Sony NEX-3 vs RX1
The Sony Alpha NEX-3 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in May 2010 and September 2012. The NEX-3 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the RX1 is a fixed lens compact. The cameras are based on an APS-C (NEX-3) and a full frame (RX1) sensor. The NEX-3 has a resolution of 14 megapixels, whereas the RX1 provides 24 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 NEX-3 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1? 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 RX1. 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-3 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, red), while the RX1 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 RX1 is somewhat larger (1 percent) than the Sony NEX-3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the NEX-3 nor the RX1 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the RX1 has a lens built in, whereas the NEX-3 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the NEX-3 and their specifications in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog.
Concerning battery life, the NEX-3 gets 330 shots out of its NP-FW50 battery, while the RX1 can take 270 images on a single charge of its NP-BX1 power pack. The power pack in the RX1 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599|
|2.||Sony RX1||113 mm||65 mm||70 mm||482 g||270||n||Sep 2012||2,799|
|3.||Nikon D5300||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||n||Oct 2013||799|
|4.||Sony RX1R II||113 mm||65 mm||72 mm||507 g||220||n||Oct 2015||3,299|
|5.||Sony A5100||110 mm||63 mm||36 mm||283 g||400||n||Aug 2014||549|
|6.||Sony A6000||120 mm||67 mm||45 mm||344 g||360||n||Feb 2014||599|
|7.||Sony A3000||128 mm||91 mm||85 mm||411 g||470||n||Aug 2013||329|
|8.||Sony NEX-3N||110 mm||62 mm||35 mm||269 g||480||n||Feb 2013||499|
|9.||Sony NEX-5T||111 mm||59 mm||39 mm||276 g||330||n||Aug 2013||699|
|10.||Sony RX1R||113 mm||65 mm||70 mm||482 g||270||n||Jun 2013||2,799|
|11.||Sony NEX-5R||111 mm||59 mm||39 mm||276 g||330||n||Aug 2012||749|
|12.||Sony NEX-6||120 mm||67 mm||43 mm||345 g||360||n||Sep 2012||999|
|13.||Sony NEX-F3||117 mm||67 mm||42 mm||314 g||470||n||May 2012||599|
|14.||Sony NEX-5N||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||269 g||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|15.||Sony NEX-7||120 mm||67 mm||43 mm||400 g||430||n||Aug 2011||1,349|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||110 mm||60 mm||33 mm||225 g||400||n||Jun 2011||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||287 g||330||n||May 2010||699|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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 sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony NEX-3 features an APS-C sensor and the Sony RX1 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the RX1 is 133 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Technology-wise, the RX1 uses a more advanced image processing engine (BIONZ X) than the NEX-3 (BIONZ), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
With 24MP, the RX1 offers a higher resolution than the NEX-3 (14MP), but the RX1 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.96μm versus 5.11μm for the NEX-3) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the RX1 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 4 months) than the NEX-3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony RX1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the RX1 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-3 are 23 x 15.3 inches or 58.3 x 38.8 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 12.2 inches or 46.7 x 31 cm for very good quality, and 15.3 x 10.2 inches 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 Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-102400.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the RX1 offers substantially better image quality than the NEX-3 (overall score 25 points higher). The advantage is based on 3 bits higher color depth, 2.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|2.||Sony RX1||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.1||14.3||2534||93|
|4.||Sony RX1R II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||1080/60p||25.8||13.9||3204||97|
|10.||Sony RX1R||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||13.6||2537||91|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the RX1 provides a better video resolution than the NEX-3. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the NEX-3 is limited to 720/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The NEX-3 and the RX1 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-EV1MK for the RX1 – are available as accessories. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Sony NEX-3, the Sony RX1, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Sony NEX-3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|2.||Sony RX1||optional||n||3.0 / 1229||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|3.||Nikon D5300||optical||n||3.2 / 1037||swivel||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|4.||Sony RX1R II||2360||n||3.0 / 1229||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|5.||Sony A5100||none||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||6.0/s||Y||n|
|6.||Sony A6000||1440||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||n||1/4000s||11.0/s||Y||n|
|7.||Sony A3000||202||n||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5/s||Y||n|
|8.||Sony NEX-3N||optional||n||3.0 / 460||tilting||n||1/4000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|9.||Sony NEX-5T||optional||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0/s||n||n|
|10.||Sony RX1R||optional||n||3.0 / 1229||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|11.||Sony NEX-5R||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||Y||1/4000s||10.0/s||n||n|
|12.||Sony NEX-6||2359||n||3.0 / 921||tilting||n||1/4000s||10.0/s||Y||n|
|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-7||2359||n||3.0 / 921||tilting||n||1/4000s||10.0/s||Y||n|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5/s||n||n|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||optional||n||3.0 / 920||tilting||n||1/4000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The RX1 has one, while the NEX-3 does not. While the built-in flash of the RX1 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The NEX-3 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the RX1 does not have a selfie-screen.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the NEX-3 and the RX1 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 Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Sony NEX-3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Sony RX1||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Nikon D5300||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|4.||Sony RX1R II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|5.||Sony A5100||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|6.||Sony A6000||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|7.||Sony A3000||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Sony NEX-3N||-||stereo / mono||-||-||micro||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Sony NEX-5T||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|10.||Sony RX1R||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Sony NEX-5R||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|12.||Sony NEX-6||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|13.||Sony NEX-F3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Sony NEX-5N||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Sony NEX-7||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the RX1 has a microphone port, which can help to improve the quality of audio recordings by attaching an external microphone. The NEX-3 does not feature such a mic input.
