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Sony NEX-3N review - Hands on

  • Sony NEX-3N
  • Sony NEX-3N
  • Sony NEX-3N
  • Sony NEX-3N
  • Sony NEX-3N
  • Sony NEX-3N
  • Sony NEX-3N
  • Sony NEX-3N
  • Sony NEX-3N
  • Sony NEX-3N

Sony's NEX series has long impressed us, with its APS-C sensor producing the cleanest pictures of any CSC in low-light conditions. The Sony NEX-3N is the new budget model in the range, replacing the outgoing Sony NEX-F3, and has a number of improvements over it predecessor. We got to get our hands on an early sample ahead of a full review.

Sony NEX-3N
The new Sony NEX-3N next to outgoing F3

It looks different for starters with a smaller, redesigned handgrip and all-round smaller dimensions. It's a neater and smarter looking device for it; but the new grip still gives you a firm hold the camera. The most notable difference is the new zoom control, which is a rocker positioned around the shutter button – much like on most compact cameras. Sony is obviously trying to ease in compact camera users, who might be unfamiliar with a lens-based zoom control.

Sony NEX-3N
The compact camera-style zoom control

It works very well too, with the lens reacting immediately to inputs, plus it gives you the ability to shift from optical zoom to Sony's 2x digital zoom. This 'Clear Image Zoom' won’t interest serious photographers, but it does a good job in bright conditions, cropping the sensor to get a bigger zoom, and saves casual snappers from having to crop images later to get the desired effect.

The new zoom control is great for one handed shooting, but we still prefer the smoothness and quick end-to-end adjustments on a manual zoom. Speaking of one-handed shooting, the F3's flip-up screen makes a return, though with a simplified mechanism. It feels smoother in use. If self portraits aren't your thing then swivel it out to 90 degrees for taking shots low to the ground, or flip the camera over for ad-hoc overhead shooting.

Sony NEX-3N
The pop-up screen is more useful than you might think

For the new zoom control to work, you need to have a power zoom lens. This means the Sony NEX-3N comes with the new 16-50mm lens in the standard kit. This new lens drew our admiration when we saw it paired up with the far more serious Sony NEX-6, so seeing it here on a budget model it's a big deal. More surprising still is that Sony has kept the kit price down to £399, with retailer bound to cut that down a little further.

Sony NEX-3N
The new kit zoom makes the whole package far more compact

Inside the budget NEX now has the BIONZ image processing engine, which is used on Sony's more expensive models. Based on previous performance this should do wonders for noise with intelligent noise reduction applied differently across the frame. Auto object framing is also on offer, where the camera can intelligently crop pictures so that the subject fills the frame – an interesting idea but not one we got a chance to try properly.

Those with new high-end Sony Bravia TVs will also benefit from Sony's Triluminous Color [sic] system, with the camera providing extra colour data for images through the HDMI output, which the TVs RGB LEDs can then turn into a wider and more precise colour gamut. We hope to test this fully when we get the camera back in, but no TV was to hand during our hands on.

Sony NEX-3N
The pop-up flash is still present, which will please casual shooters

We took a few snaps, and quality at first glance looked to be similar to the old model – in our offices at least. It has the same sensor as the F3, but it will be interesting to see what differences the new lens makes at the extreme ends of the zoom range – as corner sharpness has always been the one bugbear of the NEX design – and how the new image processor perfroms in low light.

Generally though, we're very optimistic about the new Sony NEX-3N. it's not a revolution, but the new slimmer and lighter design, the new kit lens and other tweaks all make it an impressive step up. We'll bring you a full review asap.

For more details and pictures see our Sony NEX-3N release date, price, specs and features.

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