Body Elements

Sony NEX-3N Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 Canon EOS SL1 / 100D Canon EOS T5i / 700D
Roll over the titles above to see the Sony A3000 compared to four other cameras. It's noticeably larger than the NEX-3N, which also has an APS-C sensor. The Panasonic G6, with its Micro Four Thirds sensor, is a little smaller, though not by much. Its lens is noticeably smaller, however. The Canon SL1 has an advantage in the width department, but its grip is quite a bit smaller. It is a 'real' SLR, though, which partly explains its higher price. Its lens is also longer than the Sony equivalent. Compared to the larger Canon Rebel T5i, though, the A3000 seems smaller in all dimensions, despite its noticeably larger grip.

Big and simple, the Sony A3000's mode dial is one of the more SLR-like accents, with only a few options, and four of them are options enthusiasts will appreciate: PASM.

Reaching the Finder/LCD selection button over top of the mode dial is difficult thanks to the height of the dial.

Stereo microphones sit in front of the A3000's Multi Terminal Interface (hot shoe), a bonus on a bargain camera.
A large, hinged, spring loaded plastic door conceals the memory card port and the USB/Charging port. No separate battery charger is included with the Sony A3000.
Left of the EVF is a diopter adjustment dial with a good range, allowing adjustment from -4.0 to +3.5.
Controls are limited to the same cluster found on the Sony EX-series, with two context-sensitive soft buttons that change depending on the mode and menu shown screen.

The built-in flash has a guide number of 4 (in meters at ISO 100), covering a 16mm focal length.

The flash is released by a mechanical button on the left of the camera; it cannot be released electronically by the camera's exposure system.

First Impressions

Though we've only had a brief time with the Sony A3000, we've found it works about as well as an inexpensive NEX camera, as expected. The grip is its best feature, quite burly for the camera's size, and the thumb-grip on the rear offers a good hold. The mode dial is big, and yet its limited icons make it seem both simple and of good quality; however, it might turn a little too easily, such that it's more likely to turn accidentally in a camera bag.

The shutter button makes a slight twang when you remove your finger from it, which doesn't add a sense of quality. While we generally like springloaded and hinged doors, the large door on the A3000 lends to the sense of hollowness on the camera's left side. The door also opens a little too easily.

The standard kit's zoom is stiff, but reasonably smooth when zooming; we suspect this would loosen up with use (this is the same 18-55mm kit lens that's been bundled with NEX cameras for some time). Like most E-mount lenses, the kit lens focuses fast and quietly. Focus acquisition is good in bright light, and naturally a little slower in low light; but its AF-assist lamp makes the A3000 faster in low light than some competing SLRs (Canon Rebels in particular) when contrast is sufficient.

One limitation with the A3000 is its slow frame rate of 2.5 fps with autofocus tracking, and 3.5 fps without. It's not a surprise at this price point, but worth mentioning. It's the same rate at the low end that's found on the NEX-3N, but not quite as fast at the high end, with the NEX-3N capable of 4 fps.

Our main criticism of the A3000 is its low-resolution LCD and EVF. We understand it's for the sake of price that these elements were left inexpensive, but they really have a negative impact on our experience with the camera. It's hard to tell when focus is achieved. Images in playback appear soft as well, and even menus look odd and grainy, with Sony's normally attractive menu animations appearing to tax the camera's graphic system and display. And when your primary interface with your images is the LCD, it's hard to imagine you're able to capture decent quality 20MP images when all you see is the coarse pixel pattern of the display.

We can get around the cheaper, slightly hollow look and feel of the camera from the back, and even work with the questionably placed Finder/LCD button that we think will befuddle shoppers, but the displays are likely to disappoint discerning users, as well as most anyone who's bought a digital camera or smartphone in the last two or three years.

As we said in the introduction, though, it's still a pretty good deal if you can get past the LCD, and just might move more units than one would expect, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching. We hope to get a shipping version soon, so check back to see if the image quality overcomes our reservations about the displays.