Sony’s Nex5 buzzes the Internets

$650 and up. 3D Panorama mode. 1080i HD video. 14.2 million pixels. Requires knowledge, money, and desire. We’re out.

Okay, so let’s get the turth out of the way and not pretend that we know anything about taking quality photographs. We just have to point our camera at various friends and family and email them the damn pictures so that they can remember what they were doing about five minutes ago. Some of you may remember the days when people had memories and could articulate them.

I digress, the Sony Nex5 is what is called an SLD, a single lens digital. Typically, higher end digital cameras are DSLRs, digital single lens reflexes, which means that the image goes through a lens, and gets bounced off of a tilted mirror to the view finder. When you took a picture, the lens gets out the way, of course. With SLDs there is no mirror. So, they can be thinner, and hence, less bulky. For example, the Sony has a flange focal length of 18 mm – that’s the distance from the flange where the lens connects to the camera to the “film” or plane where the image is captured. By contrast, the MFT, micro four thirds format, cameras from Olympus and Pentax do it in 20 mm, and Samsung’s NX10 does it in 20.5 mm.

The other issue is that the higher up you go in pixels, ie, the Sony Nex5 is a 14.2 million pixel camera, the more difficult it is to capture each pixel in silicon. Sony is a major semiconductor maker in its own right, and the Exmor APC HD CMOS it has developed, and uses in the Nex5, is an incredible piece of silicon. No, I won’t explain it because, I am an idiot. This Sony paper on the technology is about as good as it can get in terms of clear, concise description of how the company addressed the design challenges.

The Sony Nex5 competes most closely with the Olympus Pen E-P2, and the Lumix GF1, but has some interesting advantages: there is a 3D Panorama Mode that allows you to swing the camera across a view plane and capture the path in a single, panoramic image, essentially stitching together a number of images into one single photograph. Good for high school reunions and visits to the Grand Canyon with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Then there’s its ability to shoot 1080i HD video, and the way the LCD viewer tilts so that you can take pictures at awkward angles or when you are slightly drunk. But, in truth, the biggest advantage of the Nex5 and its competitors is that the class of cameras that cost between $500 and $1,000 is creating a middle range digital photography market that is inches away from the professional product in terms of ability. In fact, it may not be long before the distinction between professional and consumer disappears at this price range. That’s good for the user, and maybe a little annoying to the professional, who wants to keep some distance with the hoi polloi. Nevertheless, it is not the basic camera that is going to be the differentiator. It’s going to be the add-ons, the lenses, the accessories, and the upgrades.

Did we mention that it is probably not going to reach you until June 2010? Hmm, should have mentioned that earlier.  It goes to prove that Sony’s done a huge job of marketing this to photography enthusiasts. There are about a thousand reviews of the camera out there right now. Try this review or the CNET lady below for knowledgeable analysis. In the meantime, we’re sticking with our Praktica DPix 820Z.