Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The NEX Big Thing?

Not a spelling problem, I am referring the Sony NEX line of camera and lenses, the NEX 3 and NEX 5 and beleived many more to come.
I was not always a SONY fan! On the contrary, as an industrial designer, I thought SONY's style of industrial design is very out of date, many new products when introduced, looked old.  Old in its way of looks and old in its way of concept and execution.  To me, SONY is a giant at lost, lost its way and lost its market share, as well as its image of being innovative and quality standard. The NEX is not going to change that fact much, as still that its segment is new and also relatively small for SONY as a company and it will not save SONY as once the Walkman did.  But still, the NEX is a big thing.
"Small format, large print!" was once a synonym of original Leica camera, whereas the excellent optical quality and second-to-none craftsmanship is still very much Leica, the original concept of capturing spontaneous image, high quality image, is no longer Leica exclusive.  In fact, to me, what Leica stands for today is "Luxury Niche", it is a celerbrity camera, not necessary represent the best pictures producer.  Many would swear to defend Leica, I wish I will as I am also a long time Leica user, but it is simply not the most effective and efficient picture making tools today.  OK, enjoying using a Leica is another thing.
So why I think NEX is big?  In many ways.  Many who follow my blog know that I use lots of cameras, very small to very big, many many different brands.  Before there is a serious SONY camera,  I use the original Minolta Maxxum 9000 - the first professional AF SLR, I love the camera, but later on I passed it to  my relative; years later, I picked up 9xi - the first professional DSLR using SUS 304 stainless steel body chassis as well as for its beautiful 85/1.4 lens.  And that is the last Minolta camera I use, until now the NEX 5, arguably a 1/2 SONY, 1/2 Minolta camera. I also use Four Thirds cameras, the original Olympus E1, and then E330, and a handful of lenses, but to me, the 4/3 did not really deliver what it meant to deliver so I sold the system. It was until later on it found it niche with M4/3 format - which I quickly follow with a GF1 - and a few lenses, and very happy with it, and still very happy with it, it is in fact my prime snap shot camera and travel companion.  Then came along the NEX 5!
First impression is of course the size, what SONY did is what exactly M4/3 trying to achieve, only more effective. But I don't think the size will be staying there, my beloved Contax T2/T3 is full frame and roughly similar size of NEX cameras, so potentially there is more room to squeeze, watch out.
The NEX is big, not on its absolute image quality but on the hybrid concept - and why it pushes Leica to "Luxury Niuche" category.  First is the larger sensor, which allows NEX to deliver image quality slightly edged over GF1, but more on its ability to shoot with more flexibility in poor light, something GF1 might try to avoid, and NEX 5 delivers OK. And the most important feature, the entire lens system is buit for the benefit of video capturing.  Many motion picture professional says AF is not really needed for serious productions, they can change their mind later. The NEX 5, which I use, offer much more smooth recording than GF1, and of higher resolution.  Panosonic seemed to believe that consumer will be quite happy and appreciate with 720p recording, is obvious wrong.  Or one will not see such hype over Tester 13 and his hack of quite many dideo-able DSLR and EVIL. We may soon see his hand on NEX 3/5, wish him good luck, and please do it quick Test 13!  And finally, a powerful and capable video and image capture tool in such small package, will have its stand in history. NEX is a sad news to M4/3, a great news for photographers, go try it, and try its video.
And what happened to Canon and Nikon?  They will have answewrs, as they always have.  My hunch is, as with the original EOS cameras, a company seemed to embrace new technology the quickest, is working their brain out day and night to get the next move right, Canon will deliver its hybrid camera the last, and best.
This image, shot with Sony NEX 5, with 16/2.8, set to 2.8, 1/30s, ISO 1600.

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