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Sony A5100 vs NEX-3N

The Sony Alpha A5100 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3N are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2014 and February 2013. Both the A5100 and the NEX-3N are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The A5100 has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the NEX-3N provides 16 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Sony A5100 versus Sony NEX-3N
Sony A5100 Sony NEX-3N
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Sony E mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
24 MP, APS-C Sensor 16 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/60p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 100-25,600 ISO 200-16,000
No viewfinder, LCD framing Viewfinder optional
3.0 LCD, 922k dots 3.0 LCD, 460k dots
Tilting touchscreen Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
6 shutter flaps per second 4 shutter flaps per second
400 shots per battery charge480 shots per battery charge
110 x 63 x 36 mm, 283 g 110 x 62 x 35 mm, 269 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Sony Alpha A5100 and the Sony Alpha NEX-3N? 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony A5100 and the Sony NEX-3N is provided 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Both cameras are available in two different colors (black, white).

Size Sony A5100 vs Sony NEX-3N
Compare A5100 versus NEX-3N top
Comparison A5100 or NEX-3N rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-3N is somewhat smaller (2 percent) than the Sony A5100. Moreover, the NEX-3N is markedly lighter (5 percent) than the A5100. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the A5100 nor the NEX-3N 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog. Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

The power pack in the A5100 can be charged via the USB port, so that it is not always necessary to take the battery charger along when travelling.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also 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 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Sony A5100 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 n Aug 2014 549 i
 
Sony NEX-3N 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499i
 
Sony RX100 IV 102 mm 58 mm 41 mm 298 g 280 n Jun 2015 999i
 
Sony A5000 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 269 g 420 n Jan 2014 449i
 
Sony A6000 120 mm 67 mm 45 mm 344 g 360 n Feb 2014 599i
 
Sony RX100 III 102 mm 58 mm 41 mm 290 g 320 n May 2014 799i
 
Sony A3000 128 mm 91 mm 85 mm 411 g 470 n Aug 2013 329i
 
Sony RX100 II 102 mm 58 mm 38 mm 281 g 350 n Jun 2013 749i
 
Sony NEX-5R 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2012 749i
 
Sony NEX-F3 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599i
 
Sony RX100 102 mm 58 mm 36 mm 240 g 330 n Jun 2012 649i
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599i
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 naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 NEX-3N was somewhat cheaper (by 9 percent) than the A5100 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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.

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. 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. 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 tend to be more expensive and 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-3N 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.

Sony A5100 and Sony NEX-3N sensor measures

With 24MP, the A5100 offers a higher resolution than the NEX-3N (16MP), but the A5100 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 4.78μm for the NEX-3N). However, the A5100 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 5 months) than the NEX-3N, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The resolution advantage of the Sony A5100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A5100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony NEX-3N are 24.6 x 16.3 inches or 62.4 x 41.5 cm for good quality, 19.6 x 13.1 inches or 49.9 x 33.2 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.6 x 27.6 cm for excellent quality prints.

The A5100 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.

The Sony Alpha A5100 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-3N are ISO 200 to ISO 16000 (no boost).

A5100 versus NEX-3N MP

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 review, the A5100 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the NEX-3N (overall score 6 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 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.

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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
 
Sony A5100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780
 
Sony NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774
 
Sony RX100 IV 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.659170
 
Sony A5000 APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.813.0108979
 
Sony A6000 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.113.1134782
 
Sony RX100 III 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.412.349567
 
Sony A3000 APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.712.8106878
 
Sony RX100 II 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.512.448367
 
Sony NEX-5R APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.191078
 
Sony NEX-F3 APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473
 
Sony RX100 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.612.439066
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the A5100 provides a higher frame rate than the NEX-3N. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the NEX-3N is limited to 1080/60i.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The A5100 and the NEX-3N 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-3N can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-SV1. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Sony A5100 and Sony NEX-3N along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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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
 
Sony A5100none n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Sony RX100 IV2359 n 3.0 1228 tilting n 1/2000s 16.0 Y Y
 
Sony A5000none n 3.0 461 tilting n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
 
Sony A60001440 n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
 
Sony RX100 III1440 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 1/2000s 10.0 Y Y
 
Sony A3000202 n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Sony RX100 IIoptional n 3.0 1229 tilting n 1/2000s 10.0 Y Y
 
Sony NEX-5Roptional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n
 
Sony NEX-F3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n
 
Sony RX100none n 3.0 1229 fixed n 1/2000s 10.0 Y Y
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The A5100 has a touchscreen, while the NEX-3N has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the A5100 and the NEX-3N write their files to SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A5100 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-3N cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.

