Sony NEX-C3 vs NEX-3

While it may have a lot in common with its predecessor (the NEX-3), the mirrorless NEX-C3 brings a few extras to the table, not least its fancy new 16.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor. The NEX-C3 also sports a slimmed down body, better battery life and a range of other new goodies including a selection of arty filters, but does the pint-sized snapper measure up?

The point-and-shoot sized C3 is the smallest camera yet to carry a full-size APS-C sensor. Stick one of Sony’s E-mount lenses on it, and you’ll be taking DSLR-quality shots without DSLR-induced backache. The downsides to that teeny form are that there’s no room for a viewfinder and the slim grip makes it more awkward to wield with a big lens than rivals such as the Samsung NX11.

There’s a dearth of physical controls round the back of the NEX-C3, which means you have to rely on the wheel for many of the camera’s functions. It makes the controls less intimidating for beginners, but if you’re an experienced SLR user you’ll find it takes a lot of getting used to and involves much menu hunting.

There’s no dial on top of the camera for switching shooting modes (you need to go into the on-screen menu for that), but there are buttons for the shutter, for video and to enter playback mode. There’s also a port for the detachable flash, which is included in the box, and for other (Sony-only) accessories.

Smallest camera with a full-size APS-C sensor

The NEX-C3 can use all four of Sony’s E-mount lenses, and is available bundled with a tiny 16mm pancake and/or an 18-55mm zoom. Both deliver great shots and are made from aluminium, so they feel a lot sturdier than bog-standard plasticky kit lenses.

This feature-packed Sony snapper incorporates lots of handy functions, including manual focus assist. Manually focusing without a viewfinder is like eating blancmange with one chopstick, but this preview zooms in on an area of your choosing, letting you ensure everything’s sharp. DMF mode autofocuses as normal then lets you fine-tune manually, which is even better.

Meanwhile, the background defocus is basically a dumbed-down aperture control that lets you blur out the background while keeping the subject in focus. The effect depends on the lens and distance from the subject, but we like the way it works: twiddle the control wheel and the background blurs in real time.

NEX-C3 – E-mount lenses

The NEX-C3 also features Sweep Panorama, which is now on pretty much every snapper Sony makes, and which lets you capture a huge panoramic shot simply by sweeping the NEX-C3 in an arc. The camera then stitches several shots together, and in some cases it works seamlessly. You’ll find yourself using it a heck of a lot.

You’ll also find a tweaked version of this feature in the form of Sweep Panorama 3D, which achieves its 3D effect by overlapping the shots it, takes. It works pretty well, too, but you will need a 3D telly and an HDMI cable to look at the snaps.

The built-in twin microphones allow the NEX-C3 to capture decent stereo sound to go with its 720p HD movies, although Sony offers an external mic for those seeking crystal clear audio. Videos are recorded as MP4s, which means they’ll take up twice as much space as the AVCHD format.

The camera also offers a selection of art effects for videos which are handy if you’re the sort of person who makes the odd home movie but lacks the software (or skill) to tart up the footage on your computer. The punchy, high-contrast black and white effect is the pick of the bunch, delivering moody results.

Arty filters are also an option on stills with Lomo-esque toy camera, dramatic black and white, hi-key and ‘zany’ posterisation being among the effects offered. Aside from the monochrome, though, we didn’t really find ourselves using them – we prefer to wait and do it properly in Photoshop.

While the NEX-C3 manages to pack a lot of features into its diminutive frame, experienced camera users may find it lacking when it comes to the rudimentary controls. The inclusion of some impressive video skills, including the twin microphones means that the C3 gets one over on some of its rivals, such as the Panasonic DMC-GF3, but the lack of a built-in flash takes this Sony snapper a step backwards and although relatively solid, the build quality doesn’t live up to the standard set by the slickly styled Olympus Pen range.

Sweep Panorama 3D

NEX-C3 – 720p HD video

Stuff says... 

Sony NEX-C3 review

Massive skills are packed into the NEX-C3’s miniature body, but the basic controls will put off serious shutterbugs