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Sony Alpha NEX-3 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £379
inc VAT

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.


23.4×15.6mm 14.2-megapixel sensor, 3.1x zoom (27-83mm equivalent), 287g (without lens)

Sony’s Alpha NEX series of cameras are two of the smallest system cameras available today. We looked at the Alpha NEX-5 a couple of months back and while it was undoubtedly a beautiful camera with DSLR-like image quality, some of the choices Sony had made meant the camera was often frustrating to use – particularly when using the aperture priority, shutter priority or manual modes – because regularly-used functions were buried in a unique, but fragmented menu system.

The company has taken the feedback on-board and, as a result of that, a new firmware version designed to correct many of the original complaints was announced at Photokina in September. Just a day after our NEX-3 sample arrived in the Expert Reviews labs, the new firmware version was released, which is what we’re testing here.

Sony NEX3 And Lens

The NEX-3 is slightly bigger than the NEX-5 and, despite being made from plastic, it still feels incredibly well-built. It doesn’t invite you to take pictures in quite the same way that the NEX-5 achieved and doesn’t feel quite as sturdy in your hand. This is down to both the hand grip being much less prominent and, as a result of this, the subsequent relocation of the shutter button which has been combined with the power switch.

Sony NEX3

With the 18-55mm kit lens attached, the centre of gravity is in front of the NEX-3’s body, making it feel front heavy. The NEX-5 also feels front heavy, but because the hand grip is larger, a firmer grip can be established. With the tiny 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens on the front of the NEX-3, the camera is a little sturdier, but we still found ourselves wanting a firmer grip as it’s a good deal heavier than a typical compact camera – and it’s not truly pocketable either.

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Basic Specifications

Rating ****
CCD effective megapixels 14.2 megapixels
CCD size 23.4×15.6mm
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 4,592×3,056
Maximum movie resolution 1280×720
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

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Reviews | DSLRs