Monday, April 26, 2010

Sony Turns EVIL

The first pictures of the Sony EVIL cameras are out. They have been rumored to be announced on 11th May 2010. Apparently two versions of the camera will be released, the NEX3 and the NEX5. Both will have the EXMOR 14mpx sensor but the NEX5 will come with a faster fps and 1080p capability. The NEX3 will only support 720p. Apparently there won't be any EVF, only a detachable OVF... (hmmm... I wonder how that would support zoom lenses)

Based on some observations made on the NX10, I believe these are the critical factors which will determine if the camera will be a success:

- AF speed, AF speed, AF speed - This was the main concern on EVIL cameras, Panasonic managed to get it right, Samsung NX10 came close and Olympus's latest firmwares seem to have gotten it much closer to an acceptable AF speed. Unless Sony can get this right, we can all forget about the NEX series - the good news is, even Sigma DP1x managed to make great improvements in this department, so the chances are high that Sony will get this right.

-High ISO noise - The m4/3 are the most successful EVIL cameras around and in order to beat it, Sony need to make sure they make full use of their main advantage, their larger APS-C sensor. Numerous tests of the similarly spec'ed Samsung NX-10 showed that the high ISO performance is not very different from the m4/3, thus neutralizing much of the advantages of the bigger sensor. Judging from the current Sony dSLR line up, they do have a lot to do in this aspect.

- Lenses - The m4/3 was a semi-compatible system with the 4/3 and that gave the system, at least psychologically, a lot of boost when it was first introduced. The fact that it can mount Leica M mount (and practically any other interchangeable lens mount) helps in its success. Sony will have to make sure enough lens compatibility to ensure that consumers do not feel they are buying into a very custom and niche system.

-Video Features - Many of the EVIL camera users are PnS upgraders and they are very used to having cameras (and mobile phones) capable of doing AF and other sophisticated features during video filming. It simply doesn't make sense to upgrade to an EVIL camera with better still photos but is heavily handicapped when taking video.... and pleeease provide an external mic jack.

- Overall Camera Performance - Why is this different from AF speed? Let's take the Sigma DP1x for example. The AF speed has improved tremendously, some say it is up to 30%-40%. Shot to shot time?... it went something like 6.5 to 6.0 seconds...zzzz With shot to shot time like this, your subjects have better be sleeping, frozen, dead or non-living to begin with. Even the Samsung NX-10 has room to improve in terms of its buffer clearing time.

- AF Assist Light - This will definitely improve low light focusing speed. However, an option to turn this off is a must. Unless you enjoy irritating your friends in parties.

- Popup flash - From the picture above, it seems like an external flash has been used. Again as a camera for PnS upgraders, popup flashes no matter how unprofessional they are, are a must. Olympus's decision to leave them out in the EPx series gave the GF-1 a leg up against it.

Sony have always been great and giving good quality finishing to their consumer products and from the pictures above, I believe the NEX series will be no different. Just hope that Sony can deliver the features to match the finishing.