Sony NEX-3N review: Hands-on

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The Sony NEX-3N is the brand's new entry-level compact system camera

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The Sony NEX-3N is a compact system camera for beginners, but does it offer enough to take on its main rivals?

The Sony NEX-3N is the brand's new entry level compact system camera, replacing the existing Sony NEX-F3. According to Sony, this is the world's smallest, lightest interchangeable lens camera featuring both an APS-C sensor and a pop-up flash.

Following on from the successful launch of the mid-range Sony NEX-5R, the new model is aimed at those who are stepping up from a digital compact camera for the first time as well as those who are looking to replace their entry-level DSLRs with something a little more portable. It's set to go head to head with the likes of the Nikon 1 J2 and Nikon 1 J3 and the Panaosnic Lumix G3.

Sony NEX-3N: Size and build

The new model has been given a makeover to give it more of a premium look that its predecessor, streamlining the chassis in the process. The camera weighs in at 210g so it's light enough to carry around all day but no do light that it'll overbalance as soon as you attach a lens.

Unlike the NEX-5R, the new model sports a pop-up flash. Sony has also added a zoom lever around the power button - a feature that's set to please the people trading up from basic digital compacts who want to keep things simple. The NEX-3N will be available in black, white and er, pink.

The new SELP1650 kit lens is half the length of the previous SELP1855 lens.

Sony NEX-3N: Features

Sony is making things easier for beginners by including its Auto Object Framing technology. This will automatically frame portrait and macro shots for you, using the rule of thirds to pick out the best composition and crop out the rest of the image. There's also a tracking mode that can detect the direction that a subject is moving in so that it knows how best to frame it.

Sony NEX-3N: Screen

The NEX-3N features a new 180-degree tiltable screen. Not only does that mean that you can adjust the screen when trying to take awkward shots (such as overhead in a crowd, or close to the ground), it also means that you can even see the screen when taking self-portraits.

As on the NEX-5R, there's a delay of of about three seconds between pressing the shutter button and the photo being taken to give you a chance to hold it steady and strike a pose.

Sony NEX-3N: Picture quality

The new 16.1-megapixel sensor works alongside a new BIONZ processing engine to offer improved image quality over the NEX-3N's predecessor, while the ISO range remains the same at 100-16,000. We reeled off a few test shots in our limited time with the camera, all of which looked pretty decent, but obviously we'll reserve judgement until we can get a full review model in at T3 HQ.

Sony NEX-3N : Verdict

At first glance, the Sony NEX-3N looks like a worthy successor to the NEX-F3, with the re-designed chassis, new processor, additional zoom lever, and Auto Object Framing mode offering compelling reasons to buy. Stay tuned for a full review.

Sony NEX-3N release date: Mid-March 2013

Sony NEX-3N price: £400 (with kit lens), £600 (twin lens bundle)