Sony NEX cameras: Sony NEX-3

The Sony NEX-3 is part of a new breed of cameras from Sony. It’s a relatively compact camera but it allows users to change between lenses – as you can on a digital SLR.

Digital SLRs bend light through the lens and out of the viewfinder into the photographer’s eye, so they can see what they’re shooting, and the mirror box that bends the light, accounts for much of a digital SLR’s bulk. LCDs on cameras, however, have improved over the last few years, so users can now see a digital representation of what the lens is pointing at without the need for any light refraction. Enter the mirrorless camera system.

Sony NEX-3 and 3D panorama demonstration video


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The above video was shot using the Sony NEX-VG10E

Panasonic and Olympus were first with their micro four-thirds cameras such as the Panasonic G1 and the Olympus E-P1. Samsung created the NX10 and we’ve seen the intriguing GXR model from Ricoh. The NEX system is Sony’s contribution to this developing arena.

Differences between the Sony NEX-3 and Sony NEX-5

The Sony NEX series includes three models, the NEX-3, the slightly more advanced NEX-5 and the first consumer camcorder with changeable lenses, the NEX-VG10E.

The key difference between the NEX-3 and the NEX-5 is price. At launch the NEX-3 cost around £450 and the NEX-5 cost around £650 – this is with the 18-55mm kit lens. Of course, the extra money pays for a few extra features, but not as many as you might expect.

The NEX-3 can shoot HD video at 720p resolution, while the NEX-5 can shoot full HD video at 1080i – a higher standard. The NEX-5 also has a more pronounced grip – giving it more of a digital SLR feel rather than the point-and-shoot feel the NEX-3 has. This grip allows the shutter release on the NEX-5 to be positioned further forward on the camera’s body – again lending to the DSLR feel.

One further difference, but again a minor one, is that the NEX-5 can be operated by remote control - although this needs to be bought separately.

Sweep panorama on Sony's NEX cameras

The sweep panorama feature stitches together a series of shots to make a single, 'wide-angled' image. With a software upgrade you can take 3D panorama shots to play back on a compatible 3D TV

Sweep panorama and 3D sweep panorama

Both the NEX still cameras, the NEX-3 and the NEX-5 have a sweep panorama mode. This is shown off in the NEX-5 first look video. A software update is available for both models, however, that allow the NEX cameras to create a 3D image using the sweep panorama setting.

To download the new software to the cameras you'll need to go to the NEX pages on Sony's website. There's a specific upgrade for the NEX-3 and the NEX-5, so make sure you get the right one for your camera. We haven't tried upgrading one of these models, but Sony claims that it is easy and will take you around five minutes.

An upgraded camera has a new 3D option in the on-screen menu. To take the 3D shot, you select this new setting and hold down the shutter as you sweep the camera from left to right - much as you do with the regular 2D panorama mode.

The resulting image has a 3D effect - but of course this can't be seen on the camera's LCD, a PC or even a regular TV. You'll need to have a compatible 3D TV to get the 3D benefit and the camera will have to be connected to the TV via the HDMI connection.

PlayStation 3D upgrade

A scheduled upgrade to the Sony PlayStation 3 will allow you to transfer the 3D image, by using the SD memory card, to the PlayStation's on-board memory. This PlayStation upgrade is scheduled for August 2010.

What's all the fuss about 3D TV? Check out our 3D TV reviews

The effect on the 3D TV is quite impressive, but a far cry from the 3D quality of a professionally rendered 3D picture. The layers within the photo look somewhat like cut out images placed at varying depths, but it's a fun feature nonetheless for anyone who's bought a 3D TV.

Pros: Very compact for a camera with swappable lenses, considerably cheaper than the NEX-5

Cons: Same as with NEX-5 - the single mount on top of the camera only allows for one accessory at a time

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