Expert Review of Sony NEX-3K DSLR Kit E18-55mm Black
It is beyond any doubt that Sony Alpha NEX 3K is one of the most brilliant, jaw dropping and worthy cameras that we have come across in a really long time such that we only found the positives in Sony NEX-3K, and if there were any negative features involved, they were totally ignorable. Sony Alpha NEX 3K is primarily about squeezing in a well maintained high-end DSLR body into a compact outfit. This has been achieved by employing a dedicated DSLR sized sensor, which has dispensed the mirror and optical viewfinder with a screen that has been used to compose the device. The same strategy was earlier revolutionised by Olympus and Panasonic under the name ‘Micro four thirds’ but for us, Sony’s NEX system seems to be even more impressive when compared to the other recently built technologies. As in Sony NEX 3K, a larger sensor has been brilliantly and efficiently squeezed right into an even tinier body without giving up on the controlling and handling features of the device.
You may doubt this by the looks of the photos, but when a 3D object is in front of your eyes and you visualise how significantly different it looks and feels in hand from Panasonic GF1 or Olympus PEN devices, you will get the point very easily. It is not only an achievement of a well designed device whose sensor is 50% bigger in terms of the surface area, but also of its big tilting screen, and is really a huge achievement in terms of miniaturisation. Now, don’t get us wrong here, when we say small bodies, it do not necessarily mean that we are talking about a device which is ergonomically better and provides better comfort, but as the device comes inheriting the classic and royal shape of CyberShots from the F series, these NEX kits are surprisingly and delightfully very easy to use.
And rather than concentrating the big lens on the centre of Sony Alpha NEX 3K, another smart move was to shift the lens on one side, which looks better. Sony NEX devices may be sharing the Alpha branding with the older set of devices, but then, a brand new and unique lens mounting has been developed just to exploit their shorter ‘lens to sensor’ distance to the fullest. This new E mount gives full support to three lenses:
1. 18 - 55 standard kit lens
2. 18 - 200 super zoom lens
3. 16mm pancake lens
This lens mount may be different from the entire array of DSLRs produced by Sony till date, but then, the sensor size shared is the same and the field reduction on the camera lessens to1.5x. So although, this comes out as a bad news for those involved in wide angled photography, for the ones in favour of telephoto will be absolutely delighted knowing that the equivalent focal range becomes 27-83mm and 24mm for pancake.
Now, unlike Sony Alpha DSLRs, there is absolutely no room for stabilisation features to be brought into NEX 3K, so, Sony’s lenses are the ones with the arsenal carrying two zooms with optical stabilisation. Also offered with the device is a dedicated adapter, which only allows Sony NEX 3K to use Alpha lenses, the entire array, but only under manual focus conditions. Now, despite having such a compact body, our reviewed device still has a high-end screen that has a tilt in the vertical direction for the ease of use at high and low angles. Also offered is fast and continuous shooting at the rate of up to 7 frames per second, but only as long as the photographer wants the first frame locked with focus and exposure. Like Sony CyberShot HX5, this continuous shooting has been skilfully used to perfection in modes like Handheld Twilight and Anti Blur modes.
These make a combination of the six exposure modes automatically, which can reduce the noise feature and camera shake. Next in line is the HDR mode, which at its own can make a combination of three different exposure modes to extend the dynamic range of image. Sony has without a doubt, made the target audience of this device as people who are trying to make an upgrade from Point and Shoot cameras and while there is the full manual control of Sony NEX 3K, it has minimum buttons and the user interface is totally made for beginners.
Design and Build Quality
Sony NEX-3K has a very distinctive design and is the epitome of panache in a camera with a sleek body and a large lens mounted right on one side, so if there is any lens ( exception is the pancake lens) attached to the device, it very much resembles the letter L when you view it from above. The grip on Sony NEX 3K is absolutely fantastic, in fact, given the body size of the device, you just cannot help but rest your hand right on the lens barrel on the left hand side of your device. And then, the remaining operation works effortlessly with the camera being held with immense comfort and security. It really resembles a lot to the F series of CyberShots from Sony, only this time around, rather than a tilting body there is a tilting screen. The dimensions of Sony NEX 3K measure 117mm x 63mm x 33mm and weighs a good 297 grams with battery and card included leaving out any sort of kit lens.
