Sony Alpha A3000 review: Photos, price impress on this slow, faux dSLR

In video you can use continuous or tracking autofocus, which work fine -- about the same as other inexpensive cameras. The tracking AF is a tad annoying, since you have to go into the menus every time to turn it on and initally frame your subject in the center of the screen, plus it's as likely to jump subjects as most tracking AF implementations.

Just as problematic, the LCD and the electronic viewfinder are, well, bad. Worse than on a typical point-and-shoot. The LCD is extremely low resolution given its size, which makes it difficult to tell if your shot's in focus, and it's nearly impossible to view off-angle in direct sunlight. The EVF is tiny and the colors are off.

Design and features
Lighter than a dSLR but significantly heavier than the more compact ILCs, the best aspects of the A3000's design are the relatively big grip, large stereo microphone and placement of the memory-card slot on the left side rather than in the battery compartment. On top there's a hot shoe, a rare feature at this price, button that toggles between the viewfinder and the LCD, a mode dial with the usual manual, semimanual and automatic modes (actually two auto modes, auto and even-more-auto) plus panorama, and a playback button. I have to say: you really don't appreciate the eye sensor on higher-end models until you're forced to manually toggle.

On the back is the EVF, a big, nicely placed movie record button, a surprisingly slippery unrubberized thumb rest and NEX-like controls. The latter consist of ISO sensitivity, drive mode, exposure compensation and display options, though they're all reprogrammable. The two buttons above and below the adjustment dial are context sensitive, with soft labels that appear on the LCD.

The NEX menu system is deceptively complicated. Though it's broken out into big, friendly categories at the top level, once you're another level in it's hard to quickly find the settings you're looking for. However, it does remember the last place you were in every submenu, which is nice.

  Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Canon EOS Rebel T3 Nikon D3200 Sony Alpha ILCE-3000
(A3000)
Sony Alpha NEX-3N Sony Alpha SLT-A58
Sensor effective resolution 18MP Hybrid CMOS II 12.2MP CMOS 24.2MP CMOS 20.1MP Exmor HD CMOS 16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS 20.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
22.3 x 14.9mm 22 x 14.7mm 23.2 x 15.4mm 23.5 x 15.6mm 23.5 x 15.6mm 23.2 x 15.4mm
Focal - length multiplier 1.6x 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 (exp)/
200 - ISO 6400/ 12800 (exp)
ISO 100 - ISO 16000 ISO 200 - ISO 16000 ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Burst shooting 4fps
8 raw/ unlimited JPEG
3fps raw/2fps JPEG
5 raw/ unlimited JPEG
4fps
n/a
2.5fps
5 raw + JPEG/ 13 JPEG
(3.5fps with fixed exposure)
2.5fps
5 raw/9 JPEG
n/a
5fps
6 raw/7 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag) Optical
95% coverage
0.85x/0.53x
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/ 0.50x

Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/ 0.53x

EVF
0.5 inch/ 201,600 dots
100% coverage
0.70x/0.59x
None OLED EVF
0.5 inch/ 480,000 dots
100% coverage
0.88x/0.59x
Autofocus 9-pt AF
center cross-type;
31-point contrast AF
9-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type
25-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF 15-pt phase-detection
3 cross-type
AF sensitivity -0.5 to 18 EV 0 - 18 EV -1 to 19 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV -1 to 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4000 to 30 seconds; bulb; 1/160 x-sync 30-1/4000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync 1/4000 to 30 seconds; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 63-zone iFCL 63-zone iFCL 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 1200 zone 1200 zone 1200 zone
Metering sensitivity 1 - 20 EV 1 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV n/a
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p None 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p H.264 QuickTime MOV AVCHD
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440 x 1080/30p @ 12Mbps
AVCHD
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440 x 1080/30p @ 12Mbps
AVCHD 1080/60i/ 50i/25p/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Mono; mic input n/a Mono; mic input Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes n/a Yes n/a Yes n/a
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift
LCD size 3-inch fixed touch screen
1.04 MP
2.7-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed
230,400 dots
3-inch tilting
460,800 dots
2.7-inch tilting
460,800 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless flash Yes No Yes No No Yes
Wireless connection No No No No Yes No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 380 shots 700 shots VF/ 220 shots LV 540 shots 480 shots 480 shots 690 shots
Size (WHD, inches) 4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7 5.9 x 3.1 x 3.1 5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.5 4.3 x 2.4 x 1.4 5.1 x 3.8 x 3.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 14.9 17.5 17.6 14.2 7.4 (est) 17.4 (est)
Mfr. price $649.99 (body only) n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
$799.99 (with 18-55mm STM lens) $449.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $699.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $399.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $499.99 (with 16-50mm PZ lens) $549.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Release date April 2013
March 2011 April 2012 September 2013 April 2013 April 2013

The camera has a reasonable, but unexceptional feature set for the money. It's got the boring filter selection from older NEX models and only does 60i or 24p in real HD. It does support manual controls while shooting video, and in fact lets you set the shutter speed to anything you want, which can be nice for special effects -- most cameras stop you at 1/30 second.

For a complete accounting of the A3000's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
I think my biggest issue with the A3000's design is that it's just boring. It's not particularly attractive or streamlined for shooting, and the meh viewfinder and fixed, low-quality LCD made photographing feel more like a chore than I've experienced with recent cameras. Factoring in the mediocre performance, and it's a tough sell. The NEX-3N is available for only $50 more in places and it's a lot more compact with a better LCD. The Nikon D3200 kit can be found for as low as $550 and delivers comparable photo quality, a better LCD, optical viewfinder and much better performance. Sony's HX300 is similarly priced and has a better viewfinder, LCD, performance and a fixed zoom lens that would provide more flexibility for the typical buyer of the A3000 who probably won't buy additional lenses. It can't match the photo quality, though.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5
1.4 
0.4 
0.3 
0.3 
0.2 
Canon EOS Rebel SL1
0.6 
0.2 
0.3 
0.8 
0.3 
Nikon D3200
0.3 
0.6 
0.5 
0.5 
0.3 
Sony Alpha ILCE-3000
1.9 
0.7 
0.7 
0.8 
0.5 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Nikon D3200
3.9 
Sony Alpha ILCE-3000
2.6 

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Mirrorless Digital Camera
  • Optical Zoom 4 x
  • Optical Sensor Type Exmor APS HD CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 20.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer Optical (Steady Shot)
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.6 x 23.5mm