Sony A3000 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Alpha ILCE-A3000
Resolution: 20.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
Kit Lens: 3.06x zoom
18-55mm
(27-83mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
ISO: 100-16000
Shutter: 30-1/4000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 5.0 x 3.6 x 3.3 in.
(128 x 91 x 85 mm)
Weight: 21.3 oz (605 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $400
Availability: 09/2013
Manufacturer: Sony
20.10
Megapixels
Sony E-mount APS-C
size sensor
image of Sony Alpha ILCE-A3000
Front side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A3000 digital camera Back side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A3000 digital camera Top side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A3000 digital camera Left side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A3000 digital camera Right side of Sony Alpha ILCE-A3000 digital camera

Sony A3000 Review -- First Impressions

by and Dave Etchells
Posted

Sony A3000 Review -- 3/4 front view

Since Sony launched its first mirrorless cameras -- the Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5 -- back in early 2010, its E-mount has gone on to become extremely popular. Now that the NEX line has been around for several years, though, the company finds itself faced with a question.

Almost two thirds of step-up buyers are still opting for an SLR-style camera instead of mirrorless. Something more along the lines of what they see the professionals using, in other words. How can it bring them to the E-mount? The answer, it believes, is the brand-new Sony Alpha A3000.

With the 20-megapixel Sony A3000, the company has offered a camera that looks more like a traditional SLR, yet which offers the lens mount of a NEX mirrorless camera. And like a NEX camera, the A3000 forgoes both the bulky, expensive mechanical mirror system found in most SLRs, as well as the Translucent Mirror system found in SLT-series models. By ditching these, Sony has been able to pare pricing down to a new, even more affordable low.

Even though it lacks its predecessor's Translucent Mirror and Alpha lens mount, the Sony A3000 is essentially a replacement for the now-discontinued Alpha A37. It forms the new entry-point to the Alpha A-series line, after all. As the first A-series camera to feature an E-mount (and conversely, the first E-mount camera outside of the NEX series), there's doubtless going to be a little confusion as to just where the A3000 fits in.

But any grumbling about the confusion is given a firm answer when one looks at the pricetag. The new model offers a strong challenge indeed when compared to the entry-point into rivals' product lines. And it's worth noting that here, we're talking about older models such as the Canon T3 and Nikon D3100. Both have been on the market for a long time, and now list for well below their original pricetags at launch. Yet Sony's much newer model is noticeably more affordable than both.

Available from early September 2013, the Sony Alpha A3000 carries a list price of just US$400 -- and that's with an E 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS stabilized kit lens included in the bundle. For step-up buyers, the lower pricetag means money back in their pocket, or spent on their first system accessories.

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The gauntlet in a brand-new entry level price war has just been thrown down. Let's take a tour of the new model.

Sony A3000 Review -- Walkaround

by Mike Tomkins

Sony A3000 Review -- Front view

The Sony A3000 eschews the angular, slightly ungainly styling of the A37, in favor of a rounder, gentler aesthetic that's more similar to the company's other Alpha-series models. It's definitely an entry-level model, though: the first thing you'll notice when you look at the front of the camera is that there's no front dial beneath the shutter button. What you will find is a nice, chunky grip that's sculpted to fit your hand, alongside the Sony E-mount that until now has been found only on NEX-series cameras. At top right of the mount (as seen from behind) is an LED lamp for autofocus assist.

Sony A3000 Review -- Top view

Jump to the top of the body, and things are again very straightforward, as you'd expect in an entry-level camera. The leftmost end of the body is featureless. At center, there's a popup flash strobe and Multi Interface Shoe for external strobes, and between them sits a stereo microphone. A control for switching between the LCD monitor and electronic viewfinder sits just right of the popup flash, and you will certainly be using it, as the entry-level pricetag doesn't allow for the sensor used to provide automatic switching on pricier models. The only other top-deck controls are the Mode dial, Power lever, Shutter button, and Playback button.

Sony A3000 Review -- Back view

On the rear of the Sony A3000, you'll find the interface of a NEX-series camera, rather than that typical of an Alpha A-series model. At right of the three-inch LCD monitor are two soft buttons, split by a combined Four-way controller and Control dial, with another soft button at its center. As in the NEX-series, the functions of the soft buttons change with operating mode, and are indicated on the adjacent LCD panel. And as you'd expect given the pricetag, the LCD is neither articulated, nor does it feature touch functionality. Near the top right corner sits a Movie record button, snugged up against the electronic viewfinder and the top right corner of the LCD.

Sony A3000 Review -- Left view

Two final controls can be found on the leftmost end of the Sony A3000's body. Directly above the screen-printed Alpha A3000 is a button used to deploy the popup flash strobe. There's also a small dial on the side of the electronic viewfinder, used for a generous -4 to +3.5m-1 diopter adjustment that will let many eyeglass wearers shoot without their glasses. You'll also find a lug for the left side of the shoulder strap. Beneath this, most of the left end of the body is occupied by a large compartment door. Behind the door, you'll find the Multi terminal and a combined Secure Digital / Memory Stick Duo multi slot.

