Sony NEX-C3 hands-on (video)

Sony announced the successor to its NEX-3 digital camera earlier this week, so we decided to take a post-E3 road trip down to the electronics maker's US headquarters in San Diego to check out the $599 NEX-C3 for ourselves. We'll analyze the new sensor's image quality in a full review before the camera hits stores later this summer, but from our initial impressions, the new cam appears to offer fairly minor tweaks compared to its predecessor. It's incredibly small for a camera with an APS-C sensor -- perhaps even awkwardly so, when paired with the comparatively massive 18-55mm kit lens or Sony's enormous 18-200mm optic -- but not small enough to be any less functional than the previous iteration. Like the NEX-3, the camera was designed to be held by resting the lens on your left palm, rather than by the grip, so size isn't likely to be an issue. Cosmetic changes include a magnesium alloy top panel, front microphone positioning, and a more efficient display hinge, which helped reduce the camera's thickness. We'll be posting a full review in several weeks, but jump past the break for more observations, and a hands-on video from Sony HQ, shot with the NEX-C3.%Gallery-126159%

There's also separate battery and SD card compartments, and Sony claims a 20-percent improvement in battery life, using the same battery as the previous model. While there aren't many new features for DSLR vets, mid-range cam newbies will benefit most from the camera's UI improvements, which includes Sony's Photo Creativity interface. The new tool simplifies advanced settings, labeling aperture adjustments as Background Defocus, for example, with "Crisp" representing a smaller aperture, and "Defocus" representing a larger aperture with shallow depth of field. Advanced users will benefit from custom key settings (also available with the latest firmware for NEX-3 and NEX-5 models), which let you assign specific functions to four-way buttons on the selection wheel. Overall, the settings menu hasn't improved, so you'll still need to dig around to format the SD card, among other frequently used options. There's plenty more to share about the NEX-C3, which we'll be testing over the next few weeks, so check back later this summer for our complete analysis.