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CNET First Look
Photos, price impress on this slow, faux dSLRIf you're just looking for better photo quality than a point-and-shoot on a really tight budget, but not better performance, the Sony Alpha A3000 meets that criterion.
-Hi. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Sony A3000. The A3000 also known as the ILCE-3000. Sony's attempt to hit the $400 suit spot of pricing for a cute with 18 to 55 millimeter lens and a camera that seemingly has everything that people stepping up from a point-and-shoot one. It's basically a mirrorless interchangeable lens model for point-and-shooters who want a full peep up and possibly themselves into thinking it's a DSLR. But while it produces really good photos for the money, it doesn't deliver on the other aspects of DSLR shooting. Most notably performance that you can get for just a little more money on a real DSLR. Like the Canon SL1, the A3000 is lighter and more compact than a typical SLR. It's a good size for your dainty lady hands. Now the grip is better designed than the SL1s to accommodate big old man hands as well. Sony achieved the small size by using the mirrorless innards of the NEX Series and that lines aim out lenses. It's not a particularly attractive camera but it's functional if clanky. You have to delve into the annoying menus for most options. Though it offer some higher end features like a hot shoe and an electronic viewfinder, the viewfinder is small course and has poor color accuracy. The 2.7-inch LCD is cheap, extremely low resolution and really difficult to see in direct sunlight if you're even a little off angle. The one nice aspect of the design is the location of the SD card slot, intelligently placed on the left side instead of inside the battery compartment. The performance drives home that this isn't a DSLR or even a midrange ILC. The auto focus is pretty sluggish and its burst shooting tops out at about 2.6 frames per second, neither of which is really sufficient for photographing active kids or pets if you want anything more reliable than just the occasional happy accident. But the image quality is definitely better than almost anything you'll find for less than $400. Unsurprising, since works and all it still incorporates Sony's excellent 20.1-megapixel Exmor HD sensor and solid JPEG processing. You can usually get nice photos as high as ISO 800 and in some cases is high as ISO 1600. The video is pretty good as well but it's the same artifacts I see elsewhere, most noticeably jaggies on edges but I see those problems in far more expensive cameras too. The A3000 supports full manual controls and video mode plus manual focus picking and doesn't force you into specific movie mode to use them. There's also a built-in stereo microphone which is rare in this price class. On the other hand, it's limited to 60i or 24p for real HD video. That's about it for the interesting features though. It's pretty no frills with the most basic effects options. The A3000 feels like camera intended to be a transitional buy. A step up in image quality but designed to make you yearn for faster performance than another camera. So, just jump up directly to something else instead. I'm Lori Grunin and this is the Sony Alpha A-3000.