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First Impressions: Sony NEX 3N

by Chris Gampat on 02/28/2013

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions product shots (6 of 8)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 5.6

Sony recently announced the NEX 3N in the US and we were fortunate enough to join the company at the Museum of Natural History on a little tour of the area as well as some personal hands on time. The 3N and 3 series in general have always been amazingly great when it comes to ergonomics and the 3N is no exception. But the weird thing is the zoom lever now added in around the shutter release. Otherwise, the camera was very comfortable to hold and shoot with–though sometimes limiting. Despite that, this is one stylish looking camera.

We tested a pre-production version and our copy was literally right out of Japan. In fact, the menus were all in Japanese and I had to use my knowledge to try to navigate around. I was able to shoot some JPEG files but for some odd reason, the camera mostly saved the RAWs instead. However, the JPEG files I shot were final production quality–which tells us that Sony is using a previous sensor in this camera.

 

 

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Adorama listing of the camera

Lens Compatibility Sony E-mount, operation with Minolta/Konica Minolta Maxxum A-mount lenses confirmed via optional LA-EA1/LA-EA2 adapter
Lens Mount Sony E-mount
Camera Type Interchangeable Lens Digital SLR camera
Imaging Sensor Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor (23.5 X 15.6mm)
Processor BIONZ image processor
Anti Dust Charge protection coating on Low-Pass Filter and electromagnetic vibration mechanism
Pixel Gross 16.5M pixels (approx.)
Effective Picture Resolution 16.1M pixels (approx.)
Focal Length Conversion Factor 1.5x
Color Filter System RGB primary color filters
Media Type Memory Stick PRO Duo /Pro-HG Duo media; SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card
Color Space sRGB standard (with sYCC gamut) and Adobe RGB standard compatible with TRILUMINOS Color
Still Image Mode JPEG (Standard, Fine, Extra Fine), RAW, RAW+JPEG
Still Image Max Effective Resolution Memory Stick PRO Duo /Pro-HG Duo media; SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card
Still Image Size 16:9 L (14 MP) 4912 x 2760, M (7.1 MP) 3568 x 2000, S (3.4 MP) 2448 x 1376
Still Image Size 3:2 L (16 MP) 4912 x 3264, M (8.4 MP) 3568 x 2368, S (4 MP) 2448 x 1624
Panorama Still Image Size Horizontal Wide: 12,416 x 1,856 (23M)
Horizontal Std.: 8,192 x 1,856 (15M)
Vertical Wide: 2,160 x 5,536 (12M)
Vertical Std.: 2,160 x 3,872 (8.4M)
Video Format AVCHD / MP4 (MPEG-4 AVC (H.264))
Video Mode AVCHD FX – 1920 x 1080/60i@24Mbps
FH – 1920 x 1080/60i@17Mbps
FX – 1920 x 1080/24p@24Mbps
FH – 1920 x 1080/24p@17Mbps
Video Mode MP4 HD – 1440 x 1080/ 30p@12Mbps
VGA – 640 x 480/ 30p@3Mbps
Video Signal NTSC color, EIA standards
Audio Format Dolby Digital (AC-3) / MPEG-4 AAC-LC
Microphone/Speaker Built-in Stereo Microphone
Still Image File Format JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.3format), 3D MPO (MPF Extended compliant)
LCD Type 3.0″ TFT LCD (460,800 dots)
Angle Adjustment Tilt angle: Up: 180 degrees; Down: Approx. 13 degrees
Brightness Control Auto, Manual (5 steps between -2 to +2)
Coverage 100%
Live View Continuous Live View
Real-time Image Adjustment Display Yes(On/Off)
Histogram Yes (On/Off)
Peaking Yes (Level setting: High/Mid/Low/Off, Color: White/Red/Yellow)
Grid Display Yes (Rule of Thirds, Square Grid, Diagonal + Square Grid, Off)
Customization Grid, Histogram display, Grid Line, Magnified display for playback
Focus System Contrast-detect AF
Focus Points 25 points
AF Modes Single-shot AF(AF-S), Continuous AF(AF-C), Auto Focus, Direct Manual Focus (DMF), Manual Focus
Focus Area Multi Point (25 points)/ Center-weighted/ Flexible Spot
Focus Sensitivity EV 0 to 20 EV (at ISO100 equivalent, with F2.8 lens attached)
Focus Features Predictive control (AF-A, AF-C), Focus Lock
AF Illuminator Built-in LED, Range: approx. 3′ 4″ – 9′ 9″ (0.3m-3.0m)
Picture Effect(s) 11 modes (15 effects): Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R,G,B,Y), High Contrast Mono, Toy Camera, Soft High-key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Mono, Miniature
