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NEX-3 first impressions
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:13 am    Post subject: NEX-3 first impressions Reply with quote

Dear MF users,
as several people asked me recently about the NEX i would like to put everything in one place here.
The purpose is to share my personal experience and impression with the camera.

Please share yours too it will be good if i can learn from other users also Smile
So this is it. Your comments are appreciated.

First question: Should I get NEX-3 or NEX-5?

Here the choice is subjective you have to like it and choose it for yourself.
For me zoom lens is not very good balanced to the body as the small pancake.You feel that the lens weights too much and tries to flip the body in your hands.

The real difference between those 2 models is IR remote and unlocked video codec for NEX-5.
There is small difference in the grips. Both models feel almost the same as materials.
Actually for me the NEX-3 felt much more comfortable to hold - I can hold the camera grip with 4 fingers. NEX-5 is smaller and thinner and i can hold it with 3 fingers only which is .. not for me.

If you want a good video get the NEX-5 with the zoom lens. The MPEG4 codec is very very bad in terms of compression that even my old Powershot S1 IS makes better video files. For video you need lens with image stabiliser as the body do not have stabiliser and if you choose the pancake or a manual lens forget about the video - with no stabilisation it's shaking as crazy.

I have finally decided: I want a comfortable grip with small and balanced lens ..(NEX-3 with pancake kit) and I've bought it

So ..what's in the box?

nice box .. you would expect that from Sony. Inside there is the body with lens, Mini flash, AC charger, USB cable, CD with software, camera strap and small printed manual. No caps for the lens or the body.

Initial impression ..

Wow it looks cheap ... the strap for example is very basic black polyethylene - one which you can buy for $1 - no leather or velvet parts. - just cheap.

The small flash .. well it's a toy. You get the equivalent of an internal flash for point and shoot cam.
On NEX-3 the flash doesn't close properly with the closing lid.. a design flaw?

Apart from those the camera feels solid and made from a good quality plastic - so after the initial shock you accept it and the body quality seems OK.

OK let's turn it on Smile

Hold your horses !!. There is no power in the battery. OK .. so I have put it in the charger and started to wait.. and wait .. and wait.
After 40 minutes I was starting to think that something is wrong with the battery or the charger and started to search inside the manual.
And ... Yes i found it almost at the end of the booklet: in order to fully charge your battery you will need approximately 5-6 hours !!!!.

If you come from another DSLR or mirrorless cam as me you already know that the normal cameras (Canon EOS, Oly Pen .. probably others) have fast chargers which fully charge in half an hour - so another drawback here. I will definitely need to buy a second battery ..but not from Sony.

Finally its charged and I can take some pictures.

The camera looks responsive .. the menues are odd and too simple for me .. but OK.
Pancake is not the super sharp and no CA lens i have seen but .. it's 16mm and the front element is with a size of a 1 cent coin. so .. generally OK - at least it's not worth a fortune. Focusing speed is good, but 16 mm is probably not the best lens for a first lens... if you are not used to take pictures with extreme wide angle .. they can become distorted very easy. The mini flash performs very well - it can lit a large space so super cool !

I'll put some samples with the 16mm at the end.

Dynamic range optimiser, HDR and other things to switch off:

Those are really bad and need to be turned off. It's cool to make a HDR from 3 shots but it works only in JPEG and the result is colours which look washed out.
I have asked my wife: which picture do you like more and showed a normal exposure and HDR. Even she told me the normal is much better Smile

the JPEG

.. no thanks .. it really looks bad and you do not have control over sharpness and noise reduction from the camera ( you cannot turn them off)
Also you have normal and fine jpeg .. and fine is something as quality to 70%. You get around 2-3 Mb Jpeg file from 14 Mb RAW.
The contrast seems too much and colours desaturated and not exactly correct.

Funny the noise is not visible in the jpeg but you can see it in the raw and it's a lot. The heavy noise reduction applied to the jpeg destroys most of the details in low light. The answer is obvious .. shoot in RAW. I really miss the nice colours of E-P1 when i was shooting exclusively in Jpeg and doing very minimal processing in Picasa (mainly downsizing and some brightness/contrast)

the Video

I have NEX-3 so can speak only for MPEG4 - no real settings here - by default the compression is set to very high and you cannot change that

I've made a test : I have one clip with resolution 1280x720 and 29.970029 fps at length 49 seconds the file is 53 MB... it's that bad.. and with no stabilisation .. it's quite shaky. As i said before most of the non HD point and shoots do better videos than NEX-3 Full HD.

