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Sony NEX-3 Comparison Review

The Sony Alpha NEX-3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that was officially introduced in May 2010 and is equipped with an APS-C sensor. It offers a resolution of 14 megapixel.

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Is the Sony NEX-3 a good camera? The NEX-3 has a Camera Elo of 1553. This rating puts the NEX-3 below average of all mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. In terms of its sensor size category (APS cameras), the NEX-3 also ranks below average. – Well, the Sony NEX-3 is more than 9 years old, and there have been many other good digital cameras released since 2010.

Headline Specifications
Sony NEX-3
Mirrorless system camera
Sony E mount lenses
14 MP, APS-C Sensor
720/30p Video
ISO 200-12800
Viewfinder optional
3.0" LCD, 920k dots
Tilting screen (no touchscreen)
7 shutter flaps per second
330 shots per battery charge
117 x 62 x 33 mm, 297 g


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Read on to find out more about the camera's size, sensor, features, reception by expert reviewers, and how it compares to other digital cameras.

Body comparison with a credit card

The physical dimensions of the Sony NEX-3 relative to a credit card are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Sony NEX-3 vs credit card front
NEX-3 versus credit card top view
NEX-3 and credit card rear side

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the Sony NEX-3 alongside a set of comparators. If you want to review a camera pair side-by-side, just select a right-side 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 comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Sony NEX-3 117 mm 62 mm 33 mm 297 g 330 n May 2010 599- i Sony NEX-3
 
Panasonic G3« » 115 mm 84 mm 47 mm 336 g 270 n May 2011 599- i Panasonic G3
 
Sony A5100« » 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 n Aug 2014 549 i i Sony A5100
 
Sony A6000« » 120 mm 67 mm 45 mm 344 g 360 n Feb 2014 599- i Sony A6000
 
Sony NEX-3N« » 110 mm 62 mm 35 mm 269 g 480 n Feb 2013 499- i Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5T« » 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 2776 g 330 n Aug 2013 699- i Sony NEX-5T
 
Sony NEX-5R« » 111 mm 59 mm 39 mm 276 g 330 n Aug 2012 749- i Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3« » 117 mm 67 mm 42 mm 314 g 470 n May 2012 599- i Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5N« » 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 269 g 460 n Aug 2011 699- i Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3« » 110 mm 60 mm 33 mm 225 g 400 n Jun 2011 599- i Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-5« » 111 mm 59 mm 38 mm 287 g 330 n May 2010 699- i Sony NEX-5
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The Sony NEX-3 was launched in the US market at a price of $599. 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.

Sony NEX-3:
Check Ebay offers

Sensor comparison with a 35mm slide

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

The Sony NEX-3 features an APS-C sensor and has a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.5. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the Sony NEX-3 among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability.

Sony NEX-3 sensor measures

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068Sony NEX-3
 
Panasonic G3« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60i21.010.666756Panasonic G3
 
Sony A5100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780Sony A5100
 
Sony A6000« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.113.1134782Sony A6000
 
Sony NEX-3N« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5T« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60p23.613.0101578Sony NEX-5T
 
Sony NEX-5R« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.191078Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5N« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3« » APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.2108373Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-5« » APS-C 14.0 4592 30561080/60i22.212.279669Sony NEX-5

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The NEX-3 indeed provides movie recording capabilities. The highest resolution format that the NEX-3 can use is 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The tables below summarize some of the other core capabilities of the Sony NEX-3 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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
Camera
Model
 
Sony NEX-3- n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n Sony NEX-3
 
Panasonic G3« »1440 n 3.0 460 swivel Y 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Panasonic G3
 
Sony A5100« »- n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0 Y n Sony A5100
 
Sony A6000« »1440 n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/4000s 11.0 Y n Sony A6000
 
Sony NEX-3N« »- n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5T« »- n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n Sony NEX-5T
 
Sony NEX-5R« »- n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5N« »- n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-5« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n Sony NEX-5
 

Connection 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 NEX-3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-3
 
Panasonic G3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Panasonic G3
 
Sony A5100« »-stereomono--micro2.0YY-Sony A5100
 
Sony A6000« »Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-Sony A6000
 
Sony NEX-3N« »-stereomono--micro2.0---Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5T« »Ystereomono--mini2.0YY-Sony NEX-5T
 
Sony NEX-5R« »Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5N« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-5« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-5
 

Expert reviews

While the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the NEX-3. 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 expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog).

