Sony's entry-level NEX-3 Micro System Camera is compact-like in appearance but has changeable lenses and produces DSLR quality. The What Digital Camera Sony NEX-3 review...

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Sony NEX-3

Overall score:90%
Image Quality:95%


  • Affordable, image quality, small size


  • Fiddly flash unit, excessive menu digging, limited to three current lenses


Sony NEX-3 Review


Price as reviewed:



Sony NEX-3 review – Performance

The NEX-3 is devised to be a step up from a compact camera, but its design fails to entail the same ease of use when in more advanced manual modes. It’s a cinch to use for point-and-shoot work, and once fixed into a manual mode such as Aperture priority it’s easy to use the rear jog wheel to jump through the aperture options. It’s just some of the other controls that are buried that can cause frustration and slowed-down use.

However, despite this nuisance, the majority of the rest of its response its pretty nippy: the Quick AF Live View system (though not the same as that found in Sony DSLRs) is as fast as the next best contrast-detect based system in a Micro System Camera, meaning picking off subjects in all kinds of situations is a breeze.

Sony NEX-3 review sample image

Macro work can be a bit of a struggle as none of the current lenses focus any closer than 24cms from subject, a particular shame for the 16mm which, given its relatively wide angle, would otherwise lend itself well to closeup and macro work.

A struggle with the original firmware meant that the camera’s startup time was a couple of seconds though this has now been remedied somewhat thanks to a firmware update (the same update that enables 3D capture in Sweep Panorama mode). It’s good to see Sony is on top of addressing feedback promptly – the slow startup of the NEX-5 was one of its bigger downfalls and this prompt adjustment is a real step in the right direction for users. Start up time still isn’t lightning fast, but is a vast improvement.

The 3in, 921k-dot LCD on the rear employs Sony’s TruBlack technology and, despite no anti-reflective or fingerprint-resistant coating, handles bright sunlight fairly well. Fingerprinting can become a slight issue however. The tilt-angle ability is limited to vertical (upward or downward) angles, though does prove useful given the lack of any inbuilt viewfinder (only an optional fixed-16mm optical viewfinder can be purchased separately).

The new sensor is also capable of capturing HD movies at 720p using Motion JPEG. This is a ‘downgrade’ from the NEX-5’s 1080i AVCHD movie capture, though it’s the compression type rather than the resolution (arguably) that make the NEX-5 the marginally better of the two.

An abundance of modes also make an appearance to complement the point-and-shoot and manual modes, including the new Background Defocus Control which provides a live on screen depth of field preview. Auto HDR, Hand-held Twilight and Sweep Panorama are the three more prominent modes, with the 23MP output of the panorama providing generally well-stitched images, and Auto HDR and Hand-held Twilight using post-processing methods to counter too much dark/underexposure in dark or night time scenes.

  1. 1. Sony NEX-3 review - Features
  2. 2. Design
  3. 3. Performance
  4. 4. Image Quality & Value
  5. 5. Verdict
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