Entry-Level Mirrorless Camera Roundup (2013)
16MP CMOS Sensor | 3.0-inch Tilting LCD | Pop-up Flash
What we like:
- Good 16MP APS-C sensor
- Sony features like Sweep Panorama
- Small and lightweight body
What we don't:
- Quirky on-screen interface
- Limited physical controls
- Lack of Wi-Fi
The Sony NEX-3N is an approachable entry model, designed to appeal to someone moving up from a point-and-shoot. It offers a 16 megapixel APS-C sensor, tilting LCD, 1080p HD video and Raw shooting capability. There's no external mode dial, accessory port or controls of more advanced NEX models, but it maintains a built-in flash and an extremely small and slim profile. Opting for the model directly above it, the NEX-5T, will add a touch screen, Wi-Fi connectivity and an accessory port for not much more money.
"With an eye to that beginner audience, Sony engineers have given the NEX-3N a decidedly point-and-shoot interface."
With an APS-C sensor, the NEX-3N presents offers an advantage (particularly in terms of depth-of-field control) and a bit less noise at high ISOs than its smaller-sensor rivals. The NEX-3 is capable of producing detailed images with good, slightly punchy colors (especially reds). Anyone upgrading to from a point-and-shoot will be very happy with the gain in image quality, especially in low light. Sony's E-mount system includes some good (but rather expensive) prime lenses when it's time to upgrade from the kit zoom.
With an eye to that beginner audience, Sony engineers have given the NEX-3N a decidedly point-and-shoot interface and user experience. The camera is happy to operate in one of its Auto modes and make all of the shooting decisions for the user, but someone interested in taking more control may get frustrated with a quirky menu system and lack of command dials.
The baby in the NEX family doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of its siblings but it does offer some familiar Sony features like Sweep Panorama and Auto HDR, and a good 1080p HD video mode. While it doesn't offer Wi-Fi or a touch screen, there's enough here that a beginning user won't feel they are seriously missing out.
This entry-level mirrorless camera is just that - an entry point into the world of interchangeable lens cameras. Those who are seeking a friendly, point-and-shoot-like experience will likely be happier with the camera than someone who wants to take more control over the image capture process.