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Canon 500D vs Sony NEX-C3

The Canon EOS 500D (called Canon T1i in some regions) and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in March 2009 and June 2011. The 500D is a DSLR, while the NEX-C3 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 16 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-C3
Canon 500D   Sony NEX-C3
Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
Canon EF mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
15.1 MP, APS-C Sensor 16 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/20p Video 720/30p Video
ISO 100-6,400 (100 - 12,800) ISO 100-12,800
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 920k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
3.4 shutter flaps per second 5.5 shutter flaps per second
400 shots per battery charge400 shots per battery charge
129 x 98 x 62 mm, 520 g 110 x 60 x 33 mm, 225 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 500D and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3? 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-C3 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The NEX-C3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, pink), while the 500D is only available in black.

Size Canon 500D vs Sony NEX-C3
Compare 500D versus NEX-C3 top
Comparison 500D or NEX-C3 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-C3 is considerably smaller (48 percent) than the Canon 500D. Moreover, the NEX-C3 is substantially lighter (57 percent) than the 500D. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the 500D nor the NEX-C3 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-C3). Mirrorless cameras, such as the NEX-C3, 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.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.

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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 799i
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3 110 mm 60 mm 33 mm 225 g 400 n Jun 2011 599i
3.
 
Canon 750D 132 mm 101 mm 78 mm 555 g 440 n Feb 2015 749i
4.
 
Canon 760D 132 mm 101 mm 78 mm 565 g 440 n Feb 2015 649i
5.
 
Canon 1200D 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 480 g 500 n Feb 2014 449i
6.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 116 mm 74 mm 66 mm 553 g 240 n Feb 2014 799i
7.
 
Canon 700D 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 n Mar 2013 649i
8.
 
Canon 650D 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 575 g 440 n Jun 2012 849i
9.
 
Canon G1 X 117 mm 81 mm 65 mm 534 g 250 n Jan 2012 799i
10.
 
Canon 600D 133 mm 100 mm 80 mm 570 g 440 n Feb 2011 599i
11.
 
Canon 550D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699i
12.
 
Canon 450D 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 524 g 500 n Jan 2008 799i
13.
 
Sony NEX-3N 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499i
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 269 g 460 n Aug 2011 699i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599i
17.
 
Sony NEX-5 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699i
Notes: 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 retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The NEX-C3 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the NEX-C3 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.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Canon 500D and Sony NEX-C3 sensor measures

With 16MP, the NEX-C3 offers a higher resolution than the 500D (15.1MP), but the NEX-C3 nevertheless has marginally larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.78μm versus 4.69μm for the 500D) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the NEX-C3 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 2 months) than the 500D, and its sensor will 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-C3 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

500D versus NEX-C3 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the NEX-C3 has a markedly higher DXO score than the 500D (overall score 10 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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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-C3 APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.2108373
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 NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977
16.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068
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. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the 500D provides a higher video resolution than the NEX-C3. It can shoot video footage at 1080/20p, while the Sony is limited to 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the 500D has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the NEX-C3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the NEX-C3 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-C3, 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)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon 500Doptical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n
2.
 
Sony NEX-C3optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
3.
 
Canon 750Doptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon 760Doptical Y3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
5.
 
Canon 1200Doptical n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
6.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIoptional n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 5.2 Y Y
7.
 
Canon 700Doptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
8.
 
Canon 650Doptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
9.
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n3.0 / 922 swivel n 1/4000s 1.9 Y Y
10.
 
Canon 600Doptical n3.0 / 1040 swivel n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
11.
 
Canon 550Doptical n3.0 / 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
12.
 
Canon 450Doptical n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
13.
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n3.0 / 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
15.
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n3.0 / 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
16.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n
17.
 
Sony NEX-5optional n3.0 / 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 500D has one, while the NEX-C3 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-C3 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-C3 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-C3 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-C3Ystereo / 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 NEX-3N-stereo / mono--micro2.0---
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereo / mono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---

Both the 500D and the NEX-C3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 500D was replaced by the Canon 550D, while the NEX-C3 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Sony websites.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 500D better than the Sony NEX-C3 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

ilogo

Arguments in favor of 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.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in March 2009).

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-C3:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.7 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 (5.5 vs 3.4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (110x60mm vs 129x98mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 295g or 57 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: Reflects 2 years and 2 months of technical progress since the 500D launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-C3 is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 4 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. 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 04:11 NEX-C3

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 500D and the Sony NEX-C3 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 500D or the NEX-C3 perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews 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 799i
2.
 
Sony NEX-C33/5+ +..74/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
3.
 
Canon 750D5/5....75/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749i
4.
 
Canon 760D5/5+..77/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 649i
5.
 
Canon 1200D3/5+....4/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449i
6.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II3/5+..77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2014 799i
7.
 
Canon 700D......76/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649i
8.
 
Canon 650D4/5+ +..77/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2012 849i
9.
 
Canon G1 X5/5+..76/1004/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799i
10.
 
Canon 600D3/5o..77/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2011 599i
11.
 
Canon 550D..+ +..77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699i
12.
 
Canon 450D..+ +..+ +4/54.5/5 Jan 2008 799i
13.
 
Sony NEX-3N3/5......4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499i
14.
 
Sony NEX-F34/5....74/1004.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599i
15.
 
Sony NEX-5N3/5+ +..79/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699i
16.
 
Sony NEX-3......70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599i
17.
 
Sony NEX-53/5+ +..71/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Canon 500D:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-C3:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. 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-C3

    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-C3
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Canon EF mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date March 2009 June 2011
    Launch Price USD 799 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Canon 500D Sony NEX-C3
    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 16 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4752 x 3168 pixels 4912 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.69 μm 4.78 μm
    Pixel Density 4.53 MP/cm2 4.39 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/20p Video 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 6,400 ISO 100 - 12,800 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 12,800 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 63 73
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.7 22.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.5 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 663 1083
    Screen Specs Canon 500D Sony NEX-C3
    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-C3
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3.4 shutter flaps/s 5.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon 500D Sony NEX-C3
    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-C3
    Battery Type LP-E5 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)400 shots per charge400 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 129 x 98 x 62 mm
    (5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
    110 x 60 x 33 mm
    (4.3 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 520 g (18.3 oz) 225 g (7.9 oz)

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