Alright, so this is definitely not the first we've written about about these two latest entry-level shooters from Sony. That said, we're excited to finally get some hands-on time with the Alpha NEX-3N ILC and A58 SLT DSLR. To refresh your memory, the NEX-3N is set to sell for $500 with a 16-50mm power zoom, while the A58 will go for $600 with Sony's latest 18-55m f3.5-5.6 kit lens. Although we only had a few minutes with each inside a section of New York's Natural History museum, we're definitely digging the new wares. Join us past the break for some initial impressions.
Sony Alpha A58 and NEX-3N hands-onSee all photos
So let's start with the 3N. While its predecessor, the F3, seemed a bit like a mini NEX-7 in a few ways, the 3N is focused on being as compact as possible (it weighs just about 7.5 ounces). This time, the camera itself is a semi-svelte slab, with small rubber grips added-on. Sure the F3 was more ergonomic, but the 3N gets back to a profile that's more like the ever-aging C3 (a continuing staff favorite). Overall, this editor prefers the feel of the F3, but can't knock Sony for focusing on keeping this thing as tiny as possible. Never did we feel like the camera was going to slip out of our hands, feeling very well-balanced with the included power zoom.
The control layout is essentially the same as all NEX shooters, aside from a few deviations compared to the F3 -- the pop-up flash and its release button are closer to the center, while the playback button is now near the top-center. The same 3-inch LCD is back again, flipping up 180-degrees for selfies, but sadly, it still can't tilt down for overhead shots. Notably, this is the first 3 to feature a power zoom toggle placed around the shutter button.
You'll also notice that the proprietary hotshoe mount is nowhere to be found, leaving you stuck to the internal stereo mics for audio. It has a nice amount of tension when flicked, but its chrome-finished plastic feels decidedly cheap compared the rest of the camera's design. Beyond that, the SD card slot has been moved to the side, rather than being forced next the battery slot on the bottom like most NEX shooters. As far as internals go, the unit features a 16.1 megapixel APS-C sensor (like last year), boasting a top ISO of 16,000 and new Bionz image processor. You'll also be able to shoot AVCHD videos at up to 60i/1080p.
Sony Alpha NEX-3N sample imagesSee all photos
Sony Alpha A58 sample imagesSee all photos
Moving along to the A58, this 20.1-megapixel APS-C SLT shooter feels like a solid entry-level option set to essentially update the 16.1-megapixel A57. As you'd expect, the camera is very similar in its overall profile, and comfortable to compose with, to boot. You'll get up to 8 frames a second in JPG burst mode, which is actually a bit slower than the 12fps rating for the 57. The Bionz image processor onboard is the same as the 3N's, and you'll get up to ISO 16,000 for low-light shots and 15 autofocus points to work with. On back, Sony's usual OLED viewfinder was a delight to frame shots with, although its 2.7-inch, 460K dot screen hurts to use in comparison to the 920K, 3-incher on most of the NEX models. As you'd expect, it can be titled for overhead and facing-upward shots -- something we'd take any day over the 180-degree movement on the 3N. You can expect the same type of video chops that the 3N has, which can also be said for its Triluminous support on Bravia TVs.
Both of these shooters are set to hit shelves in Europe during March, while US buyers will have to wait until April. For now, catch the videos samples below -- and expect a much more detailed look at the 3N from us in the near future.