For years we have waited for a genuine compact DSLR beater and now we have a fourth format in 18 months. Step forward Sony...
Following in the footsteps of Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix G1, Lumix GF1 and Olympus PEN E-P1 and proprietary systems seen in Ricoh's GXR and Samsung's NX10 are the Sony 'NEX-5' (left) and 'NEX-3' (right).
Both shoot at 14.2MP, have Exmor APS HD SMOS sensors, 7fps shooting, ISO ranges of 200 - 12800 and are compatible with all E-mount lenses as well as A-mount lenses with an optional LA-EA1 adaptor. Striking fear into the heat of their rivals, Sony also claims they are the World's smallest and lightest cameras to feature interchangeable lenses.
How small? Just 24.2mm (NEX-5) and 25.4mm (NEX-3) - excluding grip and mount - and that certainly puts them into the same bracket as standard digital cameras, even if you are then likely to makes them comically long with the likes of an 18-200mm lens. As for their weight, this is equally impressive at only 287g (NEX-5) and 297g (NEX-3) including battery and storage.
How do they work? I'd love to tell you, but Sony isn't elaborating at this stage. In fact all we do know is they have a "mirrorless contruction". No kidding Sony! Meanwhile omitting a viewfinder may prove more controversial.
Moving reluctantly on then we also learn both models can shoot 1080p video in AVCHD, but the NEX-3 is limited to 720p in Mpeg4 while the NEX-5 is somewhat surprisingly restricted to 1080i. More positively, both models feature Sony's impressive Sweep Panorama mode, use 3in " Xtra Fine" LCD displays and promise speedy operation thanks to Sony's powerful BIONZ processor. You'll also get USB and HDMI ports, though more gimmicky camera connectivity like Bluetooth and WiFi are omitted. SDHC/SDXC and Memory Stick Pro Duo/Pro-HG Duo cards are all swallowed without grumble and 330 shots can be taken before needed to recharge the battery.
Kit form, single and dual lens kits will be provided for each model and they'll go on sale next month. We don't know UK pricing as yet, but in the EU the NEX-3 is expected to start from a very reasonable 500 euros (£423) with a 16mm f2.8 pancake lens while the NEX-5 will carry a 100 euro premium. Body kits could be just half this and a small external flash is bundled meaning they could give current value for money champ the Samsung NX10 a real scare.
We're more than a little bit excited...