Canon M3 vs Sony NEX-5N
The Canon EOS M3 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5N are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2015 and August 2011. Both the M3 and the NEX-5N are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 24 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.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS M3 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5N? 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.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon M3 and the Sony NEX-5N. 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 M3 can be obtained in two different colors (black, white), while the NEX-5N is also available in two color-versions, but different ones (black, silver).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-5N is notably smaller (13 percent) than the Canon M3. Moreover, the NEX-5N is markedly lighter (27 percent) than the M3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M3 nor the NEX-5N 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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
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.
|1.||Canon M3||111 mm||68 mm||44 mm||366 g||250||n||Feb 2015||679|
|2.||Sony NEX-5N||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||269 g||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||116 mm||88 mm||59 mm||387 g||305||n||Oct 2020||599|
|4.||Canon M50||116 mm||88 mm||59 mm||390 g||235||n||Feb 2018||779|
|5.||Canon M6||112 mm||68 mm||45 mm||390 g||295||n||Feb 2017||779|
|6.||Canon M100||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||302 g||295||n||Aug 2017||499|
|7.||Canon M5||116 mm||89 mm||61 mm||427 g||295||n||Sep 2016||979|
|8.||Canon M10||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||301 g||255||n||Oct 2015||499|
|9.||Canon T6i||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||555 g||440||n||Feb 2015||749|
|10.||Canon T6s||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||565 g||440||n||Feb 2015||649|
|11.||Canon G7 X||103 mm||60 mm||40 mm||304 g||210||n||Sep 2014||699|
|12.||Canon M||109 mm||66 mm||32 mm||298 g||230||n||Jul 2012||599|
|13.||Sony NEX-5R||111 mm||59 mm||39 mm||276 g||330||n||Aug 2012||749|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||117 mm||67 mm||42 mm||314 g||470||n||May 2012||599|
|15.||Sony NEX-C3||110 mm||60 mm||33 mm||225 g||400||n||Jun 2011||599|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||287 g||330||n||May 2010||699|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The M3 was somewhat cheaper (by 3 percent) than the NEX-5N at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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-5N is 10 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (M3) and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon M3 offers a higher resolution of 24 megapixels, compared with 16 MP of the Sony NEX-5N. 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 3.72μm versus 4.78μm for the NEX-5N). However, it should be noted that the M3 is much more recent (by 3 years and 5 months) than the NEX-5N, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The resolution advantage of the Canon M3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the M3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony NEX-5N are 24.6 x 16.3 inches or 62.4 x 41.5 cm for good quality, 19.6 x 13.1 inches or 49.9 x 33.2 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.6 x 27.6 cm for excellent quality prints.
The M3 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Canon EOS M3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-5N are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the NEX-5N has a markedly higher DXO score than the M3 (overall score 5 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.1 stops of reduced 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.
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||4K/24p||..||..||..||..|
|11.||Canon G7 X||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||23.0||12.7||556||71|
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 NEX-5N provides a faster frame rate than the M3. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The M3 and the NEX-5N are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. However, optional viewfinders – the EVF-DC1 for the M3 and the FDA-EV1S for the NEX-5N – are available as accessories. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon M3, the Sony NEX-5N, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Canon M3||optional||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||4.2||Y||n|
|2.||Sony NEX-5N||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||10.0||Y||n|
|4.||Canon M50||2360||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||10.0||Y||n|
|5.||Canon M6||optional||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||9.0||Y||n|
|6.||Canon M100||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||6.1||Y||n|
|7.||Canon M5||2360||n||3.2 / 1620||tilting||Y||1/4000s||9.0||Y||n|
|8.||Canon M10||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||4.6||Y||n|
|9.||Canon T6i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|10.||Canon T6s||optical||Y||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|11.||Canon G7 X||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/2000s||6.5||Y||Y|
|12.||Canon M||none||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.3||n||n|
|13.||Sony NEX-5R||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||Y||n|
|15.||Sony NEX-C3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||n|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The M3 has one, while the NEX-5N does not. While the built-in flash of the M3 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.
