Sony Alpha NEX-C3 review: Sony Alpha NEX-C3

Overall, I enjoy shooting with the NEX-C3. It's thinner than its predecessor, with the same width and height, but because anything other than a small prime lens tends to overwhelm the tiny body, you generally have to hold the camera in your left hand under the lens. Because it's so narrow, it's a bit difficult to hold and shoot single-handed, despite the small grip.

Since I've always found the NEX interface a bit cumbersome and too menu-driven, I was pleased to see that Sony had added the ability to customize the buttons for quicker access to settings like ISO sensitivity, metering mode, and autofocus mode. To me, that makes a huge difference in usability. And Sony makes a tweak that addresses one of my pet peeves about cameras: when a setting is grayed out, it never tells you why. With the C3, you select it and up pops an explanation. The camera also adds peaking (edge highlighting), which makes manual focusing a lot easier. This next generation still doesn't have a built-in flash, but it ships with the same small add-on flash that uses the proprietary connector. The add-on microphone uses the same connector, but there's still no add-on EVF.


A lot of the NEX-C3's operation is still menu-driven.

Sony didn't, um, overwhelm the C3 with new features. There's a new Photo Creativity interface in its intelligent auto mode that provides friendlier ways of accessing advanced settings, such as background defocus, color vividness, and brightness, than we've seen in a lot of cameras. Sony also adds Picture Effects, with the same sort of filters we're used to seeing from other cameras, including selective-color R, Y, G, or B; toy camera (vignetting); and posterizing, pop art (vivid color), and retro (faded). You can layer the effects together before shooting, which is nice, but you can't adjust the quality or intensity of the effects like you can with Olympus' models, and I found the results rather ho-hum. It also pulls in the Soft Skin effect from the Cyber-shots.

Additionally, it retains almost all the features of its predecessor, including multishot modes like Auto HDR, Sweep panorama, and Handheld Twilight. The latest iteration of HHT mode automatically combines six exposures to obtain better exposures in low light than you might otherwise get. It does a nice job, and there's less performance overhead than the older algorithm, making it a lot more useful.

Conclusion
Compact and attractive, with a tilting LCD and excellent photo quality, the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 has some compelling aspects. But with the 18-55mm lens the camera becomes substantially less compact, there's no EVF option, and the video capabilities are more limited than I'd expect for the price. A lot of people will like the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 for its excellent photo quality and a now more usable design, but it can get unexpectedly heavy with the zoom E-mount lenses, and it's still a bit more expensive than many point-and-shoot upgraders will like.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3
0.6
0.6
0.6
0.6
0.3
Olympus PEN E-PL2
0.8
1.4
1.3
0.7
0.4
Sony Alpha NEX-C3
0.7
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.4
Sony Alpha NEX-5
0.4
0.9
0.9
0.8
0.4
Samsung NX100
1.1
1.5
1.4
0.8
0.4

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Aug 1, 2011
  • Sensor Resolution 16.2 Megapixel
    16.2 Megapixel
  • Lens 24mm F/2.8
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.6 x 23.5mm
  • Optical Sensor Type Exmor APS HD CMOS