Entry-Level Mirrorless Camera Roundup 2013
20.1MP CMOS Sensor | Built-in EVF | DSLR-style Body
What we like:
- Very attractive price
- Proven 20.1MP APS-C sensor
- Good stock Sony features like Sweep Panorama
What we don't:
- Poor build quality
- LCD and EVF offer low resolution
- Un-intuitive NEX menu system
The Sony a3000 looks and feels like a little like a DSLR but instead has all the trappings of a NEX mirrorless camera with a 20.1MP APS-C sensor, Sony E-mount and built-in electronic viewfinder. It's pitched as a less expensive alternative to a Nikon or Canon entry-level DSLR but, despite its looks and pop-up flash, the implementation is rather cheaper. As such, there's a somewhat low-resolution 3.0-inch 230k-dot LCD and low-res electronic viewfinder.
Sony's entry-level SLT camera, the a58, sits comfortably above the a3000 with a few more bells and whistles like a tilting LCD and a higher-res OLED viewfinder, and a very different auto focus system that allows it to continuously focus on moving subjects.
"You simply can't find a 20.1MP APS-C sensor tucked inside of a DSLR-like body for $400 anywhere else."
The a3000 produces good looking JPEGs with pleasing color and slightly over-saturated reds. We found it tended to overexpose in tricky lighting situations, such as a scene with forest in the foreground and a snow-capped mountain behind it. As an entry level DSLR the a3000 more than looks the part with its deep handgrip. To hit its $400 price tag at introduction however, some obvious concessions have been made in build quality. Users will find the LCD and viewfinder disappointing, and the lack of an eye-level sensor to change between viewfinder and LCD is unfortunate. The a3000 uses a NEX menu system that will be friendly and approachable to beginners, but may frustrate more advanced users looking for quicker access to controls. Overall build quality is pretty low, with the a3000's plastic chassis feeling quite cheap.
The a3000's standout feature in a way is its price. You simply can't find a 20.1MP APS-C sensor tucked inside of a DSLR-like body for $400 anywhere else. It covers all of the basics and adds a few nice touches like dual stereo microphones for an overall value that's hard to argue with - if you can overlook some serious shortcomings in components and build quality.