The Sony Alpha NEX-3 is an interchangeable-lens camera with the sleek dimensions of a compact.
Like the Samsung NX100, Sony's Alpha NEX-3 boasts a 14.2Mp APS-C-sized sensor. Twinned with the dual lens kit we were sent - featuring both a 16mm f/2.8 fixed focal length pancake lens for those who want the most diminutive camera and lens combo, and a more all-encompassing 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom - this is a versatile starter package. For those who already own an Alpha DSLR or older Konica Minolta camera, the NEX-3 will also accept existing Alpha DSLR and older Konica Minolta lenses via a mount adaptor.
The one caveat is that, like Panasonic with its G-series models, Sony hasn't built anti-shake into the camera body, so it's worth attaching an image stabilised lens, such as the 18-55mm provided. The 16mm isn't stabilised, but as it's not a zoom this proves much less of an issue. However, with the zoom attached, the diminutive Sony Alpha NEX-3 becomes front-heavy. There's a handgrip to help hold the camera level and steady with zoom attached, but this being a compact camera, the grip is flattened rather than comfortably rounded.
The NEX-3 differs from the more expensive NEX-5 superficially; there's a plastic body rather than more rugged magnesium alloy shell, and it offers 1280x720 pixel resolution HD video clips in Mpeg4 format, rather than 1920x1080. Like the Olympus PEN E-PL2, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2, there's a one-touch video record button located top right of the backplate, but no built-in flash. This clips on to the camera via a top plate accessory port.
Pictures and video are composed via a wide angle ratio 3in, 921k-dot LCD screen at the back that can be angled up or down, but unfortunately not flipped out at right angles as on the DMC-GH2. Due to the aspect ratio, there's a choice of shooting JPEG or Raw files in 3:2 or 16:9 aspect ratio rather than the more conventional 4:3.
Shooting with both lenses, we were able to gather an impressive degree of detail. We also got good results shooting up to ISO 3200.