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Sony NEX-3-70/1004.5/55/54/5 May 2010 599- i Sony NEX-3
 
Panasonic G3« »+ +75/1004.5/54.5/55/5 May 2011 599- i Panasonic G3
 
Sony A5100« »+-4.5/54.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i i Sony A5100
 
Sony A6000« »+80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2014 599- i Sony A6000
 
Sony NEX-3N« »--4.5/54/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499- i Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5T« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Aug 2013 699- i Sony NEX-5T
 
Sony NEX-5R« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Aug 2012 749- i Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-F3« »-74/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599- i Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-5N« »+ +79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699- i Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony NEX-C3« »+ +74/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599- i Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-5« »+ +71/1004.5/54/54/5 May 2010 699- i Sony NEX-5
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Sony NEX-3 FAQ

Below are some additional questions and answers concerning some particular features of the NEX-3.

What type of imaging sensor is used in the NEX-3?

The camera features a CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensor.

Which image processing chip is used to convert the raw signal into an image file and perform noise reduction and image sharpening?

Sony equipped the NEX-3 with the BIONZ image processor.

What is the ISO sensitivity range of the NEX-3?

The camera has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800.

Can the camera be equipped with an optional viewfinder?

Yes, Sony provides the FDA-SV1 as an accessory (here on amazon) that can be mounted on the hotshoe.

Does the camera have a selfie-friendly screen?

Yes, the LCD-screen of the NEX-3 is flexible and can be turned to be front-facing for capturing selfies.

What is the life expectancy of the shutter in the Sony Alpha NEX-3?

Sony does not publish a shutter rating for the NEX-3. Yet, shutters in comparable cameras from other manufacturers are said to be good for at least 100 000 actuations. It should be noted, though, that this number represents a Mean Time before Failure. The shutter might fail earlier, or it might last longer. Anyway, in order to exhaust an expected shutter life of 100 000 shots over, say, three years, one would have to take about 100 pictures each and every day.

How do I find the shutter count on my Sony NEX-3?

Sony embeds the number of shutter actuations in image metadata. You can check the number of shots that your NEX-3 has taken up to now by uploading a recent image to the online shutter count app.

Does the Sony NEX-3 feature an autofocus assist light?

Yes, the camera has a lamp built-in that can illuminate the subject and improve autofocus in low-light settings.

What is the fastest shutter speed that can be used with flash?

The NEX-3's flash sync speed is 1/160 sec.

Which battery does the NEX-3 use?

The camera gets its power from the NP-FW50 (here at amazon), which is a rechargeable Lithium-Ion power pack.

Camera to camera comparisons

If you would like to see a side-by-side review of this and another camera, just make your choice using the following search menu. An 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 Summary
    Camera Model Sony NEX-3
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date May 2010
    Launch Price USD 599
    Sensor Specs
    Sensor Technology CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.4 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 365.04 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 14 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4592 x 3056 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.11 μm
    Pixel Density 3.84 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video
    ISO Setting 200-12800 ISO
    Image Processor BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 68
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.1
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 830
    Screen Specs
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen
    Shooting Specs
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidNo Peaking Feature
    Maximum Shutter Speed 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 7 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy100 000 actuations
    Silent Shootingno E-Shutter
    Time Lapse Photographyno Intervalometer
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot
    UHS card support no
    Connectivity Specs
    External Flash Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi
    Body Specs
    Battery Type NP-FW50 power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)330 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 117 x 62 x 33 mm
    (4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
    Camera Weight 297 g (10.5 oz)

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