The Sony NEX-C3 at a glance:

  • 16.2-million-pixel CMOS sensor
  • New auto+ mode
  • ISO 200-12,800
  • 7 new picture effects
  • 3D Sweep Panorama
  • Focus ‘peaking’ confirmation
  • Expected RRP of 630 Euros in Europe when available in August

When Sony launched the NEX system with the NEX-3 and NEX-5 last year, it caused a stir in the compact system camera (CSC) market. Both models featured 14.2-million-pixel sensors, crammed inside the smallest CSC bodies available at the time.The ‘C’ designation of this new model stands for compact and, by shaving a few millimetres off the NEX-5, the NEX-C3 is now the smallest CSC available, yet it features an imposing 16.2-million-pixel APS-C sensor.

A CSC with more than 16 million pixels is not in itself of overwhelming significance; after all, Panasonic has achieved this using a smaller micro four thirds-format sensor. Instead, it is the technology behind the sensor that will be of great interest to many photographers. This is because the NEX-C3’s sensor is a tweaked version of the one used in the Sony Alpha 55, which means it also shares much of the same technology as the base Sony sensor found in the Nikon D7000 and the Pentax K-5.

As we explored in our sensor comparison test of the Alpha 55, D7000 and K-5 and our feature on the death of ISO (both AP 30 April), this 16.2-million-pixel sensor has excellent noise control and a good dynamic range. Using it in a compact system camera shows how serious Sony is about this area of the market, and if the sensor performs as well as it does in the other cameras, the NEX-C3 could offer some serious competition to the Samsung NX100 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2.

However, the original NEX models do not handle particularly well if you make regular adjustments to the shooting settings. Although this was partially rectified with the introduction of new firmware for both cameras, if the NEX-C3 wants to be taken seriously by enthusiast photographers it needs to demonstrate some real improvement in how it handles compared to its two predecessors.

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