The camera, an updated version of NEX-5 interchangeable lens compact camera, was announced at Berlin's IFA consumer electronics show, where I got a chance to try it out. Here's how it works.
When the "smart remote control" function is selected, the camera begins searching for a nearby phone or table running Sony's PlayMemories software. The software will be available as a download for both Android and Apple iOS, in the test it was running on a Sony Android cell phone. The phone then connects with the camera. In our test the process took about 10 seconds for the devices to automatically connect.
Once done, the smartphone screen shows a more-or-less realtime video image that matches the camera's viewfinder. It doesn't include any of the text that is typically overlaid on the viewfinder and lags the camera's viewfinder by a fraction of a second.
Just hit the shutter button and the camera is commanded to take a picture. In IFA tests, there was a delay of about two thirds of a second between the button press and the picture being captured, which rules it out for fast-moving action but not much else.
The camera stores the photo as normal and a nice feature is a 2-megapixel copy sent to the smartphone or tablet.
That copy can be reviewed and, without heading back to the camera, another picture taken if it's not quite right.
Sony's IFA booth was noisy with wireless signals, but the system worked well over a short distance. In open space, Sony says it will work up to 300 meters.
With the introduction of WiFi into the camera, Sony is also bring the smartphone concept of downloadable apps -- the smart remote control is one such app. The camera can also share photos with other devices, such as TVs or computers, over the WiFi link.
The NEX-5R will be available in major markets from October 2012. In the U.S. it will cost $650 for the camera, $750 for a camera and lens bundle.