The Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 leaked-out late last night and surprised the Internet with their down-right sweet styling. Well, Sony has gone and made the pair official, announcing the NEX-5 will retail for $650 with the NEX-3 fetching $550. The cameras have been in the works for some time and just as the press release was crossing the wires, the big camera sites published their hands-on reports. These aren’t full reviews, but they definitely have some insight that cannot be gathered from a press release.
Another remarkable feature of the Sony NEX-5 as well as the NEX-3 is the lack of a built-in flash. Although both cameras come with a standard compact mountable flash that can also be mounted on the so-called Smart Accessory Shoe, this is an extra action that I would rather not have to do. On the other hand, practice will show how often flash will truly be necessary. The ISO values go up to 12.800 and when the high ISOs are of high quality, this may largely make up for the lack of extra flash.
As a result of its whittled-away design, there’s an odd quirk to the NEX-5′s design – a lump to ensure the camera can be mounted on a tripod without fouling the lens. However the attachment area is distinctly minimalist – barely 3/4″ (19mm) square – and therefore unlikely to provide a positive connection with the tripod. This certainly looks like one area where the paring-down process has gone too far.
The only significant variances between the two cameras are HD video capture—the NEX-3 will be limited to 720p video capture using the MP4 codec. That’s fine for sharing in HD on YouTube, but the NEX-5 can create larger 1080i60 videos using the higher quality AVCHD codec. It can also be throttled down to use the lower quality MP4 codec. Many consumer grade video camcorders can capture video in these resolutions and codecs, but none offer an image sensor even close to the size of the NEX cameras – therefore, image quality from the NEX cameras should blow the others out of the water.
More than any other interchangeable-lens camera I’ve seen, the Sony NEX-5 seems optimized for the point-and-shoot upgrader; not necessarily because it’s easier to use than any other or that it’s priced particularly low, but because it’s full of constraints that will probably bother enthusiasts a lot more than snapshooters. That’s a pity, because the video quality, noise profile and performance are really appealing.
Smallest among the new line’s competition, the Sony NEX-5 is also light. Its magnesium-alloy body weighs just 10.2 ounces (0.63 pound, 288g) with battery and card, and adding the lens raises the weight to 17.7 ounces (1.1 pounds, 502g). By comparison, the Panasonic G2 weighs 21.8 ounces (1.36 pounds, 618g); the Olympus E-P2 weighs 19 ounces (1.2 pounds, 539g); and the Samsung NX10 weighs 21.5 ounces (1.3 pounds, 610g) each with kit lens, battery, and card.