Nikon D80 vs Sony NEX-3
The Nikon D80 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2006 and May 2010. The D80 is a DSLR, while the NEX-3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 10 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 Nikon D80 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D80 and the Sony NEX-3. 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 width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The NEX-3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, red), while the D80 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 (47 percent) than the Nikon D80. Moreover, the NEX-3 is substantially lighter (56 percent) than the D80. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D80 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 Nikon Lens Catalog (D80) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-3). Mirrorless cameras, such as the NEX-3, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Nikon D80||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||23.6 oz||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|Sony NEX-3||4.6 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||10.5 oz||330||n||May 2010||599|
|Nikon D3000||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||18.9 oz||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||5.0 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||20.8 oz||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||5.0 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||500||n||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D90||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||24.8 oz||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Nikon D40X||4.9 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D300||5.8 in||4.5 in||2.9 in||32.6 oz||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D2Xs||6.2 in||5.9 in||3.4 in||44.2 oz||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699|
|Nikon D50||5.2 in||4.0 in||3.0 in||21.9 oz||400||n||Apr 2005||749|
|Nikon D70s||5.5 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||24.0 oz||500||n||Apr 2005||899|
|Nikon D70||5.5 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||24.0 oz||400||n||Jan 2004||999|
|Sony A5100||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.4 in||10.0 oz||400||n||Aug 2014||549|
|Sony NEX-3N||4.3 in||2.4 in||1.4 in||9.5 oz||480||n||Feb 2013||499|
|Sony NEX-5R||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.7 oz||330||n||Aug 2012||749|
|Sony NEX-5N||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.5 oz||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|Sony NEX-5||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||10.1 oz||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.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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 40 percent) than the D80, 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 size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 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 2 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 10 MP of the D80. 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 6.11μm for the D80). However, it should be noted that the NEX-3 is much more recent (by 3 years and 9 months) than the D80, 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 Nikon D80 are 19.4 x 13 inches or 49.2 x 32.9 cm for good quality, 15.5 x 10.4 inches or 39.3 x 26.3 cm for very good quality, and 12.9 x 8.6 inches or 32.8 x 21.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D80 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-3 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the NEX-3 has a markedly higher DXO score than the D80 (overall score 7 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. 0.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
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 D80 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 range of features. For example, the D80 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D80 and Sony NEX-3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D80 has one, while the NEX-3 does not. While the built-in flash of the D80 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 D80 does not have a selfie-screen.
The D80 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 Nikon D80 and Sony Alpha NEX-3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
Both the D80 and the NEX-3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D80 was replaced by the Nikon D90, 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 Nikon and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D80 better than the Sony NEX-3 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D80:
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (600 versus 330) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2006).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha NEX-3:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (14 vs 10MP), which boosts linear resolution by 18%.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (7 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") 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 burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (117x62mm vs 132x103mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 371g or 56 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (40 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 9 months of technical progress since the D80 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-3 is the clear winner of the contest (15 : 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 Nikon D80 and the Sony NEX-3 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D80 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.
|Nikon D80||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|Sony NEX-3||..||70/100||4.5/5||5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|Nikon D3000||+||72/100||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||+ +||75/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||80/100||+ +||4/5||o||4.5/5||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D90||+ +||+ +||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Nikon D40X||79/100||+ +||4/5||o||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D300||+ +||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||o||..||Jun 2006||4,699|
|Nikon D50||78/100||+ +||4/5||o||4.5/5||Apr 2005||749|
|Nikon D70s||..||..||..||o||5/5||Apr 2005||899|
|Nikon D70||..||+ +||..||o||..||Jan 2004||999|
|Sony A5100||+||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2014||549|
|Sony NEX-3N||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499|
|Sony NEX-5R||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Aug 2012||749|
|Sony NEX-5N||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|Sony NEX-5||+ +||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||May 2010||699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
- Canon 7D vs Nikon D80
- Canon SX510 vs Sony NEX-3
- Fujifilm X-H1 vs Nikon D80
- Fujifilm X-T20 vs Nikon D80
- Nikon D5200 vs Sony NEX-3
- Nikon D80 vs Olympus E-600
- Nikon D80 vs Olympus E-M1
- Nikon D80 vs Panasonic GX1
- Panasonic G5 vs Sony NEX-3
- Panasonic ZS200 vs Sony NEX-3
- Sony A58 vs Sony NEX-3
- Sony A7R IV vs Sony NEX-3
Specifications: Nikon D80 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||Nikon D80||Sony NEX-3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2006||May 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 999||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D80||Sony NEX-3|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.6 x 15.8 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||372.88 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||10 Megapixels||14 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3872 x 2592 pixels||4592 x 3056 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.11 μm||5.11 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.69 MP/cm2||3.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 3,200 ISO||no Enhancement|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||61||68|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||22.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.2||12.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||524||830|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D80||Sony NEX-3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D80||Sony NEX-3|
|Focus System||Phase-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||Nikon D80||Sony NEX-3|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D80||Sony NEX-3|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||600 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
117 x 62 x 33 mm
(4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
|Camera Weight||668 g (23.6 oz)||297 g (10.5 oz)|
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