Auto Exposure Lock Yes (AE Lock button). Can be disabled from menu
Color Temperature 2500 – 9900K with 15-step each Magenta/Green compensation (G7 to M7), Amber/Blue (A7 to B7), Custom
Creative Style Standard, Vivid, Portrait , Landscape, Sunset, Black & White (Contrast (-3 to +3 steps), Saturation(-3 to +3steps), Sharpness(-3 to +3steps)
D-Range Optimizer Yes: (Auto, Level, Off)
Exposure Bracketing 3 continuous or single shots in 1/3 or 2/3 EV steps
Exposure Compensation Still images: +/-3.0 EV(1/3EV steps selectable)
Movies: +/-2.0 EV(1/3EV steps selectable)
Exposure Settings iAUTO, Superior Auto, Programmed AE (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter-speed priority (S), Manual (M), Sweep Panorama, Scene Selection
ISO Stills: ISO 100-16000 selectable in 1 EV steps, Auto (100-3200)
Movies: ISO 100-3200 selectable in 1 EV steps, Auto (200-3200)
Metering Advanced 1200-zone evaluative metering
Metering Modes Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot
Metering Sensitivity EV 0 to 20 EV (at ISO100 equivalent, with F2.8 lens attached)
Noise Reduction Long Exposure NR: (On/Off, available at shutter speeds longer than 1 second) High ISO NR: (High/Normal/Low)
Scene Mode(s) Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night View, Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur
White Balance Mode Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Color temperature range 2500 to 9900K, Custom
Burst Buffer JPEG Standard (9 shots)
JPEG Fine (9 shots)
RAW (5 shots)
RAW+JPEG (4 shots)
Continuous Shooting Speed Continuous mode: 2.5 fps, Speed Priority Continuous mode: 4 fps
Drive Mode Single-shot, Continuous, Speed Priority Continuous, Self-timer (10/2 sec. delay), Self-timer (Cont.) (with 10 sec. delay; 3/5 exposures), Bracketing
Self-timer 2-sec. or 10-sec. delay
Shutter Speeds 1/4000 to 30 seconds, bulb
Shutter Type Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane shutter
Flash Bracketing +/-2.0 EV
Flash Compensation +/-2.0 EV (switchable between 1/3 EV steps)
Flash Coverage 16 mm (focal length printed on lens body)
Flash Metering System Pre-flash TTL
Flash Modes Flash off, Auto flash, Fill-flash, Slow Sync., Rear Sync.
Flash Type Built-in, Pop-up Auto
Guide Number 6 (in meters at ISO200) 4 (in meters at ISO100)
Recycling Time Approx. 3 sec.
Self Timer Yes, 10/2 second delay selectable
Red-Eye Reduction Yes, On/ Off selectable
Media/Battery Indicator Yes
View & Index Single (with or without shooting information), RGB histogram and highlight/shadow warning, 4/9-frame index view, Enlarged display mode (L: 13.6x, M: 9.9x, S: 6.8x), Auto Review (10/5/2 sec, Off), Image orientation (On/Off), Slideshow, Panorama scrolling, Folder selection (still), Forward/Rewind (movie), Delete, Protect
Face Detection On, Off, Face Registration, Face Selection; maximum eight faces detected
Smile Shutter Technology Smile shutter (selectable from 3 steps)
Image Stabilization Lens-based (where applicable)
Auto High Dynamic Range Yes, (Auto Exposure Difference, Exposure difference Level (1-6 EV at 1.0 EV step), off)
Priority Setting (for Face Detection) Yes (eight faces max)
Sweep Panorama Horizontal (Wide/Standard), Vertical (Wide/Standard)
BRAVIA Sync? Yes, via HDMI with compatible BRAVIA HDTV (link menu)
DC IN Yes via optional AC-PW20AM (sold separately)
HD Output HDMI (Type C mini)
Memory Card Slot Dual compatibility slot: Memory Stick PRO Duo /Pro-HG Duo /PRO-HG HX Duo media – SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card
PhotoTV HD Yes, with BRAVIA Sync enabled HDTV and HDMI cable
Tripod Mount Yes
USB Port(s) USB 2.0 Hi-speed (mass-storage, MTP)
Battery Type InfoLITHIUM NP-FW50 (7.2V)
Battery Capacity 1020 mAh
Number of Still Images Approx. 480 images with LCD monitor (CIPA standard)
Supplied Software Supplied Software: PlayMemories Home, Image Data Converter Version 4
Operating System Compatibility Operating System Compatibility: Windows XP SP3 (64-bit and Starter Editions are not supported, Windows Image Mastering API(IMAPI) Ver.2.0 or later is required to use the function for creating discs.) Windows Vista SP2 (Starter Edition is not supported) Windows 7 SP1; Windows 8; Mac OS X(v10.5 -v10.8) (Image Data Converter, PlayMemories Home is not Mac compatible)
Dimensions (WxHxD) 4.3 x 2.4 x 1.4″ (109.9 x 62 x 34.6mm)
Weight 9.5 oz (269g)

