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(Pocket-lint) - Sony's refreshed its entry level NEX camera, updating the NEX-F3 with the new - and smaller - NEX-3N model. And Pocket-lint was on hand to take a gander at the latest compact system camera.

Spec-wise there aren't masses of differences compared to the previous model. Under the hood the NEX-3N has the same 16.1-megapixel APS-C-sized CMOS sensor as its predecessor: indeed, it's the very same sensor but now equipped with the same area-specific noise-reduction system and pulled from the top-spec Alpha A99 model. The NEX-3N can also produce images from ISO 200 through to ISO 16,000 thanks to its updated processing which, according to Sony, will stick it a step ahead of its predecessor.


READ: Sony Alpha A99 review

But the NEX-3N isn't really all about specs. It's all about what Sony's managed to do with the exterior. Sit it side by side with the F3 and it's immediately clear how shrunken the latest NEX-3N is.

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Packaged up with the 16-50mm power zoom lens the overall camera size is kept all the more trim. The lens extends only when the camera is switched on - much like a compact camera in many respects.

Equally compact-like is the inclusion of a new zoom toggle around the shutter button itself. It works well, although it is very close to the on/off switch and doesn't look hugely dissimilar - we think Sony should have opted for a power button coupled with the zoom toggle instead. Still, only a minor point.

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If the zoom toggle doesn't take your fancy then the 16-50mm lens can also be rotated on the barrel just like a normal DSLR or compact system camera lens. It's got every angle covered.

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On the rear the 3N's tilt-angle screen is a touch less chunky and also sits flush with the base of the camera but with a slight gap behind, so it's even easier to pull upwards into its new position. It's even possible for it to face forward for self-portrait shots. We're not vain, honest.

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Also on board is Triluminous colour support for displaying rich colour images on Bravia tellies, an HDMI-D output port that's even smaller than the common HDMI-C type, and a brand new Auto Object Framing mode which updates Sony's Auto Portrait Framing option.

We weren't able to delve into the depth of the Auto Object Framing mode, but it's designed to recognise specific object shapes - say, a flower, for example - as well as moving objects of different sizes and their direction of travel in order to discern where to auto crop into the frame. Could be a bit gimmicky, but each to their own.

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Differences may be small, but small is the operative word when it comes to the NEX-3N. And we don't just mean the physical size: the price tag is a very impressive £400 and that includes the 16-50mm power zoom lens in the box. Blimey, we can't think of anything else priced that competitively on the market.

Looks like the mighy Sony compact system camera is taking yet another step towards even better things. We'll be bringing a full review closer to the model's official release in mid-March.

Writing by Mike Lowe.
Sections Sony Cameras