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Canon 500D vs Sony NEX-3

The Canon EOS 500D (called Canon T1i in some regions) and the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in March 2009 and May 2010. The 500D is a DSLR, while the NEX-3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.1 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 14 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon 500D
versus
Sony NEX-3
Canon 500D   Sony NEX-3
Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
Canon EF mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
15.1 MP – APS-C sensor 14 MP – APS-C sensor
1080/20p Video 720/30p Video
ISO 100-6,400 (100 - 12,800) ISO 200-12,800
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
3.0" LCD – 920k dots 3.0" LCD – 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (no touchscreen)
3.4 shutter flaps per second 7 shutter flaps per second
400 shots per battery charge330 shots per battery charge
129 x 98 x 62 mm, 520 g 117 x 62 x 33 mm, 297 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 500D and the Sony Alpha NEX-3? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Canon 500D and the Sony NEX-3 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The NEX-3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, red), while the 500D is only available in black.

Size Canon 500D vs Sony NEX-3
Compare 500D versus NEX-3 top
Comparison 500D or NEX-3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-3 is considerably smaller (43 percent) than the Canon 500D. Moreover, the NEX-3 is substantially lighter (43 percent) than the 500D. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the 500D nor the NEX-3 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (500D) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-3). Mirrorless cameras, such as the NEX-3, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the 500D gets 400 shots out of its LP-E5 battery, while the NEX-3 can take 330 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon 500D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799ebay.com
2.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 750D 132 mm 101 mm 78 mm 555 g 440 n Feb 2015 749ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 760D 132 mm 101 mm 78 mm 565 g 440 n Feb 2015 649ebay.com
5.
 
Canon 1200D 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 480 g 500 n Feb 2014 449ebay.com
6.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 116 mm 74 mm 66 mm 553 g 240 n Feb 2014 799ebay.com
7.
 
Canon 700D 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 n Mar 2013 649ebay.com
8.
 
Canon 650D 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 575 g 440 n Jun 2012 849ebay.com
9.
 
Canon G1 X 117 mm 81 mm 65 mm 534 g 250 n Jan 2012 799ebay.com
10.
 
Canon 600D 133 mm 100 mm 80 mm 570 g 440 n Feb 2011 599ebay.com
11.
 
Canon 550D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699ebay.com
12.
 
Canon 450D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 524 g 500 n Jan 2008 799ebay.com
13.
 
Sony A5100 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 n Aug 2014 549ebay.com
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499ebay.com
15.
 
Sony NEX-5R 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2012 749ebay.com
16.
 
Sony NEX-5N 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 269 g 460 n Aug 2011 699ebay.com
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699ebay.com
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The NEX-3 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the 500D, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the NEX-3 is 10 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (500D) and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 500D and Sony NEX-3 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon 500D offers a higher resolution of 15.1 megapixels, compared with 14 MP of the Sony NEX-3. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.69μm versus 5.11μm for the NEX-3). Moreover, it should be noted that the NEX-3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 1 month) than the 500D, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The Canon EOS 500D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

500D versus NEX-3 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the NEX-3 has a markedly higher DXO score than the 500D (overall score 5 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.4 bits higher color depth, 0.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon 500D APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363
2.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068
3.
 
Canon 750D APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.712.091971
4.
 
Canon 760D APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.612.091570
5.
 
Canon 1200D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.372463
6.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 1.5-inch 13.0 4160 31201080/30p21.510.858158
7.
 
Canon 700D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161
8.
 
Canon 650D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.272262
9.
 
Canon G1 X 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.864460
10.
 
Canon 600D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.579365
11.
 
Canon 550D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
12.
 
Canon 450D APS-C 12.2 4272 2848none21.910.869261
13.
 
Sony A5100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774
15.
 
Sony NEX-5R APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.191078
16.
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.279669

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the 500D provides a higher video resolution than the NEX-3. It can shoot video footage at 1080/20p, while the Sony is limited to 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the 500D has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the NEX-3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the NEX-3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-SV1. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 500D, the Sony NEX-3, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon 500Doptical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4/s Y n
2.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0/s n n
3.
 
Canon 750Doptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
4.
 
Canon 760Doptical Y3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
5.
 
Canon 1200Doptical n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
6.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIoptional n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 5.2/s Y Y
7.
 
Canon 700Doptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
8.
 