The screen

.. is super fine, super black and you can flip it whenever you want.
Well not exactly. You can turn it upside down only and within a limited angle .. it will not turn and swivel as the screen of Powershot S1 IS for example.
If you are indoors the screen is OK but if you go outside you need to turn the brightness to the Max in order to see. In this case the colours become very distorted white becomes almost yellow and the grey almost reddish..
The pixels are too much for this display size .. which renders the fonts too small even for me... and there is no option to increase the font size...

Supplied soft..

No thanks. too basic for me - not even close to Canons DPP. I prefer to use Picasa Smile
Btw the preview speed is almost OK for the raw converter unless you want to see 100% previews - then it becomes reasonably slow.
For Picasa you need to upgrade to version 3.8 in order to view the Sony raw files.
Also read here on how to make the Picasa work with the video files: http://bals.be/avchd-m2ts-video-files-in-picasa

MF lenses .. at last

The main purpose of why i wanted to buy this body was to have manual focus lenses on it - and particular my Contax G primes (35 and 90) and some others .. like exakta mount Flektogon and Biotar i have .. )

So I have ordered adapters from ebay .. they are still quite expensive prices go up to $80-90 for the cheapest possible.

The Contax G/NEX adapter arrived - its very nice built and lens mount without any troubles. Moves nice and smooth - good job.

If you switch in settings to release the shutter without lens and you are ready to go.
'MF assist' soft button appears on the bottom and it magnifies the view 7x and 14x .
With the new Firmware v3 the shortcuts are even better than before.

What i do not like in it is it doesn't return to normal view until you click exit or press halfway the shutter.
Another thing is that while you are in MF assist (zoomed view) the metering turns off.. so if you close the lens aperture while zoomed .. the screen becomes darker and does not auto adjust the light until you exit from zoomed view.

some general observations:

- Noise on ISO 200 in the raw file ! Yes .. this is the super noiseless sensor.. Or should i say the very good and fast processor which applies the noise filter.
You can see the noise at uniform colour surface - particularly red and black. It's not chroma noise but more like non uniform colour.

- Half of my pictures were not sharp - coming from Olympus E-P1 where you have the stabilised sensor i was used to take sharp pictures at speeds around 1/60 and 1/30.. well not here.
With the NEX you need at least 1/125 in order to have sharp pics. which really brings down the advantage from the gorgeous high ISO performance.

Another thing which i do not like: if you switch to 'P' and set ISO to Auto the camera doesn't turn ISO up until the speed drops to 1/30.
I would like to have minimum speed set to 1/125 at least .. otherwise remember.. no sharp images. you can go around this if you go and manually adjust the iso every time before you take a shot (4-5 clicks) which is annoying.

- Incorrect white balance in most of the cases- it's the thing which is really bad. i have ordered the ColourChecker passport .. let see if it will adjust the colours properly if i have the right profile. maybe it's the bad weather here. in last 2 weeks there were almost no sun ;(

- The bokeh looks flat i somehow cannot get the same 3D look with the Contax G lenses as on E-P1.
the out of focus renders somehow flat and it's colour is not that bold. If you zoom to 100% it looks like you have put a sandpaper to it Wink
Maybe it's a side effect from the incorrect colours. or too much contrast from the camera settings.. I don't know yet.

So if you know all the limitations and you know how to avoid them the camera is nice Smile
This thread will bring a discussion I hope.

The samples resized to 1600 - those are post ptocessed so they look better than the originals. Click on the picture to open it in full size.

from 16mm Pancake

from Contax G

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congratulations! Isn't it nice to get another new toy, even with all those downsides you mention? (I will also get another toy soon.)

Thanks for your extensive report!

I was thinking about getting one of these compacts as well (NEX, E-P1...) but I have decided against it, for two reasons:
1. I am a viewfinder shooter. SLR or rangefinder cams but I really want a viewfinder.
2. As fascinating it is to be able to mount these nice lenses on a digital body, I do not have enough of those lenses that a buy would pay for me. The only lens that really would be interesting in my collection is the Jupiter-8 (which I really like on my FED3).

Anyway, I am glad that this forum deals with those cams as well and for you with your extremely nice RF lenses this NEX surely is a nice tool with an amazing image quality despite the noise you have discovered. For a cam of this size there is not much else...
Looking forward to seeing more of your nice images...

