Sony Alpha A3000 review

Ben Pitt
11 Dec 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

SLR image quality at a breakthrough price



23.2x15.4mm 20.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-82.5mm equivalent), 605g

Sony's digital imaging department has had an eventful year. With all the hubbub surrounding its full-frame Alpha 7 and 7R, the sublime RX100 II and its high-concept QX10 and QX100, there's a risk that the Alpha A3000 will go largely unnoticed.

That would be a shame, though, because in one respect this camera is just as groundbreaking. The issue in question is its price. It's available in shops and online for £249, which is the lowest price we've ever seen for a new camera with an APS-C sensor – the same kind that's used in consumer SLRs.

Sony Alpha A3000


The Alpha brand and the distinctly SLR-like appearance disguise the fact that this camera uses E-Mount rather than Alpha Mount lenses. Sony has ditched its NEX brand, but in essence, this is a NEX camera that just happens to look more like an SLR. It uses the same controls and menu system as NEX cameras. It doesn't even include a command dial – fortunately there's a rear wheel for quickly dialling in settings.

We're glad that Sony has seen fit to include a mode dial, but it's hard to imagine this camera appealing to keen photographers who like to tinker with controls. On factory settings, various key functions such as white balance and autofocus options are buried in the main menu. However, the ISO button can be reprogrammed to reveal six user-defined functions across the screen, which works remarkably well for a camera with so few physical controls.

Sony Alpha A3000

The big handgrip makes this, for us, the most comfortable E-Mount camera to date. It feels totally secure in one hand, and with two hands and the viewfinder pressed to an eye, it's easier to hold steady than the compact-styled NEX models.

It can't compete for glamour, of course, but we'll put that down to individual taste – it doesn't really bother us. We're not too upset by the absence of an HDMI output either, although others may feel differently. The card slot is located on the side of the camera, so there's no difficulty in accessing cards while the camera is tripod-mounted.

Sony Alpha A3000

Considering that this is by far the lowest-priced E-Mount camera to date, it's great to see an accessory shoe and viewfinder on board. It's an electronic rather than optical viewfinder, as this isn't a true SLR. Disappointingly – but perhaps inevitably considering the price – the electronic viewfinder (EVF) is much smaller and coarser than the luxurious high-resolution EVFs used elsewhere. Sony doesn't publish its resolution, but it looks about the same as the rear 3in LCD screen, which is also rather coarse at 230,400 dots. Long-sighted people who struggle with LCD screens might appreciate having this EVF, but it won't impress anyone who's used to an SLR.

Unlike on most SLRs, autofocus is just as quick whether you're using the rear screen or the viewfinder. However, neither mode is amazingly quick. We measured times between 0.4 and 1.5 seconds for the camera to focus and shoot, depending on the available light. Shot-to-shot times averaged 1.1 seconds for JPEGs and two seconds for RAW. It doesn't help that this camera insists on saving JPEGs alongside RAW files – there really should be a RAW-only option too. Continuous mode set off at 3.5fps and slowed to 1.8fps after 12 frames. These results are on the right side of respectable, particularly for the price, but they're unlikely to win over SLR users.

Read more