The Sony Alpha NEX-3 is a very good camera, perfect for people who are coming from simple point-and-shoot cameras and are looking for the next step in terms of quality. This mirrorless camera is small and has many useful functions, without being as bulky as a DSLR camera. The downside is that it also doesn’t have all the functionalities of DSLRs, which makes it a product more targeted to the average consumer than to the veteran professional.
Nevertheless, the quality of pictures taken with the Sony Alpha NEX-3 is excellent, infinitely better than any standard point-and-shoot. One of the best aspects is that quality is very high also in the condition of poor light, where a high ISO is required. Considering that the flash is detachable, thus reducing the size of the camera even further, it makes it a great choice if you want to take pictures in low light while still “traveling light”.
The NEX-3 supports fast-shooting at up to 7 frames per seconds, which is a huge step ahead of most compact cameras. It can also record HD video, and the quality is, as well, excellent. This result is achieved by the advanced Auto Focus technology developed by Sony, which allows the Alpha NEX cameras to continuously adjust focus much faster and more accurately than standard DSLRs cameras. Also, the NEX-3 adopted the APS-C chip (also used in the Samsung NX100, of which you can read a review).
The LCD flip screen, which is getting more and more common, is very welcome, allowing to shoot from different angles. The lenses provided with the camera are very good and should satisfy all the needs of the average/advanced buyer. Unfortunately, although the Alpha NEX-3 belongs to the “Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens” group, the choice of different lenses is relatively small and the available ones are expensive. This could be a minor inconvenience for the majority of buyers, though; if you need a lot of lenses you’d probably be better looking for the best mirrorless cameras under 1000 which adopts the micro 4:3, as it would allow you to re-use most of the existing lenses.
Another design choice that could put off some of the most advanced users is the interface. The most common settings are quickly accessible, but the advanced ones need to be reached via menus and sub-menus. This makes the camera very straightforward and easy to use if you rely on automatic settings, but a little slow to fine tune; however, we must keep in mind the target for which the camera was intended, i.e. the consumer market.
One last issue with the camera is the battery consumption. Since it relies so much on automatic features, and due to its display, the battery gets drained quite fast. This issue has been solved with a firmware update, but many users are not familiar with this process and could find themselves frustrated because the batteries “dies” so quickly.
+ The NEX-3 is really small, most of the size is due to the lenses. It won’t fit in your pocket, but it can be easily carried around in a purse.
+ Picture quality is excellent with the stock lenses, even in low light and without the flash.
+ Auto Focus is fast and accurate, which is a good thing since you’ll probably be using most of the time.
+ The LCD Flip Screen is very handy.
+ The possibility of capturing HD Video is a huge plus.
– Battery life is short. This can be fixed with a firmware update, but it would have been better not to have the issue at all.
– Navigation through the menus to find advanced features is a bit clumsy.
– In full sunlight, the pictures on the LCD screen are not very visible.
– An inherent drawback of the “full automatic” usage is that pictures are optimized following camera’s algorithms, which sometimes could not be the best ones.
The Sony Alpha NEX-3 is a overall very good camera; it can be considered a hybrid between a compact point-and-shoot and a standard DSLR. The average user will find him/herself very happy with the extra functions provided by it and by the possibility of changing lenses; I would not recommend it to a professional photographer, as there are better products available targeted to such audience.