Sony NEX-3 & 16 f/2.8 First Look Video/Samples

When it rains it pours! I have so much new stuff here that I am having a hard time finding places to go to get some decent photos! Today I was able to get a hold of a Sony NEX-3 kit with the 16mm f/2.8 lens. The Sony NEX-3 is a camera that seems to be going head to head against cameras like the Olympus E-P1, E-Pl1, Panasonic GF-1, etc. The cool thing is that this Sony has a larger APS-C sized sensor which is 58% LARGER than those in the M4/3 cameras, so in theory, this should give us better high ISO as well as better image quality.

Here is a quick video I just made in my office, which had horrible light (so excuse the color shifts) and I was shooting it with the Pentax Kx which does not AF during video πŸ™‚

The NEX-3 feels great in the hand, seems well made and is pretty small with the 16 2.8 lens. The NEX-5, which is an extra $100 or so is smaller and with a metal body but it has the same sensor and IQ.

I only shot with this camera for a little while today but will be using it more and more over the next few weeks. I am interested to see if I will like it enough to replace my E-Pl1 setup. So far, I really like the design of the body but am not in love with it’s menu driven settings. I prefer cameras with external controls and the NEX series is pretty much all menu driven meaning if you want to change a setting, you have to do so from within a menu (for most settings). I have to be honest though, the Olympus E-Pl1 also has quite a few menu driven settings and this is just a fact of life with these small interchangeable lens cameras. Those who buy this camera probably prefer this anyway πŸ™‚

I will be reviewing this camera in full soon but wanted to post this video because there is quite a bit of interest in these new small power packed designs. I also thought a video would be cool to do. So look for my full review soon which will go over all of the settings, have a more detailed video as well as have TONS of samples. BTW, This is now the worlds smallest interchangeable lens camera (The NEX-5) according to Sony.

My 1st Impressions of the Sony NEX-3

  • Small size, decent build – feels great
  • Design – you either love it or hate it. I love the looks.
  • 16 2.8 is nice but maybe not as sharp as the Olympus 17 2.8 when wide open
  • I love the fact that this has a larger APS-C sensor and high ISO capability up to 12,800. This means that 6400 will actually be usable, somewhat πŸ™‚
  • 720 P HD video seems good so far but I need more testing with this.
  • Love the LCD – crisp, clean, looks great and its tilt-able.
  • In camera PANO is pretty cool – just sweep the camera and it automatically makes the pano.
  • Not a fan of the menu driven controls or the clunkiness of the add on flash.
  • Picture Quality – Seems really good, but softer than the Oly E-PL1 with 17 2.8 (when shooting JPEG, bit the Oly is GREAT with JPEGS)
  • Overall, my 1st impressions are good. $549 is just about right for what we are getting here and Sony added some nice features to these cameras. Also, a Leica M adapter should be out soon, and Β this is cool because of the bigger sensor! The more I use it, the more I am enjoying it.

Full review soon, but here are a couple of first snaps with the NEX-3 and the 16 f2.8, all at 2.8 and all JPEGS.

Another lens I have here for review, the rare Hexanon 50 1.2 for Leica M mount…

BELOW – ISO 1000 f/2.8

OK, here is a LOW LIGHT JPEG at ISO 6400 shot in LOW light (Night indoors)

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  1. Armand, not sure what you meant with the “you got me over” comment but my vlux 20 review was lukewarm at best πŸ™‚

    as for the nex 3, the more I use it the more I dislike it. The menu UI is horrible, the image quality is average/good but not great and the lens quality (the 16) is sub-par IMO. This is all when compared to equivilant cameras and lenses like the Oly EP’s, the GF1 and the 17 and 20 lenses with Micro 4/3.

    Thanks for the comments.

    • Steve, when you reviewed the V-Lux 20, mine was still waiting for the unboxing experience. I did so after your review and have not regretted it. I kept saying to myself ‘it has no RAW’ and ‘the sensor is tiny’ but IMO, it does a very good job as a travel camera. For that use I prefer it over the D-Lux 4 (which is without doubt the better camera).

      For the NEX: I think Sony hired the Teletubbies to develop the user interface. Oh oohhh, what did I say πŸ™‚

      Steve, have fun with your NEX-3. Looking forward to your final review.

    • that’s bad to hear. IQ got great reviews on some sites (IR, dxomark scores, even DPR rated IQ pretty high). Maybe it’s the 16mm kit lens that’s the weak link. You should try Nex-5 with 18-55 kit too before returning both πŸ™‚

      • Hey TR, IQ is “Good” but I would not say “Great”. I think it’s the 16mm lens though (distortion, soft corners/edges, flat color) and I have a Nex 5 on the way with the Zoom to try out so I will see how that one goes.



  2. Steve,

    You got me over with The V-Lux 20 but not with this one. I bought the NEX-5 a few days ago but returned it within 48 hours. Sony did many things right with this camera, but the UI is a real joke. The excuse from Sony is that the camera is targeted at P&S owners. Well, I wonder how a beginner will find it’s way through this mess. It is not the number of buttons that is bothering me, but I have the strong feeling that the UI is developed on a drawing board by non-photographers, not finding the need to try it out.

