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Thoughts on Sony NEX C3 - Worth It for Me?

Discussion in 'Other Systems' started by Biro, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    As you see in my signature below, I already have an extensive micro four-thirds kit. I had been strongly considering a Fuji X10 to replace my Panasonic LX3. But I've kind of cooled on that, now that it seems the firmware update hasn't done much to mitigate the X10's "orb" issue (even though I understand the problem is fairly limited).

    Okay. Ratchet forward to yesterday, when while web browsing I noticed that the Sony NEX C3 with the 16mm lens is $499 at Amazon.com and several other places. For some reason, that combination suddenly stuck me as being very attractive in a way it hadn't in the past. Now, please understand I am not thinking about building an extensive NEX system. I have too much invested in other systems for that. But I was wondering how useful the least-expensive NEX camera with that particular lens might be to me. The only lens I can see possibly adding later might be Sony's 30mm prime. That would be it.

    Please note that I have an Olympus E-PM1. It is that camera (on which I tend to use the Panasonic 14mm pancake often) that most makes me think the C3 might be a nice thought but completely superfluous for me. But the C3 is no larger or heavier than the E-PM1 when using pancake lenses on it and I would get the benefits of an APS-C sensor.

    How would I use the C3? Probably the way I would have used the X10 and tend to use the E-PM1: For a lot of fun, casual stuff and family gatherings - particularly indoors. For more serious work, I have other cameras.

    Are there any fellow forum members who own both micro four-thirds and NEX cameras who can give me some guidance here? Thanks for taking the time to read this.
  2. KVG

    KVG Banned User

    May 10, 2011
    yyc(Calgary, AB)
    Kelly Gibbons
    I have a nex 3 right now and I really don't like it at all compared to my Panasonic. I would strongly suggest borrowing/trying one first. Its high iso is way better than the M43, but that's the only thing I like better about it. That just my own personal opinion though.
  3. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    I have a NEX 3 and a GF2. I prefer the NEX 3 over my GF2 for pretty much everything. It's just easier to use and has better IQ. I do only shoot MF glass. A shot that takes me a second to take with my NEX, takes a few seconds with the GF2. My old E-P1 would be so cumbersome that I gave up more often or not.

    As for paying $499.... I'd wait for a sale. You should be able to get that for less than $400.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Interesting... differences in modern camera response (using native lenses) are measured in milliseconds, not seconds. So I wonder if there's something else up with your settings or how you're using the camera that would cause such a great difference in time?
  5. starlabs

    starlabs Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2010
    Los Angeles
    It's probably because the GF2 doesn't have focus peaking. :tongue:

    With a Nex, consider it only if 1) you own high quality legacy lenses and enjoy manual focusing, 2) need the high ISO quality (*)

    (*) = A lot of people harp about this but it's slightly more complicated than the standard "oh the APS-C sensor is so much better in high ISO". This is true. But Nex does not have IBIS for legacy lenses. So you might lose a half or full stop there. If you shoot on a tripod with a nice Leica, then you will get your money's worth from a Nex camera IMO. :smile:
  6. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    Ok so I recently bought a NEX-3 (not C3). My understanding is that the C3 represents only minor tweaking from its predecessor, so most of what I'm saying here should be relevant. And I'm not very happy with the camera.

    Let's start with the good. I like the basic body shape and it fits well in my hand. The sensor in my version is already stellar. The version in the C3 is better than that. If cameras were nothing but sensors, no mirrorless could hold a camera to the NEX series. The image quality is simply top notch. The peaking mode works fairly well for legacy lenses, and the NEX may well be the best camera out there to adapt lenses if you don't mind manual controls.

    Those things are big items in the Sony corner, which is good because the camera is almost completely unappealing in every other way. The interface is not pleasant to use. Common shooting options are scattered through the menus apparently at random. They were clearly designed by an engineer who doesn't actually take photographs, because the arrangement makes a perverse sort of sense if you think of it as a programmer picking algorithm settings instead.

    Then there's the lens situation. The 16mm pancake is optically mediocre at best and too wide as a walkaround. The closest thing to a normal lens is an f/3.5 macro (which is too short for a macro) and exactly the same size as the kit zoom. The telephoto is just your basic tele lens, pretty much equivalent to the Lumix 45-200 and entirely unremarkable. There's a 50mm f/1.8 just now appearing in the market, which is oddly also exactly the same size as the kit zoom. It's probably equivalent to the M.Zuiko 45mm, which is to say very good. It's probably the only interesting lens in the system until you get to the $1000 Zeiss lenses.

    It doesn't take any kind of standard flash, so if you're a studio/lighting buff then forget about it.