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wow! great reviews! I wish we could read such comment in magazine, but advertisement is too powerful
I am sure you will find workaround for all those small problems
the pics are very nice and show the potential

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the review.

I have been waiting for information such as this before deciding between purchasing one of these new mirrorless cameras and a Canon 5D. Since I have many full frame lenses from my early EOS film days (pre AF) I will go with the 5D, I believe.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks very much guys,

Jupiter 8 i have also - 2 pieces of it - black and white Smile
I will post some samples from them when i have the m39 adapter.

greg> 5d without any doubt is a better camera than any mirrorless available.


PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice review, Stefan. I really appreciate your frank and open review. Perhaps I should wait a bit before buying an EVIL, I tell myself. Sounds like some more development needs to happen before somebody like me would be comfortable buying one.

I tell myself that the Sony NEX series and the Samsung/Oly/Panasonic products are just the beginning of a technology that will continue to develop, and that I might be better off waiting a while until more improvements have been made. It really sounds like the NEX series is similar to v1.0 of a piece of software.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the Nex 3 is really cheap and offer lot more than a p&s
we should not compare it to a 5D
nice to have it in a pocket for snapshots

PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many, many thanks for this first report!

PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2010 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought I'd add to Stephan's review a bit. Yesterday, I had some time on my hands and I was in the vicinity or a Best Buy electronics store, so I stopped in, wondering if they might have a NEX on display. Well, they did. They had a NEX-3, and it was charged up so I got to play around with it for a while.

Not having the manual available, I just had to fumble around through the menu settings, but once I figured out how to access the menu, I found it quite intuitive to use. I didn't really understand all the features, but at least I could access them easily. I was able to figure out how to set it up for raw, maximum resolution, and multiple exposures. I wanted to see what the shutter lag was like at this setting. I was surprised. It fired the shutter very rapidly. Dunno if it was 7 frames a second or not, but it was way up there. Probably very close, if not 7. Now, there was no memory card in the camera so it was not having to save images, and for all I know it might slow way down with a memory card in it, but this level of performance I found interesting at least.

The camera is quite small and thin, yet has a large screen that is semi-articulated. By semi- I mean it lifts up and out, away from the camera body, but it does not swivel.

A few comments about ergonomics:

I have medium-large hands. When I have to buy gloves, I need at least a size large. I found that my thumb was hitting buttons on the back it wasn't supposed to because I didn't have a good place to put it where there were no buttons. It's kind of crowded back there. Because of all this, holding the camera was not all that comfortable for me. Somebody will probably come out with a grip for this camera that will help out in this regard, I suspect.

This NEX-3 had the zoom lens attached -- the 18-55 f/3.5-5.6. I was very impressed with the appearance and feel of this lens. Both the focusing and zoom rings are very well damped and give one the feeling of quality. They are wide and comfortable to use. Somewhat unusual for an AF lens is the damping of the focusing ring. I'm used to AF lenses' focusing rings having little if any damping at all. I also like the sort of old-school look of the lens's finely ribbed metal rings. Best Buy also had a 16mm pancake lens, but it wasn't available to be mounted, so I wasn't able to try it out. I was able to examine the photos I took with the zoom, enlarging them, etc., but it's not easy to make a critical examination of an optic's resolution just by examining a photo on a camera's LCD screen. Although the images I was looking at sule looked fine.


Here in the US, the NEX-3 with zoom lens is selling for about $600. That's a very attractive price -- right at the price point for entry level DSLRs. And for the first time there's an entry-level non-SLR with APS-C sensor that can compete with them. How will it do? I don't know. I think the big determining factor will actually be how easy/practical it will be to use a NEX in bright sun. If one is able to position the screen such that it can be shaded and display a clear image without reflecting back an image of the shirt the photographer is wearing, it has a chance. If one can't see what one is shooting cuz all one can see is a reflection of his shirt, then it won't have much of a chance.

I hope it's a big hit! Because it's a Sony, this is significant: one of the Big Three has tossed its Hat Into The Ring, and I'm sure both Canon and Nikon have something in the pipeline designed to compete directly against it. Canon rumors are indicating something that should be similar showing up first quarter of next year, but it seems likely to be using a pellicle mirror -- something Canon's had a love affair with since the 1960s. I wish they'd get over it cuz I don't like it. If Canon really goes through with a fixed mirror concept, I predict it will not do well against the Sony NEX and whatever Nikon has planned. Take heed, Canon!