Whither NEX: What does the end of the NEX moniker mean for Sony E-mount fans?


posted Friday, January 10, 2014 at 12:39 PM EDT


Over the last few months, Sony has stopped using Alpha NEX branding on newly-announced mirrorless cameras, instead using only the Alpha brand. In the process, it's caused some confusion and consternation among photographers shooting NEX cameras. Readers have contacted us, wanting to know what the change means for NEX cameras and for the E-mount. Will the fundamental concept be changing, or perhaps will the mount go away altogether? And how does the just-announced Sony A5000 sit alongside its predecessors in the NEX line?

During the Consumer Electronics Show, Imaging Resource publisher Dave Etchells, Senior Editor Arthur Etchells and Associate Editor William Brawley met with Mark Weir, senior technology manager at Sony Digital Imaging, to discuss the change, the reasons behind it and the implications for the company's cameras. First and perhaps most importantly, we wanted to know one thing: Why has the NEX brand gone away?

"I think that the primary motivation here is to unify all of Sony's Alpha interchangeable-lens cameras under the Alpha brand," said Weir. "We've always used the Alpha brand for our interchangeable-lens cameras, from the very first models, the NEX-5 and NEX-3. The Alpha logo is prominently featured on each model.

"However, the NEX model name prefix seems to have grown in prominence, such that the general public refer to them as NEX cameras instead of Alpha cameras. And therefore there was some concern on our part that they might not be perceived as Alpha cameras."

Sony's first NEX cameras -- the NEX-3 and NEX-5 (shown in cutaway) -- both featured prominent Alpha branding, yet the NEX model number was what the public latched onto.

"We wanted to be sure that everyone recognized that E-mount cameras are very much Alpha-brand cameras, not NEX-brand cameras. So I think the primary motivation here is the unification of all of our interchaangeable-lens cameras -- whether they are E-mount or A-mount -- and a recognition that they're all Alpha models.

"That's really our primary objective, because what we saw happen was a model name prefix somehow grew to become the brand. So what we've done since the introduction of the Sony A3000 last spring is to change the model name prefix. The brand is still Sony Alpha, but the model name prefix has been changed from NEX to ILCE, meaning 'interchangeable-lens camera, E-mount.'

"Since the Alpha 3000 was introduced, its model name has been ILCE-3000. The next E-mount models that were introduced were the Alpha 7 and the Alpha 7R, and their model names are ILCE-7 and ILCE-7R, respectively. And then at CES on January 6th, we announced the Alpha 5000, whose model name is ILCE-5000."

But why make that change now? One might, perhaps, think that a strong brand which had developed positive recognition with the buying public would be a good thing, whether or not it had been intentional on Sony's part.

"The model name prefix started to segregate our E-mount cameras from our A-mount cameras," responded Weir, "and that was never our intention.

"There was also confusion about compatibility. The model name prefix had grown to take on all kinds of significance, and there was concern that consumers could easily misunderstand there to be a lack of compatibility between the two. Our A-mount cameras and E-mount cameras share many cross-compatibility characteristics, yet there was a perception that NEX and Alpha were somehow quite different."

The Sony Alpha A99 is the company's current flagship model.

So if the change in branding is simply a matter of housekeeping for Sony, with the aim of reinforcing the cross-compatibility of its products, does that mean we can look forward to continued development of the Alpha E-mount product line, albeit without the NEX brand?

"Sure!" confirmed Weir. "I mean, we have many opportunities with our technology under the Alpha brand. Obviously, we're still very much committed to the A-mount and E-mount systems. We want consumers to realize that they all represent our Alpha technology, and are Alpha models."

Does that mean we can look forward to continued evolution beyond the current A-mount flagship, the A99? It's been almost a year since the last Translucent Mirror-based camera was announced, so more news on this front would be a big deal for A-mount users.

"All we're really prepared to disclose is what we've said in the past," hedged Weir. "We remain committed to the A-mount system, and I'm sure that that commitment will be very clear."

The Sony A5000's features align it more closely with the NEX-3N than the NEX-5T.

And what of the just-announced Sony A5000 -- just how does it fit into the model line? We've heard from readers confused as to whether the choice of numeric suggests that this model follows on from the Sony NEX-5T, the NEX-3N, or marks a new line altogether. Which is it?

"I can see that there might be some confusion there," agreed Weir, "because some may see the Alpha 5000 designation as being somewhat similar to another 5-series camera, the NEX-5T. However, that's merely coincidental.

"The Alpha 5000 is not the successor to the NEX-5T, in spite of the five in their model names. We realize that the shift from a three to a five in the model number might confuse some, but the Alpha 5000 is the successor to the NEX-3N. If you look at the feature set, the configuration, the control layout, the objective of the design of the model and its target user, the Alpha 5000 is much more consistent with the NEX-3N than it is with the NEX-5T."

So there you have it: the Sony NEX name is no more, but the exceptional cameras of the NEX line will continue with the ILCE prefix. Sony's commitment to the E mount is steadfast.

Here at IR, we felt the NEX name deserved a memorial appropriate to the years of services it's provided to cameras that have followed us everywhere. So we raise a glass to the memory of the NEX prefix, gone but not forgotten:

NEX, we hardly knew ya.
To many happy years of Sony Alpha ILCE shooting.

NEX, we hardly knew ya.