Sony NEX-3

Why I returned the NEX-3

Written by Gail Bjork

Hopefully my reasons for returning the Sony NEX will help others in their purchasing decision regarding this very fine digital camera.

It was with deep regret that I returned the Sony NEX-3, a very fine camera. It was a pleasure to hold and I couldn’t be more happy with its excellent image quality.

In many ways, the NEX-3 has more in common with compact digital cameras than digital single lens reflex cameras. It has a single turn-and-click Control Wheel and a pair of Soft Keys that are used to change settings and modes via menus.

Because I was unaware that there was a firmware update until after I returned the camera, I had to dig deeply into the menu system to access a number of settings. For example, it took about 33 presses on the dial to access the format menu!

NEX-3 text/simplicity not for me

This is an actual photograph of the Sony NEX-3 LCD taken outside in bright light. Unlike other digital cameras I've owned, the text was barely visible.

Hard to read settings

The main flaw was the difficulty viewing camera settings on the LCD because of the small text. This  often occurred when taking outside shots, which I do 95% of the time. When bright outside and/or a scene was light, I could barely read the text such as when changing Exposure Compensation.

The NEX needs slightly larger and bolder text similar to my Canon s90. I’ve owned many digital cameras and never experienced this.

The text problem alone would have caused me to return the camera. But there is another reason.

NEX-3 simplicity

The very simplicity of the NEX-3 was disappointing. The NEX was to be a replacement for my DSLR not simply a compact camera with DSLR image quality.

I longed for a more external buttons and controls such as those on my Canon s90, which is much smaller than the Sony NEX. I need quicker, more direct access to key camera settings. Surely there is room for a few more buttons on the NEX.

Waiting for the next NEX

For those who want a smallish, simple-to-use camera with interchangeable lenses and DSLR image quality, the NEX may be just what you’re looking for. It’s a fine digital camera.

Personally, I’ll wait. Hopefully the next generation of the Sony NEX will better accommodate the needs of long-time photo enthusiasts that have similar expectations.

UPDATE: The latest versions of the NEX cameras are the NEX-5N and NEX-7. The latter has just about all the bells and whistles a photo enthusiast could want, however the price is quite high.

Note: I also returned the NEX because it had a defect that appeared in the right-hand corner of some photos. The defect is shown below, a small crop from the full photo:

Defect visible in some photos


About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.


  • alan, the problem I had was small size of the text that appeared on the LCD when using it to compose shots. It’s the tiniest point size I’ve ever seen and I’ve owned many digital cameras. Remember, I’m not talking about text size when navigating menus, but while taking actual photos.

  • alan, it’s been a while but, if I remember correctly, with the old version of the firmware, it took 33 presses to get to the format menu. It’s a moot point now since, as pointed out in the article, the recent firmware updates have greatly improved the camera menu.

    Many of the key settings on the s90 can be changed by external buttons and dials. The front control dial can be programmed as can the shortcut button (which I programmed to AE Lock because I use it a lot. I don’t recall that the NEX has AE/AF or Flash lock).

    The NEX wins hands down on sensor size, and it’s quite small considering it takes interchangeable lenses. Hopefully more compact lenses for the NEX will come to market in the future. Depending on what other new models camera manufacturers offer, the NEX could very well be my NEXt camera. 🙂

  • Also, you can change the LCD brightness settings. I’ve never found it hard to read, even in bright sunlight. In fact, your screen photo is much dimmer than your previous bright, clear shot of the menu for some reason. The NEX’s LCD quality is class-leading.

  • Thanks for the response Gail. 33 presses to do what exactly? In any version of the firmware one press of button-A opens the Menu and from there ANY function is only 2 or 3 presses away eg Menu *press* > Color/Brightness *press* > scroll to ISO *press* > dial your desired ISO value *press* > done!

    Of course since V3/4 it’s even easier, with 3-option customisable center button (mine has ISO, White Balance, HDR). No more Menu diving!  In Manual mode aperture and shutter speed are either “on” for instant dialing or one click-toggle away. In S or A mode the relevant value is dialable, but with EV compensation toggleable. In P mode EV is always dialable. Really, what else do you need? I guess a Mode button would be nice, but i set that up once per shoot typically after i switch on, so it’s not a big deal, and the menu remembers where you last were and takes you there. It’s not perfect, but it’s close to transparent in use, like any good user interface!

    What features has the tiny-sensor S90 that the NEX doesn’t have?

  • alan, as pointed out in the article, my camera did not come with firmware v3, which I know significantly improves the menu system. I was unaware before returning the camera that there was a firmware update. And, yes, it took 33 presses! I returned the camera because of a lens defect, then decided not to replace it for the reasons also stated in the article. My tiny s90 has more features and customizations than the NEX3, and I want those features in a camera. The Sony NEX is a very fine camera but it’s not for everyone. Glad you like yours.

  • 33 presses ? Come on, admit it, that was because you couldn’t find what you were looking for and went through every option! No option is more than 3 clicks away, and since firmware v3 this camera is a dream of good usability with customisable buttons so ISO, WB, HDR etc are all accessible on screen without menu diving! I’m talking as someone who’s never used the auto modes, fully manual DSLR-like use only. Plus you get auto-magnification focus assist, live WYSIWYG preview always, live focus peaking coming next week’s v4 upgrade, new & adaptable legacy lenses!!