Sony NEX-3N: Performance

October 1, 2013 by Howard Creech Reads (24,690)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 7
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Expandability
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.60
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


In general, the NEX-3N is fairly quick. From off to first picture capture is about two seconds. The NEX-3N is a competent camera that is capable of producing consistently very good to excellent still images and very good to excellent HD video. The NEX-3N’s performance was dependably competitive (equal to or better than) any MILC’s from other manufacturers at this price point.

Shooting Performance
The NEX-3N features a 25 point TTL Contrast Detection AF system with Center AF, Multi-point AF, and Flexible Spot AF. The NEX-3N’s AF system analyzes the scene in front of the lens then calculates camera-to-subject distance to determine which AF point (in multi AF mode) is closest to the primary subject and then locks focus on that AF point. The NEX-3N’s AF system is consistently quick to acquire the subject and locks focus with reliable accuracy.

The NEX-3N captures images and video via its 23.5 x 15.6mm (APS-C) Exmor HD CMOS sensor.

The NEX-3N saves images and video clips to Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick XC-HG Duo, SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards and provides the ability to save images in either JPEG or RAW formats.

The NEX-3N’s built-in flash (the camera doesn’t feature a hot shoe) is directly above the lens. The pop-up mechanism raises the flash slightly above the lens axis, so redeye will be a problem. However, it will be slightly less of a problem than the built-in flashes of the P&S digital cameras that most NEX-3N customers will be graduating from. 

Sony claims the NEX-3N is good for 480 exposures with a fully charged NP-FW50 Lithium-ion rechargeable battery.  The battery charges in the camera and requires about two hours for a full charge. Based on my experiences with the Sony NEX-3N I suspect that 480 exposures on a single charge is a bit optimistic. I charged the camera twice –once when it arrived and then again after about 300 exposures.  The battery still had approximately 25% of its juice when I charged it the second time, but I didn’t want to risk running out of power during an afternoon full of shooting festival activities. My guess is that realistically the NEX-3N is good for between 350 and 400 exposures (including video clips) on a single charge and those are still very competitive numbers.

Lens Performance
The Sony NEX-3N is sold in kit form with an E-mount PZ 16mm-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS zoom lens. This designed specifically for the NEX-3N zoom is significantly more compact than the 18mm-55mm kit lenses bundled with most of the NEX-3N’s larger and more expensive siblings. Unlike the new Canon EOS M which provides an optional adaptor so that Canon’s DSLR lenses can be used, the NEX-3N can’t mount Sony A mount lenses–only E mount lenses can be used. The Sony E f3.5-f5.6/16mm-50mm zoom that came with my test camera did show some very minor corner softness, but center sharpness is impressively good. In fact, those graduating from P&S digital cameras will be amazed at just how much difference there is in basic optical quality between most P&S zooms and any half-way decent interchangeable zoom designed to cover a larger sensor.   

Video Quality
The NEX-3N records 1440x1080p @ 25fps HD video. The sample video that accompanies this review was shot on a bright summer day in the mid-afternoon.  The video is fluid, hue correct, and the resolution is excellent.

Image Quality
The NEX-3N’s default images show very good color, balanced contrast, and impressive overall sharpness. Image quality is dependably excellent outdoors in good light and slightly better than average indoors – although indoor images seem a bit darker than they ought to be. Shadow detail capture is better than expected and highlight detail capture is noticeably better than average for cameras in this class.

There is some very slight chromatic aberration (purple fringing) visible at full size, but CA is remarkably well controlled. There is a slight tendency toward minor overexposure, in all auto modes, but this is easily managed by either selecting a smaller F-stop after switching to Aperture Preferred mode or utilizing the NEX-3N’s “best in class” exposure compensation system and the P&S fan’s favorite mode–Program mode.

Sample Images

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