The Sony NEX-C3 squeezes a new 16.2MP sensor into a yet smaller Compact System Camera body. Is it the best NEX yet? The What Digital Camera Sony NEX-C3 review…

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Sony NEX-C3

Overall score:90%
Image Quality:95%


  • Good image quality, improved start up time, button customization, small size


  • Poor menu system, no Quick Menu layout, Smart Accessory Terminal fitting, no viewfinder (nor accessory option), battery life still not long lasting enough


Sony NEX-C3 Review


Price as reviewed:


Image Quality

Sony NEX-C3 review – Image Quality

Sony NEX-C3: Tone & Exposure

Exposure is accurate for the most part, though in brighter sunlight it can be difficult to assess this on the C3’s screen. A number of shots appeared slightly overexposed until looking at the final shots off-camera where it was clear that exposure was accurate and even tackled difficult lighting conditions well.

Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness can be increased (+/-3 steps) in each of the Creative Style settings – options such as Vivid, Portrait and Landscape will enhance specific colours for these modes. For an extra boost of shadow detail there’s also Sony’s Auto D-Range Optimizer and, when not shooting Raw files, Auto HDR can take three exposures and compile exposure detail into one shot in camera.

Sony NEX-C3: Colour & White Balance

An accurate Auto White Balance system remained consistent under a variety of lighting, including in the studio. However the higher ISO settings show pronounced colour noise that presents itself as a blue cast towards ISO 6400-12,800. Colour itself is bright and realistic, though exposure can side towards slight overexposure which can cause some colours to lack vibrant punch on all occasions.

The Photo Creativity option opens up Soft Skin, Vividness, Colour, Brightness, Background Defocus and 11 Picture Effects modes – Toy Camera, Posterization (Color), Posterization (B&W), Pop, Retro, Partial Color (Red, Green, Blue or Yellow), High-key and High Contrast Black & White.

Sony NEX-C3: ISO Sensitivity & Image Noise


The ISO 200-12,800 range is available at full resolution, though there’s no ISO expansion which means it’s not possible to shoot lower than ISO 200. A native ISO 80/100 would have been welcome, as even the Sony Alpha A35 (released in tandem with the C3) comes with an ISO 100 setting and uses the same sensor.

Sit the shots side by side to the Nikon D7000 and the NEX-C3’s shots are more smoothed and blurred due to the noise reduction processing. The Sony’s higher ISO settings may look ‘cleaner’ than the Nikon’s JPEGs, though there’s less discernable detail due to the processing. In camera it’s possible to turn the high ISO noise reduction from ‘Auto’ to ‘Weak’ to reduce the level of processing, though only shooting Raw files will allow for fuller control.

Sony NEX-C3 ISO range (colour chart)


Overall the ISO performance here is very impressive. ISO 200-800 show little image noise and there’s a slight falloff in detail thereafter but even shots at ISO 3200 have enough edge definition to be of use. ISO 6400-12,800 are less sharp due to aggressive noise reduction processing but both settings are useable. Impressive stuff.

Sony NEX-C3: Sharpness & Detail


The NEX-C3 in this test was provided with a 16mm f/2.8 lens that was used in the lab at f/6.3 to shoot resolution and colour charts. The combination of lens and sensor resolves lots of detail, though sharpness is best towards the centre. Given the wideangle nature of such a lens there are signs of distortion and blurring towards the corners and edges that are not unexpected. Chromatic aberrations are an issue however, with blue and red edges visible in areas. The level of available detail is testament to the already well-proven 16.2MP sensor that does a good job in its allocation here.

  1. 1. Sony NEX-C3 review - Features
  2. 2. Design
  3. 3. Performance
  4. 4. Image Quality
  5. 5. Movie/Video Mode
  6. 6. Value & Verdict
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