Following Nikon’s announcement of the D7100 DSLR, Sony introduced a new SLT camera, called A58, along with their newest entry-level mirrorless offering, NEX-3N. As before, Sony is pushing a lot of innovative, consumer-friendly features into both cameras to attract customers. Not having all that much pedigree as a camera maker (at least when it comes to DSLR or, in their case, DSLT), features and numbers is their surest way of shifting attention of a potential buyer away from better-known camera manufacturers, such as Canon, Nikon and, perhaps, even Pentax.
1) Sony SLT-A58
The new SLT-A58 is a replacement for two older Sony cameras, A37 and A57, which is a good thing – I’ve always found they had too many models not that different in their positioning. Luckily for current Sony users and temptingly for potential new ones, however, the camera fitted with the usual 18-55mm kit lens will cost around $600, which is on par with Nikon’s lowest-end D3200 camera (while on $100 rebate program). Mind you, on paper, SLT-A58 is no slouch against its competitors.
As all previous SLT cameras – hence the naming – it features a translucent fixed mirror and a new high-quality OLED EVF with 1.44 million dots and 100% coverage. The screen, while rather small and of low-resolution (2.7″ and 460k dots), is fully articulated. Both that and sensor-based image stabilization should be of interest for many beginner photographers. Native ISO range starts at 100 and goes all the way to 16000. Any possible performance gain should be very welcome as SLT cameras, due to their fixed mirror design, generally require more sensor sensitivity all else being equal (translucent mirror reflects some of the light). Specifications are rounded up with 5 frames per second continuous shooting (and up to 8 frames per second with limitations), which is slower than that of A57. Then again, A58 has more resolution (a new 20.1 megapixel sensor) and a lower price.
Competitive specs are not all you get with A58. As with A57, the camera aims to do everything for you if you’re a beginner who just wants “better pictures”. There are the usual panorama, artistic filter and a range of auto modes to help you with your exposure settings, but also something Sony calls Auto Object Framing. As the name suggest, this feature will frame the scene for you by cropping the image and then enlarging it back to original size. Any aspiring photographer is sure to take this feature with skepticism, but for beginners, it may actually be of some use.
Here are Sony SLT-A58 camera specification highlights:
- New 20.1 megapixel CMOS sensor
- Native 100-16000 ISO range
- 15-point AF system (phase-detect) with 3 cross-type sensors
- 5 frames per second continuous shooting (up to 8 in some modes)
- 2.7″ 460k dot fully articulated LCD screen
- 1.44 million dot electronic OLED viewfinder
- Battery good for around 690 shots
- In-body image stabilization
- Body-only weight (with battery) 492g (1.08 lb/17.35 oz)
- Expected price with 18-55mm kit lens around $600
2) Sony NEX-3N
Sony NEX-F3 has been around for less than a year, yet already we see it replaced with the new NEX-3N. Sony takes pride in saying this is the smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera with APS-C sensor. It is targeted squarely at previous compact camera owners and even has a point-and-shoot standard zoom lever around the shutter release. It carries the same 16.1 megapixel CMOS sensor found in its predecessor and ISO sensitivity range of 100-16000. Similarly to the previously mentioned SLT-A58, it features Auto Object Framing feature. There’s also a 460k dot tilting 3″ LCD screen on the back.
Coupled to Sony’s 16-50mm kit zoom lens, the package is very compact and versatile at the same time. The features available as well as control and design choices are likely to make this camera a natural step-up for point-and-shoot users wanting more image quality. Priced at around $500 with the kit 16-50mm lens, it is also rather affordable and fares well on paper against the Canon EOS M (read our review). The only slight reservation I have with Sony is about their timing. Why couldn’t they have launched this last year, instead of the NEX-F3? No serious leaps have been made with this camera over its predecessor, yet only a few months later the NEX-F3 is replaced. It would seem Sony is using its compact camera production policy – update as often as possible and flood the market with slightly revised products. I, for one, am getting tired of all the new cameras as of late… Especially those that aren’t really all that different from previous models.
Here are Sony NEX-3N camera specification highlights:
- 16.1 megapixel CMOS sensor
- 100-16000 ISO range
- 25-point contrast-detect AF system
- 4 frames per second continuous shooting
- 3″ 460k dot tiltable LCD screen
- Very small and lightweight for an interchangeable-lens APS-C camera
- Expected price with 16-50mm kit power-zoom lens around $500