"NEX" is Gone, so What do we Call It?


Sony's marketing department seems a little behind all the new product action. At the A7/A7r introduction, Sony said that they will longer be any NEX-branded cameras in the future. Okay, but how about the present? By saying that NEX is gone as a brand, what does the customer think about all those NEX-3, NEX-5, and NEX-7 boxes sitting on dealers shelves?

Okay, I get the new product numbering scheme (ILC plus E or A for the type, then a number). Sort of. It appears as if Sony is taking the Canon/Nikon route of single digit numbers being the highest specified, four digit numbers being the low-end consumer. But right now we're still left with a mess all tangled up under the Alpha name:

  • E-mount mirrorless: A3000, NEX-3, NEX-5, NEX-6 NEX-7
  • FE-mount mirrorless: A7, A7r
  • Alpha mount crop sensor: A58, A65, A77
  • Alpha mount full frame sensor: A99

I had to go to Sony's site to make sure I was seeing all their cameras, but it appears that even Sony is confused: click on the "All Alpha Cameras" link and you get the A58, A65, A77, A99, and A3000! What? Where's the A7 and A7r, and/or why's the A3000 in there? Aren't the NEX cameras considered Alpha (and always have been)?

Now it could be that Sony's being disingenuous. By putting the A3000 E-mount camera in with the rest of the DSLRs that use the Alpha mount, it looks like they have a really low priced DSLR (at US$400), one lower priced than anything Canon or Nikon offer. Disingenuous doesn't build customer confidence or loyalty, though. 

I know you want to sell cameras, Sony, but heading into the big selling season you've got a marketing mess on your hands. And I'm not so sure that the mess doesn't continue into the future, either, as Sony is claiming they have a new DSLR coming that's between the A77 and A99. Okay, what the heck are you going to name that, and which category does it really fit into? 

Let me illustrate the problem with a table that everyone selling Sony cameras this Christmas is going to have to know by heart or else they're going to just confuse consumers trying to figure out what is going on in the Sony offerings: 

E-mount LensesFE-mount lensesA-mount crop sensor lensesA-mount full frame lenses
A3000, NEX-3, NEX-5, NEX-6, NEX-7fully usableusable, but 1.5x focal length crop factorusable with A-mount adapterusable with A-mount adapter, but 1.5x length crop factor
A7, A7rusable, but should be used in 1.5x crop mode or else they will vignettefully usableusable with A-mount adapter, but should be used in 1.5x crop mode or else they might vignetteusable with A-mount adapter
A58, A65, A77not usablenot usablefully usableusable, but 1.5x focal length crop factor
A99not usablenot usableusable, but should be used in 1.5x crop mode or else they might vignettefully usable

As far as I can tell, that chart isn't anyplace on Sony site at the moment. This could have all been partially solved a different way:

  • AE3000, AE300 (nee NEX-3), AE500 (nee NEX-5), AE600 (nee NEX-6), AE700 (nee NEX-7) 
  • AE7, AE7r
  • A58, A65, A77
  • A99

And the statements:

  • All E-mount lenses work on AE cameras (some with crop factor), all A mount lenses are usable with an adapter (some with crop factor).
  • All A-mount lenses work on A cameras (some with crop factor).

The only conclusion I can come to from the way the camera makers consistently obfuscate and confuse with their naming conventions is that they're trying to take advantage of something our brain does when presented with too much information it can't correlate: it asks more questions and tends to rely upon salesperson help to get out of the jam the confusing information puts them in. The salesperson, of course, may be motivated to sell you something other than you need (or what's actually still in stock).

The only other logical conclusion you could come to is that no one at these big consumer electronics companies can come up with a simple, meaningful naming system. 

Oh, wait, there's one other conclusion you can make: no adult is clearly in charge, and the underlings are wreaking havoc with their conflicting decisions. 

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