Soon after Sony introduced its first NEX models I have to say I got a bit of a shock to learn that one of the models had hit the dust. Apparently, the cheaper model, Sony NEX-3, had not found favour with buyers and, less than a year old, the camera was removed from the catalogue. Instant collectors’ classic I’d say!


Now we see the NEX-C3, announced as the “smallest, lightest interchangeable lens digital camera in its class.”

At first sight, it surely looks small. Then you attach the swollen kit lens and suddenly you have a fairly bulky picture taker. The body only weight is 225 grams. With f3.5/18-55m lens attached, it totals 420 grams. Add another 50 grams for card and battery.

My early encounter with the camera left me cold, I have to admit; I’m not a fan of cameras that hold all their operating functions within an on screen display. My preference is for wheels and dials where I can select my preferred operating mode, then later look at the camera and know where I am. Call me a stick in the mud if you will!

Sony NEX-C3 Features

The APS-C sized CMOS sensor captures 16.2 megapixels and can account for a maximum image size of 4912×3264 pixels, or a 42x28cm print.

Added to this is Sony’s superb Sweep Panorama feature (and in 3D as well), which can capture panos up to 7152×1080 pixels. This feature alone is worth a trip to your friendly local camera shop to try it out!

Video is less well served than many of its peers, at 1280×720 pixels.


Sony-NEX-C3 Silver.jpg

Sony-NEX-C3 pink.jpg

As an interchangeable lens camera it is surely very individual in style. Available in black, pink and silver, the NEX-C3 has a solid metal top casing with the rest of the body moulded from polycarbonate.

As I intimated, there are very few external controls: power on/off, shutter button, replay, zoom all on the top surface. Move to the rear and you see a four way rocker, movie record button and two ‘soft keys’ in the shape of silver buttons.

Press the top button and you see an array of icons: shoot mode, camera, image size, brightness/colour, playback and setup. All fairly obvious.

An example: in shoot mode you access a sub menu which gives you entrée to Program AE, shutter or priority etc. These do in effect echo the options usually found on a camera’s mode dial.

Camera mode gives you options of single or continuous shooting, AF area etc. And so on.

Sony-NEX-C3 Menu 1.jpg

Sony-NEX-C3 Menu 2.jpg

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The lower silver button takes you into a tutorial with illustrations of what effect your choice of mode will present. For example: “If you point to the camera to the sky, the sky may turn out paler than it actually is.” A suggestion follows that you may need to adjust exposure compensation.

A new setting is Picture Effect, which you may have seen first in Olympus cameras, labeled as Art Filters. Choices include Partial Colour, Retro Photo, Pop Colour, High Contrast Monochrome, Posterisation, High-key and Toy Camera. There’s also a ‘Soft Skin’ effect that erases wrinkles and blemishes from portraits.

The large 7.5cm LCD screen tilts vertically to nearly parallel with the top surface of the camera … a useful feature.
The High Dynamic Range feature grabs three varying exposures to create one correctly exposed shot. Great!

In similar fashion Handheld Twilight and Anti-Motion Blur modes automatically combine six exposures to capture clean, low-noise pictures.

Sony-NEX-C3 External flash.jpg

If you’re looking for a flash: simply clip the supplied clip-on flash into a slot on the camera’s top; this is powered by the camera’s battery. It has a reasonably powerful output: GN20 (metres) and tilts for bounce flash!

If you want an optical viewfinder you can add the optional FDA-SV1, designed to pair with f2.8/30mm pancake lens.

Sony NEX-C3 ISO Tests

Sony NEX-C3 ISO 200.JPG

Sony NEX-C3 ISO 400.JPG

Sony NEX-C3 ISO 800.JPG

Sony NEX-C3 ISO 1600.JPG

Sony NEX-C3 ISO 3200.JPG

Sony NEX-C3 ISO 6400.JPG

Sony NEX-C3 ISO 12800.JPG

From ISO 200 to 1600 the camera performed well. At ISO 3200 noise was slightly up but still a useable setting.
Then we got to ISO 6400! Suddenly the camera flatlined, giving this diffused capture.

Then ISO 12,800! Flat, colour all gone to pieces. Hopeless!

Startup Time

Ready to shoot the first frame about one second after startup, the camera will capture successive shots as fast as you can hit the button.

Sony-NEX-C3 Light screen 1.JPG

Sony-NEX-C3 Audio panel.JPG

Sony-NEX-C3 Coffee maker blurr 1.JPG

Sony NEX-C3 Verdict

Quality: I shot a number of shots at an expo and was pleased to find it captured colour with precision and with fine resolution.
Why you’d buy it: you like the titling LCD screen.
Why you wouldn’t: with a zoom lens attached it is no longer an easily pocketable camera; there is no external ‘trash’ button; the camera has no composite video output … only HDMI.

There is also one serious trap in the menu control of camera functions: it’s all too easy to change exposure correction from zero to fractional stops of correction up or down.

After a brief few days with the Sony NEX-C3 I’m still not convinced that the camera’s menu driven operation is for me. I still like a row of buttons and a mode dial. A sad case!

