Sony Alpha NEX-5

1. 3.0-Inch Tilting Monitor: The 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor tilts 80° up and 45° down for easy high- and low-angle shooting, but there’s no eye-level EVF. 2. Accessory Mic: The compact ECM-SST1 Stereo Microphone captures even more high-quality sound for HD video recordings than the camera’s built-in stereo recording. 3. Simple Controls: Designed to be simple, the NEX-5 is controlled by a turn-and-click wheel and two soft keys, instead of the myriad buttons and dials of the typical DSLR. Contact: Sony, (877) 865-7669,

Sony Alpha NEX-5

LIST PRICE: $699 (with 18-55mm lens)

14.2-MEGAPIXEL APS-C SENSOR: The NEX-5 (and NEX-3) contains an APS-C-format, 14.2-megapixel Sony Exmor HD CMOS sensor. The first Sony still-camera sensor capable of full HD video, it provides ISOs up to 12,800.

HD VIDEO: The NEX-5 and NEX-3 are the first APS-C-sensor cameras to offer continuous autofocus and exposure during video recording. Video capabilities include 1920×1080/60i AVCHD, plus 1440×1080/30p and 640×480/30p MP4. Maximum video clip length is 29 minutes. A built-in microphone records stereo sound, and an external stereo mic is available.

INTERCHANGEABLE LENSES: Featuring a new Sony Alpha E-mount, the NEX-5 accepts very compact E-series lenses designed specifically for it. Two were introduced with the camera: a 16mm ƒ/2.8 and an 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6—with the sensor’s 1.5x “crop” factor, these are equivalent to 24mm and 27-85mm on a 35mm camera, respectively. The camera also will accept (via optional adapter) Sony A-series lenses for Sony Alpha DSLRs (but with manual focusing only). There’s no sensor-shift image stabilization as with the DSLRs, but select E-series lenses will have in-lens stabilizers.

7 fps: The NEX-5 can shoot up to eight RAW images (or five RAW + JPEG files) at 2.3 fps and JPEGs until the memory card is full. And it can shoot at 7 fps in Speed Priority mode (with focus and exposure locked).

Sony has joined the increasingly popular mirrorless, interchangeable-lens competition in a big way, with two new Alpha cameras: the NEX-5 and its lower-priced sibling, the NEX-3—the smallest cameras in the class, with some impressive features.

Like the Micro Four Thirds System cameras introduced over the past few years, the NEX series does away with the SLR mirror box and pentaprism finder, enabling a much more compact camera body and lenses. But unlike the Micro Four Thirds cameras, the NEX-5 contains a larger APS-C image sensor, the size used in most popular DSLRs—one reason why it’s able to go to ISO 12,800. And while Samsung’s NX10 also has an APS-C-format image sensor, it also has a built-in eye-level electronic viewfinder, which makes it somewhat larger (note that the NEX-5 does lack eye-level viewing; no EVF is available).

The NEX-5 incorporates a number of innovative features from Sony’s top compact digital cameras and DSLRs, including Sweep Panorama, Hand-held Twilight Mode, Dynamic Range Optimizer, Face Detection, Smile Shutter Technology and more. It doesn’t have built-in sensor-shift image stabilization like the DSLRs, but selected E-series lenses will have built-in OSS optical stabilizers, including the 18-55mm zoom introduced with the camera.

STANDOUT FEATURE: Continuous autofocus and auto exposure during video recording will be a big advantage for those who expect camcorder-like ease of use.

VERDICT: One of the most exciting announcements in cameras this year, the NEX series offers innovative new features and capabilities in an amazingly compact system.

Sony Alpha NEX-3
The NEX-5’s “kid brother” provides most of the same features. The main differences are that the NEX-3 has a polycarbonate body shell and 720/30p HD video instead of 1080i. If these don’t matter to you, you can save $100. List Price: $599 (with 18-55mm zoom).
Sony DSLR-A230
It’s twice the size of the NEX-5 (although quite compact by DSLR standards) and doesn’t do video, but the 10.2-megapixel A230 costs $250 less, with an 18-55mm zoom, and is a true DSLR that can use the full range of A-series Sony lenses, with autofocusing and no adapter required. List Price: $449 (with 18-55mm zoom).

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