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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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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)