Sony NEX-C3 Specifications

Image Sensor: 16.2 million effective pixels.
Metering: 49 zone multi-segment, centre-weighted metering and spot.
Effective Sensor Size: 23.4×15.6 — APS-C sized — CMOS.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 1:5x.
Compatible lenses: Sony E-mount, A-mount, Minolta and Konica AF lenses via adaptor.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual, scene selection, sweep panorama.
Shutter Speed: 30 to 1/4000 second, Bulb.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC/Memory Stick Pro Duo cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4912×3264 to 2448×1376.
Movies: 1280×720 to 640×480 at 29.97 fps.
Continuous Drive: 5.5 fps max.
Viewfinder: 7.6cm LCD (921,600 pixels).
File Formats: RAW, RAW+JPEG, MPEG4.
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 200 to 12,800.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, mini HDMI, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 110x60x33 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 225 g (with battery and card).
Amazon Price: Get a price on the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 with 16mm F2.8 Wide Angle Lens or Sony Alpha NEX-C3 with 18-55mm Zoom Lens.
B&H Photo Price: Get a price on the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 Digital Camera with 16mm Wide-Angle Lens (Black) or the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 Digital Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black)

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

Some Older Comments

  • Ausdoc January 27, 2012 09:26 am

    You can get a more diffused flash by strapping a transculent piece of white plastic to the front of the flash. I use a disposable Chinese soya sauce dish but something like a cleaned-out Macdonald's dipping sauce container should work too.
    I am leaving my Canon DSLR at home more and more these days because it is much more convenient to take the Sony and the focussing is much faster and results just as good if not better. I reserve my Canon for shots which require remote shuttering which is still a problem with the Sony NEX C3.

  • NVRick January 27, 2012 05:04 am

    You cannot bounce the provided flash. You can with the optional flash.
    I agree about the lack of buttons and dials being a bit of a change from a full size dslr, but that is part of the reason that Sony can make this camera so small while still having a large sensor. I am still getting used to the menu structure after having sold my Canon 40D.
    The small size and the very light weight of the camera are the reasons I decided to make the switch. I did not use my Canon often enough to justify the weight and size of the Canon any more. These factors will provide me more incentive to carry this more often.

  • Ausdoc January 17, 2012 09:13 pm

    I've learned something yet again! For the technically minded read all about this in the Wikipedia article at

  • leo January 17, 2012 09:10 am

    The F value stays the same ausdoc, only the dept of field becomes a little bigger.

  • Ausdoc January 17, 2012 09:03 am

    You are right, the cropping is less than 2. I have tried using adaptors for a variety of old lenses, including FD, MD, M49, Pentax mounts etc. and they have all worked well. In fact i don't know of any old 35mm lenses that can't be fitted for the NEX mount. With the cropping the available light also is reduced so the F value is no longer the one on the lens. I have been searching for old German lenses to use with the NEXC3. Unfortunately the modern EOS Canon lenses do not have mechanically adjustable apertures and so you are limited in this aspect. The new NEX 7 is the ultimate small foot print mirrorless digital but the price is prohibitive. Good luck with your efforts.

  • Leo January 16, 2012 11:17 am

    "Ausdoc Says: there is a cropping factor of 2 using the 35mm lenses" I use my old FD Canon lenses, 35 mm and very small by modern standards and they have a cropping factor of 1.5. The Sony uses an APS-C sensor of 1.5 factor, not 2 factor like Olympus. So an cheap 24mm old lens gives you a nice 35 mm. Big fun to get all your old lenses back to work and the assitance the camera gives you in color where it is sharp is very nice and quick to use.

    I think Sony makes the best mirrorless camera's, big sensor in a small package. Good value for your money. With an adapter the real fun begins, at least for me :)

  • Ausdoc September 24, 2011 10:45 pm

    I weighed up the pros and cons of equivalent cameras before deciding on the Sony NEX C3 which had more advanced features and was at least US$100 cheaper than the Olympus or Canon. I agree that the lack of knobs and buttons are confronting, but Sony sales promo doesn't tell you that you can create your own custom buttons for favorite things such as ISO setting etc. It doesn't use touch screen sensing either.
    I agree that the range of lenses available are limited and of average quality. But I am using my old Minolta lenses quite successfully with a generic NEX to MD adapter. Everything has to be manual of course and there is a cropping factor of 2 using the 35mm lenses which is convenient if you want a cheap telephoto lens. I found the Auto HDR function, the Panorama shot lots of fun. The camera is choosy about generic batteries - one brand it rejected and another one it accepted. There is no remote control capability which makes self shooting impossible except with the self-timer, and extended time-lapse night shots difficult as you have to hold down the shutter for Bulb shots, causing camera shake, even with a tripod. Also the Flash connection will only take the designated Sony flashguns which casts a shadow when you extend the lens for telephoto shots. Apart from using a slave flash I don't know of other solutions. It is definitely a camera with a lot of features in a small footprint body and a very attractive price. Takes getting used to though.

  • Tom Durbin September 11, 2011 10:32 pm

    I'm not sure why you're reviewing a camera as "new" when it has already been moved to the next generation by Sony to the Sony NEX-5N which has a whole different set of features, correcting many of your criticisms.

  • Fonk September 11, 2011 12:51 pm

    I'm with ya on the touchscreen menus. Personally, I hate 'em. In addition to having to touch my way through menus to get to desired settings, it also makes for the LCD screen getting full of fingerprints, annoying when you actually want to snap a pic or view images!