Sony NEX-3N CSC Review

The Sony NEX-3N is the World's smallest mirrorless camera with an APS-C sensor, but how does this camera perform? Find out in our review.

| Sony NEX-3N in Mirrorless Cameras

Sony NEX-3N CSC Review: Sony Nex 3n With 16 50mm Pz Lens (1)

The Sony NEX-3N is the latest entry level mirrorless camera from Sony, and is the World's smallest APS-C sized sensor mirrorless camera, and is bundled with the 16-50mm OSS Power Zoom lens with an RRP of £399. The price it's available to buy is a very tempting £325 and it's available in black or white. The camera has been redesigned, since the Sony NEX-F3, with improved handling and a more classic design that looks better than the entry level price would suggest.

Sony NEX-3N Features

Sony NEX-3N CSC Review: Sony Nex 3n With 16 50mm Pz Lens (3)

New features include a zoom control surrounding the shutter release button, which will be familiar to anyone stepping up from a compact camera with zoom, and is ideally suited to the power zoom lenses available. A new feature is improved BOINZ image processor with area based Noise Reduction for improved image quality when shooting in low light. Another new feature is Auto Object Framing, that can auto crop the image based on the subject, with auto-portrait, auto-macro and auto AF tracking framing based on the rule of thirds.

The 16-50mm OSS PZ lens features optical steady shot image stabilisation, and as the name suggests, power zoom, extending when switched on, it can be controlled using the front lens ring, the side zoom control, and with the NEX-3N (the first NEX camera with this feature) using the top zoom ring. The lens is the equivalent of 24mm to 75mm in 35mm terms, giving a good wide-angle view.

Sony NEX-3N CSC Review: Sony Nex 3n With 16 50mm Pz Lens (4)

Key Features

  • 16.1 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Sony NEX / E Mount
  • 16-50mm OSS Power Zoom lens f/3.5-5.6
  • 3inch tilting screen, 460k dot resolution
  • Full HD Video recording with stereo sound
  • ISO200 to ISO16000
  • Sweep panoramic shooting
  • HDR / D-Range Shooting
  • 4fps continuous shooting
  • Auto object framing
  • Zoom level
  • Built in pop up flash
  • Available in white or black
  • 480 shot battery life

Sony NEX-3N Handling

Sony NEX-3N CSC Review: Sony Nex 3n With 16 50mm Pz Lens (5)

Not only does the Sony NEX-3N have an updated front rubber grip, it also features an improved rear rubber thumb grip compared to the NEX-F3, as well as an ISO label on the right hand side of the rear scroll wheel / control pad. This can be customised if you want to change it from its default setting, and when set will give you access to a number of different options. There are two "soft" buttons on the back of the camera, the top one is used to access the Menu, and the second defaults to ? (built in help / guide), this second button can be customised to give quicker access to options.

A memory card slot can be found on the left hand side under the HDMI/USB flap, and the camera will take either Sony Memory Sticks or SD memory cards. The camera feels better than the low price would suggest, with the rubber grips helping to give a good impression, and build quality appears to be very good.

Sony NEX-3N CSC Review: Sony Nex 3n With 16 50mm Pz Lens (7)

Menus – The Sony NEX menus aren't the most intuitive to use (we much prefer Sony Cyber-shot or Alpha menus), but after a while it becomes easier to use as you familiarise yourself with the location of options. Being able to customise the ISO and second (unlabelled) soft button helps give quicker access to options.

The Sony NEX-3N features a tilting 3inch screen with 460k dots, although it is not a touch-screen. Handling is good with the camera feeling comfortable in the hand and extremely compact with the 16-50mm OSS Power Zoom lens.
Sony NEX-3N CSC Review: Sony Nex 3n With 16 50mm Pz Lens (11)

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 480 shots according to Sony / CIPA test results, which is excellent as it is much longer than most other mirrorless cameras. In addition, the camera uses a Sony InfoLithium battery meaning the camera will tell you exactly how much battery life remains.

Sony NEX-3N CSC Review: Sony Nex 3n With 16 50mm Pz Lens (6)

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Sony NEX-3N
Shutter Response <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.3
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.1
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.8
Shot to Shot with Flash 0.9
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
4fps (10 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 0.8s
Continuous Shooting - Raw 4fps (5 shots)

Shutter response is excellent, and focus speeds are good. Switch on time is a little slow for this class of camera due to the power zoom lens having to extend. Continuous shooting is reasonable at 4fps and the camera will shoot 10 shots in JPEG before slowing down.

Sony NEX-3N Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Sony NEX-3N Sample Photos

Sample Photos - There is some red-eye visible in the portrait shot with flash, although skin tones and colour is good. Exposure is reliable and colour is good with bright saturated results in a variety of situations. Images show good levels of detail, although slightly sharper results are possible by sharpening the images on your computer or altering the in camera colour settings.

Sony NEX-3N Lens test images

Lens Performance - The 16-50mm OSS PZ lens performs well for a compact collapsible power zoom lens, with good levels of detail into the corners whether using it at its widest setting or the telephoto zoom. Macro performance isn't a strongpoint of the 16-50mm PZ lens, and we found that it was quite difficult to get a perfectly sharp image at the closest focusing distance. However, best results were achieved when using the lens at roughly 30-38mm, as this allowed us to be closest to the subject.

Vignetting, barrel and pincushion distortion are all controlled fairly well, although if you view the raw files, there is strong barrel distortion and vignetting and these need correcting. If you shoot JPEG, then the camera does an excellent job correcting these issues automatically, and there are additional options to correct peripheral shading (vignetting), and chromatic aberration.