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions product shots (1 of 8)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 4.0

The Sony NEX 3N is small, stylish, sleek, glossy, and really quite pretty. The front is nearly devoid of controls except for the lens release, an AF assist lamp, and the grip–which we found to be quite comfortable actually.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions product shots (2 of 8)ISO 2001-320 sec at f - 4.0

The top of the camera features the pop-up flash dead center–which means there is no hot shoe at all. Next to this is the playback button, the on/off switch around the shutter, the zooming (W/T) slider around the shutter button, and of course–the shutter button.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions product shots (7 of 8)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 5.6

The pop-up flash surely does come up very far in order to not hit a lens. The problem though is that it is quite weak in our tests. When trying to make it bounce off of a low ceiling by pointing it upward, it was a bit pathetic to say the least. But I’m willing to blame this on the pre-production unit.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions product shots (8 of 8)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 4.0

The back LCD screen pops up once again and in this case, it shows off Japanese characters. However, it does not tilt downwards like the 5Rdoes.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions product shots (3 of 8)ISO 2001-320 sec at f - 4.0

The back of the NEX 3N has the LCD screen, flash pop-up button, two soft keys, navigational dial, and buttons along the dial to access various functions.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions product shots (4 of 8)ISO 2001-320 sec at f - 5.6

On the side of the camera are the ports: in this case they are HDMI, USB, and an SD card slot. The sad thing is that the cover opens up a bit too easily for my personal liking.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions product shots (5 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

One thing that someone cannot complain about though is the size–the camera overall is quite small in addition to being stylish and ergonomically pleasing.

Build Quality

The build quality of the 3N was quite solid in many places overall. The addition of the nice grip made it really feel great in my hands during my museum tour. My only real quibble was the port door that opened up a bit too easily for my liking. The build is more than up to par for the audience that this camera is targeted towards–those literally stepping up from a point and shoot.

Ease of Use

This camera was Japanese to me–no, literally the menus were in Japanese. Despite this and using my knowledge of the NEX systems menus, I was able to figure out a few things. However, halfway down the pipeline, my camera suddenly started shooting RAWs instead of RAWs + JPEGs like I asked it to.

Either way, it was a simple camera to use during my short time with it and think that users that leave it in auto mode will have a blast with it. Advanced users will want to keep it on aperture mode in order to avoid any more hassel due to the lack of direct controls for exposure.

Autofocusing

Focusing with this camera was very snappy in both low light and with lots of light around me. I used the 16-50mm electronic zoom lens and the 35mm f1.8 OSS for this test. It did a great job focusing on stagnant subjects although when it came to photographing butterflies in the museum exhibit, it started to not be able to keep up with the fluttering critters.

Image Quality

Here’s what I was able to salvage from the SD card. Once again, halfway through my shooting it suddenly switched itself from RAW+ JPEG over to RAW only. But this was a pre-production unit once again.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions photos (2 of 4)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 3.5 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions photos (3 of 4)ISO 32001-13 sec at f - 3.5 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions photos (4 of 4)ISO 32001-50 sec at f - 1.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 3N First Impressions photos (1 of 4)ISO 2001-640 sec at f - 3.5

First Impressions

In my opinion, while the NEX 3N has some very nice ergonomics it still seems a bit too plain vanilla for me personally as an advanced user. But if you’re just stepping into the interchangeable lens market world, then this may be the one for you with the zoom lever, excellent image quality, and the really sweet LCD screen.

The focusing on the 3N was fast and reliable–but it still can’t keep up with Olympus’s FAST AF system. However, it has come a bit closer to being able to do so.

I’m personally not a fan of shooting JPEGs with any camera and this is no exception. For the best results, I’d shoot in RAW mode and process the images myself. But the consumer that this camera is going for won’t mind the images at all.

Sony should have added in the WiFi feature though in order to upload the images to a phone. That indeed would have been an absolutely killer feature.

We’re still going to wait for a final product to make our overall judgements, but this one left me wanting more personally.

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