To your list of the main things that change as you move up the NEX line in price, I would add the amount of controls easily accessible to the photographer. The NEX 3 is basically designed to be used primarily in auto mode, with most settings burried inside of menus. The NEX 5r adds a wheel on top (useful for changing f-stop or shutter speed in Av or Tv mode), and a function button for quick access to settings like white balance, metering modes, etc… The NEX 6 adds a PASM dial, EVF, flash hotshoe, and a focus/exposure lock button.
The degree to which any of those things sound important to him is probably a good indication of which model is right for him, though he might want to go at least one model up if he’s interested about learning the ins and outs of photography and wants something that he can grow into. When I got my NEX 5R, it seemed like a good fit at the time, but after about six months of using it, I’m getting pretty jealous of the NEX 6’s hotshoe.
I also like the inclusion of the table, for the same reason as you. Perhaps if there were papers or something on it, it would be more visually interesting while still maintaining the depth effect. I think the reason why some might not like it isn’t so much that there’s a lot of foreground, as because there’s so much negative space in the foreground.
I like the contrast between the shaded and lit sides of the pillars, and the B&W treatment was a good choice. The shot might have been even stronger at another time of day, when their shadows would be longer on the ground.