Sony Alpha NEX-3
23.4x15.6mm 14.2-megapixel sensor, 3.1x zoom (27-83mm equivalent), 287g (without lens)
The NEX-3’s specs are almost identical to its more slender brother and the same 14.2 megapixel APS-C (23.4x15.6mm) sensor is at the heart, meaning that image quality is just as good as the NEX-5’s. It also has the same image processor, meaning continuous shooting rates and general operation performance are pretty good, but Sony has decided to limit the NEX-3’s HD video recording mode to 1,280x720p at 30fps in the M-PEG4 format. The NEX-5’s video mode supported recording in AVCHD at 1,920x1,080i at 50fps.
Sensitivity also still ranges from ISO 200 to 12,800, with Auto ISO is limited to ISO 1600 – even with the new firmware – which kind of defeats the point of having such a large sensor in the first place. Like the NEX-5, the NEX-3 produces usable high resolution images right the way up to ISO 3200 and, if you only want to use the photos in smaller sizes, you can just about get away with ISO 6400 before having to resort to attaching the supplied pop-up flash.
The 18-55 lens does exhibit some distortion throughout its focal range with the worst of it being around the 35mm (approx. 50mm equivalent) focal length. Despite this, images are sharp with only minor softening in the corners at the telephoto end of the zoom. There’s slight chromatic aberration, but it’s barely noticeable and there’s very little evidence of vignetting.
Image stabilisation on the 18-55 is good for about three stops too, further enhancing the NEX-3’s low-light capabilities. Our only complaint on that front is that the auto-focus system does tend to search a little, but not quite as badly as on the NEX-5, where it’s impossible not to cover the focus assist lamp.