Canon SX720 vs Sony NEX-3
The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS and the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2016 and May 2010. The SX720 is a fixed lens compact, while the NEX-3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX720) and an APS-C (NEX-3) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 20.2 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.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon SX720 and the Sony NEX-3 is provided 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 dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The SX720 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the NEX-3 is available in three color-versions (black, silver, red).
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 somewhat larger (3 percent) than the Canon SX720. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX720 nor the NEX-3 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX720 has a lens built in, whereas the NEX-3 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the NEX-3 and their specifications in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Canon SX720||110 mm||64 mm||36 mm||270 g||250||n||Feb 2016||379|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599|
|3.||Canon SX740||110 mm||64 mm||40 mm||299 g||265||n||Jul 2018||399|
|4.||Canon SX730||110 mm||64 mm||40 mm||300 g||250||n||Apr 2017||399|
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||106 mm||61 mm||42 mm||319 g||265||n||Feb 2016||699|
|6.||Canon SX420||104 mm||69 mm||85 mm||325 g||195||n||Jan 2016||299|
|7.||Canon SX540||120 mm||82 mm||92 mm||442 g||205||n||Jan 2016||399|
|8.||Canon SX410||104 mm||69 mm||85 mm||325 g||185||n||Feb 2015||279|
|9.||Canon SX710||113 mm||66 mm||35 mm||269 g||230||n||Jan 2015||349|
|10.||Panasonic TZ90||112 mm||67 mm||41 mm||322 g||380||n||Apr 2017||449|
|11.||Sony HX80||102 mm||58 mm||36 mm||245 g||390||n||Mar 2016||349|
|12.||Sony HX90V||102 mm||58 mm||36 mm||245 g||360||n||Apr 2015||429|
|13.||Sony NEX-3N||110 mm||62 mm||35 mm||269 g||480||n||Feb 2013||499|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||117 mm||67 mm||42 mm||314 g||470||n||May 2012||599|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||269 g||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||110 mm||60 mm||33 mm||225 g||400||n||Jun 2011||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.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The SX720 was launched at a lower price than the NEX-3, despite having a lens built in. 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.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon SX720 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Sony NEX-3 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-3 is 1204 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 5.6 and 1.5. The sensor in the SX720 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-3 offers a 3:2 aspect.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon SX720 offers a higher resolution of 20.2 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 1.18μm versus 5.11μm for the NEX-3). However, it should be noted that the SX720 is much more recent (by 5 years and 9 months) than the NEX-3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SX720 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Canon SX720 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the SX720 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.9 x 19.4 inches or 65.8 x 49.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.7 x 15.6 inches or 52.7 x 39.5 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.3 x 13 inches or 43.9 x 32.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony NEX-3 are 23 x 15.3 inches or 58.3 x 38.8 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 12.2 inches or 46.7 x 31 cm for very good quality, and 15.3 x 10.2 inches or 38.9 x 25.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon PowerShot SX720 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).
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"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||..||..||..||..|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the SX720 provides a higher video resolution than the NEX-3. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the Sony is limited to 720/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The SX720 and the NEX-3 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. 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 SX720, the Sony NEX-3, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Canon SX720||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/3200s||5.9||Y||Y|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n|
|3.||Canon SX740||none||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||n||1/3200s||10.0||Y||Y|
|4.||Canon SX730||none||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||n||1/3200s||5.9||Y||Y|
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||none||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/2000s||8.0||Y||Y|
|6.||Canon SX420||none||n||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||0.5||Y||Y|
|7.||Canon SX540||none||n||3.0 / 461||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.9||Y||Y|
|8.||Canon SX410||none||n||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||0.5||Y||Y|
|9.||Canon SX710||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/3200s||6.0||Y||Y|
|10.||Panasonic TZ90||1166||n||3.0 / 1040||tilting||Y||1/2000s||10.0||Y||Y|
|11.||Sony HX80||638||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||n||1/2000s||10.0||Y||Y|
|12.||Sony HX90V||638||n||3.0 / 921||tilting||n||1/2000s||10.0||Y||Y|
|13.||Sony NEX-3N||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||Y||n|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||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 SX720 has one, while the NEX-3 does not. While the built-in flash of the SX720 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 SX720 does not have a selfie-screen.
