Sony’s New NEX-3N Mirrorless Delivers A Big Sensor In A Tiny Body, Could Be The New King Of Beginner ILCs

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Sony today unveiled a new NEX camera, the NEx-3N. The new body is the latest addition to the company’s celebrated lineup of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, and it manages to be the smallest and lightest camera available in that category to also house an APS-C sensor. The 16.1-megapixel CMOS sensor is right on par with those found in full-sized entry-level DSLRs, and allows the camera to snap photos up to ISO 16000, which means it should be a fairly strong low-light performer.

The NEX-3N ships with Sony’s new Auto Object Framing technology, which allows it to pick out macro or moving subjects in addition to one or two people, and re-compose pictures while preserving the original to give a photographer a host of shots to choose from a single exposure. The tech even boosts the cropped image to full resolution automatically using Sony’s resolution-enhancing processing algorithm. The NEX-3N also inherits the BIONZ processor from the a99 full-frame, meaning it can handle selective noise reduction like the new a58 DSLT. It also has a 7.5cm LCD screen that flips up 180 degrees for expert selfies.

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Design-wise, the NEX-3N is a departure from Sony’s existing lineup, thanks to a redesigned front grip that takes up less space than the one on the NEX-F3. Overall it looks more like Sony’s recent compact cameras, like the RX1 and the X100, and that’s a very good thing. Paired with the 16-50 f/3.5-5.6 retractable zoom lens (which will be available for the NEX-3N in a kit package), the whole thing presents a much smaller, more streamlined overall package that approaches true pocketability. Sony’s 16-50 retracts when not in use, making it much smaller than most kit zooms with the same range.

Judging by the reviews of Sony’s NEX line of ILC cameras, this should be quite the contender at $500 (with the 16-50mm) when it arrives in April. It’ll be available in both black and white versions.

Sony’s imaging department has been on a roll for a while now, and the company is doing a particularly good job of innovating with features at the top end and then making sure they percolate down the line, as with the Auto Object Framing tech being introduced here. With this entry-level NEX device, it isn’t doing much on the numbers side (the F3 has 16 megapixels and the same maximum ISO), but the outside redesign that shaves some precious space from the camera, along with the introduction of new consumer photog-friendly features, while keeping the price low, is likely a better strategy than improving a boring spec sheet.