Sony Debuts NEX-3 And NEX-5 Interchangeable Lens Cameras

Back at PMA earlier in the year, Sony teased us with prototypes of the company's forthcoming "Alpha Compact" cameras. These were similar in style to the Micro Four Thirds options already on the market from Olympus and Panasonic, combining the size of a point-and-shoot with the flexibility of a lens-changing DSLR. Today, Sony has come clean with those very cameras, giving them official names and specification sheets.

Sony's two new Alpha compact interchangeable lens digital cameras are the NEX-5 and NEX-3, both of which promise to provide "the quality of a digital SLR in a compact body that is easy to slip into a small purse or jacket pocket for ultimate portability." They're also the world's first interchangeable lens cameras with an APS-C sensor to continuously adjust focus and exposure while recording video, and the NEX-5 in particular offers Full HD movie capture (1080i AVCHD and 720p MP4) with Full HD 60i recording.

Unlike conventional DSLR models, the "mirrorless" construction of the new models reduces the thickness of both camera bodies to just about an inch at their slimmest point, with the NEX-5 made of magnesium alloy, and the NEX-3 using a polycarbonate casing. They both share a 14.2MP Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, which is around 60% larger than the sensor in a Micro Four Thirds camera.

There's also a built-in HDMI port and a stereo microphone, along with a BIONZ processor and 7fps image capture. Furthermore, the NEX-5 and NEX-3 are the first alpha cameras featuring Sweep Panorama, enabling users to capture vast, sweeping images with little work. Sony also promises that the user interface has been simplified, and the 3" rear LCD should make wading through those menus a breeze.

Three new E-mount lenses are being introduced, including a 16mm F2.8 wide angle prime lens (model number SEL16F28), an 18mm-55mm F3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens (model number SEL1855) and an 18mm-200mm F3.5-6.3 (model number SEL18200) high magnification zoom lens. Both cameras are supplied with a super-compact clip-on flash that attaches via the smart accessory terminal when needed. Other optional accessories include the FDA-SV1 Optical Viewfinder plus stylish cases and shoulder straps.

The NEX-5A and NEX-3A cameras, which are supplied with SEL16F28 lens, will cost about $650 and $550 respectively. NEX-5K and NEX-3K cameras, supplied with SEL1855 lens will cost about $700  and $600 respectively. The NEX-3 will be available in silver, black and red, and the NEX-5 in silver and black.The SEL16F28 and SEL1855 lenses will be available for about $250 and $300. (The SEL18200 zoom lens will be available this fall for about $800.)