Focus and Face Detection
Sony Alpha NEX 3K makes use of an AF technique, which is totally contrast based just like in Micro Four Thirds and other conventional compacts. There are a total of three different AutoFocus modes:
1. 25 Area Multi AF
2. Centre AF
3. Flexible Spot AF
Flexible Spot AutoFocus allows the device to hold a small AF area at any position in the frame. In additional to these three features, you can also choose directly between Single Shot AF and Continuous AF modes. One can also have the option of going for DMF, which allows the user to make manual adjustments in the frame once the autofocusing on the frame is done. All the options for focusing are available in the camera menu. Now, although there is an additional MF assist option that can enlarge the view of the device by 7 or 14 fold when you are undergoing manual focus control, you can also choose the face detection option where you can actually prioritise an Adult or a Child face, and to our absolute surprise, it works, and works pretty well too.
Lens and Image Stabilization
The life of any high-end camera is the lens mounts. Sony NEX devices may be sharing the Alpha branding with the older set of devices, but then, a brand new and unique lens mounting has been developed just to exploit their shorter ‘lens to sensor’ distance to the fullest. Sony’s latest E mount has a system that is 100% electronic and since our reviewed device has one large APS-C sized sensor, the E-Mount round the circumference is also quite huge with a wider diameter, in fact, it so happens that the top and bottom of the device are fully covered by the outer edge of the bayonet mount. Now, this brings to light both the small size of Sony Alpha NEX 3K and the huge sensors that are housed within the device. Like the famous Micro Four Thirds technology before NEX, E-Mount works on a very short ‘lens to the sensor’ distance - all credits to the unavailability of traditional DSLR mirror and optical viewfinder.
A common saying in the world of cameras states that the life of any new system depends on the selection of lenses, and Sony has offered three lenses for its E mount:
18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit zoom
16mm f2.8 pancake prime
18-200mm f3.5-5.6 super-zoom
As mentioned above, this particular lens mount may be different from the entire array of DSLRs produced from Sony till date, but then, the sensor size shared is the same and the field reduction on the camera lessens to 1.5x. So although, this comes out as a bad news for those involved in wide angled photography, for the ones in favour of telephoto, will be absolutely delighted knowing that the equivalent focal range becomes 27-83mm and 24mm for pancake.
Screen and Menus
Sony has provided everything, almost everything that are absolutely best in these devices, Sony NEX 3K is gifted with a screen that absolutely stands out in class and crushes the opposition to pieces, for the screen is large, effortlessly detailed and perhaps most importantly, can tilt for easier composition at high or low angles (hinged for vertical rotation). Talking about the specifications of the device, the screen measures 3 inches and has a good 920,000 pixels display such that it can display some really detailed images and fine edges to fonts in the menu system of the device. The picture is always sharp and looks fabulous indoors, although the device can become a bit difficult to have a view in conditions of direct sunlight. This is where Olympus holds an absolute edge over Sony, for the screen of this multinational has absolute maximum brightness under any light conditions.
Sony CyberShot NEX 3K has a card slot, which is located inside the compartment already holstering the battery and our device is powered by NP-FW50 Info lithium-ion battery pack. Moreover, the battery life is displayed on the screen in exact digital representation alongside the usual bar icons. As per the claims made by Sony Inc., the battery is good for 330 images tested under CIPA conditions, which are average to say the best, and although, these are the written figures, you will certainly feel the battery being deployed quicker depending on the use. On testing for the first time, approximately 300 images were captured in the camera with fresh batteries and none of them had flash used on them.
The only dissapointing feature of Sony Alpha NEX 3K is that the movie mode is limited to 720p, and for a 1080i video quality you need to upgrade to Sony NEX 5K. This is pretty much the only significant difference between the two models. The recording starts by simply pressing the movie button that is available at the back of camera and regardless of quality, the maximum recording time is limited to 29 minutes per clip.
Sony Alpha NEX 3K is equipped with the latest 14.2MP CMOS sensor, which measures 23.4mm x 15.6mm and makes out an aspect ratio with the default image size of 3:2 making a maximum resolution of 4592 x 3056 pixels. This sensor size is absolutely the same, the same as the ones sported in a wide variety of DSLRs and is definitely a major advantage that all the NEX systems have over their immediate rivals, the Micro Four Thirds.
• Very comfortable size and weight
• APS-C Size sensor allows for high quality images
• Superb High Resolution LCD
• Great Build Quality
• Intuitive Intelligent Auto Mode
• Fast and quiet contrast detect AF system using NEX lenses
• Class leading performance at higher ISO speeds
• Featured packed with Sweep Panorama, Auto HDR, Face Detection and more
• Sad 720p HD movie recording, unavailability of 1080i recording feature
• Default metering settings give brighter than desired exposures in some conditions
• Limited lens availability
• No Viewfinder (although the LCD visibility is very good in most lighting)
• Limited external controls compared to some competing models