    I found my thumb wanting to do things that the UI did not allow me to do. No logic at all..

    The 18-55mm lens has so much distortion that even an untrained person will see it right away. I did not use the supplied software from Sony but the JPEGS that came out of the camera were not corrected.

    I really think that Sony had intended to develop a fabulous camera for a ‘serious’ – let’s say non beginner- target group, but something tells me that they changed their plans along the way.

    The build quality of the NEX-5 is great, the lenses look very good to, too good actually for their optical quality. NEX-5 does 1080i, but no 720p, which I found odd too.

    The Leica X1 is still looking at me, but it still positioned too high on the shelves. Is is only a matter of time… Less is more…

  3. @Serhan,

    If you’re trying to shoot at f2.8 and complain about the lack of IS, then you need a tripod, more light or steadier hands.

    Sometimes when you shoot digital, you don’t know where your limitations are with light, cranking up ISO to max and then wondering why the images look like a disposable.


    I also can’t get the idea that you have to control everything from the menu.

  4. The bokeh from the NEX kit lens looks great. Quite a bit better than any of the m4/3rds zooms.

  5. After owning Sigma DP1/2 and EP-1/2 last 2 years, I wanted to see the new NEX-3/5. Today, I tried the NEX-5 at the Sony Style Store. They didn’t have the prime lens, only zoom. The camera looks and feels awkward with the huge lens and small body. When it is zoomed fully, NEX-5 is at the same length as Sony compact dslr with 18-55mm. I think dslr version of the 18-55mm lens is smaller, maybe due to lack of IS. The nex-5 with the lens is very light, so it doesn’t feel front heavy. However, any older lens that will be attached with an adapter might tip it to front, eg those old metal lenses like m39 mount Canon 50mm 1.4 or other m42 lenses that I own. I think Sony needs good light primes to make it more interesting for advanced users. Then it is not in Sony’s market target right now. However it is interesting that they produced a 24mm prime lens, then the lens IQ lacks from what I have seen so far. Also from my experience lack of IS and EVF makes it harder to hand hold the camera with primes. So I am interested how you will find it overall.

    • As for target market, Sony is releasing a camcorder that shares the mount with Nex. That would probably be around $1500+ camcorder. So it’s not just $500 Nex for p&s upgrades that would use this mount. I suspect a lot more primes and Zeiss zooms would be released before the end of 2010.

  6. Strange marketing decision; an APS-C sensored P&S? Anyway; I never flash. I’ve never seen a flashed image where it wasn’t noticeable and therefore objectionable.

    Harsh sunlight? Look at the light and use it to your advantage.

    I’ve seen a lot better images than presented here come out of my E-P2 Lumix 1.7/20 combo (always in RAW). I use that for impromptu portrait shooting; very close up, which gets me the immediacy I want in a portrait.

    Maybe I should send in some of them. It’s getting to be a project and quite a collection.

  7. The colors remind me of inexpensive C41 film you would purchase at the supermarket, kinda flat. Thank you for taking the time to do these reviews. I got the EPL-1 and I’m very happy I did. Thanks, Ry

      • Colors are great on Nex in fact



          • these are by 18-55 which maybe slightly better than 16mm. The system desperately needs a couple of good primes (30/F2, 50/F2).

            also, i am not if you figure it out, you can turn off shooting tips. And here is another tip:

            “Go to focus options, switch to the selectable focus area. Confirm the center focus. Go back to shooting mode. Now the shooting tips soft key is replaced by a focus key. This way you use the center point of the screen to meter and use the selectable focus via the soft key to recompose on your subject. ”

            (work around for missing AE lock — while making a better use of bottom soft key?)

  8. More on adapters:

    Kipon has announced a whole bunch of adapters: for Alpa, C-mount (16 mm cine lenses and CCTV lenses), Canon FD, Contarex, Contax G, Contax / Yashica, Exacta, Leica L39 screw mount, Leica M, Leica R, M42 screw mount, Minolta MD, Nikon F, Nikon F β€œG”, Olympus OM, Pentax K, Rollei, Sony Alpha and T/T2-mount.

    The Contax G to Sony E adapter is already available through eBay:

  9. EPL1 weak AA and very strong jpeg sharpnening makes the photos look real sharp. Nex jpeg sharpness in par with other DSLRs (D5000, Kx), provided the lenses are equal. Try comparing sharpness with some other DSLRs. The 16mm has softer borders too, especially wide open.

    As for adapters, keep an eye on jinfinance (ebay ID). He has Canon FD and Bolex C adapters on sale on ebay. Later this weak he will list Canon EOS, Leica M, M39, NIKON G (F) on ebay.

  10. What an odd looking camera. I agree about the dials. Need dials. ISO in low light is nice, but yes, I do see some softness in photos. The Olympus is just so sharp, ya know?

