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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.

Headline Specifications
Epson R-D1 versus Sony NEX-3
Epson R-D1 Sony NEX-3
Rangefinder camera Mirrorless system camera
Leica M mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
6 MP, APS-C Sensor 14 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 720/30p Video
ISO 200-1,600 ISO 200-12,800
Optical viewfinder Viewfinder optional
2.0 LCD, 235k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
1 shutter flaps per second 7 shutter flaps per second
142 x 89 x 40 mm, 620 g 117 x 62 x 33 mm, 297 g

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.

Body comparison

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.

Size Epson R-D1 vs Sony NEX-3
Compare R-D1 versus NEX-3 top
Comparison R-D1 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 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.

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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.
 
Epson R-D1 142 mm 89 mm 40 mm 620 g .. n Mar 2004 2,999i
2.
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599i
3.
 
Canon 350D 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899i
4.
 
Canon 300D 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Leica M10 139 mm 80 mm 39 mm 660 g 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i
6.
 
Leica X Vario 133 mm 73 mm 95 mm 680 g 450 n Jun 2013 2,850i
7.
 
Leica M9 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 585 g .. n Sep 2009 7,999i
8.
 
Leica M8 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499i
9.
 
Nikon D50 133 mm 102 mm 76 mm 620 g 400 n Apr 2005 749i
10.
 
Nikon D70s 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 500 n Apr 2005 899i
11.
 
Nikon D70 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 400 n Jan 2004 999i
12.
 
Olympus E-300 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 n Sep 2004 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-C3 110 mm 60 mm 33 mm 225 g 400 n Jun 2011 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 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.

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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 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.

Epson R-D1 and Sony NEX-3 sensor measures

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).

R-D1 versus NEX-3 MP

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.

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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.
 
Epson R-D1 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........
2.
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068
3.
 
Canon 350D APS-C 8.0 3456 2304none21.810.863760
4.
 
Canon 300D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
5.
 
Leica M10 Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992none24.413.2213386
6.
 
Leica X Vario APS-C 16.1 4928 32721080/30p23.412.7132078
7.
 
Leica M9 Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472none22.511.788469
8.
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359
9.
 
Nikon D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.856055
10.
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
11.
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
12.
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none........
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-C3 APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.2108373
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 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.

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Feature comparison

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.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(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.
 
Epson R-D1optical n 2.0 235 fixed n 1/2000s 1.0 n n
2.
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n
3.
 
Canon 350Doptical n 1.8 115 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon 300Doptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
5.
 
Leica M10optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n
6.
 
Leica X Variooptional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/2000s 5.0 Y n
7.
 
Leica M9optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n
8.
 
Leica M8optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n
9.
 
Nikon D50optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
10.
 
Nikon D70soptical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n
11.
 
Nikon D70optical n 1.8 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n
12.
 
Olympus E-300optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
13.
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
15.
 
Sony NEX-5Noptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
16.
 
Sony NEX-C3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
17.
 
Sony NEX-5optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n
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 R-D1 does not have a selfie-screen.

The R-D1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the NEX-3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.

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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 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.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Epson R-D1Y---------
2.
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon 350DY-----2.0---
4.
 
Canon 300DY-----1.1---
5.
 
Leica M10Y------Y--
6.
 
Leica X VarioYstereomono--mini2.0---
7.
 
Leica M9Y-----2.0---
8.
 
Leica M8Y-----2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D50Y-----2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D70sY-----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D70Y-----1.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-300Y-----2.0---
13.
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereomono--micro2.0---
14.
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
15.
 
Sony NEX-5NYstereomono--mini2.0---
16.
 
Sony NEX-C3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
17.
 
Sony NEX-5Ystereomono--mini2.0---

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.

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Review summary

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.

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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).

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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.

R-D1 03:12 NEX-3

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.

Expert reviews

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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Epson R-D1.......... Mar 2004 2,999i
2.
 
Sony NEX-3....70/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 599i
3.
 
Canon 350D..80/100+ +o.. Feb 2005 899i
4.
 
Canon 300D....+ +.... Aug 2003 899i
5.
 
Leica M104.5/5....4/54.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i
6.
 
Leica X Vario3/5....4/54/5 Jun 2013 2,850i
7.
 
Leica M9......4.5/5.. Sep 2009 7,999i
8.
 
Leica M8....+ +.... Sep 2006 5,499i
9.
 
Nikon D50..78/100+ +4/54.5/5 Apr 2005 749i
10.
 
Nikon D70s........5/5 Apr 2005 899i
11.
 
Nikon D70....+ +.... Jan 2004 999i
12.
 
Olympus E-300....+o4.5/5 Sep 2004 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-C33/5+ +74/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
17.
 
Sony NEX-53/5+ +71/1004.5/54/5 May 2010 699i
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.

Epson R-D1:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-3:
Check Ebay offers

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.

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    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 Specifications
    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 Technology CCD CMOS
    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
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    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%
    Viewfinder Magnification
    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
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    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
    Battery Type EU-85 NP-FW50
    Body Dimensions 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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