Let’s be honest, ever since the inception of smartphones fewer people invest in traditional cameras and video cameras. Why would they when you have a phone that can do it all? Well, if you want to take complete control of your camera and capture images the way you envision them then you’re going to want something a little more.
Professionals and tech savvy folks alike prefer the control and high image quality that can only be obtained with traditional cameras. I had messed around with a film camera when I was younger but had fallen victim to my own smart phone in the new digital age. With more time on my hands I decided I wanted to get serious about my photography again and hence the search began.
Searching for a camera online left me speechless with the massive selection as I was looking for the best camera for travelling, my most favorite thing to do! Still, I didn’t want to make a huge dent in my travel funds.
Personally I always liked Sony and someone recommended the NEX series from Sony, specifically the Sony NEX-5R. It looks great although I did not want the larger, feature rich and expensive model as I am sure it is more suitable for professionals.
The best compact camera for travel with great image quality at an affordable price was more what I was aiming for. Thus, as recommended by several satisfied customers I opted for the SONY NEX-3N. It weighs only 390 g, which makes it very portable and able to fit into the smallest handbag, shirt or trouser pocket.
The NEX-3N has superior image quality with a 23.5 x 15.6mm 16.1 MP Exmor APS-C CMOS Sensor. This is the same size sensor you would expect to find in much larger dSLR camera so when you consider the size of the Sony NEX-3N, well it’s just impressive! Even with the supplied 16-50mm kit lens attached it still maintains a low profile as the lens is able to retract within itself. The lens can be zoomed in and out with either the zoom lever that surrounds the power button or the lens ring.
The zoom lever will be more familiar to someone used to point and shoot cameras but keep in mind this will not work with all the lenses available (only power zoom lenses). In some instances you will have to use the lens ring which isn’t really that big of a deal. In fact, I prefer the lens ring as it reminds me of a true dSLR.
Battery life is important to me as it is to any traveler. It’s a pain to carry around a bunch of spare batteries so this was something I was very aware of. The book says 480 shots per charge which is good but I have continuously beaten that number by a lot. The battery life is excellent but I still carry one spare as any smart person should.
The LCD screen on this camera is descent but it’s not touch screen and I’ve seen sharper so I wouldn’t consider this a strong point. The screen is also susceptible to reflections when you use it outdoors, but I have to add that when you use the Sunny Weather setting, you will find the problem eliminated. However, this setting can be really hard on the battery life I was just bragging about. This is where it would be really nice to have a viewfinder but there is none. You have to use the LCD to compose and see the shot you are taking. Because there are no expansion ports you cannot add an external one either so you’re kind of stuck here.
It does not have a dedicated command dial, but it is easy and quick to configure the rear controls in order to access one of the six user-defined settings. Without the dedicated dial, which I do prefer, you have to press the center button which calls up the on-screen mode dial. So although it’s workable, it’s still a drawback but you have to consider the camera is fairly small so there’s less surface area to include all these external controls, buttons, etc.
Unfortunately this camera has no Wi-Fi or GPS. I really don’t think these are standard on most cameras but certainly are growing in popularity among middle to high range cameras. Some may count this as a con, but at this time these are luxuries I am prepared to go without.
Let’s talk about style. It is not an extremely stylish or svelte looking camera compared to some with their magnesium alloy bodies, as this one is housed in a plastic shell. It does sound cheap and simple looking, but holding its light weight in your hand, you still get a sense of durability and toughness.
I also like that this camera has a nice integrated flash which can actually be tilted up and back for bouncing light off a ceiling, thus offering a more flattering, diffused light than a direct flash would give. Well, that is the idea but truthfully it’s not that powerful of a flash so don’t expect it to work great in a modest size room. What I’m saying is keep your expectations tempered as this flash doesn’t have the power of a speed light. You really need power if you’re going to be bouncing light of walls and such. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier there are no expansion ports so you can’t connect a speed light. You’re just sort of stuck with the on camera flash.
The performance of the NEX-3N is great at less than half a second between capturing shots and pressing the shutter button. The time elapsed between cycling shots on average is a mere 0.8 seconds. If you set it to continuous mode you will be able to capture 11 frames at 4 frames per second. These numbers are for JPG’s and will not be as good shooting RAW but it’s still good so no worries there.
It also is amazing during video mode giving you excellent picture quality when shooting with either 1080i or 1080p at 25 frames per second and still allowing you full control over the exposure settings. You can record in PC-friendly format of MP4 automatically compressing your files which you can later upload to social websites such as YouTube and FaceBook. You can also capture exquisite Blu-Ray disk when setting the camera to AVCHD codec.
When you compare the SONY NEX-3N with other compact system cameras in the same price range such as the Panasonic GF6, Nikon S1 and Olympus Pen E-PM2, you find that NEX-3N has superiority in image quality overall. Especially in regards to low-light image quality with its JPEGS remarkably detailed and vibrant, the SONY wins hands-free. It has automatic correction for chromatic and vignetting aberrations with impressively low noise levels.
I know I haven’t made this camera sound awesome but the price is definitely an attractive aspect of the NEX-3N. It’s also everything I want and need right now and fits the bill of a great camera to take traveling. I actually love it but when you write a review you tend to focus on the negatives for some reason. So yeah, I’m not claiming it to be the best mirrorless camera on the market but it is one of the more affordable options with very few being as portable.