The right side of the Sony A3000 is featureless, save for a shoulder strap lug, mirroring that on the left side.

Sony A3000 Review -- View from beneath

And finally, the bottom, too, is largely featureless. At the base of the handgrip is a compartment door for the InfoLithium battery pack, complete with a small cutout that allows ingress for the optional AC adapter kit's dummy battery cable. There's also a tripod mount, nicely positioned on the central axis of the lens.

Sony A3000 Review -- Hands-on with a Pre-Production Camera

by Dave Etchells

I spent a little time with the new Sony Alpha A3000 recently, and was impressed by what they've managed to pack in at such a low price point. Make no mistake, no one will mistake this for the use-it-to-pound-in-your-tent-pegs-in-the-Kalahari high-end pro bodies from Canon, Nikon, or even Sony's own A99. It's clear that this is a camera built to fit a budget, so it lacks the solid feel of the higher-end Sony Alphas or their compact but solid NEX models.

Sony A3000 Review -- In hand front view

That said, it didn't feel as flimsy as I might have expected, was quite comfortable to hold, and on the basis of an admittedly brief inspection, looks like a competent little shooter.

Designed to appeal to entry-level interchangeable-lens users, the A3000 is styled to look like an SLR, even though it's really an NEX (Sony's mirrorless camera line) at heart. A surprisingly large number of people looking to step up from point & shoot digicams (something like 55%) apparently associate the bulging prism housing of an SLR with "serious" photography, even though the current crop of mirrorless cameras would in most cases fit their needs better. Hence, on the Sony A3000, we see that same styling, although the "optical" viewfinder is actually an EVF. (It's interesting that, while we see companies like Canon, Pentax, and even Sony themselves working to shrink SLRs to compete with the smaller mirrorless models, here we have a mirrorless camera dressed up to look like an SLR.)

Sony A3000 Review -- In hand back view

As with a lot of other specs on the camera, the EVF's resolution is a considerable drop down from the megadot-plus resolution found in Sony's higher end models. At 201,600 dots equivalent resolution, it hearkens back more to the earlier days of EVFs, but I didn't find it too objectionable in the little bit of squinting through it that I did. I wouldn't want to render any sort of final judgement on it until I'd had a chance to live with it for a little while, so it's possible my feelings on this might change after more time with the camera. While even modern EVFs won't give you the same sort of dynamic range as your eyes looking an optical viewfinder, their other advantages are myriad. Sony does a very good job of managing display complexity, taking maximum advantage of the ability to show camera status in the EVF, but giving you options to see all, some, or none of it, as you might choose. One big plus about the EVF on the Sony A3000 is that it provides 100% frame coverage, versus the 95% of most of its competitors. Personally, I think entry-level users need a 100% viewfinder every bit as much as pros; why shouldn't they be able to see exactly what the camera will record?

Picking up the Sony A3000 for the first time, I was immediately pleased with the grip. Sony's gone to a much deeper, more sculpted grip, with the result that the A3000 feels much more secure in your hand than previous models. The deeper grip will also be more comfortable for people with larger hands like myself. I confess I'm more of a "grip geek" than most people, but even the grip-blasé will appreciate this new design on the A3000.

Sony A3000 Review -- In hand top view

Because it also uses Sony's E-mount lenses from the NEX line, a system built around the A3000 will be more compact overall than ones built around conventional SLRs: The short back-focus distance of the E-mount means lenses can be smaller for a given focal length and aperture than equivalent ones designed for a greater lens-sensor distance.

As part of its targeting to entry-level users, the Sony A3000's user interface borrows heavily from their NEX line. Some tweaks have been made to make various functions quicker to get at (a welcome change), but the basic feel is very NEX-like.

While it's an entry-level camera at a decidedly entry-level price, there's no shortage of features, and full PASM (Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and Manual) exposure control is available. This would be a great camera for a photo student on a budget, as it doesn't unavoidably dumb-down exposure control. At the same time, it has tons of great Sony features like Superior Auto, Sweep Panorama, Handheld Twilight mode, Auto Object Framing, Auto Tracking Framing, and Auto Macro Framing.

Our final judgement will depend on how a production sample does in our lab and use tests, but if the image quality is in line with what we've seen on other Sony models, the Sony A3000 looks like a real steal of an entry-level interchangeable-lens camera.

Sony A3000 Review -- Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

Sony A3000 Review -- Image sensor

Sensor. At the heart of the Sony A3000 is an EXMOR APS HD CMOS image sensor with an effective resolution of 20.1 megapixels. Total resolution is 20.4 megapixels, and the APS-C sized chip has a 3:2 aspect ratio. Unlike Sony's DSLR and SLT models, though, the sensor is not stabilized, as the A3000 supports only lens-based optical image stabilization just like NEX models.

Performance. Sony doesn't specify the image processor used in the Alpha A3000, but as you'd expect in such an affordable, entry-level camera, performance is modest. Ordinarily, the A3000 will capture just 2.5 frames per second, but if you're willing to lock exposure and focus from the first frame, this can be increased to a still-sedate 3.5 fps. Burst depth is 13 frames in JPEG mode, and drops to just five frames if you add raw files.

