For me, size is a big issue. I like smaller cameras because it makes life easier. I do a lot of rural and urban exploration. I spend a lot of time with a camera in my hand or strapped to me for those long hikes.
I think full-framed camera rigs are the best for professional photography and those that want the best image quality available when they shoot. But I’m firm believer in that its not the camera that makes a great picture, its the person behind that makes all the differences. Having a camera only enhances those images. Plus it make the user look more professional.
I learned photography on manual SLRs and when digital came out, I moved to point-n-shoots mainly because of prices. But I always told myself, that when the time was right I would get a full-frame DSLR or at least get an DSLR to start.
Last year, things changed, I decided to make that move. But instead of getting a big camera, I ended decided on a small mirrorless system. What I found was that the Sony NEX series cameras were full DSLRs just they were different. They had the small size of a point-n-shoot but they had huge sensors, plenty of DSLR features and settings, and of course the lenses were changeable. You can even get adapters to mount them on their A mount systems. This review is the second part of the review for the review that was posted last week. That part covers specs about the Sony NEX-3NL/B.
Sony NEX-3NL/B Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera Kit Review
For over a year I have been using the Sony NEX-3NL/B and I have to say I love it. I did find some issues that I can’t stand but, I can live with them for now. At some point, maybe next year, I plan to upgrade to the Sony NEX-7 24.3 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Camera – Body OnlyNex-7 or the new version that just came out.
For this review, I won’t get technical, there are already a ton of technical reviews on this Sony NEX-3NL/B and the rest of the NEX cameras. But will give you review by an everyday non technical user’s point-of-view review. These are my thoughts and opinion of the camera. Many of the images seen through out this article were taken by me or my wife. The stock images were taken from the Amazon sales page or from Sony’s page.
A lot of photographers and reviews sites complain about the design and handgrip on it. At first, I did find it a little on the small side. After a month or so, I got use to it. Since its always hanging from shoulder or the strap is wrapped around my hand, I don’t worry about dropping it.
But other than that issue, the size is perfect. If you are crawling around abandoned buildings, hiking back woods of some forest preserve, or hanging out at a party this little camera is perfect. Its not to heavy or so large its it feels its in your face those you are shooting.
The best part, is the lenses. If you are like me, the kit lens isn’t enough. If I’m driving around and I happen to see something I want to photograph, I can grab my camera and grab several different lens (usually a 30mm prime, kit lens, or my 55-210mm telephoto lens) and put them in my jacket pocket. Once I’m finished, I run back to the car put the gear away or put them in the glove box for quick access (always protected with caps and towels)
For longer trips, I would put the extra lens and cleaning gear into small messenger bag and walk around with easy access my most needed gear.
The Settings and Navigation System…
As with most reviews, the settings and the navigation isn’t user friendly. Even after a year of using the camera, I still find it hard to set certain settings when in manual mode. But the navigation and the OS on Sony cameras are pretty much the same. Hopefully their next generation of camera will have a user friendly system.
Most DSLR and other cameras have easy navigation systems. A lot of times you can control your settings by a twist of a knob or by pressing a button. As you can see from the above image, you have very few buttons. To access the settings, you have to press a button to the right of the screen and scroll through the different options.
Images and the New kit Lens – Sony SELP1650 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens…
The image quality on the Sony Nex-3NL/B and the new kit lens, Sony SELP1650 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens, is a great combo for the every day user. In bright sunny conditions to those dark and gloomy days, this camera can take some great images. However, it does have a lot of background noise. But most noise issues can be removed with post processing tools.
As for the Sony SELP1650 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens, its great little lens that can be stored small and the lens extends out when you power it up. I do recommend getting a good multi-coated UV filter and lens hood. The UV filter can help keep dust off the lens (having extra clean ones around can help on those dusty trips) and help add a little color back into the image. (Just my opinion, many photographers say you don’t need a UV filter since they don’t really work and they won’t protect the lens during a drop.) The lens will help with lens flare.
I didn’t notice much flaring, I haven’t purchased a hood yet. But that’s only because I rarely use the lens. I prefer my primes over the kit lens. I also found that shooting in low light, you must use a tripod if you are using the kit lens. Even when shooting in light, there’s a good chance the images will not turn out. You also get a lot of noise in the image as well. To avoid this you need to use a fast prime lens. Your best option is the Sigma 30mm prime. If you can use, a tripod.
