Sony A900 vs NEX-C3
The Sony Alpha A900 and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2008 and June 2011. The A900 is a DSLR, while the NEX-C3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (A900) and an APS-C (NEX-C3) sensor. The A900 has a resolution of 24.4 megapixels, whereas the NEX-C3 provides 16 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 Sony Alpha A900 and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3? 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 Sony A900 and the Sony NEX-C3. 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 NEX-C3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, pink), while the A900 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-C3 is considerably smaller (64 percent) than the Sony A900. Moreover, the NEX-C3 is substantially lighter (75 percent) than the A900. It is worth mentioning in this context that the A900 is splash and dust resistant, while the NEX-C3 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Sony A900||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Sep 2008||2,999||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony NEX-C3||110 mm||60 mm||33 mm||225 g||400||n||Jun 2011||599||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark II||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499||ebay.com|
|4.||Panasonic S1||149 mm||110 mm||97 mm||1017 g||400||Y||Feb 2019||2,499||amazon.com|
|5.||Sony A9||127 mm||96 mm||63 mm||673 g||650||Y||Apr 2017||4,499||ebay.com|
|6.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199||ebay.com|
|7.||Sony A6500||120 mm||67 mm||53 mm||453 g||350||Y||Oct 2016||1,399||ebay.com|
|8.||Sony A7S II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||627 g||370||Y||Sep 2015||2,999||ebay.com|
|9.||Sony RX10 II||129 mm||88 mm||102 mm||813 g||400||Y||Jun 2015||1,299||ebay.com|
|10.||Sony A7 II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999||ebay.com|
|11.||Sony NEX-3N||110 mm||62 mm||35 mm||269 g||480||n||Feb 2013||499||ebay.com|
|12.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony NEX-F3||117 mm||67 mm||42 mm||314 g||470||n||May 2012||599||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony NEX-5N||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||269 g||460||n||Aug 2011||699||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony NEX-5||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||287 g||330||n||May 2010||699||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999||ebay.com|
|Note: 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-C3 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 80 percent) than the A900, 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. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony A900 features a full frame sensor and the Sony NEX-C3 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-C3 is 58 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 24.4MP, the A900 offers a higher resolution than the NEX-C3 (16MP), but the A900 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 4.78μm for the NEX-C3) due to its larger sensor. However, the NEX-C3 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 8 months) than the A900, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A900 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A900 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.2 inches or 76.8 x 51.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 41 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony NEX-C3 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 Sony Alpha A900 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800 (no boost).
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.
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"). Of the two cameras under review, the A900 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the NEX-C3 (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, 0.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Sony A900||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.7||12.3||1431||79|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|4.||Panasonic S1||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/60p||25.2||14.5||3333||95|
|5.||Sony A9||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.9||13.3||3517||92|
|6.||Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|8.||Sony A7S II||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||4K/30p||23.6||13.3||2993||85|
|9.||Sony RX10 II||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||4K/30p||23.0||12.6||531||70|
|10.||Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|12.||Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
|17.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The NEX-C3 indeed provides for movie recording, while the A900 does not. The highest resolution format that the NEX-C3 can use is 720/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A900 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the NEX-C3 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the NEX-C3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-SV1. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A900 and Sony NEX-C3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|1.||Sony A900||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||Y|
|2.||Sony NEX-C3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5/s||n||n|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9/s||n||n|
|4.||Panasonic S1||5760||Y||3.2 / 2100||full-flex||Y||1/8000s||9.0/s||n||Y|
|5.||Sony A9||3686||n||3.0 / 1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||20.0/s||n||Y|
|6.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0/s||n||Y|
|7.||Sony A6500||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||11.0/s||Y||Y|
|8.||Sony A7S II||2400||n||3.0 / 1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||Y|
|9.||Sony RX10 II||2359||Y||3.0 / 1229||tilting||n||1/3200s||14.0/s||Y||Y|
|10.||Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0 / 1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||Y|
|11.||Sony NEX-3N||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||n||1/4000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|12.||Sony A99||2359||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||6.0/s||n||Y|
|13.||Sony NEX-F3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5/s||Y||n|
|14.||Sony NEX-5N||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0/s||n||n|
|15.||Sony NEX-3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|16.||Sony NEX-5||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|17.||Sony A850||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0/s||n||Y|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One feature that is present on the A900, but is missing on the NEX-C3 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.The NEX-C3 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 A900 does not have a selfie-screen.