Sensitivity. Everything from ISO 100 to 16,000 equivalents is available from the Sony A3000. Of this range, ISO 100 to 3200 equivalents is available under automatic control. In movie mode, you'll face the a reduced upper limit on sensitivity of ISO 3200 equivalent.

Sony A3000 Review -- Lens mount

Sony is using the same noise reduction algorithms as in its flagship Alpha A99. These will vary noise reduction levels adaptively across the image, as needed.

Lens mount. Perhaps the biggest story of the Sony A3000 is its lens mount. It's the first Alpha A-series model to feature a Sony E-mount, as previously found only on Sony NEX-series cameras.

You'll actually get the best of both worlds, since you can mount Alpha-mount lenses via an adapter. At the same time -- and unlike other A-series cameras -- you'll be able to use E-mount lenses, which are typically smaller and lighter than their DSLR / SLT-oriented A-mount equivalents, thanks to a shorter backfocus distance.

Sony A3000 Review -- Electronic viewfinder

Viewfinder. One of the key advantages of the Sony Alpha A3000 versus similarly-priced NEX-series models is its built-in electronic viewfinder. To get a built-in EVF in the NEX-series (and including a similar lens to that bundled with the A3000), you'd need to step up to the NEX-7, and you'd looking at a pricetag of US$1250 list. That's more than triple the cost of the SLR-like A3000. Admittedly, the NEX-7 is a lot more camera than is the A3000, in terms both of its electronic viewfinder, and in other respects. Still, for US$400 list, it's big news that you get a viewfinder at all.

The Sony A3000's electronic viewfinder is a 0.2-inch (0.5cm) type with 100% coverage, 0.7x magnification, and an equivalent resolution of 201,600 dots. Eyepoint is 15mm from the eyepiece frame, or 21mm from the eyepiece lens, and there's a -4.0 to +3.5m-1 built-in diopter correction.

Sony A3000 Review -- LCD monitor

LCD. If you want the maximum possible resolution, you'll need to use the LCD monitor. At 230,000 dots, it has approximately 320 x 240 pixels, or QVGA resolution. The display has a 3-inch diagonal, and is neither articulated, nor touch-sensitive.

Autofocus. As you'd expect in an entry-level camera, the Sony A3000 forgoes a complex hybrid autofocus system, in favor of a simpler, less expensive contrast detection system. The A3000's CDAF system provides 25 predefined autofocus points, and has a working range of EV 0 to 20 (at ISO 100 with an f/2.8 lens). Center-weighted and flexible spot AF modes are available, as are tracking and AF lock. You can also opt for manual focus, or let the camera get focus in the ballpark and then fine-tune using Direct Manual Focus.

A built-in autofocus illuminator LED has a working range of 0.5 to 3.0 meters with the kit lens attached.

Exposure. Shutter speeds on offer in the Sony A3000 range from 1/4000 to 30 seconds, plus bulb. The A3000 uses an electronically-controlled, vertical traverse focal plane shutter, as well as an electronic first curtain shutter.

Exposures are metered using the image sensor, with a 1200-zone evaluative metering system. Metering modes include multi-segment, center-weighted, and spot.

Sony A3000 Review -- Flash

Flash. The Sony A3000 includes both a popup flash, and a hot shoe for external strobes. The internal flash has a guide number of 13 feet (4m) at ISO 100, and 16mm coverage. Flash X-sync is at 1/160 second, and the strobe recycles in 4 seconds.

The external shoe is Sony's newer Multi Interface Shoe, and can be converted to Konica Minolta-style strobes with an optional adapter. The Multi Interface Shoe also accepts certain accessories such as external microphones, video lights, and more via 21 additional pins embedded at its front.

Video. The Sony Alpha A3000 can record Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel; 1080i) movies at a rate of 60 fields per second, although this is derived from 30 frames-per-second sensor data. (In some markets, the 60i rate is replaced with a 50i rate, derived from 25p sensor data.) You can also opt for a film-like rate of 24 progressive-scan frames per second (25p on overseas models), or for lower-res 1440 x 1080 and 640 x 480 movies.

At the maximum resolution, movies are saved using AVCHD version 2.0 (MPEG-4 AVC / H.264) compression with AC-3 stereo Dolby Digital audio. At lower resolutions, movies are saved with MP4 compression and MPEG-4 AAC-LC stereo audio.

Connectivity. As well as its aforementioned Multi Interface Shoe, the Sony A3000 includes a multi-terminal USB port, which we believe should be compatible with the RM-VPR1 wired remote control. It also provides for USB 2.0 High Speed data transfer, but not for video output. In fact, this is one area in which budget has clearly been the overriding factor, because the A3000 also lacks a high-def video output. If you want to get your images on a TV, you'll need to do it via another device, or on a display with a built-in card reader.

Sony A3000 Review -- Power

Storage. Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types. You can alternatively use Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Duo cards in the same slot, should you prefer.

Power. The Sony A3000 draws its power from a proprietary InfoLithium NP-FW50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack. Sony rates the camera as good for 460 shots on a charge when using the electronic viewfinder, or 470 shots with the LCD screen, to CIPA testing standards.

 

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