Sony NEX-C3 review

June 25, 2011

Overall Rating:


Sony NEX-C3

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Price as Reviewed:


Sony’s new 16.2-million-pixel NEX-C3 may be the smallest compact system camera available, but is that the only improvement on the original NEX-3? We find out

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The Sony NEX-C3 at a glance:

  • 16.2-million-pixel CMOS sensor
  • New auto+ mode
  • ISO 200-12,800
  • 7 new picture effects
  • 3D Sweep Panorama
  • Focus ‘peaking’ confirmation
  • Expected RRP of 630 Euros in Europe when available in August

When Sony launched the NEX system with the NEX-3 and NEX-5 last year, it caused a stir in the compact system camera (CSC) market. Both models featured 14.2-million-pixel sensors, crammed inside the smallest CSC bodies available at the time.The ‘C’ designation of this new model stands for compact and, by shaving a few millimetres off the NEX-5, the NEX-C3 is now the smallest CSC available, yet it features an imposing 16.2-million-pixel APS-C sensor.

A CSC with more than 16 million pixels is not in itself of overwhelming significance; after all, Panasonic has achieved this using a smaller micro four thirds-format sensor. Instead, it is the technology behind the sensor that will be of great interest to many photographers. This is because the NEX-C3’s sensor is a tweaked version of the one used in the Sony Alpha 55, which means it also shares much of the same technology as the base Sony sensor found in the Nikon D7000 and the Pentax K-5.

As we explored in our sensor comparison test of the Alpha 55, D7000 and K-5 and our feature on the death of ISO (both AP 30 April), this 16.2-million-pixel sensor has excellent noise control and a good dynamic range. Using it in a compact system camera shows how serious Sony is about this area of the market, and if the sensor performs as well as it does in the other cameras, the NEX-C3 could offer some serious competition to the Samsung NX100 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2.

However, the original NEX models do not handle particularly well if you make regular adjustments to the shooting settings. Although this was partially rectified with the introduction of new firmware for both cameras, if the NEX-C3 wants to be taken seriously by enthusiast photographers it needs to demonstrate some real improvement in how it handles compared to its two predecessors.

  • White Balance: Auto, 6 presets, plus custom and Kelvin settings
  • Dioptre Adjustment: N/A
  • Viewfinder Type: N/A
  • Memory Card: SD/SDHC/SDXC/Memory Stick Pro Duo
  • Shutter Type: Electronically controlled focal-plane
  • Built-in Flash: No, external supplied – GN 7m @ ISO 100
  • Output Size: 4912x3264 pixels
  • AF Points: 25 automatically selectable points, 187 selectable single points
  • Field of View: N/A
  • LCD: 3in widescreen TFT LCD screen with 921,600 dots
  • White Balance Bracket: No
  • Sensor: APS-C-sized CMOS sensor with 16.2 million effective pixels
  • Max Flash Sync: 1/160sec
  • Focal Length Mag: 1.5x
  • Exposure Modes: PASM, iAuto, 8 scene modes
  • Weight: 225g (without battery or card/s)
  • Power: Rechargeable Li-Ion battery (supplied)
  • File Format: Raw, JPEG, raw + JPEG simultaneously
  • Drive Mode: 2.3fps for 14 JPEGs or 6 raw images, 5.5fps for 7 images in speed priority mode
  • Shutter Speeds: 30-1/4000sec in 1⁄3 steps plus B
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB
  • ISO: 200-12,800 in 1EV steps
  • Lens Mount: Sony E mount
  • Focusing Modes: Auto, continuous, multi-point, manual, DMF, face detection
  • DoF Preview: Yes
  • Dimensions: 109.6x60x33mm
  • Metering System: 49-zone multi, centreweighted, spot
  • Connectivity / Interface: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed/HDMI
  • Compression: 2-stage JPEG
  • RRP: Expected European price 630 Euros
  • Exposure Comp: ±2EV in 1⁄3EV steps

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