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SONY NEX-3 [Review]

A few days ago I could tell nobody about this newbie. I was under an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) from Sony. The Sony NEX-3 was a hot camera!

Sony NX 3 2.JPG

Sony NX 3 1.JPG

So Sony gave me a review unit of the Sony NEX-3 three days, explaining that they were so fearful of leaks that a Sony person would collect it from me when my time was up: “Can’t trust couriers — they’ve been known to open up boxes and leak the info to competitors!”

In the last six months it has been apparent that the Micro Four Thirds cameras have won great appeal in the market. Buyers have warmed to the smaller (than DSLR) form factor, light weight and interchangeable lens factor. And the price!

So Olympus and Panasonic have done very well. Now Samsung has entered the fray with its NX10: APS-C-sized sensor, small body, cheaper price.

While Sony has entered late, it has burst through the door with all guns blazing.

The camera currently in my hot, sweaty hands is the lesser of the pair: cheaper and slightly less featured but still highly specked.

The body is roughly similar to Olympus’ new PEN series: no eye level finder (although they are available as clip on accessories); no on board flash (accessory unit available); large 7.5cm LCD screen.

The major difference is the relatively large lenses that mount on this body. The review camera was loaned with an f3.5-5.6/18-55mm lens. The lens barrel was a huge 62mm in diameter. Why? Dunno!

Sony NX 3 7.jpg

The CMOS is much larger than the Micro Four Thirds sensor, leading to some major benefits: maximum image size is 4592×3056 pixels, or 39x26cm in print-speak. Note that a larger sensor leads to a more narrow depth of field, closer to that of a 35mm SLR.

It has two major and highly appealing features from the earlier, compact DSC-HX5V: an amazing panorama feature that can be used with the camera horizontally or vertically (you’ll love the rapid fire of the shutter as it shoots the sections!); high burst rate.

The Sony NEX-5 has one even better spec: AVCVHD movie shooting in Full HD: 1920×1080 pixels.

Sony NX 3 3.JPG

Sony NX 3 4.jpg

However, both models share an excellent tilting LCD screen — up by nearly 90 degrees from vertical, out and down by about 30 degrees. It’s also agreeably bright and sharp.

Sony NX 3 5.jpg

Sony NX 3 6.JPG

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The viewfinder menu is a stunner, resembling a computer screen in all its full colour, icon-splashed glory.

Expect to see a whole boatload of accessories and stunning lenses in the coming months.

Sony NX 3 8.jpg

Coming are accessories like a wide angle and fish-eye extender lenses; accessory flash; adapters for lenses made for the larger format Alpha lenses.

The camera’s face detection handles up to eight faces.

The optical stabiliser is built into the lens.

ISO Tests

NEX-3 ISO 200 f5 1:30 sec.jpg

NEX-3 ISO 800 f5 1:125 sec.JPG

Shots made at ISO 200 (pictured first above) and 800 (pictured directly above) indicate that this is a superior sensor and able to handle an extended sensitivity range.

NEX-3 ISO 1600 f5 1:320 sec.JPG

By ISO 1600 we’re still looking pretty good: definition still good, while noise is low.

NEX-3 ISO 3200 f5 1:640 sec.JPG
Now we’re at ISO 3200 definition is dropping a touch but noise and artefacts have yet to appear. A good setting for low light photography.

NEX-3 ISO 12800 f5 1:2000 sec.JPG
At ISO 12,800 we’re bumping our heads on the ceiling: definition is reasonable but noise and artefacts are visible.

With the right subject, still a useable setting!

Carousel horses 3 ISO 12800.JPG

This shot of carousel horses was made in soft light and ISO 12,800! Lens aperture: f5.5 and shutter speed of 1/1250 second. For me, a useable shot!


In two seconds from startup I could shoot my first shot; follow-ons came in as fast as I could hit the button. Good going.


Luna Park face 2.JPG

This is a significant camera and I figure it will turn the whole business of sensor size completely upside down.

The quality of images in terms of resolution, colour fidelity and low noise is little short of superb.

Why you would buy the Sony NEX-3: to enjoy a very small, high res camera; you want high quality images; you already have some

Alpha lenses.

Why you wouldn’t: you still want an optical pentaprism finder.

SONY NEX-3 Specifications

Image Sensor: 14.2 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multi pattern, centre-weighted and spot.
Sensor Size: APS-C-sized CMOS (23.4×15.6mm).
Lens: Sony E Series mount.
Shutter Speed: 30 to 1/4000 second. Flash sync: 1/160 sec.
Continuous Shooting: seven fps.
Memory: Memory Stick PRO Duo, PRO-HG Duo, SD, SDHC, SDXC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4592×3056, 4592×2576, 3344×2224, 3344×1872, 2288×1520, 2288×1280.
Movies: 1280×720, 848×480, 640×480 at 30 fps.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
LCD Screen: 7.5cm LCD (921,600 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW, MPEG4.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 200 to 12,800.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMNI, AV.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 117.2×62.6×33.4mm WHDmm.
Weight: 297 g (inc battery and card).
Price: Around AUD1000 for body and kit lens.

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Barrie Smith
Barrie Smith

is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

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