Sony announced today two SLR-like cameras that include a new facet of automation: Both the 20-megapixel Alpha a58 and the 16-megapixel NEX-3N have a feature called "auto object framing," which functions similarly to auto framing mode by analyzing a subject, cropping it, and then resaving the image to create a more pleasing composition. But instead of just applying the effect to human subjects who are facing the camera, the two new cameras can also reframe an image when faces are not detected (either faces are too small or turned away from the camera, or the subjects are inanimate). The feature has also been expanded to automatically crop when shooting macro (close-up) shots.
This latest innovation is one of a number of automated modes on these advanced cameras, including smile shutter, panorama sweep, and auto high-dynamic range (HDR), which have all appeared on previous models.
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The two new cameras also have some unique features of their own:
On the Alpha a58, Sony has a new auto-focus technology, Lock-on AF, which it claims will do a better job of staying focused on moving subjects. As in face recognition, the camera "draws" a box around the subject, but it can increase in size or change shape as the subject moves. For instance, if a runner is sprinting toward the camera, the tracking system increases the size of the box as it nears the camera. This increase in AF accuracy not only helps keep photos in better focus, says Sony, but also produces sharper video.
On the NEX-3N, Sony has included one feature found on many point-and-shoots, but rarely on an interchangeable-lens cameras: This NEX model has a zoom lever located near the shutter button that allows you to zoom in and out of a scene quickly and smoothly via a lever. So, the NEX-3N is the first NEX model that lets you zoom in manually by adjusting the zoom around the lens or with the lever.
The Alpha a58 will cost $600, and includes a 18-55mm kit lens. The NEX-3N will cost $500, and comes with a 16-50mm kit lens. Both models will be available in April.