The SX720 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The SX720 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-3 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 PowerShot SX720 HS and Sony Alpha NEX-3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Canon SX720||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon SX740||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||Y|
|4.||Canon SX730||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|6.||Canon SX420||-||mono / mono||-||-||-||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|7.||Canon SX540||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|8.||Canon SX410||-||stereo / mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Canon SX710||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|10.||Panasonic TZ90||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|11.||Sony HX80||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|12.||Sony HX90V||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|13.||Sony NEX-3N||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the SX720 offers wifi support, while the NEX-3 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Both the SX720 and the NEX-3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-3 was replaced by the Sony NEX-3N, while the SX720 was followed by the Canon SX730. 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 there a clear favorite between the Canon SX720 and the Sony NEX-3? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (20.2 vs 14MP) with a 17% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60p vs 720/30p).
- Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the NEX-3 requires a separate lens.
- Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the NEX-3).
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- 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 affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 9 months of technical progress since the NEX-3 launch.
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-3:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
- Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
- More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
- 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 shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/3200s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 5.9 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (330 versus 250) out of a single battery charge.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in May 2010).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-3 emerges as the winner of the match-up (14 : 12 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX720 and the Sony NEX-3 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the SX720 or the NEX-3 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.
This is where reviews by experts come in. 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.
|1.||Canon SX720||..||+||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||379|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||..||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|3.||Canon SX740||..||+||3.5/5||..||4/5||4/5||Jul 2018||399|
|4.||Canon SX730||..||+||..||..||4/5||4/5||Apr 2017||399|
|5.||Canon G7 X Mark II||4.5/5||+ +||..||81/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||699|
|6.||Canon SX420||..||..||..||..||..||3/5||Jan 2016||299|
|7.||Canon SX540||..||..||..||..||..||..||Jan 2016||399|
|8.||Canon SX410||..||o||..||..||..||..||Feb 2015||279|
|9.||Canon SX710||..||+||..||..||4/5||3.5/5||Jan 2015||349|
|10.||Panasonic TZ90||..||+ +||..||..||4/5||4/5||Apr 2017||449|
|11.||Sony HX80||..||..||..||..||..||..||Mar 2016||349|
|12.||Sony HX90V||4/5||+ +||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2015||429|
|13.||Sony NEX-3N||3/5||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||4/5||..||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2012||599|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||3/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||3/5||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||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.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 300D vs Sony NEX-3
- Canon SX540 vs Canon SX720
- Canon SX720 vs Fujifilm X-Pro2
- Canon SX720 vs Fujifilm X-T20
- Canon SX720 vs Nikon D70
- Canon SX720 vs Panasonic FZ330
- Canon SX720 vs Panasonic GX9
- Nikon 1 J5 vs Sony NEX-3
- Nikon P7800 vs Sony NEX-3
- Olympus E-500 vs Sony NEX-3
- Olympus PEN-F vs Sony NEX-3
- Pentax K-3 vs Sony NEX-3
Specifications: Canon SX720 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 Model||Canon SX720||Sony NEX-3|
|Camera Type||Fixed lens compact camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||24-960mm f/3.3-6.9||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2016||May 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 379||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Canon SX720||Sony NEX-3|
|Sensor Format||1/2.3" Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||6.17 x 4.55 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||28.0735 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||7.7 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||20.2 Megapixels||14 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5184 x 3888 pixels||4592 x 3056 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||1.18 μm||5.11 μm|
|Pixel Density||71.80 MP/cm2||3.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60p Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||80 - 3,200 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 6||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||68|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||22.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||830|
|Screen Specs||Canon SX720||Sony NEX-3|
|Viewfinder Type||no viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||922k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon SX720||Sony NEX-3|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||5.9 shutter flaps/s||7 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 SX720||Sony NEX-3|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||micro HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Near-Field Communication||NFC built-in||no NFC|
|Body Specs||Canon SX720||Sony NEX-3|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||250 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
110 x 64 x 36 mm
(4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in)
117 x 62 x 33 mm
(4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
|Camera Weight||270 g (9.5 oz)||297 g (10.5 oz)|
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