Sony NEX-3 vs NEX-C3
The Sony Alpha NEX-3 and the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in May 2010 and June 2011. Both the NEX-3 and the NEX-C3 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The NEX-3 has a resolution of 14 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.
|Sony NEX-3||Sony NEX-C3|
|Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Sony E mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|14 MP, APS-C Sensor||16 MP, APS-C Sensor|
|720/30p Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO 200-12800||ISO 100-12800|
|Viewfinder optional||Viewfinder optional|
|3.0" LCD, 920k dots||3.0" LCD, 920k dots|
|Tilting screen (no touchscreen)||Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|7 shutter flaps per second||5.5 shutter flaps per second|
|330 shots per battery charge||400 shots per battery charge|
|117 x 62 x 33 mm, 297 g||110 x 60 x 33 mm, 225 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Sony Alpha NEX-3 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 NEX-3 and the Sony NEX-C3. 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The NEX-3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, red), while the NEX-C3 is also available in three color-versions, but different ones (black, silver, pink).
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 notably smaller (9 percent) than the Sony NEX-3. Moreover, the NEX-C3 is markedly lighter (24 percent) than the NEX-3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the NEX-3 nor the NEX-C3 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 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.
|Sony NEX-3»||4.6 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||10.5 oz||330||n||May 2010||599||Sony NEX-3|
|Sony NEX-C3«||4.3 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||7.9 oz||400||n||Jun 2011||599||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sony A5100« »||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.4 in||10.0 oz||400||n||Aug 2014||549||Sony A5100|
|Sony A6000« »||4.7 in||2.6 in||1.8 in||12.1 oz||360||n||Feb 2014||599||Sony A6000|
|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-5T« »||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||97.9 oz||330||n||Aug 2013||699||Sony NEX-5T|
|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-6« »||4.7 in||2.6 in||1.7 in||12.2 oz||360||n||Sep 2012||999||Sony NEX-6|
|Sony NEX-F3« »||4.6 in||2.6 in||1.7 in||11.1 oz||470||n||May 2012||599||Sony NEX-F3|
|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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same 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.
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 and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.5. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the NEX-C3 offers a higher resolution of 16 megapixels, compared with 14 MP of the NEX-3. This megapixels advantage translates into a 7 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the NEX-C3 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.78μm versus 5.11μm for the NEX-3). However, it should be noted that the NEX-C3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year) than the NEX-3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.
The resolution advantage of the Sony NEX-C3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the NEX-C3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 24.6 x 16.3 inch or 62.4 x 41.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19.6 x 13.1 inch or 49.9 x 33.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 16.4 x 10.9 inch or 41.6 x 27.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony NEX-3 are 23 x 15.3 inch or 58.3 x 38.8 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 12.2 inch or 46.7 x 31 cm for very good quality, and 15.3 x 10.2 inch or 38.9 x 25.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Sony Alpha NEX-3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 are ISO 100 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-C3 has a markedly higher DXO score than the NEX-3 (overall score 5 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 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.
|Sony NEX-3||APS-C||14.0||4592||3056||720/30p||22.1||12.0||830||68||Sony NEX-3|
|Sony NEX-C3||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||720/30p||22.7||12.2||1083||73||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sony A5100||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||23.8||12.7||1347||80||Sony A5100|
|Sony A6000||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.1||13.1||1347||82||Sony A6000|
|Sony NEX-3N||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||22.8||12.5||1067||74||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5T||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60p||23.6||13.0||1015||78||Sony NEX-5T|
|Sony NEX-5R||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||23.7||13.1||910||78||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-6||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||23.7||13.1||1018||78||Sony NEX-6|
|Sony NEX-F3||APS-C||16.0||4912||3264||1080/60i||22.7||12.3||1114||73||Sony NEX-F3|
|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. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, and both provide the same movie specifications (720/30p).
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The NEX-3 and the NEX-C3 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. However, optional viewfinders – the FDA-SV1 for the NEX-3 and the FDA-SV1 for the NEX-C3 – are available as accessories. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Sony NEX-3, the Sony NEX-C3, and comparable cameras.
|Sony NEX-3||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n||Sony NEX-3|
|Sony NEX-C3||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||n||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sony A5100||none||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||optional||n||3.0||460||tilting||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5T||optional||n||3.0||922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5T|
|Sony NEX-5R||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-6||2359||n||3.0||921||tilting||n||1/4000s||10.0||Y||n||Sony NEX-6|
|Sony NEX-F3||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||Y||n||Sony NEX-F3|
|Sony NEX-5N||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5N|
|Sony NEX-5||optional||n||3.0||920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0||n||n||Sony NEX-5|
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the NEX-3 and the NEX-C3 write their files to 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 Sony Alpha NEX-3 and Sony Alpha NEX-C3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Sony NEX-3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-3|
|Sony NEX-C3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sony A5100||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-||Sony A5100|
|Sony A6000||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-||Sony A6000|
|Sony NEX-3N||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-3N|
|Sony NEX-5T||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-||Sony NEX-5T|
|Sony NEX-5R||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-||Sony NEX-5R|
|Sony NEX-6||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-||Sony NEX-6|
|Sony NEX-F3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony NEX-F3|
|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 NEX-3 and the NEX-C3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-3 was replaced by the Sony NEX-3N, while the NEX-C3 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Sony website.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony NEX-3 and the Sony NEX-C3? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-3:
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 5.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in May 2010).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-C3:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (16 vs 14MP), which boosts linear resolution by 7%.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 72g or 24 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (400 versus 330) out of a single battery charge.
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-C3 is the clear winner of the contest (6 : 2 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 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 NEX-3 and the Sony NEX-C3 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 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 NEX-3 or the NEX-C3. 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.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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.
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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.
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon SL1 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Canon T100 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Canon XC10 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Fujifilm GFX 50S vs Sony NEX-C3
- Fujifilm X-A2 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Nikon D800E vs Sony NEX-C3
- Nikon Df vs Sony NEX-C3
- Olympus E-M10 II vs Sony NEX-3
- Olympus TG-4 vs Sony NEX-3
- Panasonic FT7 vs Sony NEX-C3
- Panasonic GX850 vs Sony NEX-3
- Sony NEX-5R vs Sony NEX-C3
Specifications: Sony NEX-3 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 NEX-3||Sony NEX-C3|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Sony E mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||May 2010||June 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Sony NEX-3||Sony NEX-C3|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.4 x 15.6 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||365.04 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.1 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||14 Megapixels||16 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4592 x 3056 pixels||4912 x 3264 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.11 μm||4.78 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.84 MP/cm2||4.39 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||720/30p Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||200-12800 ISO||100-12800 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||68||73|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||22.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.0||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||830||1083|
|Screen Specs||Sony NEX-3||Sony NEX-C3|
|Viewfinder Type||Viewfinder optional||Viewfinder optional|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Sony NEX-3||Sony NEX-C3|
|Autofocus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||7 shutter flaps/s||5.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||MS or SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Sony NEX-3||Sony NEX-C3|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Sony NEX-3||Sony NEX-C3|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||330 shots per charge||400 shots per charge|
117 x 62 x 33 mm
(4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
110 x 60 x 33 mm
(4.3 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
|Camera Weight||297 g (10.5 oz)||225 g (7.9 oz)|
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