Getting a camera only because of its price is not a good idea. However, we have to admit the price Sony NEX-3N –about 350 dollars- is extremely alluring. It’s not very different to the NEX-F3, since some minor details in design are the only noticeable new features of this 16-megapixel camera. It’s perfect for those who want something small, efficient and capable of offering good results, although it is in no way a camera for advanced users.
The Sony NEX-3 cameras –all of them mirror less and with interchangeable lenses- are not exactly easy to keep track of. The fast and constant rate the new models are released, sometimes with little to no new features between one and the other, actually made us doubt for a moment if the NEX-3N is actually the most recent one and the successor of the NEX-F3.
The more than affordable price of the NEX-3N along with the Sony E 16-50 mm f3.5-5.6 PZ OSS zoom and its size (it’s the smallest APS-C sensor camera to date) are its most important features, but that’s not it has to offer.
Despite not being too different compared to previous models, design-wise the differences are truly noticeable: it really is much smaller.
Is it so small it becomes uncomfortable to use? Not at all, at least with the zoom Sony includes in the basic kit, which also helps us get a better grip of it.
Closely related to this zoom, another new feature of this camera is the new control buttons, located right next to the shutter button. This is without a doubt very useful for those who want something between a compact camera and this NEX, since this makes them very similar to control.
In fact, we have to admit that these buttons are so useful; we barely used the main ring –capable of controlling the zoom and the manual modes- and a button to control the zoom –which we think is unnecessary-. Sadly, you can’t assign other functions to it, like Samsung’s iFn button.
It’s important to note that the new zoom control of the NEX-3N will only function with motorized lenses. The aforementioned 16-50 millimeter lens can be used by other cameras, so while this may appear redundant, may prove useful in other circumstances.
The vari-angle screen –up to 180 degrees- is one of the main features of this camera –which was already featured by the previous model-, especially useful to take selfies and other kinds of pictures.
Though the camera features an integrated flash, the lack of a shoe means this is a simple device for simple purposes. The same happens with the electronic viewfinder: obviously, it doesn’t have one, but you can’t ad done of your own.
The menu screens are very similar to what the other NEX models offer. While they may be unpractical for more serious tasks, in this case its simplicity is truly something to be thankful for. At least if you’re not the kind of person that likes to mess around with the options, because in that case you’ll need lots of patience to find what you’re looking for.
The NEX-3N is very easy to use. This is its purpose, in fact, though it also features manual modes and offers RAW shooting.
Since it doesn’t have a mode dial, the back wheel along with the central button take its place, not to mention its function, as well as the two rear buttons’, can be configured.
Along with the manual modes, this camera also features many automatic modes and filters and a panoramic picture mode, though they’re not as easy to access as we’d like them to. If you shoot in JPEG and RAW simultaneously, by the way, the filters can’t be activated.
16 megapixels of good results
Like we said, its design is the only aspect of this camera we can truly label as “new”. Like its predecessor, it features a 16-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor we already know very well.
In fact, it’s hard to say something we haven’t said about it already: excellent performance in low light scenarios, an acceptable dynamic range and a good noise control even at 3.200 ISO.
Just like its predecessors, the NEX-3N works between 200 and 16000 ISO. It’s a good idea to have the camera select the default ISO, just like we did.
Of course, the camera isn’t designed to offer top-notch results, but even so it’s capable of offering very nice results. JPEG files, however, tend to be a bit overprocessed, and it only takes a few minutes in RAW mode to actually see what this camera is truly capable of.
The zoom, meanwhile, it’s acceptable. The quality near the edges of the picture suffers, although it’s nothing to worry about too much. In any case, its performance is great, especially considering its price.
The stabilized zoom and its lens offer a very nice distortion control. We suppose, of course, this is the camera’s doing, and not the lens’.
Shutter speed, overall performance and focus system: everything is fast and smooth. It’s not the fastest on the market, naturally, but it still performs commendably in every regard.
It also features a 4-FPS burst mode, though the focus point is fixed since the first picture. If you want to use automatic focus while in burst mode, the speed will decrease to 2.5 FPS, certainly poor even compared with similarly-priced models.
Both speeds are constant while working with JPEG files (the fastest mode gets a bit slower after about 10 pictures), but if you’re shooting in RAW, the buffer will be full after only 6 pictures. The NEX-3N, therefore, is not for those who love high speed shooting.
The battery is more than decent, capable of taking more than 400 pictures with a single charge. You can charge it through the USB port, located right next to the memory card slot and protected by a small lid.
A small bargain
We’ve already included it in our 350-dollars (or less) cameras that are truly a bargain list, and for a very good reason. The NEX-3N is cheap, nice-looking and very efficient, capable of offering great results while being simple and small.
Its size, modes, the lack of a shoe, menus and the very limited burst modes made the NEX-3N perfect for beginners and casual users. If you consider everything it offers for its price, it’s truly a magnificent option.
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