Sony creates a new entry in entry-level ILCs
And video is one of this Sony’s strengths. It can record at up to 1920x1080i60 in AVCHD format. The footage we captured was great for a camera in this price range. If you’re used to a compact camera that can barely create a mediocre 720p video clip, the NEX-3n should impress you.
Autofocus speed was middling in comparison to other ILCs. In bright light, the NEX-3n focuses quickly and accurately; in dim light, it became a bit sluggish and sometimes didn’t focus properly. While the inaccurate focusing didn’t happen too often, it did give the camera a feel something more akin to a compact than an ILC on the level of Sony’s excellent NEX-6.
While the 3n’s anemic pop-up flash did occasionally come in handy for casual shots, it’s not nearly useful enough to make up for the camera’s lack of a hot-shoe. We’d gladly forego the pop-up for a Multi-Interface Shoe, which can accept many useful accessories in addition to flash units. (With its initial, and more expensive, entry-level NEX bodies, Sony originally provided a small accessory flash. It may be that consumer opinion, and not just costs, dictated the change now.)
Soccer moms and field-hockey dads shouldn’t count on the NEX-3n to grab stunning bursts of their young sports stars. The camera operates as advertised in this area, but has a top burst of only 2.5 frames per second with metering and autofocusing on each shot. If you limit focus and metering to the first frame only, you can get up to 4 fps—okay for some action subjects, but still not the 5 fps we consider the minimum for sports. Furthermore, the buffer can hold only up to 9 JPEGs, 5 RAW images, or 4 RAW + JPEGs per burst before slowing down. At this price, of course, you shouldn’t expect a camera for serious sports shooting.
The Bottom Line
If price has been the only thing keeping you from buying an ILC, you officially have no more excuses left. While the NEX-3n isn’t the best ILC on Sony’s roster, at this price it’s worth every penny. Shooters used to sub-$500 compacts should be very pleased with what they get in this camera, and it’s a solid entry point to the E-mount lens system, which has been steadily gaining steam since its inception. Moreover, the E-mount can be adapted to an enormous range of lenses in other mounts, including Sony’s own DSLR A-mount.
If you remain unconvinced, or you want to opt for Micro Four Thirds, which still has the advantage of a wider variety of system lenses, the Panasonic Lumix GF5 and Olympus Pen E-PM1 remain solid alternatives to the NEX-3n. Both of these are becoming long in the tooth, and while this helps them compete in terms of cost, they may not be on the market much longer. So for now, we’d say the Sony NEX-3n is the high point of the low price point.
IMAGING: 16.1MP effective, APS-C sized CMOS sensor captures images at 4912x3264 pixels with 12 bits/color in RAW mode
STORAGE: SD, SDHC, SDXC stores JPEG, ARW RAW, and RAW + JPEG files
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode), up to 9 shots at 2.5 fps; RAW, up to 5 shots; RAW + JPEG, up to 4 shots; when using a UHS-I compatible SD card
AF SYSTEM: TTL contrast detection AF system with 25 selectable focus areas; single-shot and continuous AF
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/4000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/3-EV increments)
METERING: 1200-zone TTL metering, evaluative, centerweighted average, and spot (size not specified). EV 0–20 (ISO 100)
ISO RANGE: Stills, ISO 200–16000 (in 1-EV increments); video, ISO 200–3200 (in 1-EV increments)
VIDEO: Records at up to 1920x1080i60 (24 fps progressive available) in AVCHD format; built-in stereo microphone; no microphone input; maximum clip length 29 min 59 sec
FLASH: Built-in pop-up flash, GN 20 (feet, ISO 200), covers 16mm (24mm equiv.) field of view
VIEWFINDER: No viewfinder
LCD: Upward tilting 3.0-inch TFT with 460,800-dots; 5-level brightness adjustment
OUTPUT: Hi-speed USB 2.0, micro HDMI BATTERY: Rechargeable NP-FW50 Li-ion, CIPA rating 480 shots; video shooting time approximately 1 hour 50 min
SIZE/WEIGHT: 4.4x2.5x1.4 in., 0.6 lb with a card and battery
STREET PRICE: $498, with E-mount 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 PZ lens