I had to do a bit of a double take when I saw Sony's new NEX announcements: they're all over the board. I thought I was looking at one of Nikon's "one from each category" announcements. To wit:
- A new very low end entry level camera (A3000)
- A minor update to the mainstay in the lineup (NEX 5T)
- A high end lens (16-70mm f/4)
- A video-oriented lens (18-105mm f/4)
I call this the "spread spectrum" type of marketing event, where you launch a bunch of things that fill in lots of little gaps in the lineup that are otherwise unrelated other than the product line they fit into (in this case, NEX).
So let's go through the entries one by one.
First up, we have the A3000, which is the strangest of the bunch. At US$400 for camera and lens, this represents a new entry point into mirrorless for Sony. On the outside it looks like and is sized like an Alpha DSLR (and note the Alpha-like name). Indeed, this mirrorless camera is about the same size as the recent Canon SL1, which is a DSLR.
The US$400 price point was reached by choosing low end parts and not having very many user controls and sophisticated features. Many compact cameras have more controls than the A3000. Many also have better LCDs, too. The 201k dot EVF and 230k dot LCD are decidedly low-tech and low-cost. The flash is only 4m GN at ISO 400. And the overall feel of the camera is inexpensive, too (no rubber around the EVF for eyeglass wearers).
I suspect that Sony's motivation here is a bit Trojan Horse. The A3000 designation gives their intentions away: the Alpha DSLR lineup is moving to mirrorless (it's half way there with the current SLT models). The A3000 will look like it's a very low cost option at the bottom of that lineup, even though it's actually in the NEX realm (E-mount lenses, not Alpha mount lenses). I wonder how Sony will categorize their numbers to CIPA ;~). CIPA counts "single lens reflex" and "non-reflex" separately, and using CIPA's wording, the A3000 is clearly non-reflex and so would mirrorless Alphas.
Next, we have the NEX-5T, which seems to be a really lightweight update to the NEX-5R. The only real changes I can see are these: NFC support for the WiFi connection, addition of the panorama sweep mode, a switch to the 16-50mm collapsible power zoom for the kit lens, and a US$50 lower price overall. I'm sure there are some other subtle changes, maybe even some new BIONZ tuning for JPEG images, but I see no compelling reason for a current NEX-5R user to be interested.
The lenses are much more interesting to contemplate. The 16-70mm f/4 OSS is a Zeiss-labeled design, and very high end in terms of quality and price. As such, it isn't a lens I see people mounting on a NEX-3, NEX-5, or A3000, but on some higher specified NEX model, maybe even models we haven't yet seen. At US$1000, it's not cheap, but having a high quality 24-105mm equivalent fixed aperture zoom is something I look forward to trying out. All the existing Sony 24mm equivalent options in the E-mount leave something to be desired. I'm hoping this solves that problem for once and for all.
The 18-105mm f/4G OSS is a different beast entirely. The power zoom button on the side screams video, and I've long wanted something a bit less super zoom to use on my FS100U. This lens looks like the one that will be mounted much of the time on my video NEX, as its versatile, has OSS, has a reasonably fast fixed aperture, and gives me powered zoom when I need it. It's a bigger, heavier lens, though, weighing in at a pound. Again, I don't see this lens showing up on the NEX-3, NEX-5, and A3000 cameras very often. But the FS100U, and NEX-VG30, and NEX-VG900 crowd should be happy with it.
This brings Sony's NEX iteration up to 11 still cameras, 8 video cameras, and 15 lenses. NEX is starting to look like a fairly full line with a wide range of options. Here in the US, retail sales slips show the NEX lineup with the leading market share, and these offerings are just going to reassure most NEX users that Sony is filling out the line, even if none of the offerings may directly appeal to them.
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