The above image was shot by hand, using the low light scene selection. I was having issues using manual setting at my friend’s wedding. So I switched over to hand held low lighting shooting. Many of shots came out, but they was a lot of noise. If this was a completed shot, I would have used a denoise tool to remove some of the noise.
The camera comes with a large selection of scene selections. You have have hand held low light shootings that works great with a fast low light lens. But I tend to stick with manual mode or Superior Auto Mode. The camera is pretty good at selection the right scene/camera settings as the subject goes into focus. If you only shoot in automatic, make sure to pick a scene. Usually Superior Auto Mode works the best. View full screen here – Flickr
Another cool scene is panoramic mode. Basically you use a tripod or hold the camera at the hip and slowly pan left to right to capture a panoramic of the subject.
After you get the hang of it and some basic photo editing skills you can have some great images. I have taken a few great shots, but I do not use as much as I could. I always forget that its there.
Things I Do Not Like About the Camera
There are a few deal breakers on this camera. For some these may not be an issue. As I started using the camera (past the return period) I noticed a few things that I needed but couldn’t get because Sony designed without it. They consider it an entry level model and it is that and more.
The View Finder…
The worst thing about this camera, is a less than bright display screen. In normal conditions its great. Its clear and shows a lot of detail. But in the sunlight, you can’t see anything! You have to guess what you are shooting. I lost a lot of great shots because of this. What was Sony thoughts behind this idea? I would understand if they wanted you buy the external viewfinder that was available for older NEX cameras.
I ended up purchasing viewfinder adapter that goes over the screens and magnifies it. It doesn’t really work for the Sony NEX-3NL/B but it does work for older models
The flip screen is great for low shooting. Now you do not have to crawl in the weeds for that ground shoot. Get the camera close to the ground, flip the screen so you can see it from a sitting position and shoot!
It even make taking selfies easy. It will flip up all the way so can see will taking that shot of yourself.
But it doesn’t’ flip down that much. So no over head shots at the concert and see how it looks.
No Hot Shoe Adapter…
This also means you have to stick with puny little popup flash that comes with camera. I really do not use this feature, but its nice to have a flash at low light parties. This ones is to small and its white washes everything. You need a diffuser for it. But once again, there isn’t one available for it. You have to make one out of a ping pong ball.
Without the hot shoe, you can’t add a large professional flash. You have to add a bracket and use a slave flash, if it works. I never tried, but I’ve heard it works. I ended up getting a couple of DSLR LED video lights and a bracket and attach it the camera.
With that type of lighting, I do not have to carry a flash light in one hand and the camera in the other when I exploring an abandoned building.
Camera Charging Via Micro USB Cable to Camera
Sony once again decided to opt out of charging station and battery. Sony wants to use the Micro USB charging cable that plugs into the camera and to wall plug. Its slow and annoying. You can always purchase Sony Charger. But that’s expensive. I ended up purchasing the EZOPower Travel Charger Kit at fraction of the cost and haven’t been happier.
No Accessory Ports
Even on the old NEX cameras, you had the option the add external mics and other things via the accessory ports. Not with the Sony NEX-3NL/B, they have been removed on this model.
That means, no almost professional movie making, where you might need an external mic or adding a universal wired remote.
No Wireless Remote Options
If you like to shoot low shots or or long exposure via tripod and wireless remote, then this ins;t the camera for you. If you want to use their expensive wire remote, then this the camera for you. Sony removed the wireless remote options from this camera.
The sensor is a big one that works great, but it does get dirty like other DSLRs. But this one seems to attract more dust than others. If you switch lenses be ready to use that blow brush or lens pen to clean the dust away.
Overall, I like the camera, it’s a great looking camera and works well. Its but its lacking in features that I find that I do need. For some, these features are not needed. But they are useful.
So in the near future, this camera well be sold when I purchase my new Sony NEX-7 or whatever version is available next year. Or might just keep it as a secondary camera.
This camera is for sale if interested, contact me. Its in great shape. No scratches and recently had the sensor cleaned. It will be sold for body only. No lens, battery, or charger. If you want the charger and battery, those will be at an additional cost.
Sample Images Taken with Sony NE Sony NEX-3NL/B with Lens or Prime Lens