So - the new camera. It's a Sony Nex 3, which is the new not-quite-a DSLR- Not-quite-a-microfour-thirds- not-quite-a-compact camera. These are sometimes called EVIL : Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangeable Lens cameras, but I think that's rather a silly name: even those that don't have optical viewfinders can get optional plugin ones, so they aren't exclusively electronic, and anyway plenty of DSLR users use the screen rather than the optical viewfinder.
It is an impressive triumph of miniaturisation. That said, it still needs a large pocket, if you are planning to pocket it - OK, the camera is small, but the attached 18-55mm lens is not, electronics being more miniaturisable than optics, presumably.
The camera with the lens attached is more or less the same size as my 4 year old Panasonic compact ultrazoom (Fz7) - yet it has a sensor comparable to a Sony DSLR.
At first it felt really odd and not particularly good to have such a tiny light camera attached to a big heavy lens - but I soon got used to that, and no longer notice it, in fact I can see myself happily using the camera with an even bigger lens in future: you just balance it differently. The LCD screen is very large and bright, and I found the menu systems intuitive and easy to use.
One minor annoyance (for me) is that although the camera provides a bunch of auto modes, and also full manual controls, it expects you to shoot in either auto, or manual - you aren't supposed to mix and match. So, if you want to tweak the white balance to accentuate the autumn leaves, then you also have to work out what shutter speed and ISO you want - no tweaking just one setting, then using the auto modes!
This will probably have a good effect on my photography longterm as I practice more with manual settings but as I am very lazy, it would have been nice to be able to combine these options. Actually, the autumn leaves thing is a bad example, as there is a 'sunset' mode with the reds whacked up a bit, but the thing is that you can't, say, use the sports mode with adjusted white balance, which I did sometimes do to make things look less chilly...
One minor niggle : the lens comes with a detachable lens cap that doesn't have a loop on it, so it's infuriatingly easy to drop. I'm going to drill a tiny hole in mine so I can put a little strap on and clip it to the camera, otherwise I'm sure I'm going to lose it.
I'm really pleased with the low light level performance. I've not actually used the supplied flash attachment yet, as the large sensor allows decent pictures under artificial light, or even firelight, and even in the afternoon in November, I was able to take some reasonable pictures of my sighthounds running at speed.
It's excellent for portrait style photos too: the kind of picture that I could just about have got out of my FZ7 with a lot of fiddling about and tweaking manual settings, and with just the right lighting - comes out of the intelligent auto on this!
The panorama function is very cool. You just turn it on, then press the button and pan in the direction suggested. So easy to use, and no messing about in software stitching photos together!
In general, I am pleased. Compared with my previous compact 'one-lens' ultrazoom, I am missing the very close macro ability (it can do some macro, but nothing like as close) and the long distance zoom, but I wasn't really expecting this one lens to be able to do everything : what it does do, it does impressively well.
There are cheap lens adaptors on Amazon to allow you to attach all sorts of DSLR lenses to it - Leica, Olympus, Canon - as well as the official Sony adaptors which allow you to attach the Sony range of A lenses, and of course you can also buy two other E mount lenses apart from the E mount one that came with it.
I can't find much info yet on how well these adaptors work. I have found some information on lens adaptors that suggests that they are likely to be relatively good on this type of relatively small camera, because the mirrorless approach leaves more space for an adaptor, and therefore all you lose is autofocus. Intriguing. If the adaptors actually work then I could just buy a few second hand lenses according to what came along, make sure I've got a cheap adaptor for each one and Bob's yer uncle...
Will be watching the reviews of those with interest.