The M3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-5N uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The M3 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-5N cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
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 M3 and Sony Alpha NEX-5N and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Canon M3||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|2.||Sony NEX-5N||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Canon M50||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|5.||Canon M6||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|6.||Canon M100||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|7.||Canon M5||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|8.||Canon M10||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|9.||Canon T6i||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|10.||Canon T6s||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|11.||Canon G7 X||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|12.||Canon M||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Sony NEX-5R||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Sony NEX-C3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the M3 has a microphone port, which is missing on the NEX-5N. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
Both the M3 and the NEX-5N have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-5N was replaced by the Sony NEX-5R, while the M3 was followed by the Canon M6. 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.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon M3 better than the Sony NEX-5N or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS M3:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 16MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 920k dots).
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 5 months of technical progress since the NEX-5N launch.
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-5N:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/30p).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 4.2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (111x59mm vs 111x68mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 97g or 27 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (460 versus 250) out of a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2011).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the M3 comes out slightly ahead of the NEX-5N (9 : 8 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 wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon M3 and the Sony NEX-5N place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M3 or the NEX-5N. 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.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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.
|1.||Canon M3||4/5||o||..||75/100||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2015||679|
|2.||Sony NEX-5N||3/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|3.||Canon M50 Mark II||4/5||..||4/5||..||4.5/5||3.5/5||Oct 2020||599|
|4.||Canon M50||..||+||4/5||79/100||..||3.5/5||Feb 2018||779|
|5.||Canon M6||..||..||..||80/100||4/5||4/5||Feb 2017||779|
|6.||Canon M100||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||3.5/5||Aug 2017||499|
|7.||Canon M5||4/5||+||4/5||82/100||4/5||4/5||Sep 2016||979|
|8.||Canon M10||..||..||..||..||..||4/5||Oct 2015||499|
|9.||Canon T6i||5/5||..||..||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749|
|10.||Canon T6s||5/5||+||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||649|
|11.||Canon G7 X||4/5||+ +||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||699|
|12.||Canon M||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jul 2012||599|
|13.||Sony NEX-5R||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2012||749|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||4/5||..||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2012||599|
|15.||Sony NEX-C3||3/5||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|16.||Sony NEX-3||..||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||3/5||+ +||..||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||699|
|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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price 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.
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 use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 1100D vs Canon M3
- Canon M3 vs Nikon D3100
- Canon M3 vs Panasonic GH2
- Canon M3 vs Sony A7R II
- Canon M3 vs Sony A850
- Canon M3 vs Sony RX100 VI
- Leica S-E Typ 006 vs Sony NEX-5N
- Leica X-U Typ 113 vs Sony NEX-5N
- Nikon D200 vs Sony NEX-5N
- Olympus E-M1 vs Sony NEX-5N
- Olympus E-PL8 vs Sony NEX-5N
- Sony A77 II vs Sony NEX-5N
Specifications: Canon M3 vs Sony NEX-5N
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 Model||Canon M3||Sony NEX-5N|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF-M mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2015||August 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 679||USD 699|
|Sensor Specs||Canon M3||Sony NEX-5N|
|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|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||16 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||4912 x 3264 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.72 μm||4.78 μm|
|Pixel Density||7.22 MP/cm2||4.39 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25,600 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 6||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||72||77|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.8||23.6|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.8||12.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1169||1079|
|Screen Specs||Canon M3||Sony NEX-5N|
|Viewfinder Type||Viewfinder optional||Viewfinder optional|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon M3||Sony NEX-5N|
|Focus System||On-Sensor Phase-detect||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||4.2 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon M3||Sony NEX-5N|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Near-Field Communication||NFC built-in||no NFC|
|Body Specs||Canon M3||Sony NEX-5N|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||250 shots per charge||460 shots per charge|
111 x 68 x 44 mm
(4.4 x 2.7 x 1.7 in)
111 x 59 x 38 mm
(4.4 x 2.3 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||366 g (12.9 oz)||269 g (9.5 oz)|
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