Sony NEX-3N review: Camera for beginners delivers a smooth step-up from point-and-shoots and a terrific bang for the buck


posted Friday, September 13, 2013 at 11:52 AM EDT

In developing a replacement to last year's successful NEX-F3, Sony aimed to deliver nothing less than the world's smallest and lightest interchangeable lens system that featured an APS-C-sized sensor. Mission accomplished with the entry-level Sony NEX-3N, which pares down both the size and price from its predecessor -- albeit with a few sacrifices along the way. The end result is a camera that may present the most seamless step up from a point-and-shoot experience that we've ever seen.

And it's not just the compact form and value of the camera. The Sony NEX-3N's user interface is simple and straightforward, forgoing physical controls -- such as a Mode dial -- for a menu-based system that digicam users will be comfortable with. There's even a zoom lever control on the camera itself, much like you'd find on a typical pocket model. Photographers can leave the NEX-3N in full auto mode, or dive into the menus to learn more about advanced modes and settings.


Among the sacrifices the NEX-3N endures is the removal of the hotshoe, or more accurately, Sony's proprietary accessory terminal. For many enthusiast shooters this is a no-go since the camera can't be paired with an external flash. The Sony NEX-3N does feature a built-in, pop-up flash, but it's a rather weak one (though it does telescope up above the camera for a more pleasing angle) and it's your only flash option. The lack of the accessory port also means you can't add a microphone for recording video nor can you add an electronic viewfinder. The lack of a viewfinder forces you to rely on the 3-inch tilting LCD monitor with 420K-dots of resolution, which provides average framing, viewing and playback at best.

While the Sony NEX-3N also suffers from reduced burst/continuous shooting performance and sluggish startup times and mode switching, overall the camera is pretty peppy and fun to shoot with, featuring quick and accurate autofocusing, even in low light. What's perhaps most important, however, is that thanks to its relatively large sensor, the NEX-3N produces great photos for its class, rivaling those from more higher-end mirrorless models and DSLRs.

Is the camera right for you? Check out our in-depth Sony NEX-3N review to find out! Our review shares how the camera performed during our rigorous lab testing and real-world shooting experiences, as well as how its image quality stacks up side-by-side against other entry-level models.