Leica X1 vs Sony NEX-3
The Leica X1 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2009 and May 2010. The X1 is a fixed lens compact, while the NEX-3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 12.2 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.
|Leica X1||Sony NEX-3|
|Fixed lens compact camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|36mm f/2.8||Sony E mount lenses|
|12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor||14 MP, APS-C Sensor|
|no Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO 100-3200||ISO 200-12800|
|No viewfinder, LCD framing||Viewfinder optional|
|2.7" LCD, 230k dots||3.0" LCD, 920k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|3 shutter flaps per second||7 shutter flaps per second|
|260 shots per battery charge||330 shots per battery charge|
|124 x 60 x 32 mm, 306 g||117 x 62 x 33 mm, 297 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica X1 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 Leica X1 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 perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The X1 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), 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 smaller (2 percent) than the Leica X1. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the X1 nor the NEX-3 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the X1 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.
|Leica X1»||4.9 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||10.8 oz||260||n||Sep 2009||1,995||-||Leica X1|
|Sony NEX-3«||4.6 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||10.5 oz||330||n||May 2010||599||-||Sony NEX-3|
|Canon G16« »||4.3 in||3.0 in||1.6 in||12.6 oz||360||n||Aug 2013||549||Canon G16|
|Fujifilm X100« »||5.0 in||3.0 in||2.1 in||15.7 oz||300||n||Sep 2010||1,199||-||Fujifilm X100|
|Leica X Typ 113« »||5.2 in||2.9 in||3.1 in||17.1 oz||350||n||Sep 2014||2,295||Leica X Typ 113|
|Leica D-LUX 6« »||4.4 in||2.7 in||1.8 in||10.5 oz||330||n||Sep 2012||699||-||Leica D-LUX 6|
|Leica X2« »||4.9 in||2.7 in||2.0 in||12.2 oz||450||n||May 2012||1,995||-||Leica X2|
|Leica D-LUX 5« »||4.3 in||2.6 in||1.7 in||9.6 oz||400||n||Sep 2010||699||-||Leica D-LUX 5|
|Leica V-LUX 2« »||4.9 in||3.1 in||3.7 in||18.3 oz||410||n||Sep 2010||849||-||Leica V-LUX 2|
|Panasonic LX5« »||4.3 in||2.6 in||1.7 in||9.6 oz||400||n||Jul 2010||499||-||Panasonic LX5|
|Sony A5100« »||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.4 in||10.0 oz||400||n||Aug 2014||549||Sony A5100|
|Sony NEX-3N« »||4.3 in||2.4 in||1.4 in||9.5 oz||480||n||Feb 2013||499||-||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5R« »||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.7 oz||330||n||Aug 2012||749||-||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-5N« »||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.5 oz||460||n||Aug 2011||699||-||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5« »||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||10.1 oz||330||n||May 2010||699||-||Sony NEX-5|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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. 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 12.2 MP of the X1. 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 5.51μm for the X1). However, it should be noted that the NEX-3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 8 months) than the X1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.
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 inch or 58.3 x 38.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 12.2 inch or 46.7 x 31 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.3 x 10.2 inch or 38.9 x 25.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Leica X1 are 21.4 x 14.3 inch or 54.3 x 36.3 cm for good quality, 17.1 x 11.4 inch or 43.4 x 29 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.5 inch or 36.2 x 24.2 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Leica X1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|Leica X1»||APS-C||12.2||4272||2856||-||-||-||-||-||Leica X1|
|Sony NEX-3«||APS-C||14.0||4592||3056||720/30p||22.1||12.0||830||68||Sony NEX-3|
|Canon G16« »||1/1.7||12.0||4000||3000||1080/60p||21.0||11.7||230||54||Canon G16|
|Fujifilm X100« »||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||720/30p||22.9||12.4||1001||73||Fujifilm X100|
|Leica X Typ 113« »||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||-||-||-||-||Leica X Typ 113|
|Leica D-LUX 6« »||1/1.7||10.0||3648||2736||1080/60p||-||-||-||-||Leica D-LUX 6|
|Leica X2« »||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||-||-||-||-||-||Leica X2|
|Leica D-LUX 5« »||1/1.7||10.0||3648||2736||720/60p||-||-||-||-||Leica D-LUX 5|
|Leica V-LUX 2« »||1/2.3||14.0||4320||3240||1080/60i||-||-||-||-||Leica V-LUX 2|
|Panasonic LX5« »||1/1.7||10.0||3648||2736||720/60p||19.6||10.8||132||41||Panasonic LX5|
|Sony A5100« »||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||23.8||12.7||1347||80||Sony A5100|
|Sony NEX-3N« »||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||22.8||12.5||1067||74||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5R« »||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||23.7||13.1||910||78||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-5N« »||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||23.6||12.7||1079||77||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5« »||APS-C||14.0||4592||3056||1080/60i||22.2||12.2||796||69||Sony NEX-5|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The NEX-3 indeed provides for movie recording, while the X1 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. The X1 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Leica X1 and Sony NEX-3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|Leica X1»||-||n||2.7||230||fixed||n||1/2000s||3.0||Y||n||Leica X1|
|Sony NEX-3«||-||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n||Sony NEX-3|
|Canon G16« »||optical||n||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.2||Y||Y||Canon G16|
|Fujifilm X100« »||1440||n||2.8||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Fujifilm X100|
|Leica X Typ 113« »||-||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n||Leica X Typ 113|
|Leica D-LUX 6« »||-||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||11.0||Y||Y||Leica D-LUX 6|
|Leica X2« »||-||n||2.7||230||fixed||n||1/2000s||5.0||Y||n||Leica X2|
|Leica D-LUX 5« »||-||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5||Y||Y||Leica D-LUX 5|
|Leica V-LUX 2« »||202||n||3.0||460||swivel||n||1/2000s||11.0||Y||Y||Leica V-LUX 2|
|Panasonic LX5« »||-||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5||Y||Y||Panasonic LX5|
|Sony A5100« »||-||n||3.0||922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||6.0||Y||n||Sony A5100|
|Sony NEX-3N« »||-||n||3.0||460||tilting||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5R« »||-||n||3.0||920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-5N« »||-||n||3.0||920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5« »||-||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The X1 has one, while the NEX-3 does not. While the built-in flash of the X1 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 X1 does not have a selfie-screen.
