Skip to main content

Sony’s affordable A3000 has the body of a mini DSLR and the guts of a mirrorless compact

The entry-level DSLR has been an arena where Sony hasn’t played in much. Instead, it’s been growing its NEX mirrorless compact system cameras (CSC) to target users stepping up from a point-and-shoot or smartphone, leaving the “baby DSLR” sector to Canon and Nikon. But Sony is joining the party (of sorts) with the new Alpha A3000, an inexpensive DSLR-like camera that Sony says is designed to compete against the Canon Rebel T3 and Nikon D3100.

We say DSLR-like because it’s still very much a mirrorless NEX camera at heart, but inside what looks like a shrunken DSLR body. From its research, Sony says 40 percent of today’s consumers will choose a CSC while the remainder will go with a DSLR. The A3000 is for that indecisive customer who would like to step up to the look-and-feel of a DSLR form-factor but would also like it to be compact and lightweight (similar in idea to Canon’s Rebel SL1, although that’s a pure DSLR).

Related Videos


The A3000 has a 20.1-megapixel Exmor APS-C HD CMOS sensor, a bright electronic viewfinder with 100-percent coverage (shooting info is also shown), ISO of up to 16,000, Bionz image processor, Full HD 1080 video recording at 60i or 24p, a newly developed grip, and an E-mount for use with E-mount lenses (the ones used by Sony’s NEX cameras). The A3000 can use A-mount lenses with an optional adapter. Users who aren’t used to shooting through the viewfinder will have live view via the non-tilting 3-inch LCD (non touch). For those who like automatic scene modes, there are 11 of those with 15 creative effects. Sony says the A3000 is much like the discontinued A37 DSLR from last year, but it’s really a CSC in DSLR clothing.

When we had our hands on the camera, it looked and felt very much like a DSLR. There’s a mode dial and Sony’s Multi Interface hot shoe on top, and an LCD and a few buttons on the back, but unlike many DSLRs the layout is simple (akin to a CSC or point-and-shoot). Gripping it is nice and comfortable, giving you a steady hold that you won’t find in many CSCs or point-and-shoots. It feels heavier and is definitely much larger than a CSC but not an uncomfortable heft; overall, it feels nice in the hands and easy to carry like an entry-level DSLR (much lighter than the Canon 60D we were carrying). The viewfinder protrudes out a bit, which is nice because we are smudging our face up against the LCD. We weren’t permitted to take any of the images with us, so we can’t comment on picture quality for now. But Sony has impressed us with its NEX and DSLR cameras before, so we have high hopes. Sony showed us a video (see below) that demonstrates the photo and video quality, and it looked pretty stunning.


The price will grab the attention of buyers immediately: $400 with an 18-55 zoom kit lens. It’s an attractive price for an entry-level interchangeable lens camera, but whether it can go head-to-head against feature-rich entry-level DSLRs from Canon and Nikon is another matter. The A3000 is very much an easy-to-use CSC with a DSLR body, but its intended step-up customer may appreciate that, and we know there are plenty of those consumers out there. The camera will go on sale in September.

New Zeiss 16-70mm, G 18-105mm, and black 50mm E-mount lenses

To complement the A3000 announcement, Sony also introduced three new E-mount lenses: a 16-70mm f/4 Zeiss lens ($1,000, late September), an 18-105mm f/4 power-zoom G lens (first-ever G lens with E-mount, $600, December), and a new black finish option for the 50mm f/1.8 ($300, late September).

Editors' Recommendations

Sony announces mirrorless Alpha a5000, compact Cyber-shot W830 at CES 2014
sony digital cameras ces 2014 img 5611

