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2011.08.24

Today, Sony launched four new digital cameras and four new lenses. All but one of these cameras use an all-new 24 megapixels APS-C sensor and a class-leading OLED EVF with 2.4 megapixels (XGA resolution).  The last camera, the NEX-5N updates the NEX-5 with a 16 megapixels CMOS sensor similar to the one used on the previous flagship SLT-A55 reviewed here.

The new 24 megapixels sensor represents a 33% leap in resolution over all other APS-C sensors, previously topping out at 18 MP. This is a high-speed CMOS sensor which can deliver its full-resolution output at 12 FPS or more. It can also stream full 1080p HD video at 60 FPS, doubling the frame-rate of previous generation sensors. This 24 MP sensor has an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 16000, which is very respectable considering its pixel-density.

Not to outdo everyone is just one area, Sony also produced an EVF with 66% more resolution, leapfrogging the 1.5 MP EVF used by the Panasonic GH2. This is an OLED design using a standard LCD tri-color matrix with a resolution of 1024×768 (XGA) pixels which gives it a 2.4 MP resolution.

The new flagship SLT camera is the Sony Alpha SLT-A77.  This is a professional level DSLR with dual control-dials, a weather-sealed body and 12 FPS continuous shooting. It keeps all  innovations of the first-generation SLT models which use a translucent mirror to provide full-time autofocus during still exposures and video capture. It obviously has 100% coverage which is easy to provide with an EVF, plus built-in image stabilization and a GPS.

The second SLT launched today is the Sony Alpha SLT-A65 which is an intermediate model with a single control-dial and 10 FPS continuous shooting. This model is not weatherproof and does not include the Sync-Port of the A77. The A65 and A77 otherwise share most features including the 24 MP CMOS sensor, 2.4 MP EVF, built-in stabilization, GPS and 1920×1080 @ 60 FPS video capture.

The true game-changer introduced today is the NEX-7. This is an E-Mount SLD using the same 24 MP APS-C sensor and XGA resolution EVF but in an incredibly small body. Sony even managed to squeeze in a built-in flash and a hot-shoe.  This makes it the smallest SLD with built-in EVF ever while having the largest highest-resolution sensor among them.

The NEX-7 also features 3 control-dials which is more than any DSLR and almost every camera on the market. This makes it the first NEX camera with efficient photographic controls and is bound to appeal to professional who would like to complement their heavy gear with something much lighter without compromising image quality. Speaking of image quality, the NEX-7 has an advantage over both the SLT-A77 and SLT-A65 by not using a translucent mirror which gives it about 1/3 more light to work with. There may be other factors influencing the performance of the 24 megapixels CMOS sensor such as heat-dissipation but 33% more light is certain to have impact.

Along these new cameras comes the Sony DT 16-50mm F/2.8 SSM lens which provides an extremely versatile focal-range and a bright constant aperture. It is also Sony’s first weather-sealed lens, which makes the A77’s weather-protection actually useful.

Sony also doubled the number of E-Mount lenses it produces with 3 new models: Carl Zeiss 24mm F/1.8, NEX 50mm F/1.8 and NEX 55-210mm F4.5-6.3.

The Sony Alpha SLT-A77, SLT-A65 and DT 16-50mm F/2.8 SSM are schedule to be available in October this year. The suggested retail price of the A77 is $1400 USD alone or $2000 USD with the 16-50mm lens. The suggested price for the A65 is $1000 USD. The lens alone will also be available for a suggested price of $700 USD. The NEX-7 is scheduled for November availability a suggested price of $1200 USD.

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