The A900 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, while the NEX-C3 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A900 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the NEX-C3 only has one slot.
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 A900 and Sony Alpha NEX-C3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Sony A900||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Sony NEX-C3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Panasonic S1||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||full||3.1||Y||-||Y|
|5.||Sony A9||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|6.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|7.||Sony A6500||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|8.||Sony A7S II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|9.||Sony RX10 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|10.||Sony A7 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|11.||Sony NEX-3N||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Sony A99||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Sony NEX-F3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Sony NEX-5N||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Sony NEX-3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Sony NEX-5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony A850||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A900 (unlike the NEX-C3) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the A900 and the NEX-C3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The A900 was replaced by the Sony A99, while the NEX-C3 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the features and operation of the A900 and NEX-C3 can be found, respectively, in the Sony A900 Manual (free pdf) or the online Sony NEX-C3 Manual.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Sony A900 better than the Sony NEX-C3 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A900:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.4 vs 16MP) with a 23% 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 (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (880 versus 400) on a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in September 2008).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha NEX-C3:
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
- 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.
- More compact: Is smaller (110x60mm vs 156x117mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 670g or 75 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 (80 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 8 months of technical progress since the A900 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A900 is the clear winner of the match-up (12 : 8 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Sony A900 and the Sony NEX-C3 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the A900 and the NEX-C3 in practical situations. 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 following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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.||Sony A900||..||+ +||..||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony NEX-C3||3/5||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon 5D Mark II||4/5||91/100||..||79/100||4/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499||ebay.com|
|4.||Panasonic S1||4.5/5||+ +||4.5/5||88/100||4.5/5||4/5||Feb 2019||2,499||amazon.com|
|5.||Sony A9||5/5||+ +||4.8/5||89/100||5/5||5/5||Apr 2017||4,499||ebay.com|
|6.||Sony A99 II||..||..||4.5/5||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199||ebay.com|
|7.||Sony A6500||5/5||+ +||3.5/5||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2016||1,399||ebay.com|
|8.||Sony A7S II||5/5||+||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2015||2,999||ebay.com|
|9.||Sony RX10 II||5/5||+ +||..||82/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2015||1,299||ebay.com|
|10.||Sony A7 II||5/5||+||4/5||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999||ebay.com|
|11.||Sony NEX-3N||3/5||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499||ebay.com|
|12.||Sony A99||5/5||..||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony NEX-F3||4/5||..||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2012||599||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony NEX-5N||3/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony NEX-3||..||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony NEX-5||3/5||+ +||..||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||699||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony A850||3/5||..||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999||ebay.com|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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? 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.
- Canon 6D Mark II vs Sony NEX-C3
- Canon G1 X Mark III vs Sony A900
- Canon G12 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Canon T4i vs Sony A900
- Fujifilm X-T2 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Fujifilm X20 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Leica M-E Typ 240 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Nikon D3500 vs Sony A900
- Olympus E-P2 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Olympus TG-5 vs Sony A900
- Olympus TG-6 vs Sony A900
- Panasonic GF2 vs Sony A900
Specifications: Sony A900 vs Sony NEX-C3
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||Sony A900||Sony NEX-C3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Sony A mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2008||June 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 2,999||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Sony A900||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 24.0 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||861.6 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.2 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24.4 Megapixels||16 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6048 x 4032 pixels||4912 x 3264 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.94 μm||4.78 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.83 MP/cm2||4.39 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 6,400 ISO||no Enhancement|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||79||73|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.7||22.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.3||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1431||1083|
|Screen Specs||Sony A900||Sony NEX-C3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||922k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Sony A900||Sony NEX-C3|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||5.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||Lens stabilization only|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or MS cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Sony A900||Sony NEX-C3|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Sony A900||Sony NEX-C3|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||880 shots per charge||400 shots per charge|
156 x 117 x 82 mm
(6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
110 x 60 x 33 mm
(4.3 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
|Camera Weight||895 g (31.6 oz)||225 g (7.9 oz)|
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