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Taking the design concept of an ultra-compact mirror-less/finder-less digicam advanced by the many Four Thirds (4/3)-format cameras currently on the market, Sony has taken the concept a step further by incorporating a Sony 14.2MP APS-C HD Exmor CMOS sensor (1.5x), which features 58% more surface area than a 4/3-format imaging sensor, and about 13 times the surface area of most point-and-shoot imaging sensors. And since sensor size is a major factor when it comes to resolving power, Sony’s NEX-series cameras should prove to be a significant upgrade in terms of sharpness and dynamic range compared to comparable sub-compact offerings.
The new system is available in 2 flavors – the NEX-3, which features a polycarbonate body, HD 720p/MP4 video, and MPEG-4 AAC-LC audio; and the NEX-5, which features a magnesium-alloy body, HD AVCHD 1080/60i video, and Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 audio. As for still imaging, both cameras capture JPEGs (Fine or Standard), RAW, or JPEG+RAW, in a choice of sRGB or Adobe RGB color spaces.
Both cameras also come with a choice of Sony E-series optics – a slim-profile E 16mm F2.8 ‘pancake’ prime lens (24mm equivalent) or an E 18–55mm F3.5–5.6 OSS (Optical SteadyShot) zoom lens (27-82.5mm equivalent). In addition to the 2 kits lenses, there’s also a wider-range E 18–200mm F3.5–6.3 OSS (27-300mm equivalent) E-series zoom, and 2 wide-angle converters – the VCL-ECU1 Ultra-Wide Converter (0.75x) and a VCL-ECF1 fisheye converter (o.62x).
A couple of options that should appeal to many shooters include an optional shotgun-style mic (ECM-SST1), which sits pretty atop the camera and can be tilted 90°/120° depending on your coverage needs. And for rangefinder-style shooting with the 16mm lens, there's a matched optical finder (FDA-SV1) that allows you to shoot with the camera close-up at eye-level.
Along with a choice of optics, there’s also a choice of colors –black, silver, and red for the NEX-3 and silver or black for the NEX-5.
The NEX-series cameras are designed to use Sony E-series lenses, a new compact line of optics designed to work with the reduced flange distance that resulted from the removal of the reflex viewing system. The new E-series optics also incorporate silent AF and iris control to eliminate camera noise when shooting video.
In addition to Sony E-series optics, you can also use any of Sony’s traditional DSLR lenses (as well as all Minolta AF-mount optics) on NEX-series digicams by using the optional LA-EA1 lens adapter (Manual focus and full-open aperture metering only). And a box of donuts says in due time there’ll be a selection of 3rd-party adapters for other lens systems available for the new ‘Ponies’.
In the performance department, the NEX-3 and NEX-5 feature Contrast Auto Focus systems that according to Sony enable quick response times, which are bolstered by the camera’s ability to capture full-resolution stills at burst-rates up to 7 frames-per-second. Low-light shooters will also appreciate the ability to crank ISO sensitivities up to 12800. The new Sony's are also the world's 1st intercangeable lens APS-C cameras with continuouos AF/AE for video.
In addition to high ISO ratings, 2 very-cool low-light shooting features borrowed from Sony’s Cyber-shot pocket-cams are the Anti-Motion Blur and Hand-held Twilight modes, which capture 6 rapid-sequence images of a subject, analyze the exposure and focusing details of each image, and layer the optimum portions of these exposures into a single optimized image. These 2 handhold-able features work amazingly well in Sony’s pocket-cams, and should prove to be even more amazing when captured by the NEX-3/5’s larger imaging sensor.
Another creative imaging feature that’s been lifted from the Cyber-shot line is Sony’s Sweep Panorama mode, which captures up to 60 individual images and stitches them together in-camera to produce 23MB panoramic images up to 226-degree horizontal or 151-degree vertical shots with 16mm lens. Here too, the results should prove to be that much sharper and snappier due to the larger imaging sensor.
Being mirror-less, Sony’s NEX digicams feature a 3”, tilt-able 921,600-dot TFT TruBlack LCD, which along with Live-View functionality, can be tilted downward 45° and upwards of 80° for composing still or video images from extreme angles and/or in tighter shooting quarters.
Other features found on the NEX-3 & NEX-5 include manual overrides for focus and exposure controls, Auto HDR capture and a Dynamic Range Optimizer for expanding shadow and highlight details, Advanced Anti-Dust technologies, 8 Scene modes and 6 Creative settings, Background Defocus, for in-camera selective-focus control, a 25-point AF system, HDMI connectivity, and up to 330 exposures per battery charge.
Because both NEX digicams are designed with technologies that enable easy hand-held, lowlight imaging, there is no built-in flash. But for times you want and/or need to use flash, a low-profile Sony HVL-F7S P-TTL flash (guide # 7m @ ISO 100) is included with each camera.
And stay tuned for our upcoming hands-on review of both of these very exciting imaging machines.