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Fashionably late: Sony has finally released its alternative to the already popular Olympus EP-2 and Lumix DMC-GF1 micro four-thirds, interchangeable lens cameras. Using the same technology that Olympus and Panasonic pioneered, the Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5 are effectively compact DSLR cameras, light enough to carry around at all times but still capable of taking high-quality RAW files. Panasonic, which brought out the first micro four-thirds camera in 2008, made the mistake of creating a bulky, conservative-looking camera. Sony, however, has made compactness its priority, emphasizing one of the key benefits of a micro four-thirds system — it’s light. Both of the cameras undercut their rivals in the weight stakes. Without batteries, the NEX-5 tips the scales at 229 grams and the NEX-3 is just an extra 10 grams. Panasonic’s most recent micro four-thirds, the Lumix DMC-GF1, weighs 285 grams, and the Olympus EP-2 is 335 grams. The two Sony models are also demonstrably smaller, although both the Panasonic and Olympus cameras are slightly thinner.

The NEXs use a 14.2-megapixel Exmor APS-HD CMOS sensor, which packs in more pixels than those in the GF1 and EP-2. Its lens mount, the E series, is compatible with Sony’s new range of E lenses, which includes a 16 mm F 2.8, 18-55 mm F3.5-5.6 and an 18-200 mm F3.5-6.3. To use Sony’s regular A-mount lenses on these new cameras, however, users will still have to buy an LA-EA1 adapter.

Sony’s LCD screen is tiltable, something new to the micro four-thirds, and unlike its rivals, the NEX 5 can record video at full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (others are limited to 1,280 x 720 pixels). Sony has also heeded complaints about some micro four-thirds’ slow shooting rates, with these shooting at up to 7 fps. Though neither NEX comes with an built-in flash, they do include external add-ons.

The NEX-5 is available in black or silver, while the NEX-3 is a tad flashier and is available in black, white or red. Sony appears to have cut some corners on style though, and both cameras actually look quite ordinary. Consumers, however, typically rank price rather than design as the key factor in buying digital cameras and Sony prices are reasonable when compared to the stylish Olympus. The NEX-5 will set you back ¥79,800 to ¥94,800, depending on your choice of lens, and the NEX-3 kits range from ¥64,800 yen to ¥79,800, around ¥20,000-¥40,000 less than the EP2. Doing the math, Sony looks like it is onto some winners. www.sony.jp/CorporateCruise/Press/201005/10-0511/

Double trouble: Pioneer’s latest iPod dock, the XW-NAV1, doubles as a home-theater that allows users to watch the video contents of their iPod or iPhone on a flat-screen TV. It does so thanks to an HDMI port, which allows it to be hooked up to a TV. It also has a DVD/CD player and a USB port for other media playback. In looks, it is a tad odd — a rectangular front, marred somewhat by the iPod dock protruding out of its bottom middle. The XW-NAC1, which is an iPod/iPhone dock only, however, is more curvaceous. It may not play DVDs or CDs or have a USB port, but it does have the distinct advantage of being able to connect to two Apple products at the same time. It also has a shuffle function that allows users to go back and forth between the two.

While the NAV1 weighs 3.5 kg, the squatter NAC1 is 2.8 kg. Both are available in black, while the NAV1 is also available in a grayish hue and the NAC1 in white. (The NAC1 looks far better in black, since its circular display panel is black and looks unseemly against the white.) The NAV1 hits the market in mid-June at a price of ¥24,800, while the NAC1 will be released this month for ¥29,800.

Playing two iPods or iPhones at once, or a mixture of the two, might be fun for a while. However, the real value from Pioneer appears to be in the NAV1’s greater versatility. In fact it is a little hard to understand why the NAC1 costs more. pioneer.jp/press/2010/0510-1.html

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