Sony Alpha NEX-C3 - Quality

Quality

Sony Alpha NEX-C3 vs Panasonic Lumix GF3 vs Olympus Pen E-PL3 Resolution

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To compare real-life performance when zoomed-out, we shot this scene with the Sony Alpha NEX-C3, the Panasonic Lumix GF3, and the Olympus Pen E-PL3 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The lenses on each camera were set to approximately the same field of view and all three cameras were set to Aperture priority exposure mode.

The ISO sensitivity was manually set to the lowest available setting, 200 ISO on the NEX-C3 and Pen E-PL3 and 160 ISO on the Lumix GF3.

  Sony Alpha NEX-C3
1 Alpha NEX-C3 Resolution
2 Alpha NEX-C3 Noise
3 Alpha NEX-C3 Sample Images

The image above was taken with the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 with the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens lens.The lens was zoomed in ever so slightly to 19mm to provide the same field of view as 14-42mm kit lenses on the two Micro Four Thirds cameras. In Aperture priority mode with f5.6 selected the camera metered a shutter speed of 1/1000 at 200 ISO. The original image size was 7.47MB. The crops are taken from the areas marked with red rectangles and presented here at 100%.

The NEX-C3 has ever so slightly overexposed this shot. The error is about a third of a stop at most, and there’s very little highlight clipping, but the histogram is clipped on the right side with a little bit of vacant space on the left and you can see by comparing the crops it’s a little lighter than the results from the Lumix GF3 and Pen E-PL3. Overall the colour looks a little bit undersaturated, but, if it isn’t to your liking that can easily be fixed either by selecting the Vivid Creative style or boosting the saturation on the default Standard.

The detail in the NEX-C3 crops is larger than from the two Micro Four Thirds models at the same focal length and horizontal field of view because the NEX-C3’s 16.2 megapixel sensor has a 4 Megapixel advantage. The NEX-C3’s maximum image size has 4912 horizontal pixels compared with 4000 on the Lumix GF3 and Pen E-PL3. But is it any clearer? I think so, but there isn’t a lot in it. In the first crop there is good detail in the chapel and you can clearly make out the doors and windows as well as the crosses on the roof.

In the second crop, the lighthouse is a clear and distinct white cylinder and you can also make out some detail in the rocks, but the windows and roofs of the foreground buildings look a little bit on the soft side. Moving to the third crop taken from the very edge of the frame, the detail here is a little soft as well and there’s red fringing on the vertical edge of the window frame and the drainpipe.

The final crop is the best in terms of image detail and edge crispness. The balcony dividers, the roof skylight and the ridge tiles on the roofs in the foreground about halfway up the frame all show a very good level of detail. Overall, this is an excellent performance from the NEX-C3 and banishes any concerns that the hike from 14.2 to 16.2 Megapixels might have had a detrimental effect on image quality. I’d have preferred to see a slighly punchier result from the NEX-C3’s processing which a little more contrast and saturation, but as I said earlier, you can always use the Creative Style options to tweak it to your own liking, or shoot RAW and do your own processing.

Compared with the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 the Panasonic Lumix GF3 crops hold their own very well. The NEX-C3’s much bigger sensor allows it to capture more light and offer better noise performance. Sony has ‘spent’ some of this advantage on packing in more pixels, 16.2 compared with the GF3’s 12.1 Megapixels, but you’d still expect a better result from the NEX-C3 and it delivers it, just about. Despite slight over-exposure, the image detail from the NEX-C3 crops is not only larger, but a little clearer than those of the Lumix G3. Like the GF3, the NEX-C3’s kit lens suffers a little from softness at the frame adge as well as Chromatic aberration.

In terms of resolution of fine detail though, it’s the Olympus E-PL3 that really shines in this comparison. Right from the off the Pen E-PL3 crops are punchier with sharper edge detail and none of the softness evident to a degree in both the Lumix GF3 and NEX-C3 crops. If you look closely you can see a small amount of purple fringing in the third Pen E-PL3 crop. It could also be argued that the high contrast and sharpness has come at the cost of a slight brittleness to the look of the E-PL3 crops, but you’d have to be really looking for something to criticise. Whichever way you look at it the Pen E-PL3 crops are very impressive indeed.

