Sony's new Alpha interchangeable lens cameras and DSLRs out-spec the competition

Sony is ready for the serious amateur photographer this holiday with a 24.3-megapixel ILC NEX-7, an updated NEX-5N, an successor to the DSLR a700 with a77, and a more budget-friendly a65.

It's camera season again and first up is Sony introducing four new enthusiast-level cameras just in time for holiday 2011. In addition to the refreshed Alpha NEX-C3 interchangeable lens camera available now (above, left), the ILC NEX-7 (above, right) and NEX-5N (above, middle), as well as digital SLRs a77 and a65 whose performance even "professional DSLRs have yet to achieve" with improved Translucent Mirror Technology, will be joining the Alpha family this fall. Here is your first look at these cameras' specs and pricing.

Alpha NEX-7

Following in the camera moniker tradition that the 7-model "designates new technology," Sony is introducing the NEX-7 -- a high-end ILC that make other cameras in its class seem like amateurs (shown above). Featuring a new ExmorAPS HD CMOS sensor and Sony's BIONZ imaging engine, the NEX-7 shoots stills at 24.3-megapixel and HD videos up to 60 fps (though keep in mind that it uses the AVCHD file format). Its 20 milliseconds shutter release lag and ability to capture up to 10 fps in burst mode makes the NEX-7 the fastest camera in its class right now. With its ISO ranging from 100 to 16000, the NEX-7 can capture photos with minimal noise in low-light. Despite weighing just 10.3 ounces, the NEX-7 is a powerhouse of a camera with a tiltable, three-inch Xtra Fine LCD touchscreen with TruBlack technology, a built-in OLED XGA TruFinder "through-the lens" viewfinder, an internal flash, three control wheels (aperture, exposure and ISO), as well as an Auto-lock Accessory Shoe for accessories. Available in early-to-mid November, the NEX-7 will retail for approximately $1350 with a 18-55 mm kit lens or $1200 for just the body.

Alpha NEX-5N

With the addition of the NEX-7, the NEX-5N (successor to last year's NEX-5) is now the middle child in Sony's ILC family, offering the best of both the NEX-7 and the NEX-C3. The NEX-5N's large ExmorAPS HD CMOS sensor along with Sony's BIONZ imaging engine means the 2011 model captures photos in 16.1-megapixel resolution, a bump up from 14.2 in the previous-gen, with a shutter release lag of just 20 milliseconds (like the NEX-7), 10 fps in burst mode, and a faster autofocus (AF) thanks to an improved AF algorithm. It actually offers a higher maximum ISO than the NEX-7 at 25600 so this model is great for low-light situations. As a camcorder, it can shoot AVCHD Progressive (Ver2.0) Full HD movies equivalent to Blu-ray quality (up to 60 fps), with continuous autofocus and object tracking focus via the touchscreen,  improved stereo, and ability to manually control exposure. Like the NEX-7, the NEX-5N is equipped with a three-inch tiltable Xtra-fine LCD touchscreen but uses the Photo Creativity Touch interface that makes photography jargon more accessible to newbies. Unlike the NEX-7, this model does not have integrated flash and the OLED viewfinder is only available as an external accessory for approximately $350 in November. Look for the NEX-5N in black or silver to hit stores early September for $700 with a 18-55 mm kit zoom lens, or $600 for just the body.

a77 (SLT-A77)

As the successor to the a700, the a77 offers almost twice the image resolution at 24.3-megapixel thanks its Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor and BIONZ image processor, and boasts the the fastest continuous AF among DSLRs as it can capture 12 fps at full resolution. It has a new electronic front shutter curtain that has a minimum release time lag of approximately 50 milliseconds, which is comparable to much more expensive professional-class DSLRs. Its built-in OLED TruFinder viewfinder at 2359k dot (XGA) can even preview exposure settings and zoom into specific part of an image to fine-tune the focus. Other technical specs include:

  • ISO: 100-16000 expands down to ISO 50 so this camera is suitable for action shots
  • Camcorder: Full HD movies at 60 fps with Phase Detection to maintain focus on moving subjects
  • Display: Three-inch Xtra Fine LCD (921k dot) with TruBlack technology and the world's first three-way adjustable display (tiltable and able to pivot); a separate top-mounted LCD data display
  • Manual controls: front and rear control dials for intuitive fingertip operation
  • Environmental protections: sealed against dust and moisture
  • Shutter: up to 150,000 cycles
  • Shutter speed: ultra-fast minimum 1/8000 sec shutter speed (1/250 sec flash sync)
  • Autofocus: 19-point autofocus system with 11 cross sensors
  • Built-in GPS to geo-tag photos and videos
  • No internal flash

The a77 will be in-stores this November for $2000 with the new kit lSAL1650 f2.8 kit lens, or $1400 for just  the body.

a65 (SLT-A65)

For those advanced hobbyists looking for the control that a DSLR affords but with a slightly smaller budget than the a77 requires, Sony also has the a65, which is very similar to the a77 but with minor differences in performance for a lower price tag. Like the a77, the a65 uses the Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor and BIONZ image processor to shoot 24.3-megapixel images, and comes equipped with an OLED viewfinder that allows the photographer to preview settings in real-time and zoom-in to improve focus before snapping a shot. In burst mode, the a65 captures 10 fps, with a 15-point AF and three cross sensors; its shutter release lag is just 50 milliseconds thanks to the same electronic front shutter curtain as the a77. Here are the rest of the technical specs on the a65:

  • Camcorder: Full HD movies up to 60 fps with fast continuous AF and Phase Detection
  • Built-in GPS for geotagging of photos and videos
  • Display: Three-inch Xtra Fine LCDdisplay at 921k dot resolution and TruBlackTM technology; two-way adjustable

The a65 will be available by arly-to-mid-October with a standard 18-55 mm kit lens for $1000, or $900 for the body only.

Sony seems to have covered all its bases with these four cameras (plus the NEX-C3 currently available) for the budding photographer who is looking for pro-level controls and image quality, but not the bulk or the prices pro equipment demands. It'll be interesting to see how they compare in performance and popularity to the new cameras other manufacturers will be announcing in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

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