Up the stakes to ISO 6400 and there’s a loss of edge sharpness and the introduction of mottled, slightly chunky grain, but images are still printable, if not ideal candidates for heavy crops. Only ISO 12800 is significantly less than usable, with sharpness blown to the wind and heavy chroma noise making shots look more like cameraphone snaps circa 2003.
Long shot: Sony's 70-200mm F2.8 G series lens attached using the LA-EA1 adapter
If I had reservations about anything relating to the NEX-C3’s image quality, they came from the lens, which has some obvious weak points. This isn't surprising from a kit lens, but does underline that if you can find the NEX-C3 with either body-only or with a higher-end lens, you should get that. For one thing, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 displays obvious barrel distortion at 18mm.
Barrel distortion can be aesthetically desirable in some rather niche circumstances, but at a less than super-wide 18mm it's really unwelcome. The lens also softens up dramatically when you get it away from its sweet-spot, which is around the f/5.6-f/11 mark.
16mm pancake and 18-35mm zoom kit lenses
Drop it to its smallest f/32 (for long, filterless daytime exposures, for instance) and you'll swear the camera’s autofocus has wandered off, so soft are the pictures. On the plus side, the kit lens’s image stabilisation (Optical Steady Shot or OSS in Sony-speak) system is really good - with a bit of practice I was handholding shots at 1” with decent results.
There are some desirable lenses in Sony’s NEX catalogue, such as the 16mm f/1.8 “pancake” lens, or the 50mm f/1.8. The bad news is that this extra kit is expensive. The 50mm costs more than £200; the 16mm wide-angle the thick end of £130. Wildlife and sports fans are poorly catered for; the longest E-mount lens currently made by Sony is the 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3.
Made to measure: Alpha SEL18200 E-mount 18-200mm lens
The length is reasonable for sports days and visits to the zoo, but the minuscule f-stop at the long end of the lens is going to have you reaching for the extremities of the ISO range when faced with less than perfect light. You can always opt for the LA-EA1 adapter, which allows you to mount Alpha-mount lenses and gives you access to a far larger library of glass, albeit at the cost of nearly £200 and, in some cases, autofocus.
Next page: Good for your image?
It's diffraction limiting...
I'd suggest a lesson in basic lens theory for the reviewer. The reason that f/32 is soft is nothing at all to do with the quality of the lens, but is just a function of the small aperture size. Any lens stopped down to F/32 (if that's an available setting) will exhbit the same effect. It's caused by the diffraction of the small aperture. In fact a 16MP APS-C sensor will gradually suffer increased levels of diffraction softening from around f11 onwards. By f32 it will be severe as the Airy disc covers about 8 pixels.
I still don't get this category. Zoom, super zoom and bridge cameras seem much more appropriate for the intended market.
Re: Buy a cheap DSLR
Sorry John, here's the big red flag back at ya. I don't see where Tony asked for cheap or "not too big". Considering "too big" is very much a personal matter and I might even surmise the smallest cheap DSLR is "too big". A quick look online shows a Rebel T3 priced nearly the same as the NEX-C3 but I'd say it wasn't small enough.
Personally speaking, the Lumix gf3 has both the missus and me wanting to take more pictures because it's something that can easily carry every day as small is my main concern. Oh, this may come as a shock but I only carry a single lens; I have others that I may break out for special occasions like weddings or a vacation to Angkor Wat but mostly it's one lens, the smallest one actually. If one day I am as good as the tool, I'll consider moving up but I expect sensor technology will easily outpace me so I may even get to move to a smaller size camera. I'll finish with the mention that the missus insisted on getting the gf3 (damn my bad luck) after using my g2 because the g2 was "too big" and is capable of taking better pictures than we are.
As a relatively happy dSLR user I'll disagree with you there. A decent EVIL (electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens... not sure if this is a well known term!) camera can take the place of any other sort of camera with the exception of a super compact (it won't ever be as small) and it can perform most camera uses with the exception of sports/fast-paced photojournalism (because the autofocus is too slow).
You can put on a big zoom for wildlife or event photography, you can put on a macro lens that will vastly outperform anything on a non-interchangeable lens camera for small subjects and product photography, you can put on a mid-range lens for 'every day' use, you can put on a wide-aperture fast prime for evening/indoor events where you don't want to use flash. At all other times, you don't need to deal with the inconvenience of the features you don't need (eg, the bulk of a superzoom) and the whole package can still be reasonably discreet (with a pancake prime lens it'll be pocketable).
Like as not you'll end up with better image quality (which is utterly irrelevant for most people, but useful if you're making medium-sized or larger prints) and better low light performance than any smaller sensor digital camera (eg, any of the kinds you listed) and a device which can still do more things and do them better than a combination of super-compact and super-zoom.
"Bridge" cameras look a bit naff by comparison, superzooms too bulky when you don't need the zoom, and normal zooms not particularly versatile. The only thing that might be more useful for most people is a decent super-compact, because you can take it everywhere really easily... and people seem to prefer using their phones for that!
Thanks, El Reg
A proper photo-literate review. ;)
Personally, I can't stick the NEX series; the lenses are so out of proportion with the bodies, and the handling is absolutely terrible - I mean, no mode dial? Only Sony would think that might work for serious photographers.
However, there's no denying that the results are great - it's just that with lenses that size, I'm far from clear on the benefits of having a smaller body. Make both camera and lens pocketable and you hit the jackpot; however, this combo still needs to live outside, so you might as well have a low-end DSLR with all the attendant benefits and not a huge amount more weight.