Sony A3000 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Incredible value -- you're getting an amazing amount of technology including a lens for the price
  • Interchangeable-lens will prove more versatile than a fixed-lens on a bridge camera, giving you room to grow
  • Comfortable body with good ergonomics
  • Light plastic body won't get tiring to hold for long periods
  • Very good image quality
  • Competitive high ISO performance
  • Good dynamic range
  • Built-in lens corrections
  • Good autofocus speeds for a compact system camera
  • Decent battery life for its class
  • Stabilized kit lens
  • Accepts external flash strobes and Sony's proprietary Multi Interface Shoe accessories
  • Useful multi-shot modes (Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur, HDR and Sweep Panorama)
  • Shoots Full HD video at 24p, 30p or 60i
  • Somewhat plasticky-feeling, but not as much as you'd expect for the price
  • Slow burst mode
  • Shallow buffers
  • Sluggish power on and mode switching
  • Low-res, time-multiplexed viewfinder has distracting rainbow shimmer effect on some subjects
  • Impossible to use EVF to review images post-capture
  • Low-res LCD panel is fixed in position
  • No video output
  • Weak flash
  • Weak AA filter means moiré more likely
  • No external charger bundled; camera can't be used while battery is charging in body
  • Menu layout is sometimes confusing

Some cameras are all about cramming in as many features as possible, even if you'll seldom use them. That's great for the belt-and-suspenders types, but it makes them much more expensive than they need to be. The Sony A3000 doesn't play that game. This is a camera that's been pared down to the basics -- you get precisely what you need, and little more. But boy, does that approach ever pay dividends when it comes time to fetch your wallet.

For a list price of just US$400 -- and at the time of this writing (June 2014), street prices without rebates are below US$350 -- you're getting an extremely high-res, SLR-like camera with great image quality, and a stabilized kit zoom lens to boot. Sure, it's not a true DSLR, but the lack of a reflex mirror means one less mechanical part to fail, and it makes the Sony A3000 quieter to shoot with, as well. And while this is clearly an entry-level camera, Sony has somehow managed to buck the typical cost-saving strategies where it really counts: There are no plastic lens mounts here. Both body and lens have metal mounts that will help this camera last.

That's not to say that you won't notice you're using an entry-level camera. Performance -- particularly in terms of burst speed and depth -- is limited, and the Sony A3000's body does feel a little plasticky. (Although we've seen a lot worse). Perhaps its biggest Achilles heels are its electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor, both of which have very low resolution by modern standards. The LCD is also fixed in place, and the viewfinder uses an LCOS design that can cause shimmering, rainbow effects on some subjects. They won't affect your photos, but they can be a little distracting when framing images. And it's a shame that, for whatever reason, Sony has decided not to allow you to review your images in the viewfinder at all.

But it's ever so easy to overlook these drawbacks when you take a glance at the price tag. With some cameras, you can question whether you're getting a good deal. With the Sony A3000, it's simply not up for debate: This camera is a spectacular value, and that makes it a whole lot easier to overlook any shortcomings it has. If you're in the market for a new interchangeable-lens camera, and you're on a tight budget, the Sony A3000 should be right near the top of your shortlist. If you've been looking at a bridge camera or a fixed-lens compact, or simply considering ditching a camera altogether and using your smartphone, the affordable Sony A3000 makes a very strong case indeed for changing your mind.

Seldom has an entry-level camera been so deserving of a Dave's Pick as the Sony A3000. With a street price of just US$350, perhaps the question we should've been asking in this review isn't whether to buy this camera, but rather, how many you should buy. One for the house, one for the car, another to pack with your hiking gear... Sony is going to sell a lot of these cameras!

 

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