Sony also chose this week to introduce a new mirrorless model: the new NEX-3N. Introduced alongside the Alpha A58, Sony claims the little 16mp camera is the smallest and lightest interchangeable-lens camera with an APS-C size sensor.
That might be spitting hairs, but when Sony first introduced the NEX, they were introduced as the worlds’ smallest interchangeable lens digital cameras. Other manufacturers have since offered even smaller cameras, but none of them can boast a true APS-C size sensor. Sony is justified in pointing out that the new little wonder boasts the same size sensor found in most dSLRs.
Since all NEX models have APS-C sensors, the new NEX-3N must be even smaller than the original NEX-3, to qualify as the smallest APS interchangable lens camea.
The return of the Power Zoom
Like the new A58, the NEX-3N features a power zoom, which allows users to zoom compatible lenses in-and-out via a push-button. I’ve never found this sort of thing to be all that interesting. Power zooms are usually slower and less precise than zooming manually. That being said, a small camera like the NEX-3N can easily be used with one hand. If you are shooting single-handed, while your other hand is occupied elsewhere, a motorized zoom might be rather handy.
Of course the power-zoom feature will require lenses equipped with a motorized zoom. The kit lens will be the 16-50mm power zoom E-mount lens. If this feature becomes popular, look for more E-mount power zooms from Sony and other manufacturers.
Built-in, Pop-Up Flash
The original NEX-3 style cameras came with a seperate detachable flash unit. It worked, but wsn’t as convient as a built-in unit. Sony has found room on the NEX-3N to include a built-in, pop-up flash. Granted, the flash only has a guide number of 6 (meters) at ISO 200, so it isn’t super-powerful. Still, it is attached to the camera, so it will be there when you want it.
Unfortunatly, there does not appear to be a hot-shoe or a PC-Sync port. Off-camera flash will be limited to using an optical slave trigger. This can be tricky, if there is a pre-flash to contend with; so off-camera flash might be impractible with this camera.
The NEX-3N captures in RAW and/or JPEG, as well as AVCHD and MP4 video. In addition, there are a number of creative styles available, including Sweep Panorama, Face Detection, and Smile Shutter. The normal frame rate is 2.5fps, but there is a Speeed Priority contiuious setting that will click off images a 4.5fps.
As the smallest and least expensive model in the NEX lineup, the 3N has a few limitations. There is no accessory port, so you cannot add an Electronic View Finder. Composing on the LCD screen is okay in some situations, but there are times when a real view finder would be a big improvement. Still, as millions of iPhone photographers demonstrate, most of the time you can get away with the LCD screen.
Other NEX models rectify these lapses, NEX cameras are available with viewfinders, hot shoes, accessory ports, Wi-Fi and touch screens. Leaving these items off the NEX-3N feature list allows it to be the smallest model in the line up. It also joins the NEX-F3 as the model with the smallest price tag. When the NEX-3N ships in late March, it will carry an US list price of $499. That includes the 16-50mm power zoom lens.
B&H Photo has the Sony Alpha NEX-3N available for pre-order now.
Over at Sony-Style, the are accepting pre-orders on the NEX-3N in either White or Black, with the 16-50mm Power Zoom lens.
The camera is expected to ship in late March.