Sony NEX-3N ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - ISO performance is very good at ISO200 and ISO400 with very little noise visible. At ISO800 there is a very slightly increase in noise. Noise increases again at ISO1600, but detail is still very good and noise is nothing to worry about at this setting. Noise becomes more noticeable at ISO3200, and detail begins to suffer. Detail is lost at ISO6400 as noise increases, however the camera does a good job of controlling noise levels and this setting should still provide useful images. At ISO12800 noise has increased again and detail suffers, and it's at this setting and above that we would recommend using caution, as images may need further processing or resizing before use.

Sony NEX-3N White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) gives a slightly warm result under tungsten lighting with the tungsten preset giving a better result. AWB performs well under fluorescent lighting, with the fluorescent preset giving a slightly cooler tone - although there are a number of fluorescent presets to choose from, we preferred the AWB results.

Sony NEX-3N CSC Review: Panoramic | 1/160 sec | f/13.0 | 16.0 mm | ISO 200
Panoramic | 1/160 sec | f/13.0 | 16.0 mm | ISO 200

Panorama mode - Sweep panoramic mode lets you simply pan the camera while you hold the shutter release button, with the camera automatically stitching the photo together as you go. The photo has a good level of detail and is stitched well.

Sony NEX-3N Outdoor images

Dynamic range is good, and it's possible to improve the dynamic range recorded, using the Dynamic Range Optimisation (DRO) options, or HDR shooting - options include auto or manual selection. The raw file is not saved when using HDR mode, however it will save a JPEG (none HDR) version of the photo.

Sony NEX-3N Digital filters

Digital Filters - When using the picture effects, the camera records the altered JPEG but does not let you use this feature with raw enabled. There are colour options available which can be customised, letting you set contrast, saturation and sharpness.

Video - Video is recorded as AVCHD or MP4, at 50i or 25p 1080p, with lower resolutions available when recording MP4. Quality appears good although moiré was noticeable in areas with high levels of detail. Using the power zoom lens there are a number of different ways to control the zoom, including the front lens ring, the side zoom rocker which gives two speeds, and the top zoom control. Wind noise reduction is available in the setup menu, and some noise can be heard when using the power zoom.

Value For Money

The Sony NEX-3N is Sony's entry level mirrorless camera, and despite its low price, doesn't feel like a budget product, with a desirable and useful compact 16-50mm OSS power zoom lens, it is available for around £325, making it one of the cheapest current mirrorless cameras available! The Sony NEX-5R, with Wi-Fi and touchscreen is the next step up, however this costs £499 with the 16-50mm kit lens. Alternatives to look at include the following:

Nikon 1 S1, 10mp, £415
Samsung NX1000, 20mp, Wi-Fi, £259
Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2, 16mp, free Wi-Fi card, £400
Panasonic Lumix GF6, 16mp, Wi-Fi, £499

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Sony NEX-3N Verdict

The Sony NEX-3N is an excellent entry level mirrorless camera, delivering excellent image quality, without compromising on handling or design. The camera has a good tilting 3inch screen with a decent resolution, and built in flash, as well as a number of options that would suit the beginner or those looking to add more creativity to shots. The choice of the 16-50mm PZ OSS lens makes the Sony NEX-3N extremely compact and pocketable yet still gives you an excellent wide-angle lens, and Digital SLR image quality thanks to the APS-C CMOS sensor. For more advanced photographers, the camera features focus peaking, which will be of use for anyone using adapters and manual lenses.

Priced at £325 with the versatile wide-angle 16-50mm PZ OSS lens, the NEX-3N is excellent value for money, cheaper than nearly every other mirrorless camera, as well as cheaper (and more compact) than nearly every Digital SLR. This should be very high on your list for a new mirrorless camera, particularly as it comes with the compact, wide-angle 16-50mm OSS power zoom lens. For beginners or those that want to use a mirrorless compact camera, without breaking the bank, the Sony NEX-3N is highly recommended.

  Sony NEX-3N CSC Review:
  The Sony NEX-3N is a stylish compact mirrorless camera bundled with a great lens at an impressive price!

Sony NEX-3N Pros

Image quality
Noise performance
Compact size
Quick performance
Wide-angle 16-50mm OSS Power Zoom lens
Stunning value for money
480 shot InfoLithium battery
Panoramic mode

Sony NEX-3N Cons

ISO100 option would be nice
Moiré visible in videos
Lack of touch-screen
Picture effects are JPEG only (raw not available)


Sony NEX-3N Specifications

Image Sensor
Pixels16.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4912
Pixels (H)3264
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.5mm
Sensor Size (height)15.6mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution460k dot
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/4000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • AB
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 16000
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-3
Viewfinder ResolutionNo Data
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting4fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
Video FPS25p, 50p
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • Memory Stick (Sony)
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeNP-FW50
Battery Life (CIPA rating)480shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsCamera, Shoulder strap, Battery Charger, Infolithium Battery (NP-FW50), USB Cable, CD-ROM, Flash, Standard Zoom Lens (18-55mm OSS)

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Photographs taken using the Sony NEX-3N

Auroral StreamsCascadeMemoriesEdale InfraredWind ResistanceTwenty TreesSurprising ViewCygnus & LyraSouthern ViewHorsehead and Flame NebulaeRosette NebulaCrab NebulaOrion NebulaRosette and Cone NebulaFlaming Star Nebula and Neighbours

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