Sony NEX 3 Review
Sony entered the market for small cameras with interchangeable that have no mirrors with the release of their NEX-series cameras, with their release of the Alpha NEX-3 (and the newer NEX-5 camera).
Now, what is the purpose of these mirrorless digital cameras? For starters, it's not as bulky as regular DSLRs, but still retains the power image quality and features a DSLR has. The NEX-3 delivers those 2 things, along with a very stylish build and design.
When you take a look at the NEX-3 you'll see that it doesn't look anything like a regular DSLR camera, nor a point and shoot too. It's a midsize camera with a huge lens attached to it. In fact the lens just looks protruded, and stands out from the rest of the small body. But it never looks awkward - in fact it's kind of stylish. Thanks to the shiny aluminum barrel, the NEX 3 looks bold, stylish and just plain sexy. You can buy this camera in black, or red.
When we held the NEX-3 we appreciated how light it weighed. It just weighs a cool 10.5 ounces, and if you attach a lens, the weight goes up to 18 oz. Certainly one of the lightest cameras in this price range.
One of the coolest features in the NEX-3 is the 3 inch, bright LCD screen that you can tilt. The LCD screen incorporates Sony's Tru Black technology, as well as Sony's Clear Photo LCD Plus.
Let's talk about the lenses for a second. The new lenses in this camera are made to respond faster than regular SLR lenses so that you can enable autofocus while shooting video. Most DSLRs, by comparison don't enable autofocus when trying to capture video. We like pairing the NEX-3 with the 18-55 mm lens. However if you want a more wide angle view, you should opt for the 16 mm lens, which is more wider and flat.
Let's move on to performance. We think the Sony NEX-3 does perform quite well, especially in good lighting situations. The camera focuses and fires relatively fast. In low light situations, focus can take longer, which is the case with most cameras that are contrast detect. Power on to first shot took a bit longer than expected, and is kind of irregular. When you first power it on, nothing happens. Then after .5 seconds, you seen icons in the screen. Then .5 seconds again later, the view fades in. I don't think I've ever seen any digital camera behave like this. So power on to first shot is kind of slow. We usually have our camera on while shooting anyway, so it's not a big deal for us. So altogether, it takes 1 second, but feels like 2 seconds for power on to first shot.
Focus is fast in the NEX-3, and among the best in class. Wide autofocus lag times was just .44 seconds, and prefocus shutter lag was .12 seconds - pretty good number.
The NEX-3 performs well in low light situations, thanks in part with the in-camera flash. You can take the flash off whenever you want. If you want to use the flash, simply flip it up, and the camera will enter flash mode. Truthfully though, we think you will rarely even need to use flash because of the NEX 3's outstanding performance in high ISO levels. We usually just used auto ISO when shooting in low light and it produced results other cameras don't come close to.
Some other cool features that are added to the NEX-3 include handheld twilight and panoramas. With the sweep panoramas, the camera fire larger shutters, and combine all the images into 1 single shot. It works quite well when we shot photos of moving cars.
The image quality for the NEX-3 is pretty good, with a few issues. The NEX-3 does a better job than most cameras in retaining the fine details of photos. It also eliminates luminance and chroma noise better than other cameras. We feel Canon cameras do a better job in treating background shadow, adding extra noise that make things look more natural.
We tested print quality, and it showed how good the NEX-3 was compared to other cameras. At ISO 200, you can probably enlarge your prints up to 20 X 30 without any problem. Color saturation was solid, though contrast looked a bit high, but still not a major problem.
When moving up to an ISO of 400, your prints will look at good at 16 X 24. Moving up to 800, they still look pretty good, with sharp details, and very little noticeable softness.
Moving up to ISO 1600, you'll notice some softness, especially in low contrast spots. Still, not a problem. We recommend sticking with a print size of 13 X 19 if the softness is an issue at this ISO level.
At ISO 3200, we expected to see some degradation, but surprisingly prints still looked good to the naked eye, even at a print size of 13 X 19. We had to reach an ISO level of 1600 before we had to reduce the print size to 8 X 10. If you're going all the way up to ISO 12,800, you'll definitely need to reduce the print size even further.. down to 5 X 7 or so.
Overall, looking at the print quality, it's clear the NEX-3 image quality is one of the best among cameras in this price range. We were still able to produce very good looking prints at large sizes. The NEX-3, by the way is missing an ISO 100 level, but it makes up for it by producing better than average prints from ISO 200 onwards.
- 14.2 megapixels
- Video capture
- No EVF (electronic viewfinder)
- 3.0 inch LCD screen
- Supports ISO 200 - 12,800
- Built in Flash
- HDMI support
- Battery charger included
- Light, compact design and body
- Good button layout
- Stylish and good looking camera
- Excellent LCD screen
- High ISO performance is among the best
- Neat handheld twilight mode and panorama
- Autofocus is quite fast
- Good bang for the buck
- Macro images look a bit soft using the 18-55 mm lens
- Just 2 noise reduction settings
- no support for wireless flash
- battery charges quite slowly
In conclusion, we think the NEX-3 is an uniquely designed camera with many cool features you'll love. You'll certainly impress other people by carrying it around with you. It's definitely made for the trendsetter in mind.
Functionally, we don't think the Sony NEX-3 is for the professional photographer. Don't get us wrong, it delivers good image quality, but you're better off with a regular DSLR.
If you want a compact, stylish camera that has solid image quality, and a better than average high ISO performance, the NEX-3 is a solid choice. As we mentioned, prints up to ISO 3200 still looked very good at regular sized prints. That's something that really impressed us. Compared to other similarly priced cameras, you won't get a better bang for the buck than the NEX-3, and you certainly won't get a more compact camera too. There are a few quirks, but we are quick to ignore them. Overall, we're big fans of the NEX-3 and you shouldn't hesitate to buy it.
Rating: 4.2 out of 5
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Prices last updated on: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 10:50:15 PDT