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

APS-C sensors in pint-sized bodies means serious competition for the micro four thirds shooters.

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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.

CLICK HERE FOR A GALLERY OF SAMPLE IMAGES FROM THE NEX-5

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.

CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW FOR AN EXCLUSIVE GALLERY OF SAMPLE IMAGES FROM THE NEX-5

NEX-5 sample gallery

Read on for the full specs.


new sony cameras

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" (117.2x62.6x33.4mm) (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" (110.8x58.8x38.2mm) (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" (62x22.5mm)
  • 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)
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NEX-5 body without lens.
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NEX-5's tilting LCD display.
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The NEX-5 comes in black and silver.
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The NEX-5 from overhead.
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The NEX-5 back. Note the dedicated video recording button.
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The NEX-5 left side.
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The NEX-5 right side. The grip is important for such a small camera with this kind of weight distribution.
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The NEX-3 comes in red, black and silver.
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The NEX-3 front.
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The NEX-3 has the same display and basic button set-up as the NEX-5.
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A detached human hand gives a sense of scale.
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The 16mm f/2.8 lens isn't quite thin enough to be considered a pancake.
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The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS is the only lens in the bunch to offer image stablization.
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The $800 18-200mm zoom comes out in the fall of 2010.
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The fisheye adapter attaches to the 16mm lens, taking it down to 12mm.
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The clip-on flash isn't integrated into the body, but it is included in the box.
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The lens adapter lets the NEX bodies use any of the Alpha lenses or legacy lenses if you don't need the AF.
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The lens adapter doesn't add much mass.
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The optical viewfinder is sold separately.
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The NEX bodies have built-in stereo mics, but the optional attachment offers far superior audio recording.
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