    Autofocus on the NEX is slow, similar to an E-PL2. It is not at all like the G3 or PM1, which lock onto focus decisively and nearly instantly. The NEX more wanders into focus and can have a lot of trouble in low light conditions if you disable the AF illuminator. The camera is set to permanently try and focus on whatever it's pointed at (Panny calls this "quick AF").

    The soft buttons are customizable, a little bit more so on the C3. I'm not sure how much this has changed, but on my 3 I can't assign a lot of the functions I actually want to assign (like AF mode). You also lose one button to menu. Program mode is actually not very good on the camera, though they at least added shift on the C3. You cannot change the Auto-ISO boundaries, so depending on how you use the camera you may be setting ISO manually a lot.
    • Like Like x 4
  7. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    "I do only shoot MF glass."
  8. robertro

    robertro Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 22, 2010
    I had the PM1 with 14/2.5 and NEX-5 with 16/2.8 at the same time. I have since sold the 16/2.8 - it was not as sharp as the 14/2.5 especially at the corners, and it was too wide for me as a sole carry-around lens. Beyond the angle of view, the difference between that and the PM1 indoors in family shots was minor, with the ENX having slower AF time, and the Olympus having a bit more noise in shaddows when shooting at high ISO.

    Generally, the PM1 is a more responsive body with faster autofocus, so it's a bit easier to capture shots of my children running around.

    Going for the NEX is the "peaking" focus assist feature, which is probably what lenshoarder refers to when he talks about the speed of the NEX, but this really only matters if you use manual focus lenses for on-the-move shooting (very important for Sony because they don't have a decent selection of native E-mount lenses and don't have any compact lenses beyond the 16). With NEX lenses, the 5 and 5n are noticeably slower to AF and operate than the current generation of Olympus and Panasonic caeras.

    Looking at what equipment you already have, if I were you, I'd also consider the Olympus 45/1.8, which will give you added capabilities.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    The NEX system is known for their smoother high-ISO and soft output. The Micro Four-Thirds system is known for its sharp output but higher noise levels.

    I guess nobody considered that neither system has inherently greater capabilities, but that one system chose to enhance one area at the expense of another? The Sony sensor is not so much better, the noise is just smeared out with the detail. Of course the soft native lenses of the NEX system has most to do with that, but it's not the only thing.
  10. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    I find the better ISO performance on the NEX more than makes up for that full stop compared to an Olympus with IBIS.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. jlabate

    jlabate Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 22, 2010
    I just picked up a C3/16mm and think it's the real sleeper in the Nex line. It has the same sensor as the 5n. If you can live without touchscreen and EVF it's a great deal. I find the sensor much improved over my E-P2.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    That's the first time I've heard that. I've read that NEX sensor is sharper and has better ISO performance. My personal experience has given me the same opinion. The NEX sensor is better. The M43 sensors may seem sharper but noiser because they over sharpen in their processing. Correct for that and the resolution plummets.

    Here are some imatest results.

    For the NEX 3.
    "The uncorrected resolution figures are 2,580 line widths per picture height in the horizontal direction (corresponding to the vertically-oriented edge), and 2,104 lines along the vertical axis (corresponding to the horizontally-oriented edge), for a combined average of 2,342 LW/PH. Correcting to a "standardized" sharpening with a one-pixel radius increased both horizontal and vertical numbers very slightly, resulting in an average of 2,391 LW/PH."

    For the Pan G2.
    "The uncorrected resolution figures are 2,333 line widths per picture height in the horizontal direction (corresponding to the vertically-oriented edge), and 2,231 lines along the vertical axis (corresponding to the horizontally-oriented edge), for a combined average of 2,282 LW/PH. Correcting to a "standardized" sharpening with a one-pixel radius decreased both horizontal and vertical numbers a fair bit, resulting in an average of 1,730 LW/PH. (This reflects the fact that the G2's images are technically a bit oversharpened at the default sharpness setting.)"
  13. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    That's Sony understatement for you. Most manufacturers make bold exaggerated claims. Sony does the opposite. They included the microprism sensor in the C3 and didn't say a peep about it. Every other company would have at least made it a bullet item. Sony just snuck it in. For short registration distance lenses, the microprism sensors are a big improvement.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    If m4/3 sensors are "oversharpened", then why do they show no artifacts where other systems are consistently showing artifacts? :confused:  I have seen high-ISO images shot out of Micro Four-Thirds cameras cleaned up with noise-reduction and they look just as smooth as high-ISO images straight out of Sony NEX cameras, but retain more detail. Sony is doing a lot more processing than you know. Micro Four-Thirds does some too, but so does everybody else... Micro Four-Thirds is the least of the culprits.
  15. taran

    taran Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 19, 2011
    You can get good shots with both systems. I love manual legacy lenses, cheap and prolific, with tons of garbage glass to choose from on eBay. As a disciple of the Daido Moriyama aesthetic, this works well for me, and I choose NEX because of peaking.

