Sony has always focused on packing in the maximum features into its consumer electronics products. This is a philosophy that is best seen in its range of compact cameras. The new NEX-C3 is the second generation of its mirrorless compact cameras, a line that it introduced with the NEX-3 and NEX-5 in mid-2010. These cameras reflect Sonyâs strategy of bringing APS-C sensor capabilities and interchangeable lens formats to the compact segment. With a host of upgraded features such as improved power management systems, reduced noise factor, and enhanced color temperature algorithms, the 16 MP NEX-C3 puts the Sony range of compacts right next to the more professional and expensive D-SLRs in the market.
The sleek body is complemented by a minimal set of buttons and controls. Looking at the single dial and two soft buttons, which are all there is on the body, you might actually wonder where the controls are. The buttons are not labeled and are really controls for the on-screen menus that they activate which then guide you to options. Users can customize the left and right buttons on the dial to their own preferences. The entire controls design is aimed at offering the amateur photographer less to bother about, while getting the best in class picture output.
The power management system is really noticeable. The larger CMOS sensor adds to quicker translations and efficient detailing at higher ISOs. The battery life is pegged at 400 shots per the CIPA standards, which is far higher than other compacts. The time it takes to take the first shot from turning the camera on is a mere 2 seconds, another great achievement from Sony. Shutter lag is negligible in the auto mode, while in the manual mode, it is slowed down only to the extent you want to capture picture detail and data. Time between shots is at 0.5 seconds, also at the lower end of this parameter for compacts. The contrast detection method used for focus determination in the NEX-C3 is a standard for compact cameras, and comes with its expected slower response time.
The NEX-C3 ships in two lens options, either the 18-55 mm zoom lens or 16 mm pancake lens. It is amazingly light for the power it packs in and weighs just 225 g with battery and card. It is easy to grip and handle even with the zoom lens on. The 18-55 mm zoom is also very sleekly designed and compact. The polycarbonate plastic body comes with a metal top plate. The flash unit is not built in, but comes in the kit as a screw on. The flash unit is tiltable, thereby making bounced lighting and diffused flash effects easy to achieve.
The picture modes and presets that the NEX-C3 offers are the high point as far as amateur photographers will be concerned. For a point-and-shoot camera, this is as good as it gets. The wide ISO range and the clarity at higher ISOs is incredible for a camera that has to rely on computation instead of optics. As mentioned earlier, the camera is easy to grasp and handle, and even with the zoom lens on, the camera dimensions stay stable, with the body depth remaining equal to the body width. The 3-in LCD display is tiltable, compensating the lack of an optical viewfinder. The panorama feature is a neat combination of technologies that lets you pan across a scene which the camera then renders as a single panoramic shot.
This camera, with all its advanced features, fails to answer the question of how one is supposed to make setting changes on a compact camera while shooting a picture. You have to take the camera down, make the setting changes and then frame all over again. Fortunately for the NEX-C3, there are no other compacts that can claim to have addressed this aspect. In spite of a strong back-end, the camera offers a lower range of only 200 ISO. In the auto mode, the highest ISO setting you can choose is 1600, funny for a camera with ISO up to 12800. The lack of an optical viewfinder might irk some users, especially in strong daylight or glare conditions. The absence of remote flash synchronization is another low point for a camera that is as power packed as this one.
On the whole, this is a great camera for those looking for a compact camera with high end features. The advantage with NEX-C3 is that it offers functionality that is close to D-SLR quality and full manual controls alongside auto modes that will allow even a beginner to take photographs that will appear as good as those taken by a professional. An excellent buy for those who want a powerful camera but do not want to pay a D-SLR price for it.
Price: The Sony NEX-C3 is priced at $649.