Sony NEX-3 – First Thoughts

Christmas came early in the form of my Sony NEX-3. One of the recent trends in SLRs has been a new class of small, light, mirrorless SLRs that bridge the gap between point and shoots and larger SLRs. Panasonic and Olympus have a variety of bodies in the Micro Four-Thirds mount, Samsung has the new NX-100, and Sony has come out with the NEX-3 and NEX-5. After some deliberation, I decided one of the smaller cameras would be a nice addition to my gear, and that I would get significantly more use out of it than a smoker, at least between now and my birthday. At any rate, I placed an order for the NEX-3, and thanks to Amazon Prime it showed up this morning. Fantastic.

So far, it’s a definite case of the good, the bad and the ugly. Thoughts and pictures below.

The Good:

There’s a lot to like about this camera. Sony has managed to cram an APS-C sensor into a body almost the same size as a typical point and shoot. The sensor isn’t bad either – 14MP, well controlled noise at high ISO, and nice dynamic range. Several of the shots below below were taken handheld at 6400. Whatever else it is, the NEX-5 is an impressive technical achievement.

The Bad:

Lenses. There are currently only 3 of them for the entirely new E mount, and none of them are terribly good. The 18-55 kit lens has quite a bit of distortion (there is a Lightroom profile, so less of a concern), the 16mm pancake is interesting, but too wide to be useful as a walkaround lens, and the 18-200 is amazingly expensive and currently unavailable. To be fair, I’m used to shooting with lenses that cost 2-3 times what this camera kit does, but the kit lens is far from the best piece of glass I’ve ever used. Sony has an aggressive roadmap for the E mount, but for now, there’s a severe shortage of good glass.

The Ugly:

The user interface. People have commented on this quite a bit, and I won’t rehash it here, but I will say it’s not as bad as reported. There are some definite awkward moments while using the camera, but it’s certainly not unusable. The battery life leaves quite a bit to be desired – if you were going to be using it all day long you’d probably need a spare. The autofocus is generally good, but has moments where it just doesn’t get it. Metering can be a bit poor, though again I’m used to Nikon’s class-leading meter.

I’ll have more thoughts in the coming days, especially after I get my M39 adapter and throw some rangefinder lenses on the body.

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