    But the Olympuses are incredible as well. They are very fast when compared to NEX, as has already been mentioned. Focus blackout is just better on the Oly side of things. The E-PL3 has allowed me to do some of my best photographic work, the fit and finish is excellent, and it is extremely durable, feeling more solid than the NEX-3 series (don't have the 5 series so I cannot comment).

    Overall I do not envy the choice, but then again, the celebration is in the choice, as we are, in my mind, in the golden age of photography.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    Can you post an example of that? I really don't think I've seen anything of the sort. Here is comparison of the GF2 and the NEX 3 at ISO 6400. GF2 on the left, NEX 3 on the right. Look at the dark blue in the middle. On the GF2 shot, you can't even tell there is a pattern, it's just noise. In the NEX 3 shot, you can tell there is actually a pattern there.

    Here's the link to the GF2 image if you'd like to try your hand at cleaning it up. Yes, I wish it was raw but it's not.

    Attached Files:

  17. applemint

    applemint Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 24, 2012
    I have a Nex 5 and an Olympus E-PL1 - while I like them both (and both have their flaws) I use the Nex mostly for low light (with 16mm lens) and for using legacy lenses as I like the focus 'peaking'. I also quite like using the Nex and 16mm lens for short videos and using legacy glass for videos also creates a 'look' which I like.

    I wanted a pocketable camera I could take to gigs for taking stills and short video clips (of acoustic stuff, anything else sounds distorted) and the Nex fits that task (although the 16mm is a bit restrictive - you usually have to take shots of the whole band rather than portrait shots) :)  My E-Pl1 is a bit too chunky for a jacket pocket when going to gigs and low light auto focus is poor - I realise the EP3, E-PM1, E-PL3 improve on this although I am not sure by how much.

    But for almost everything else, I prefer using the Olympus.

    Anyway, to try and answer your question, as you specifically asked about the Nex with the 16mm - the lens is not as bad as you may think from reading forums etc - it's okay, but certainly no wow factor (have heard that more recent copies as shipped with C3 and 5N kits are slightly better, no idea if this is true but mine is a more recent one bought new split from a kit). The 16mm is also said to perform better on the newer bodies (due to in camera corrections?) so perhaps people are confusing that with better performance from more recent copies of the lens? Anyway - bear that in mind that when looking at older reviews and forums comments on the 16mm. As I said, my 16mm is fine - not awful, not great, just okay.

    Weak points of the Nex have already been pointed out: lack of lenses: (not really an issue for you if you only want the 16mm, although a better quality pancake would be nice, I think one is due only late next year) and the UI, which takes a bit of getting used to and involves too much digging around in menus - I have custom set the side buttons and centre wheel button for iso, white balance, etc which helps to some extent).

    So the camera is nice and portable with the 16mm lens - but I imagine a m43 body (especially the smaller ones like the E-PM1 which you already have) with the 14mm lens (or the 20mm: more useful field of view?) would be just as 'pocketable' and better image quality in most situations (better lens)? I don't yet own either pancake lens though, so cannot offer a personal comparison. As you already have the 14mm lens and the E-PM1 body, $500 seems a lot of money to pay for another lens and camera - just for a sensor which is better in certain situations (like high iso). Also the next generation of Pens are likely to have improved sensors if you are willing to wait?

    Also, if you do want to get a Nex, the older Nex 3 body can be picked up very cheap (used) - in the UK for not much more than £100 to £150 ($160 to $220??).
    • Like Like x 1
  18. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    There's a store demo kit here in the US for $139. Sadly, the store is a few hundred miles away from me.
  19. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    I think we are going off on a tangent here? :biggrin:

    The OP said that he was only interested in using the incl. 16mm and possibly the 30mm NEX macro - both native lenses and no adapted lenses.

    So.... In my opinion, I do not think that NEX is worth adding to your kit, if your interest is only in those two native lenses. I think you have much better native primes at m4/3 that make up for the smaller sensor size. Unless... you just want to try something new, and then it is a fairly inexpensive way to go, and you can always resell.
    • Like Like x 2
  20. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, USA
    I think the NEX sensor is better, but I'm not fond of their overall system implementation. I really don't think they will improve on their lenses, because at the end of the day they still want to push the Alpha system. The NEX to me was just Sony's way of deterring total M43 adoption in the mirrorless market.

    I'd rather put that $499 into more M43 glass!
    • Like Like x 1
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