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Sony NEX-3N vs NEX-5N

The Sony Alpha NEX-3N and the Sony Alpha NEX-5N are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2013 and August 2011. Both the NEX-3N and the NEX-5N are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 16 megapixels.

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

Headline Specifications
Sony NEX-3N   Sony NEX-5N
Sony NEX-3N Sony NEX-5N
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Sony E mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
16 MP, APS-C Sensor 16 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/60i Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 200-16000 ISO 100-25600
Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
3.0" LCD, 460k dots 3.0" LCD, 920k dots
Tilting screen (no touchscreen) Tilting touchscreen
4 shutter flaps per second 10 shutter flaps per second
480 shots per battery charge460 shots per battery charge
110 x 62 x 35 mm, 269 g 111 x 59 x 38 mm, 269 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Sony Alpha NEX-3N and the Sony Alpha NEX-5N? 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: Sony NEX-3N vs NEX-5N

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony NEX-3N and the Sony NEX-5N is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The NEX-3N can be obtained in two different colors (black, white), while the NEX-5N is also available in two color-versions, but different ones (black, silver).

Size Sony NEX-3N vs Sony NEX-5N
Compare NEX-3N versus NEX-5N top
Comparison NEX-3N or NEX-5N rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-5N is somewhat smaller (4 percent) than the Sony NEX-3N. In terms of weight, the two cameras are very close. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the NEX-3N nor the NEX-5N 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 would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras 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-3N» 4.3 in 2.4 in 1.4 in 9.5 oz 480 n Feb 2013 499- i Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5N« 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.5 oz 460 n Aug 2011 699- i Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony A5000« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 9.5 oz 420 n Jan 2014 449- i Sony A5000
 
Sony A5100« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 10.0 oz 400 n Aug 2014 549 i i Sony A5100
 
Sony NEX-5T« » 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 97.9 oz 330 n Aug 2013 699- i Sony NEX-5T
 
Sony NEX-5R« » 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 9.7 oz 330 n Aug 2012 749- i Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-6« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 12.2 oz 360 n Sep 2012 999- i Sony NEX-6
 
Sony NEX-F3« » 4.6 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 11.1 oz 470 n May 2012 599- i Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-C3« » 4.3 in 2.4 in 1.3 in 7.9 oz 400 n Jun 2011 599- i Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3« » 4.6 in 2.4 in 1.3 in 10.5 oz 330 n May 2010 599- i Sony NEX-3
 
Sony NEX-5« » 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 10.1 oz 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.

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. The NEX-3N was launched at a markedly lower price (by 29 percent) than the NEX-5N, which puts it into a different market segment. 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony NEX-3N vs NEX-5N

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies 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.

Sony NEX-3N and Sony NEX-5N sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 16 megapixels. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the NEX-3N and the NEX-5N have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the NEX-3N is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 5 months) than the NEX-5N, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

The Sony Alpha NEX-3N has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 16000. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-5N are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).

NEX-3N versus NEX-5N MP

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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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-3N» APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5N« APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.612.7107977Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony A5000« » APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.813.0108979Sony A5000
 
Sony A5100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780Sony A5100
 
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-6« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.1101878Sony NEX-6
 
Sony NEX-F3« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-C3« » APS-C 16.0 4912 3264720/30p22.712.2108373Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3« » APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068Sony NEX-3
 
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 can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60i).

 

Feature comparison: Sony NEX-3N vs NEX-5N

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The NEX-3N and the NEX-5N 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-3N and the FDA-EV1S for the NEX-5N – are available as accessories. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Sony NEX-3N and Sony NEX-5N along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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-3N»- n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5N«- n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/4000s 10.0 n n Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony A5000« »- n 3.0 461 tilting n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n Sony A5000
 
Sony A5100« »- n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0 Y n Sony A5100
 
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-6« »2359 n 3.0 921 tilting n 1/4000s 10.0 Y n Sony NEX-6
 
Sony NEX-F3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 Y n Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-C3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n n Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n Sony NEX-3
 
Sony NEX-5« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n Sony NEX-5

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The NEX-3N has one, while the NEX-5N does not. While the built-in flash of the NEX-3N is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

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 NEX-3N and the NEX-5N write their files to SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.

 

Connectivity comparison: Sony NEX-3N vs NEX-5N

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-3N and Sony Alpha NEX-5N 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-3N»-stereomono--micro2.0---Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5N«Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony A5000« »-stereomono--micro2.0YY-Sony A5000
 
Sony A5100« »-stereomono--micro2.0YY-Sony A5100
 
Sony NEX-5T« »Ystereomono--mini2.0YY-Sony NEX-5T
 
Sony NEX-5R« »Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--Sony NEX-5R
 
Sony NEX-6« »Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--Sony NEX-6
 
Sony NEX-F3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-C3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-3
 
Sony NEX-5« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Sony NEX-5

It is notable that the NEX-5N has a hotshoe, which makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun. The NEX-3N does not feature such an accessory-socket.

Both the NEX-3N and the NEX-5N have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The NEX-5N was replaced by the Sony NEX-5R, while the NEX-3N was followed 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: Sony NEX-3N vs NEX-5N

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Sony NEX-3N or the Sony NEX-5N – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Sony Alpha NEX-3N:

  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (29 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 5 months after the NEX-5N).


Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha NEX-5N:

  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 460k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2011).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-5N emerges as the winner of the match-up (5 : 3 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. 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.

NEX-3N 03:05 NEX-5N

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Sony NEX-3N and the Sony NEX-5N 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the NEX-3N or the NEX-5N. 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: Sony NEX-3N vs NEX-5N

This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.

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-3N»--4.5/54/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499- i Sony NEX-3N
 
Sony NEX-5N«+ +79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2011 699- i Sony NEX-5N
 
Sony A5000« »+-4.5/5o4.5/5 Jan 2014 449- i Sony A5000
 
Sony A5100« »+-4.5/54.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i i Sony A5100
 
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-6« »+ +78/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2012 999- i Sony NEX-6
 
Sony NEX-F3« »-74/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599- i Sony NEX-F3
 
Sony NEX-C3« »+ +74/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599- i Sony NEX-C3
 
Sony NEX-3« »-70/1004.5/55/54/5 May 2010 599- i Sony NEX-3
 
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 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.

Sony NEX-3N:
Check Ebay offers
Sony NEX-5N:
Check Ebay offers

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.

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    Specifications: Sony NEX-3N vs Sony NEX-5N

    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 NEX-3N Sony NEX-5N
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Sony E mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2013 August 2011
    Launch Price USD 499 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Sony NEX-3N Sony NEX-5N
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    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
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 16 Megapixels 16 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4912 x 3264 pixels 4912 x 3264 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.78 μm 4.78 μm
    Pixel Density 4.39 MP/cm2 4.39 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60i Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 200-16000 ISO 100-25600 ISO
    Image Processor BIONZ BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 74 77
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.8 23.6
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.5 12.7
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1067 1079
    Screen Specs Sony NEX-3N Sony NEX-5N
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional Viewfinder optional
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 460k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Sony NEX-3N Sony NEX-5N
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus PeakingNo Peaking Feature
    Continuous Shooting 4 shutter flaps/s 10 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in 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-3N Sony NEX-5N
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port micro HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Sony NEX-3N Sony NEX-5N
    Battery Type NP-FW50 power pack NP-FW50 power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)480 shots per charge460 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 110 x 62 x 35 mm
    (4.3 x 2.4 x 1.4 in)
    111 x 59 x 38 mm
    (4.4 x 2.3 x 1.5 in)
    Camera Weight 269 g (9.5 oz) 269 g (9.5 oz)

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