The X1 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 Leica X1 and Sony Alpha NEX-3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Leica X1»||Y||-||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica X1|
|Sony NEX-3«||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-3|
|Canon G16« »||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-||Canon G16|
|Fujifilm X100« »||Y||stereo||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Fujifilm X100|
|Leica X Typ 113« »||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica X Typ 113|
|Leica D-LUX 6« »||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica D-LUX 6|
|Leica X2« »||Y||-||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica X2|
|Leica D-LUX 5« »||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica D-LUX 5|
|Leica V-LUX 2« »||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Leica V-LUX 2|
|Panasonic LX5« »||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic LX5|
|Sony A5100« »||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-||Sony A5100|
|Sony NEX-3N« »||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5R« »||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-5N« »||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5« »||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-5|
Both the X1 and the NEX-3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The X1 was replaced by the Leica X2, while the NEX-3 was followed by the Sony NEX-3N. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Sony websites.
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica X1 and the Sony NEX-3? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Leica X1:
- Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the NEX-3 requires a separate lens.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2009).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-3:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (14 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 7%.
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
- More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k 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 3 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 260) out of a single battery charge.
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (8 months) more recently.
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 : 4 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 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 Leica X1 and the Sony NEX-3 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Prime Lens Compact 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 X1 or the NEX-3 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.
|Leica X1»||-||+||-||-||4/5||Sep 2009||1,995||-||Leica X1|
|Sony NEX-3«||-||70/100||4.5/5||5/5||4/5||May 2010||599||-||Sony NEX-3|
|Canon G16« »||+||-||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2013||549||Canon G16|
|Fujifilm X100« »||-||75/100||4/5||4/5||5/5||Sep 2010||1,199||-||Fujifilm X100|
|Leica X Typ 113« »||-||-||3.5/5||-||4/5||Sep 2014||2,295||Leica X Typ 113|
|Leica D-LUX 6« »||-||-||4/5||-||4/5||Sep 2012||699||-||Leica D-LUX 6|
|Leica X2« »||-||-||3/5||-||4/5||May 2012||1,995||-||Leica X2|
|Leica D-LUX 5« »||-||-||4.5/5||-||4/5||Sep 2010||699||-||Leica D-LUX 5|
|Leica V-LUX 2« »||-||-||-||-||-||Sep 2010||849||-||Leica V-LUX 2|
|Panasonic LX5« »||+||73/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2010||499||-||Panasonic LX5|
|Sony A5100« »||+||-||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2014||549||Sony A5100|
|Sony NEX-3N« »||-||-||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499||-||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5R« »||-||-||4.5/5||-||4.5/5||Aug 2012||749||-||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-5N« »||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699||-||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5« »||+ +||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||May 2010||699||-||Sony NEX-5|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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? 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 1200D vs Leica X1
- Fujifilm X-T20 vs Sony NEX-3
- Fujifilm X20 vs Leica X1
- Fujifilm X20 vs Sony NEX-3
- Hasselblad X1D vs Leica X1
- Hasselblad X1D vs Sony NEX-3
- Leica X1 vs Sony NEX-5
- Leica X1 vs Sony RX100 IV
- Nikon W300 vs Sony NEX-3
- Olympus E-M5 vs Sony NEX-3
- Olympus PEN-F vs Sony NEX-3
- Panasonic FZ100 vs Sony NEX-3
Specifications: Leica X1 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||Leica X1||Sony NEX-3|
|Camera Type||Fixed lens compact camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||36mm f/2.8||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2009||May 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 1995||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Leica X1||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||12.2 Megapixels||14 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4272 x 2856 pixels||4592 x 3056 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.51 μm||5.11 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.30 MP/cm2||3.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100-3200 ISO||200-12800 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||Leica X1||Sony NEX-3|
|Viewfinder Type||No viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.7 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Leica X1||Sony NEX-3|
|Autofocus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||7 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Build-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||Leica X1||Sony NEX-3|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Leica X1||Sony NEX-3|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||260 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
124 x 60 x 32 mm
(4.9 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
117 x 62 x 33 mm
(4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
|Camera Weight||306 g (10.8 oz)||297 g (10.5 oz)|
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