5 sample gallery

Read on for the full specs.

new sony cameras


  • Sensor: 14.2-megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS (23.4mm x 15.6mm)
  • Lens crop factor: 1.5x
  • Anti-dust: Charge protection coating on Low-Pass Filter and electromagnetic vibration mechanism
  • Image processor: BIONZ
  • Media Types: Memory Stick PRO Duo/Pro-HG Duo/PRO-HG HX Duo media SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card
  • Image Modes: JPEG (Standard, Fine), RAW, RAW+JPEG
  • Video format: NEX-5 AVCHD / MP4 (MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)) – NEX-3 MP4 (MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)) only.
  • AF system: Contrast
  • Focus points: 25
  • AF modes: Single-shot AF, Continuous AF, Direct Manual Focus, Manual Focus
  • Focus sensitivity: 0 EV to 20 EV (at ISO100 conversion with F2.8 lens)
  • Sweep Panorama: Maximum Wide 23MP (12,416 x 1,856), 226° (16mm focal), 201° (18mm focal)
  • Face detection: Off, Auto, Child Priority, Adult Priority
  • Smile shutter: Off, Slight, Normal, Big
  • Metering: 49 Segment metering from CMOS image sensor
  • Metering mode: Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot
  • Exposure settings: iAUTO, Program Auto (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter priority (S), Manual (M)
  • ISO: Auto, 200 to 12800
  • Color temperature: 2500 – 9900 k with 19-step Magenta / Green compensation
  • Shutter type: Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane type
  • Drive modes: Single-shot, Continuous, Speed Priority, Self-timer, Continuous Self-timer, Bracketing; Remote Commander
  • Shooting speed: Continuous (2.3fps) Speed Priority (7fps)
  • Flash sync: 1/160 second
  • Burst buffer: JPEG (unlimited to card capacity), RAW (8 shots), RAW+JPEG (5 shots)
  • Flash metering system: Pre-flash TTL
  • Flash modes: Autoflash, Fill-flash, Rear sync., Slow sync., Red-eye reduction
  • Recycle time: Approx. 4 sec
  • HDMI port: TypeC mini
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • NEX-3 dimensions: Appx 4-5/8 × 2-1/2 × 1-3/8″ (117.2×62.6×33.4mm) (W/H/D); 1″ (25.4mm) excl grip and lens mount
  • NEX-3 weight: Approx. 8.4 oz (239g) (excl battery & media) Approx. 10.5 oz (297g) (w/battery & media)
  • NEX-5 dimensions: Appx 4-3/8 × 2-3/8 × 1-9/16″ (110.8×58.8×38.2mm) (W/H/D); 15/16″ (24.2mm) excl grip & lens mount
  • NEX-5 weight: Approx. 8.1 oz (229g) (excl battery & media) Approx. 10.1 oz (287g) (w/battery & media)
  • Battery: InfoLitium NP-FW50,7.2V with approximately 330 shots per charge

16mm F/2.8 LENS

  • Groups and elements: 5 groups, 5 elements (1 aspheric surface)
  • Angle of view: 83°
  • Aperture: 7 blades (Circular aperture)
  • Aperture range: f/2.8-f/22
  • Maximum maginification: 0.073x (APS-C)
  • Miniumum focus distance: 9.4″ (0.24m)
  • Dimensions: 2-7/16 x 7/8″ (62×22.5mm)
  • Weight: 2.5 oz (70g)
  • Filter diameter: 49mm

18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS LENS

  • Groups and elements: 9 groups, 11 elements (4 aspheric surfaces)
  • Angle of view: 76° – 29°
  • Aperture: 7 blades (Circular aperture)
  • Maximum magnification: 0.3x (APS-C)
  • Minimum focus distance: 9.8″ (0.25m)
  • Filter diameter: 49mm
  • Dimensions: 2-7/16 x 2-3/8″ (62x60mm)
  • Weight: 6.9 oz (194g)
  • Image stablization: Optical SteadyShot (max 4-step)
NEX-5 body without lens.
NEX-5’s tilting LCD display.
The NEX-5 comes in black and silver.
The NEX-5 from overhead.
The NEX-5 back. Note the dedicated video recording button.
The NEX-5 left side.
The NEX-5 right side. The grip is important for such a small camera with this kind of weight distribution.
The NEX-3 comes in red, black and silver.
The NEX-3 front.
The NEX-3 has the same display and basic button set-up as the NEX-5.
A detached human hand gives a sense of scale.
The 16mm f/2.8 lens isn’t quite thin enough to be considered a pancake.
The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS is the only lens in the bunch to offer image stablization.
The $800 18-200mm zoom comes out in the fall of 2010.
The fisheye adapter attaches to the 16mm lens, taking it down to 12mm.
The clip-on flash isn’t integrated into the body, but it is included in the box.
The lens adapter lets the NEX bodies use any of the Alpha lenses or legacy lenses if you don’t need the AF.
The lens adapter doesn’t add much mass.
The optical viewfinder is sold separately.
The NEX bodies have built-in stereo mics, but the optional attachment offers far superior audio recording.