Both the NEX-3 and the RX1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-3 was replaced by the Sony NEX-3N, while the RX1 was followed by the Sony RX1R. 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 conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony NEX-3 and the Sony RX1? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-3:
- 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 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More flexible: Accepts interchangeable lenses, so that lens characteristics can be altered.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (330 versus 270) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in May 2010).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 14MP), which boosts linear resolution by 31%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (25 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (3 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.3 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 stops ISO advantage).
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (BIONZ X vs BIONZ).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60p vs 720/30p).
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 920k dots).
- Ready to shoot: Has an integrated lens, whereas the NEX-3 necessitates an extra lens.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 4 months of technical progress since the NEX-3 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the RX1 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 6 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 wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro 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 RX1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best Prime Lens Compact 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 NEX-3 and the RX1 in practical situations. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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 NEX-3||..||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|2.||Sony RX1||5/5||..||..||79/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|3.||Nikon D5300||4/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799|
|4.||Sony RX1R II||5/5||..||..||82/100||..||4.5/5||Oct 2015||3,299|
|5.||Sony A5100||4.5/5||+||..||..||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2014||549|
|6.||Sony A6000||5/5||+||4.5/5||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2014||599|
|7.||Sony A3000||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||4/5||Aug 2013||329|
|8.||Sony NEX-3N||3/5||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499|
|9.||Sony NEX-5T||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2013||699|
|10.||Sony RX1R||5/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2013||2,799|
|11.||Sony NEX-5R||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2012||749|
|12.||Sony NEX-6||5/5||+ +||..||78/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||999|
|13.||Sony NEX-F3||4/5||..||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2012||599|
|14.||Sony NEX-5N||3/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|15.||Sony NEX-7||5/5||+ +||..||81/100||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2011||1,349|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||3/5||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-5||3/5||+ +||..||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu 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.
Specifications: Sony NEX-3 vs Sony RX1
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 RX1|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Fixed lens compact camera|
|Camera Lens||Sony E mount lenses||35mm f/2.0|
|Launch Date||May 2010||September 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 2,799|
|Sensor Specs||Sony NEX-3||Sony RX1|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.4 x 15.6 mm||35.8 x 23.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||365.04 mm2||852.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.1 mm||43 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||14 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4592 x 3056 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.11 μm||5.96 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.84 MP/cm2||2.82 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||720/30p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||BIONZ||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||68||93|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||25.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.0||14.3|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||830||2534|
|Screen Specs||Sony NEX-3||Sony RX1|
|Viewfinder Type||Viewfinder optional||Viewfinder optional|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||1229k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Tilting screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Sony NEX-3||Sony RX1|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||7 shutter flaps/s||5 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Built-in 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 RX1|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Sony NEX-3||Sony RX1|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||330 shots per charge||270 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
117 x 62 x 33 mm
(4.6 x 2.4 x 1.3 in)
113 x 65 x 70 mm
(4.4 x 2.6 x 2.8 in)
|Camera Weight||297 g (10.5 oz)||482 g (17.0 oz)|
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