Sony started in mirrorless by releasing a number of cameras under the NEX name. They fell into three basic model lines:
- NEX-3, NEX-3C, NEX-3F—these are Sony's low-end model, in order of introduction. There was a significant step forward (sensor wise) with the 3C, and a modest redo of features on the 3F, making the 3C and 3F the preferred versions of this model. This has been superseded with the post-NEX A5000.
- NEX-5, NEX-5N—the mid-range model was always a strong performer, with the 5N update being a modest change. The big change with the 5N is the availability of a very good optional EVF (equivalent to the NEX-7's built-in EVF). This model line was discontinued.
- NEX-6, NEX-7—the high-end NEX-7 model was launched right at the time of the Thailand floods in 2011, which delayed wide availability of the camera. At it's launch it was the mirrorless camera with the most pixels (24mp). That, coupled with the built-in EVF, redesigned controls, and small, prosumer type package made it one of the desirable high-end mirrorless cameras from day one. The NEX-6 model uses a 16mp sensor, removes a couple of advanced controls, but also has a built-in EVF. These models were superseded with the post-NEX A6000.
In late 2013 Sony decided to drop the use of the name NEX. Technically, all the NEX cameras were always regarded as Alpha cameras, as well, and it appears now that Sony will just use the Alpha moniker moving forward.
Additional cameras got added to Sony’s mirrorless lineup in 2013 and 2014:
- crop sensor (E mount) A3000/A3500 entry model with a DSLR-like design with an EVF but very low end features
- crop sensor (E mount) A5000 entry model rangefinder type of camera (no EVF)
- crop sensor (E mount) A6000 top-end model with built-in EVF and high-speed autofocus
- full frame A7s (FE mount) a DSLR-like camera with excellent video and low light features (12mp)
- full frame A7 (FE mount) a DSLR-like camera with a strong mix of features (24mp)
- full frame A7r (FE mount) a DSLR-like camera with lots of megapixels (36mp)