San Diego - Sony formally introduced Tuesday its first hybrid cameras designed to offer the creative flexibility of an interchangeable lens d-SLR and the compact form factor of a point-and-shoot.
In fact, Sony is calling its new NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras "the world's smallest interchangeable lens cameras. Both hybrids are Sony's first mirrorless interchangeable lens models. They use large-area Exmor APS HD CMOS image sensors with 14.2 megapixel still image resolution and HD video resolution.
The sensors were said to have been optimized for both picture quality and speed of readout - important for both still image capture and HD movie taking.
The cameras are also among Sony's first interchangeable lens cameras with HD video recording functionality.
The NEX-5 records in HD 1080i in AVCHD with continuous Auto Focus. The NEX-3 records in 720p HD resolution. Both models also include HDMI outputs.
The large-area APS HD CMOS sensors permit images with professional looking de-focused backgrounds in both stills and videos. The effect is difficult to achieve with most point-and-shoot digital cameras, Sony said.
The sensors are also 60 percent larger than sensors used in competitive hybrid cameras based on Micro Four Thirds technology, Sony said.
The large size of the sensors also enables extended ISOs without degradation.
Both cameras will accept Sony's E-mount lenses when used with a special optional adapter, making them compatible with a full range of the company's Alpha D-SLR lenses. However, the cameras will ship in kits with one of two special compact E-mount lenses that incorporate built-in optical image stabilization. That capability is not supported by the NEX cameras using Alpha camera lenses.
The new lenses also use Sony optics, instead of the Carl Zeiss optics used by the other Alpha family lenses.
Both cameras will support the full range of Memory Stick and SD storage cards, including the new SDXC format, the company said.
The NEX-5 features a more stylish body design, with a magnesium alloy body, while the NEX-3 features a more rounded design and a different grip.
The cameras are said to have about half the size and weight of Sony's smallest d-SLR model.
The NEX-5 will shoot at 7 frames per second in speed priority mode and 2.3 frames per second with continues AF tracking data.
Both cameras include 3-inch wide format tilting LCD viewscreens with True Black technology.
The cameras will ship in kits with a choice of either an E-mount 16mm/f2.8 lens (NEX-5 $650 suggested retail, and NEX-3 $550) or an E-mount 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens (NEX-5 $700, and NEX-3 $600). A clip on external flash is supplied with both camera versions.
Both models will be in stores in early July.
Shortly after the cameras ship, Sony said it is planning to release a firmware update that will give the cameras 3D panorama still image shooting capability.
In other news, Sony said it is also working on offering one of the world's first camcorders to use interchangeable lenses. Marketing plans were not available.