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 Sony Alpha A5100 and Sony Alpha NEX-3N 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
 
Sony A5100-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereomono--micro2.0---
 
Sony RX100 IV-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony A5000-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony A6000Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony RX100 III-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony A3000Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony RX100 IIYstereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony NEX-5RYstereomono--mini2.0Y--
 
Sony NEX-F3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony RX100-stereomono--micro2.0---
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the A5100 offers wifi support, while the NEX-3N does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.

The A5100 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. In contrast, the NEX-3N has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the NEX-3N was succeeded by the Sony A5000. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Sony website.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Sony A5100 better than the Sony NEX-3N or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A5100:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 16MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/60i).
  • Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 460k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
  • 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 modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 5 months after the NEX-3N).


Advantages of the Sony Alpha NEX-3N:

  • More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (480 versus 400) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2013).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A5100 is the clear winner of the match-up (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 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.

A5100 12:03 NEX-3N

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Sony A5100 and the Sony NEX-3N place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the A5100 or the NEX-3N 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.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews 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.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Sony A5100+..4.5/54.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i
 
Sony NEX-3N....4.5/54/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499i
 
Sony RX100 IV+ +85/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 999i
 
Sony A5000+..4.5/5o4.5/5 Jan 2014 449i
 
Sony A6000+80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2014 599i
 
Sony RX100 III+ +82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2014 799i
 
Sony A3000+..4/54.5/54/5 Aug 2013 329i
 
Sony RX100 II+ +79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jun 2013 749i
 
Sony NEX-5R....4.5/5..4.5/5 Aug 2012 749i
 
Sony NEX-F3..74/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599i
 
Sony RX100+ +78/1004/55/55/5 Jun 2012 649i
 
Sony NEX-3..70/1004.5/55/54/5 May 2010 599i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated 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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Sony A5100:
Check Amazon price
Sony NEX-3N:
Check Ebay offers

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.

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    Specifications: Sony A5100 vs Sony NEX-3N

    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 Sony A5100 Sony NEX-3N
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Sony E mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2014 February 2013
    Launch Price USD 549 USD 499
    Sensor Specs Sony A5100 Sony NEX-3N
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.5 x 15.6 mm 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 366.6 mm2 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.2 mm 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 24 Megapixels 16 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6000 x 4000 pixels 4912 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 3.91 μm 4.78 μm
    Pixel Density 6.55 MP/cm2 4.39 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 25,600 ISO 200 - 16,000 ISO
    Image Processor BIONZ X BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 80 74
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.8 22.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.7 12.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1347 1067
    Screen Specs Sony A5100 Sony NEX-3N
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Viewfinder optional
    Viewfinder Magnification
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 460k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen no Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Sony A5100 Sony NEX-3N
    Focus System On-Sensor Phase-detect Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus PeakingFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/4000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 6 shutter flaps/s 4 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium MS or SDXC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I no
    Connectivity Specs Sony A5100 Sony NEX-3N
    External Flash no Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port micro HDMI micro HDMI
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in no Wifi
    Near-Field Communication NFC built-in no NFC
    Body Specs Sony A5100 Sony NEX-3N
    Battery Type NP-FW50 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)400 shots per charge480 shots per charge
    In-Camera Charging USB charging no USB charging
    Body Dimensions 110 x 63 x 36 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in)
    110 x 62 x 35 mm
    (4.3 x 2.4 x 1.4 in)
    Camera Weight 283 g (10.0 oz) 269 g (9.5 oz)

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