Sony Alpha 3000 £350
27th Aug 2013 | 04:01
Mix the build of a DSLT and the NEX E-Mount and you get the Alpha 3000
Sony was one of the first few manufacturers to bring a compact system camera to the market, with the original Sony NEX-5 and Sony NEX-3 back in 2010. Since then, we've seen plenty of iterations of the camera, all keeping pretty much the same type of design - that is, fairly flat and compact styled.
And now, in what some may see as a slightly odd move, the Sony Alpha a3000 combines the two systems. It's got the styling and size of an Alpha DSLT, but uses the E-mount and mirrorless design of the NEX range.
Best compact system camera
Sony explains that when consumers enter a store to purchase an interchangeable lens camera, they're not necessarily looking for a traditional DSLR/DSLT, but there are many people who crave the large form factor that these 'serious' cameras bring.
Sony is not the only company to offer DSLR-shaped compact system cameras. For instance, the Panasonic G6 and those G-series models that came before it also feature a traditional type shape. The same can be said of the Samsung NX11.
Despite the fact that the E-mount is found on the Alpha 3000, Sony has decided to omit the NEX name from the camera, which could perhaps be a little confusing. In effect, Sony now has three lines, the standard Alphas, the standard NEX cameras, and the Alpha E-Mount camera.
Inside the camera is a 20.1 million pixel APS-C sized sensor. Sony says that this is a new sensor. The Sony Alpha 3000 has a retail price of £370 (around US$580/AU$645)
Of course there are already several cameras with this form factor in the shape the Alpha DSLT range, but Sony says that using the E-mount has several benefits for consumers. Sony's major claim for this camera is that the AF speed and accuracy surpasses Canon or Nikon's DSLRs. Naturally, that's something we'll be very keen to put to the test when we get a final production sample in for a full review.
Build quality and handling
From the exterior, the Sony Alpha 3000 looks like an entry-level DSLT camera, such as the Sony Alpha a58, albeit a little smaller.
It has a chunky grip on the right, which should make it very easy to use one-handed. As standard, the camera is supplied with an 18-55 lens, and unlike the 16-50mm kit lens found on cameras such as the Sony NEX-3N, this is also quite large.
On top of the camera is a mode dial for accessing the different exposure modes that the Sony Alpha 3000 has to offer, including fully automatic and semi-automatic (aperture priority and shutter priority) and scene mode and panoramic mode.
The number of buttons on the camera is relatively low. On top of the camera you'll only find the shutter release, EVF/LCD screen button and the playback button. On the back of the camera, as is now becoming common for Sony cameras, a couple of the buttons are customisable depending on which settings you use most often.
By default, one of the buttons accesses the main menu. The camera uses the standard NEX menu system, rather than the Alpha system. We've found that the NEX system can be a little more frustrating to use than the Alpha system in recent times, so we'd have preferred to see the Alpha menu here.
A scrolling dial on the back of the camera is used for navigating through settings while in the menu, or altering aperture or shutter speed when in standard shooting mode. Unlike most Alpha cameras, there is no dial on the grip for changing these settings.
On the back of the camera is an electronic viewfinder, which is a nice addition for NEX cameras, but is of course standard for Alpha cameras. Unfortunately there is no sensor on the eye-piece for detecting when the camera is lifted to your eye, meaning that you'll need to switch between the LCD and EVF manually - something which can quickly get tiresome.
Because there's not a great deal of space on the front of the Sony Alpha 3000, accessing the lens release button can be a little tricky, taking some getting used to for the best angle.
What camera should I buy? Your options explained
It is of course difficult to come to any conclusion about the performance of a camera before we've had a chance to use a full production sample, but we've generally been impressed by Sony cameras in the past, so we expect much of the same from the Sony Alpha 3000.
Sony is well known for producing excellent sensors, so we'd be surprised if the Alpha 3000 failed to deliver on the image quality front.
The rear LCD screen doesn't offer any exciting features such as touch sensitivity or tilting/articulation, but it seems like a decent performer, not suffering too badly from glare or reflection in the conditions were we able to assess it in. Again, we'll be keen to put this further to the test as soon as we can.
Since Sony is making some pretty bold claims about AF speed, this is another thing we'll be extremely keen to try. Although Sony is claiming that the camera is capable of outperforming Nikon and Canon cameras, we'd really like to see it compete with the very quick speeds of Panasonic and Olympus for it to be truly impressive.
That said, for those looking for an alternative to a traditional Canon or Nikon DSLR, something with faster speeds may be a key selling point.
How to use your new digital camera
We can't help but be a little confused by the Sony Alpha 3000. It's basically a hybrid of the Alpha and NEX systems, and while both are excellent in different ways, we're not entirely convinced of the merits of combining the two at the moment. But perhaps that will come when we've had a chance to use it properly.
While we understand the desire for a large form factor camera, we're not quite sure why Sony has chosen to omit the NEX name from the range, since this shares the E mount of its NEX siblings. We'll be keen to see how well this camera is received, and whether others also find a confusion between the name and the system.
On the other hand, we're pretty sure that image quality will be good, as we've come to expect from Sony cameras. Keep a look out for our full Sony Alpha 3000 review when it becomes available for testing.
First reviewed 27 August