Just announced this week are two new Alpha-series interchangeable lens cameras (ILC) and two new lenses from Sony, the digital SLR SLTα37 and NEX-F3 compact camera, and their accompanying stand-alone zooms SAL18135 and SEL18200LE, respectively.
Sony’s Alpha business comprises the NEX mirrorless and Alpha camera line. NEX models have more in common with compacts than SLRs, with a user-friendly interface operated via a handy control wheel that gives a little description of each option. Sony’s view of the industry is that the ILC category marketplace is about to explode, with consumers increasingly demanding compact system cameras.
Sony, of course, is an electronics behemoth, and their forte is the sensor. The new cameras use the same size and type of sensor (16.2M pixels Exmor APS HD CMOS, APS-C size) as larger, advanced-class SLR cameras, and thus can achieve the same quality and capability as pricier SLRs. According to Sony, consumers want compact cameras at prices converging on those of point-and-shoot devices. And the mirrorless segment is starting to encroach on point-and-shoot cameras.
The forces dictating the jump to mirrorless include such influences as the fact that a lot of images — for example, billions of snaps on Facebook — are being taken on iPhone, with problems of out of focus, shutter lag, and poor quality, largely due to the tiny sensor in such devices.
Core to Sony philosophy is sensor size in an ILC. The more light that falls on the sensor, the better the image. The Sony camera sensor is sixteen times larger than smartphone / compact digital camera sensor and significantly outsizes competing systems such as Micro Four Thirds, for example.
Because of their tiny size, background defocus is practically impossible on a smartphone camera. This is not a problem for the larger, 23.5 × 15.6mm APS-C format, which effortlessly produces a more pleasing image quality.
The new SLTα37 camera ($599 with kit lens) employs Translucent Mirror Technology with full-time continuous autofocus and three cross sensors to maximize precision, and can shoot high-resolution pictures at up to 7fps.
The NEX-F3, although it has a nice stable handgrip, sadly has no electronic viewfinder (EVF) and can be quite hard to hold still if you are on the move. An EVF is available at additional cost — quite a lot actually. However, the camera’s tilting and swiveling LCD screen is pretty useful, though.
With ISO sensitivity of 100-16,000, the cameras can take great pictures in low light conditions. They also have a long battery life allowing approximately 440 shots per charge when using the LCD viewfinder, and both cameras save still images in JPEG as well as RAW.
Two new lenses to complement the cameras are offered as stand-alone products; the E-mount lens SEL18200LE will be available from July.
According to Sony, these two new cameras combining a large image sensor in a small, light body are among the best travel cameras. With a built-in flash that was not previously available on NEX models, the cameras are capable of beautiful pictures with a defocused background, and suffer less noise in lower light.