Sony Alpha NEX-3 review

11 Nov 2010
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

Page 3 of 3Sony Alpha NEX-3 review

The new firmware makes a remarkable difference and the NEX-3 produces identical image quality to the NEX-5. It’s £110 cheaper and that makes it mighty attractive.


23.4x15.6mm 14.2-megapixel sensor, 3.1x zoom (27-83mm equivalent), 287g (without lens)

The tweaks made in the new firmware aren’t huge, but they make a remarkable difference to how the camera handles. The biggest change is that the central and lower ‘soft’ buttons on the back can now be customised. Sony calls the lower button ‘Soft key B’ and the central button ‘Soft key C’ and their functions can be set in the Setup menu.

Sony NEX3 Back display

Soft key B can be set to one of ten functions, which include important functions like ISO, White Balance and MF Assist (which magnifies the Live View to aid manual focusing). Soft key C, on the other hand, can either be used for its default virtual mode dial or be given up to three functions from a list of seven.

These include Auto Focus Area, ISO, White Balance and DRO/Auto HDR. There’s also the option to select ‘Not set’ for any of the three custom options, meaning you only need to cycle through the functions that you want while using the camera.

Choosing these functions carefully meant we very rarely needed to delve into the camera’s menu system to change important settings. We found that the best combination was to set Soft key B to MF Assist (or ISO if you don’t use manual focusing at all) and Soft key C to ISO, White Balance and DRO/Auto HDR. If MF Assist isn’t useful for you and you instead opt for ISO control on Soft key B, set the third Soft key C function to Auto Focus Area.

Sony NEX3 Side

Overall, while the new firmware makes a remarkable difference to the NEX-3’s – and by extension NEX-5’s – usability, the NEX-3 didn’t give us the same joy as its smaller sibling. Of course, it’s £110 cheaper than the NEX-5 and it produces images of the same calibre, which carries a lot of weight, and makes it one of the cheapest compact system cameras out there. If it was our money, we’d recommend saving that little bit longer to get the NEX-5, but the NEX-3 is a great option for those looking for DSLR-like image quality but don’t want the bulk.

Basic Specifications

Rating ****
CCD effective megapixels 14.2 megapixels
CCD size 23.4x15.6mm
Viewfinder N/A
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 921,600 pixels
Articulated screen Yes
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 3.1x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 27-83mm
Image stabilisation optical, lens based
Maximum image resolution 4,592x3,056
Maximum movie resolution 1280x720
Movie frame rate at max quality 30fps
File formats RAW, JPEG, QuickTime (h.264)


Memory slot SDXC
Mermory supplied none
Battery type 7.2V 1020mAh Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 330 shots
Connectivity USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
HDMI output resolution 1080i
Body material plastic
Lens mount Sony E mount
Focal length multiplier 1.5x
Kit lens model name Sony E 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 OSS
Accessories camera strap, charger, USB cable, flash, RAW conversion software
Weight 287g (without lens)
Size 59x111x38mm

Buying Information

Warranty 1 year parts and labour
Price £379

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual, scene mode, intelligent auto, anti-motion blur, sweep panorama
Shutter speed 30 to 1/4,000 seconds
Aperture range f/3.5 to 22 (wide) f/5.6 to 32 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 200 to 12,800
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV
White balance auto, 6 presets, manual
Additional image controls 6 picture style presets, dynamic range optimiser
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus 25cm
Auto-focus modes multi (25-point), centre, flexible spot, face detect, predictive focus
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre
Flash auto, fill, slow synchro, rear synchro
Drive modes single, continuous, speed-priority continuous, self-timer, continuous self-timer

Page 3 of 3Sony Alpha NEX-3 review