Sony NEX-C3 Review

August 22, 2011 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

Viewed on a PC, there's an overall softness to the NEX-C3's images that we hadn't expected - a soft sheen rather than digital crispness - which could well be down to the all-purpose nature of the zoom lens we had in for testing as much as sensor performance. Where it didn't disappoint was in the reproduction of colour, an area in which Sony traditionally excels. The warmly saturated colours most closely reminded us of the performance of Panasonic's G-series, while the Sweep Panorama images are a definite improvement on the video grab-style results we'd formerly seen from Cyber-shot point and shoots. It would be even nicer to see the recently introduced High Resolution mode make its way onto the NEX series.

With sharp results eminently achievable when shooting handheld at the maximum telephoto of the kit zoom - and even at night-time thanks to the handheld Night Shot mode unexpectedly found within the scene mode options which fires a brief rapid burst of images to compensate for shake - at maximum wideangle there is some slight barrel distortion, but this is not overly distracting. Edge to edge sharpness is similarly reasonable, though - another Sony regular - pixel fringing does make an appearance between areas of high contrast.

In terms of low light photography the NEX-C3 does very well, despite the modest increase in megapixels. Noise is fairly unobtrusive all the way up to ISO 6400, the look of the image at that high-ish setting as good as results taken at ISO 800 on a standard compact, and beating most of the compact system camera competition. This suggests ISO 12800 as not a stretch too far, and so it proves. Inevitably you're getting a noisier image but not one that's very noticeably much softer. Thus low light shooters have broader options at their disposal, and spec that isn't just there for spec's sake.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Sony NEX-C3. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)


ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Sony NEX-C3 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

16M Fine (4.9Mb) (100% Crop) 16M Standard (3.65Mb) (100% Crop)
16M RAW (16.2Mb) (100% Crop)  


The flash settings on the Sony NEX-C3 are Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow sync and Rear flash sync, with Red-eye reduction available in the Main Menu. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (18mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (18mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (55mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (55mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Neither the Auto setting or the Red-eye reduction mode caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye reduction

Red-eye reduction (100% Crop)


The Sony NEX-C3's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds and there's also a Bulb mode for even longer exposures, which is excellent news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 15 seconds at ISO 200.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Hand-held Twilight

In the Hand-held Twilight mode the NEX-C3 takes six high-ISO photos in rapid succession and combines them into a single image.

Manual Mode (ISO 200, 15 seconds) Hand-held Twilight Mode (ISO 6400, 1/15th second)
Manual Mode (100% Crop) Hand-held Twilight Mode (100% Crop)

Dynamic Range Optimizer

D-Range Optimiser (DRO) is Sony's solution to improve shadow detail in photos taken in contrasty light.



High Dynamic Range

High Dynamic Range Optimiser (HDR) is Sony's solution for capturing more contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining two exposures into one image.



Intelligent Sweep Panorama Mode

The Sony NEX-C3 allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and even successfully compensates for moving subjects.

Download the Full Size Image
Download the Full Size Image

3D Sweep Panorama Mode

There's also an additional 3D Sweep Panorama mode on the virtual on-screen shooting dial alongside the regular (2D) Sweep Panorama. If you're lucky enough to own a compatible 3D HDTV, download the samples below to experience the full 3D effect.

Download the Full Size Image
Download the MPO File

Creative Styles

There are 6 Creative Style preset effects that you can use to change the look of your images.









Picture Effects

Just like Olympus and Panasonic, the Sony NEX-C3 now offers a range of eleven creative Picture Effects.

Posterization (Color)

Posterization (B/W)


Pop Color



Partial Color (Red)

Partial Color (Green)


Partial Color (Blue)

Partial Color (Yellow)


High Key

High Contrast Monochrome


Toy Camera