Epson R-D1 vs Sony NEX-3
The Epson R-D1 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in March 2004 and May 2010. The R-D1 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless, while the NEX-3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Epson has a resolution of 6 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 Epson R-D1 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.
The physical size and weight of the Epson R-D1 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The NEX-3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, red), while the R-D1 is only available in black.
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 Epson R-D1. Moreover, the NEX-3 is substantially lighter (52 percent) than the R-D1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the R-D1 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 Leica M Lens Catalog (R-D1) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-3).
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.||Epson R-D1||142 mm||89 mm||40 mm||620 g||..||n||Mar 2004||2,999|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599|
|3.||Canon 350D||127 mm||94 mm||64 mm||540 g||400||n||Feb 2005||899|
|4.||Canon 300D||142 mm||99 mm||72 mm||649 g||400||n||Aug 2003||899|
|5.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|6.||Leica X Vario||133 mm||73 mm||95 mm||680 g||450||n||Jun 2013||2,850|
|7.||Leica M9||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||585 g||..||n||Sep 2009||7,999|
|8.||Leica M8||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||591 g||..||n||Sep 2006||5,499|
|9.||Nikon D50||133 mm||102 mm||76 mm||620 g||400||n||Apr 2005||749|
|10.||Nikon D70s||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||500||n||Apr 2005||899|
|11.||Nikon D70||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||400||n||Jan 2004||999|
|12.||Olympus E-300||147 mm||85 mm||64 mm||624 g||750||n||Sep 2004||799|
|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 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 markedly lower price (by 80 percent) than the R-D1, which puts it into a different market segment. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
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 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-3 is 1 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the NEX-3 offers a higher resolution of 14 megapixels, compared with 6 MP of the R-D1. 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 5.11μm versus 7.85μm for the R-D1). However, it should be noted that the NEX-3 is much more recent (by 6 years and 2 months) than the R-D1, 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 Sony NEX-3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the NEX-3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 15.3 inches or 58.3 x 38.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 12.2 inches or 46.7 x 31 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.3 x 10.2 inches or 38.9 x 25.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Epson R-D1 are 15 x 10 inches or 38.2 x 25.4 cm for good quality, 12 x 8 inches or 30.6 x 20.3 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.7 inches or 25.5 x 16.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Epson R-D1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600. 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 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. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|5.||Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|6.||Leica X Vario||APS-C||16.1||4928||3272||1080/30p||23.4||12.7||1320||78|
|7.||Leica M9||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||none||22.5||11.7||884||69|
|12.||Olympus E-300||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||none||..||..||..||..|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The NEX-3 indeed provides for movie recording, while the R-D1 does not. The highest resolution format that the NEX-3 can use is 720/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the R-D1 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Epson R-D1 and Sony NEX-3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|6.||Leica X Vario||optional||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n|
The R-D1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the NEX-3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo 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 Epson R-D1 and Sony Alpha NEX-3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|6.||Leica X Vario||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Epson R-D1 (unlike the NEX-3) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the R-D1 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 R-D1 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 Epson and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Epson R-D1 or the Sony NEX-3 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Epson R-D1:
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in March 2004).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-3:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (14 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 53%.
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 235k dots).
- 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 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 1 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (117x62mm vs 142x89mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 323g or 52 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (80 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 6 years and 2 months of technical progress since the R-D1 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-3 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the R-D1 or the NEX-3. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why expert reviews 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], 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.||Epson R-D1||..||..||..||..||..||Mar 2004||2,999|
|2.||Sony NEX-3||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|3.||Canon 350D||..||80/100||+ +||o||..||Feb 2005||899|
|4.||Canon 300D||..||..||+ +||..||..||Aug 2003||899|
|5.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|6.||Leica X Vario||3/5||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jun 2013||2,850|
|7.||Leica M9||..||..||..||4.5/5||..||Sep 2009||7,999|
|8.||Leica M8||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2006||5,499|
|9.||Nikon D50||..||78/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2005||749|
|10.||Nikon D70s||..||..||..||..||5/5||Apr 2005||899|
|11.||Nikon D70||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jan 2004||999|
|12.||Olympus E-300||..||..||+||o||4.5/5||Sep 2004||799|
|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.|
The above review scores should be interpreted 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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. 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. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Epson R-D1 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||Epson R-D1||Sony NEX-3|
|Camera Type||Rangefinder camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Leica M mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||March 2004||May 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 2,999||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Epson R-D1||Sony NEX-3|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.7 x 15.6 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||369.72 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||6 Megapixels||14 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3008 x 2000 pixels||4592 x 3056 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.85 μm||5.11 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.63 MP/cm2||3.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||68|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||22.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||830|
|Screen Specs||Epson R-D1||Sony NEX-3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||235k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Epson R-D1||Sony NEX-3|
|Focus System||Manual Focus||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||1 shutter flaps/s||7 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board 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||Epson R-D1||Sony NEX-3|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||no USB||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Epson R-D1||Sony NEX-3|
142 x 89 x 40 mm
(5.6 x 3.5 x 1.6 in)
117 x 62 x 33 mm
(4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
|Camera Weight||620 g (21.9 oz)||297 g (10.5 oz)|
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