I enjoy collecting old, antique cameras, and find myself needing to avoid antique shops because the temptation to come home with a new goody is really strong. Alas, it’s also much easier to browse online ads and classifides for whatever the heart desires. Usually I’m really good at putting ads to the side, but I came across this one that really caught my attention. It was for an “antique” Sony-N50 for $20.
I’ve used Sony cameras for at least 10 years and never came across an “N50” model. But it was $20, so I was intrigued and went to take a look. It turns out that the camera in question was a Sony NEX-C3 mirrorless.
The Sony NEX-C3 is about 10 years old at this point so, in the age of modern digital cameras, I suppose it could be considered an antique. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was only $20 for the camera, two kit lenses and a battery; adding that I have wanted a mirrorless camera for some time, I happily forked over the $20 and came home with a prize.
There is nothing spectacular about this camera. It has a 16.2 megapixel APS-C sensor; compared to my Sony a58, which has a 20 megapixel sensor, it’s a little smaller. To conserve space and make the camera as thin as possible there are also very few external knobs, buttons, and gadgets; all settings, such as setting ISO, Aperture priority, etc, are all done via the digital display screen. There is also no view finder to peer through; the digital screen is the view finder.
I took it for a walk around the block and down to the stream to test it out. In purely automatic mode it performed well; it takes a decent picture, though I found that I struggled with the auto-focus – it would often focus on an item that I wasn’t expecting, and a surprising number of shots were ruined that way.
At the creek I took a quick snapshot of the running water, and it turned out decent. What I wanted to do next was to take a slightly longer exposed shot to show the running water and found that I struggled finding where to change the settings. Finding the shutter speed and aperture control was easy, but modifying the ISO was just not where I was expecting it to be. Google was able to help me out and I finally had control of the triumverate of exposure control.
The display extrudes and tilts, which is nice, making it easier to take photos from down low or up high. It would be nice if the screen were a touchscreen, though, as currently the only control is a dial and button to scroll through the menu options. I do need to keep reminding myself that this is not a professional camera, and is intended instead as a low-priced mirrorless camera for people who want the flexibility of a dSLR without the high cost. Mission accomplished.
This camera struggled with auto controls in low light. It really struggled, and I wouldn’t have even considered it “low light.” I would have liked to quickly modify the ISO and such to help compensate, but even after finding where the settings were located found it cumbersome to make all the changes. Auto control works really well with ample light, though. I did find, however, that there is a feature that allows auto-focus with fine manual tweaks, which looks to be a nice feature. I will need to play with that soon.
All in all, for $20 I’m thrilled. It’s a nice little camera, feels good in the hands, is not heavy, and is mostly responsive to the touch. If you can use a phone, you can use this camera.