Now let’s see how they compare at higher sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results.

 
Sony NEX-C3
 
Panasonic Lumix GF3
 
Olympus Pen E-PL3
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 160 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO


Sony Alpha NEX-C3 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise

Sony Alpha NEX-C3 vs Panasonic Lumix GF3 vs Olympus Pen E-PL3

Noise

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  Sony Alpha NEX-C3
1 Alpha NEX-C3 Resolution
2 Alpha NEX-C3 Noise
3 Alpha NEX-C3 Sample Images

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Sony Alpha NEX-C3, Panasonic Lumix GF3, and Olympus Pen E-PL3 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

All three cameras were set to Program auto exposure mode and the lenses were set to approximately the same field of view. The ISO sensitivity was set manually.

The above shot was taken with the the Sony NEX-C3 in Program auto mode. The 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens was zoomed in slightly to provide the same field of view as 14-42mm kit lenses on the two Micro Four Thirds cameras, the sensitivity was set to 200 ISO and the exposure was 0.6 of a second at f3.5. The crops are taken from the area marked with the red square and presented below at 100%.

At its base 200 ISO setting, the NEX-C3 crop is clean and well detailed with no visible noise. Like the outdoor real-life resolution crops, it looks a little soft to me, but I’d rather this than agressive processing. At 400 ISO there’s a slight texture to the detail, but it doesn’t look digital and the quality of the image detail remains very good.

At 800 and 1600 ISO the granularity increases in more or less equal steps, but even at 1600 ISO these crops look good. It’s not that they lack noise, but there’s less of it than you’d expect at this ISO sensitivity setting and the processing of it has been very well judged to produce a result that avoids either the smearing or the harshness that usually mars images taken at this high a sensitivity setting.

If you’re used to seeing our high ISO noise test results for compact cameras, particularly for 16 Megapixel models, the crops from the Sony Alpha NEX-C3 will look pretty impressive. Like any digital camera, the NEX-C3 produces more noise at higher ISO sensitivity settings, but the crucial question is how much more? The answer in the case of the NEX-C3 is not too much, or to put it another way, less than comparable models.

Compared with the Sony NEX-C3 the Lumix GF3 crops start out well. At the lower ISO sensitivities there really isn’t a great deal in it, if anything the NEX-C3 crops look a little softer than those from the GF3. But as you climb the sensitivity range the NEX-C3’s bigger sensor advantage becomes more and more apparent. At 400 ISO the Sony crops, though still a little softer than the GF3’s nonetheless show a little more detail and at 800 ISO where noise is making a clearly visible impact on the GF3, the NEX-C3 is still keeping it well in hand. But it’s in the mid to high range where the NEX-C3s advantage really begins to tell and at 3200 ISO there’s at least a stop of difference between the high ISO noise performance of the two sensors.

The Olympus Pen E-PL3 metering opted for slightly longer exposures than both the NEX-C3 and Lumix GF3 and as a result its a little easier to see the detail (and the noise) in the E-PL3 crops. At 200 ISO it’s too close to call, though arguably the Pen E-PL3 has the better of it. Beyond 400 ISO though, the NEX-C3’s bigger sensor advantage begins to tell. There’s still very good detail in the E-PL3 crops, but it’s being maintained by image processing that’s becoming just a little bit intrusive, certainly compared to the NEX-C3 crops.

Another thing worth bearing in mind if good low light performance is important to you is that the NEX-C3 has two composite low light modes shown in the final two crops. Hand-held Twilight and Anti Motion Blur both provide a significant improvement in image quality over what you’d get in a single-shot mode with a high ISO setting. We’ve included the Pen E-PL3’s (non-composite) DIS low light mode for comparison.

Now head over to our Sony NEX-C3 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Sony NEX-C3
 
Panasonic Lumix GF3
 
Olympus Pen E-PL3
160 ISO Not available
160 ISO
160 ISO Not available
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
12800 ISO
12800 ISO Not available
12800 ISO
Anti Motion Blur 6400 ISO
Dis scene mode 3200 ISO
Hand-held Twilight 6400 ISO

Sony Alpha NEX-C3 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise

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