A smaller, cheaper version of the F3

/ Updated: February 25, 2013 10:36 AM PST
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As sad as it sounds, the most notable thing about Sony's new Alpha NEX-3N is the price: list of $500 for the kit with a power zoom lens. That's about $100 less than the list price of the camera it's replacing, the NEX-F3, and while it's not as low as I'd like for a model designed to appeal to potential point-and-shoot upgraders, it's certainly a step in the right direction in a generally overpriced field. And hopefully it means the street price will hit $399, which is the most a lot of snapshot-camera upgraders want to pay regardless of feature set.

For that money, the 3N does sound like a nice camera. It uses the same sensor as the F3 with the usual another-generation algorithmic tweaks to improve noise reduction. The 3N also shaves about 0.2 inch off the F3's body in all dimensions, without losing any significant controls; in fact, it gains a zoom lever on the body, which works in conjunction with the 16-50mm power zoom kit lens for a more point-and-shoot-like experience. Like the other models in this generation, it gains the new Auto Object Framing mode, a more generalized version of the Auto Portrait Framing mode that debuted in the F3. The only downside I see is that (unless I got the specs wrong) the LCD is lower resolution, which I guess was necessary to cut the price. I wasn't impressed with the F3's LCD, so it's possible the 3N's will be easier to see in bright light.

Here's some context for the 3N:

Olympus PEN E-PM2 Sony Alpha NEX-F3 Sony Alpha NEX-3N Sony Alpha NEX-5R
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.1MP Live MOS 16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS 16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS 16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
17.3mm x 13mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm 23.5 x 15.6mm 23.5 x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 200 - ISO 25,600 ISO 200 - ISO 16,000 ISO 200 - ISO 16,000 ISO 100 - ISO 25,600
Continuous shooting 8fps (with AF/exposure fixed on first shot and IS off)
19 JPEG/15 raw
18 JPEG/6 raw
(5.5fps with fixed exposure)
5 raw/9 JPEG
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder Optional bundled None None Optional
Autofocus 35-area contrast AF 25-point contrast AF 25-area contrast AF 99-point phase-detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 flash sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering 324 area 1,200 zone 1,200 zone 1,200 zone
Metering range 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Flash Included optional Yes Yes Included optional
Image stabilization Sensor shift Optical Optical Optical
Best video 1080/30p @ 20, 17Mbps H.264 QuickTime MOV AVCHD
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/ 30p @ 12Mbps
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/30p @ 12Mbps
AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/ 24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1,440x1,080/ 30p @ 12Mbps
Audio Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input Stereo, mic input
LCD size 3-inch fixed touch screen
460,000 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
3-inch tilting
460,800 dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
Wireless file upload Optional Bluetooth None None Wi-Fi
Battery life (CIPA rating) 360 shots 470 shots 480 shots 430 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.3 4.6 x 2.6 x 1.6 4.3 x 2.4 x 1.4 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.6
Body operating weight (ounces) 9.5 (est) 11.1 7.4 (est) 9.7 (without flash)
Mfr. price $499.99 (est, body only) n/a n/a $599.99 (body only)
$549.99 (with 14-42 power lens) $599 (with 18-55mm lens) $499.99 (with 16-50mm PZ lens) $699.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
Ship date October 2012 June 2012 April 2013 October 2012

I hope the noise reduction (and JPEG processing) improves significantly over the F3, as that camera's photos displayed noticeable degradation jumping from ISO 200 to ISO 400. A lot of the camera's attractiveness will depend upon the street price; though I'm not a huge fan of the camera in general, you can get the Nikon 1 J1 with two lenses for less than $500, which makes it a formidable challenger if you're just looking for something with better size and speed than a snapshot camera.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Sony Alpha NEX-3N (with 16-50mm PZ lens, black)

Part Number: NEX-3NL/B
Low Price: $409.95 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital Camera Type mirrorless system
  • Weight 7.41 oz
  • Sensor Resolution 16.1 pixels
  • Optical Sensor Size (metric) 15.6 x 23.5 mm
  • Optical Sensor Type Exmor APS HD CMOS