Check out our review of the Sony Alpha a5000 digital camera.
CES 2014 was more about camcorders than cameras for Sony, but it did announce two new models, including the “world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera” with Wi-Fi. The cameras aren’t particularly revolutionary in any sense, but the new mirrorless model signals a change in Sony’s naming convention: moving forward, the NEX name will be dropped once the last of the remaining NEX models are phased out.
The Alpha a5000, which will eventually replace the NEX 3 series, is a 20.1-megapixel shooter that weighs 8 ounces (the weight won’t matter so much if you put on a hefty lens). The sensor is a large APS-C type and the latest Bionz X image processor, which does a lot of the heavy lifting in area-specific noise reduction and diffraction reduction; it also allows for an ISO of up to 16,000. There’s Wi-Fi for image sharing or remote control via the Sony PlayMemories Mobile app for iOS and Android, and NFC for quick pairing if you have an Android device that supports it. The a5000 also supports Sony’s downloadable PlayMemories apps that you can install onto the camera for additional shooting options. There’s a more substantial grip, and the LCD tilts all the way up (as with the NEX 3-series before it), so you can take those oh-so-important selfies.
The camera comes with a 16-50mm power zoom kit lens (SELP1650). With this lens, you can use a lever on the camera body to control the optical zoom, which Sony says it’s handy for shooting video. Designed for step-up users, there’s the “Photo Creativity” handholding mode that guides users new to more advanced interchangeable lens cameras. The a5000 will go on sale in March for $600, and comes in black, silver, and white.

Sony also announced some new E-mount optics. There’s a new version of the SEL55210 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 lens ($350), with the only difference being that it has a black finish. There’s also a special case available for the a5000.
Cyber-shot W830
While Sony announced several compact cameras last CES, this year it came out with just one. It may unveil new ones at the upcoming CP+ camera show in Tokyo, but for CES 2014 it’s the Cyber-shot W830.

Read more
Sony adds NFC and compact kit lens to new NEX-5T mirrorless camera

Check out our review of the Sony Alpha NEX 5T digital camera.
In addition to the new Alpha A3000, Sony also announced the fourth-generation of its Alpha NEX-5 series, the NEX-5T. Whereas Sony tries to fit a mirrorless compact system camera into a DSLR-like body, Compared to its predecessor, the NEX-5R – a very strong-performing camera, we found – the NEX-5T’s specs remains the same. It has a 16.1-megapixel Exmor APS-C HD CMOS sensor, tiltable touchscreen LCD that flips 180 degrees, and a hybrid autofocusing system (phase detect) that Sony touts as fast, although our time spent with the NEX-5R suggested otherwise. What is new is support for NFC, letting you easily tap and pair with a smartphone for Wi-Fi sharing and remote viewing/controlling. We saw NFC being demoed at Sony's briefing of the NEX-5T and it works fairly well, provided you have devices that support the protocol. The kit lens has also changed: Instead of an E-mount 18-55mm that came with the NEX-5R, the NEX-5T will come with a 16-50mm power zoom lens (the same one that comes with the NEX 6 and NEX 3N0 that’s half the size of the 18-55mm. Compared with the newly announced A3000, the NEX-5T comes off as more feature-rich.
The NEX-5T will ship in early September for $700 with lens, $550 without. Read our review of the NEX-5R to give you a sense of what this camera's like.

Read more
Megazoom, ultra-compact, and rugged, Sony has all three covered with new Cyber-shots
sony unveils new cyber shot point and shoot cameras 02252013 dsc tx30  black right jpg

In addition to the NEX-3N and a58 cameras announced today, Sony also showed off three new Cyber-shot point-and-shoot models: the HX300, WX300, and TX30.
The HX300, which replaces the current HX200, is a fixed-lens “megazoom” camera that mimics the look and feel of a DSLR. The lens is a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* variant, and the zoom is long at 50x (24mm wide-angle). The optical image stabilization mechanism is located at the telephoto end of the lens, allowing for more stable framing. The camera uses a newly developed 20.4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, and has an autofocusing system that’s 2x faster than its predecessor. Full HD 1080 video capture is available. The HX300 will ship in March for $499.

The compact WX300 is the “world’s smallest and lightest compact camera with 20x optical zoom range,” Sony says. A successor to the WX150/HX20, the cam has a 18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor and optical image stabilization. Built-in Wi-Fi allows for sharing via the Sony PlayMemories Mobile app and “Smart Remote” control of camera. The mode dial lets you switch shooting options quickly. Improved battery life gives the camera 500 shots before a recharge, plus autofocusing is 3.6x faster than previous models. The WX300 also shoots video at Full HD 1080. This compact cam will be available in April $330.

Read more