Sony NEX-3N review

World's smallest and lightest APS-C CSC

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Relatively speaking, Sony has been making compact system cameras (CSCs) for quite some time now, and after a few years of experimentation it seems to have really hit the nail on the head with its latest crop of cameras.

We were very impressed by the Sony NEX-5R, and the Sony NEX-3N seems to be a budget version of that. Gone is the clunky design of the Sony NEX-F3, replaced with this sleek and attractive offering that is the world's smallest APS-C sensored interchangeable lens camera.

Although it can be a little frustrating to use for more advanced photographers, it's clear that Sony is aiming this camera at the audience stepping up from a phone camera or compact camera. It's got quite a few things to attract that type of consumer, such as the tilting screen (perfect for self-portraits) and the fun Picture Effects.

It's a great shame, however, not to see a touchscreen implemented here. Those stepping up from a cameraphone would surely appreciate this method for making changes, while it also has its uses when making changes to parameters such as autofocus point.

We liked

There's plenty to like about the Sony NEX-3N, but we've been particularly impressed by image quality. Image detail, colour and noise control is excellent, giving you a camera with which you can enter a variety of different situations and be assured of high quality images.

We disliked

As time progresses we get more and more disappointed when a camera doesn't include a touchscreen, especially when it's produced by an electronics giant such as Sony, which already has expertise in this arena. It surely can't be too long before a touchscreen is de rigueur, rather than an exciting "extra".

Final verdict

The Sony NEX-3N is not a camera for advanced photographers looking for something to replace or sit alongside their DSLRs. Luckily, Sony already has cameras that meet that brief in its lineup.

Instead, what we have here is something that anybody can pick up and be assured of great image quality. It's a shame that there are a few small bugbears along the way with operability - most notably in the frustration encountered when needing to switch off raw format shooting to use so many of the different functions - but overall this is a very competent compact system camera.

This camera is also a good option for those looking to learn a little more about photography, since you do have fully manual controls and the ability to shoot in raw format. Sony still doesn't have the best operation when it comes to what can and can't be shot in raw format, requiring annoying menu diving when you want to use some of the features. We can but hope that Sony works on this either via a firmware upgrade or for the next iteration of cameras.

Perhaps most importantly, image quality is superb. This camera offers one of the best outputs of all the compact system cameras on the market, and joins the NEX-5R, NEX-6 and NEX-7 as a camera that performs very well in a variety of conditions, including low light.

Sony doesn't quite have the same range of proprietary optics as the Micro Four Thirds system, but there is still a good choice available, with third-party manufacturers also making optics for the brand. There's certainly a much wider choice than what is currently available for rival CSCs such as the Olympus PEN Mini, Nikon 1 J3 and Panasonic GF5.

Tech Specs

Product TypeMirrorless Camera with Lens
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Effective Camera Resolution16.1 Megapixel
Wide AngleYes
Product Familyα NEX
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedMemory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Secure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick XC-HG Duo
Image StabilizationOptical
Optical Zoom3.1x
Digital ZoomNo
Brand NameSony
FeaturesContinuous Shooting Mode, Live View, Orientation Sensor, Noise Reduction, Smile Detection, Face Detection
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsAVCHD, MP4, MPEG-4 AVC
Weight (Approximate)210 g
Image Sensor Size23.50 mm x 15.60 mm
Maximum Image Resolution4912 x 3264
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height62 mm
Width109.9 mm
Depth34.6 mm
Focal Length16 mm to 50 mm (Lens 1)
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
External FlashOptional
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product ModelNEX-3N
Product NameNEX-3N Body With Standard Zoom Lens
Product Lineα NEX
Exposure Control
  • Program AE
  • Shutter Priority AE
  • Aperture Priority AE
  • Manual
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberNEX3NLB.CE
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Be creative wherever you go

Take the creativity of a DSLR anywhere with the easy-to-use NEX-3N. With a large 16.1 megapixel APS-C sensor, you can shoot detailed images in low light, use the handy 180° tiltable screen for self-portraits or tricky angles, and give your photography that professional look.

Package Contents
  • α NEX-3N Mirrorless Camera
  • E PZ16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Lens
  • Battery NP-FW50
Limited Warranty1 Year