    • Hey Elaine, yep, no dials but I guess Sony is marketing this for the P&S crowd more than the serious enthusiast crowd. The images are indeed softer out of the camera than the Oly, and I feel this may be due to the lenses which do not seem to be ultra sharp, but provide a pleasing file nonetheless.

      It’s better than the m4/3 in a few areas – LCD, ISO, Size, and so far, the video seems really good as well. If Sony could have added a couple of dials to the 5, and made at least one fast lens, like a 35-50 equiv F2 then I would have been really excited about this one. As it is, it seems like a great camera so far, just have to get used to the controls. I’ll have much more soon.

  11. Great to hear your first thoughts Steve – they mirror mine exactly (including the way you tried to open the screen from the top!) This is the tool I got to play with on the weekend:


    With the 18-55, it really is quite huge and makes the small body look a bit silly. It still felt balanced enough in the hand, but my friend’s bag was twice the size of my E-PL1’s pouch, and mostly empty with the NEX5 in it due to the camera’s awkward shape.

    High ISO quality in the reviews I’ve seen thus far looks excellent, and it was fun to verify that in person. However like nearly everyone else has already said, it’s so painful to be diving into the menu so often. This makes the camera great for the Point&Shoot crowd, but not that great for photographers who know what settings they want to adjust. At least Sony isn’t pretending to cater to the latter crowd, given that they’ve called the aperture slider “background de-focus”.

    The one thing that could possibly tilt me more in favour of the NEX series however is the Leica M lens support. There are already adapters available for this (as well as a field test or two) and the increased sensor size affords the NEX cameras a wider field of view than any Micro Four Thirds offering. The trade-off here is the lack of image stabilisation in the body – however if the auto ISO programming is any smarter than the Samsung NX10’s, this may be a moot point.

    Look forward to your full test Steve!

    • Thanks Jonathan. It’s a fun camera but I’m still on the fence about the IQ. Sony should have added in body IS as well but I understand they wanted to keep things as small as possible. In this they have succeeded (except for the zoom). I look forward to using it more next to my M9.

  12. I suppose the NEX-3 with the 16mm and its low price would highly appeal to everyone with a good repertory of lenses.
    Adding the recently announced converters will make a good system, instead of buying the Sony kit lenses, that seem to be really soft.

  13. Hello Steve,

    I’m excited to read your full review, although I can bet that for you it won’t beat MFT handling and customization.

    One thing I’m curious about is the size of the zoom lens. I know you didn’t grab it, but in other sites they compared it with the 14-45mm from the GF1 and the 14-42mm from the Olympus Pens and it seems longer than the Olympus lens but in the same size as the GF1’s.

    Is it so big then?

    • Well, it looked pretty huge on the camera in the store. I bought this camera and had a choice between the 16 and the zoom. Due to the size, and it being faster, I chose the 16. Not sure if I will keep the camera or not but if I do, I may end up with the zoom as well.

  14. I want that camera … the 6400 shot is terrific, and that 16mm is a great fast wide 25mm equiv. But the most incredible thing is that its so damn small ! it really looks like a simple compact camera, amazing to be unnoticed in streets, and places with dim light with that sensitivity and a fast little lens, like in a subway … damn … just great. For me beats m4/3.
    Soon will be cameras like this with a full frame sensor, like an “stylus epic” with film …
    long live to mirrorless system

  15. I picked up a nex-5 twin lens kit… love it so far… going to grab an Leica M adapter when Im in tokyo next week and see how it goes… I think my 28mm Elmarit ASPH will gel quite well with it. =)
    Great little camera… and the controls are not as hard to use as some reviewers are mentioning. Very easy aperture and exposure comp control.. ISO becomes second nature when you use it for a little while.

    • Hi, thanks for the comments. Yes, the camera becomes easier to use after a few hours with it, but it is menu driven. Let me know how you like the adapter with M glass. Should be interesting with the bigger sensor.

  16. That ISO 6400 shot looks nice indeed! Also, I’m excited about that Hexanon lens you’re going to review πŸ™‚

  17. I think flash is invaluable. In day time with sunshine, I ALWAYS use flash. It makes images come out that much cleaner and even. And indeed if using a red filter or red sensitiv film like Delta 400 or SFX200 – the extra light bouncing back makes for some nice contrast and “white” look to skin.

    Flash in low light. No way. But I think modern flash systems have been developed and refined for use OTHER than low light…

    • Sure, many use flash in daylight…I am just not one of them. Flash has its uses though, I agree but I can always spot an image where a flash was used and it never looks natural to my eye. Polished maybe, but not natural. With that said, I understand why many do use flash and see the benefits if you are trying to get a certain look or brighten up your subject.

  18. I got a chance to try it along with the Samsung NX and ive used the epl1 a lot and if i was just going to use one of those as a full time camera it would be the samsung hands down. It just handles so easy, has plenty of dials and buttons to quickly use.
    That said as a backup / travel cam to accompany my SLR’s the sony would probably beat out the oly as long as i didint want that ugly chrome kit zoom.

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