The rumors are true: Sony's dropping four major cameras this year, including an updated NEX-5N, and the 24.7-megapixel A77, A65, and NEX-7. If you view one major camera announcement from Sony today, make it this one.
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After weeks of rumors, Sony has today announced the release of four new interchangeable lens cameras for their 2011 lineup: the A77 and A65 DSLRs as well as the NEX-5N and the new NEX-7.
The four cameras push the boundaries of what Sony has done previously with their translucent mirror technology as well as their E-mount NEX-series cameras, advancing the concepts the company has utilized in the last 18 months.
The A77 and A65 will both be full-sized DSLRs, updating the camera's Alpha line with 24.7-megapixel HD CMOS image sensors, 1080/60p (AVCHD 2.0 compliant) video, 8fps still shooting and up (12fps max on A77), XGA OLED electronic viewfinders, articulated rear LCD, and 1200 zone metering straight off the sensor.
The A77 and A65, on the inside, are not very different. The major difference there comes in terms of the A77's 19-point AF system, with 11 cross-type sensors (compared to the 15-point, 3 cross-type on the A65), as well as the A77's expanded selection of picture effects and slightly faster burst rate.
The A65 will debut at a less expensive price, but will not have quite as large or sturdy of a body, as it will be composed of a polycarbonate resin. The A77 will feature magnesium alloy construction, dual control wheels, an LCD that will articulate to a slightly greater degree, as well as a secondary LCD on the top of the camera for quick access to major shooting settings.
Both cameras represent a leap forward for Sony's translucent mirror design, employing XGA OLED viewfinders that should better reflect the image as it will ultimately look, while still offering a full array of shooting information. This theoretically will allow for more accurate focus and color judgement, while still employing phase-detection autofocus with little image lag when shooting through the viewfinder.
The other major announcement comes in the form of the Sony NEX-7 and NEX-5N. The NEX-5N will be a small update to the very popular NEX-5, released last summer. The NEX-7, however, represents a whole new class of E-mount camera for Sony, with a dynamic dual wheel control scheme, metal body, 1080/60p video recording, the same 24.7-megapixel image sensor found in the A77/A65, a built-in flash, 10fps still shooting, an articulated rear monitor, microphone input, and an XGA OLED viewfinder all in a 10.3 oz body not much larger than the current NEX cameras on the market.
The NEX-7 is aimed for the enthusiast looking for a compact option, similar to the Fuji X100, but offering full compatibility with the E-mount lens system, which is adaptable to alpha-mount lenses and several other systems as well.
The NEX-7's inclusion of both a built-in flash and an OLED viewfinder—not to mention the same APS-C 24.7-megapixel CMOS sensor as the A65 and A77—make it, for our money, the most impressive compact mirrorless camera to date, at least on paper. It seems to have all of the benefits of an SLR, excluding phase-detection autofocus, in a compact body that sacrifices little. We'll have to reserve judgement until the camera hits our labs, but it's certainly something worth keeping an eye on.
The NEX-5N isn't quite as big of an update as the other three cameras, though it does present an upgrade over last year's popupar NEX-5. Sony claims they wanted to stick close to the popular NEX-5's design, offering small upgrades rather than wholesale changes. The NEX-5N will have a 16.7-megapixel CMOS sensor, shoot 1080/60p video, offer electrostatic touchscreen control, feature the same tilting LCD as the NEX-7, but all in a body that is very similar to the current NEX-5.
Sony has also announced a group of new lenses, as well as an adapter (the LA-EA2) for utilizing Alpha-mount lenses with phase-detection autofocus (along with a drive motor). For full details on the accessories, as well as a full breakdown of all the new cameras, you can visit Sony's press website here.