Canon 650Doptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
9.
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n3.0 / 922 swivel n 1/4000s 1.9/s Y Y
10.
 
Canon 600Doptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel n 1/4000s 3.7/s Y n
11.
 
Canon 550Doptical n3.0 / 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7/s Y n
12.
 
Canon 450Doptical n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y n
13.
 
Sony A5100none n3.0 / 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0/s Y n
14.
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n3.0 / 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
15.
 
Sony NEX-5Roptional n3.0 / 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0/s n n
16.
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n3.0 / 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0/s n n
17.
 
Sony NEX-5optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0/s n n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 500D has one, while the NEX-3 does not. While the built-in flash of the 500D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The NEX-3 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the 500D does not have a selfie-screen.

The 500D writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the NEX-3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS 500D and Sony Alpha NEX-3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon 500DYmono / mono--mini2.0---
2.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon 750DYstereo / monoY-mini2.0YY-
4.
 
Canon 760DYstereo / monoY-mini2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon 1200DYmono / mono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIYstereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
7.
 
Canon 700DYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---
8.
 
Canon 650DYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---
9.
 
Canon G1 XYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Canon 600DYmono / monoY-mini2.0---
11.
 
Canon 550DYstereo / -Y-mini2.0---
12.
 
Canon 450DY- / ---mini2.0---
13.
 
Sony A5100-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereo / mono--micro2.0---
15.
 
Sony NEX-5RYstereo / mono--mini2.0Y--
16.
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---

Both the 500D and the NEX-3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The 500D was replaced by the Canon 550D, while the NEX-3 was followed by the Sony NEX-3N. Further information on the features and operation of the 500D and NEX-3 can be found, respectively, in the Canon 500D Manual (free pdf) or the online Sony NEX-3 Manual.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 500D and the Sony NEX-3? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 500D:

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/20p vs 720/30p).
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (400 versus 330) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in March 2009).

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-3:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 3.4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (117x62mm vs 129x98mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 223g or 43 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 1 month) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-3 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 5 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

500D 05:10 NEX-3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 500D and the Sony NEX-3 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 500D or the NEX-3 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon 500D..+ +..74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799ebay.com
2.
 
Sony NEX-3......70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599ebay.com
3.
 
Canon 750D5/5....75/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749ebay.com
4.
 
Canon 760D5/5+..77/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 649ebay.com
5.
 
Canon 1200D3/5+....4/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449ebay.com
6.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II3/5+..77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2014 799ebay.com
7.
 
Canon 700D......76/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649ebay.com
8.
 
Canon 650D4/5+ +..77/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2012 849ebay.com
9.
 
Canon G1 X5/5+..76/1004/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799ebay.com
10.
 
Canon 600D3/5o..77/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2011 599ebay.com
11.
 
Canon 550D..+ +..77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699ebay.com
12.
 
Canon 450D..+ +..+ +4/54.5/5 Jan 2008 799ebay.com
13.
 
Sony A51004.5/5+....4.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549ebay.com
14.
 
Sony NEX-3N3/5......4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499ebay.com
15.
 
Sony NEX-5R........4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2012 749ebay.com
16.
 
Sony NEX-5N3/5+ +..79/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699ebay.com
17.
 
Sony NEX-53/5+ +..71/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 699ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

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Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Canon 500D vs Sony NEX-3

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon 500D Sony NEX-3
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Canon EF mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date March 2009 May 2010
    Launch Price USD 799 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Canon 500D Sony NEX-3
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 332.27 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 26.8 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.6x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 15.1 Megapixels 14 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4752 x 3168 pixels 4592 x 3056 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.69 μm 5.11 μm
    Pixel Density 4.53 MP/cm2 3.84 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/20p Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 6,400 ISO 200 - 12,800 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 12,800 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 63 68
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.7 22.1
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.5 12.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 663 830
    Screen Specs Canon 500D Sony NEX-3
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.54x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 920k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs Canon 500D Sony NEX-3
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3.4 shutter flaps/s 7 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon 500D Sony NEX-3
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon 500D Sony NEX-3
    Battery Type LP-E5 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)400 shots per charge330 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 129 x 98 x 62 mm
    (5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
    117 x 62 x 33 mm
    (4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 520 g (18.3 oz) 297 g (10.5 oz)
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    Check NEX-3 offers at
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