Wednesday, October 9, 2013

MINI-REVIEW: Sony a3000–Great Deal or Garbage?

Sony Alpha A3000 Digital Camera with 18-55mm Lens

When I first saw that Sony was offering the A3000 with the same 18-55mm lens that I had on the NEX-7 that I reviewed for less than $399, I was shocked! I figured there had to be a misprint because a mirrorless camera with a APS-C sensor, an electronic view finder and a good lens shouldn’t be that cheap!

Like most people, I my skepticism quickly made me think – that camera is probably total garbage! Typically I wouldn’t even bother reviewing a camera like this, but since I enjoyed the NEX-7 so much I wondered if this was really a bulky NEX-7 or a marketing scam.

While I didn’t enjoy this camera enough to put it through my typical level of testing, I did use it enough to think that it was a heck of a bargain! The lens is great and the images are certainly better than some higher priced DSLR’s I’ve tested in the past. It’s also way better than many smaller sensor cameras at this price point, so how can it be this cheap?

The answer seems to be buttons, knobs, a few more megapixels and a much better LCD is what you get for an extra $1000. Actually, that’s note entirely accurate are there are more features that make the NEX-7 my preferred Sony camera, but only geeks and hard core photographers are going to be able to tell the difference between the final photo results.

Do not buy this camera as a gift for your geek

I’m going to flat out insist that people shouldn’t buy this camera for their significant others as a gift. I know it sounds bad, but the reality is that often times I’ve seen disasters where a sweet spouse tries to buy her loved one something that seems cool – only to have their spouse disappointed.

This camera has all of the logical checkboxes that might lead one to believe that this is the perfect holiday DSLR for the guy who always wanted a real DSLR, but this camera is clearly designed for people who don’t care much about gadgets or gear and only want something that gets the job done. Maybe it’s because I live in the high-tech Seattle area, but few people I know fall into this camp.

This is a camera you buy for yourself for your personal use, and if you like it you’ll feel proud of yourself for the deal you got. If not, you can return it without guilt or hurting feelings, and that’s the way it should be.

If you do want to buy a camera for your geek, then check out my Which Camera Should I Buy? article for advice that is more likely to please your loved one.

Real World Sample Pics

As always, these images ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (yes, even the lame ones <g>). You may not save, edit, print, redistribute or otherwise use them without expressed written permission.

These are taken from in-camera JPEG’s with zero modifications taken during everyday life events. Nearly all were taken in Aperture Priority (A) mode unless otherwise noted, and all were handheld. The goal of these samples is to show you exactly what you’d expect to get if you were taking your own real world shots.

Unfortunately I only had a short time to play with this camera because I was testing two other cameras out at the same time. However, I did make a few snapshots which have similar shots taken with the Canon 70D and Nikon D5200. You can view their galleries and locate similar (not identical) images of the same scenes to see how this camera compares at a fraction of the price.

The Canon and Nikon are more expensive and not really direct competitors to this camera, but I thought it did okay next to the shots I did using those others cameras at the same time. My goal isn’t to say these are comparable cameras, but rather share shots I took with these others cameras at the same time.

Sunset Scene Mode
f/16 @ 55 mm, 1/400, ISO 100, Shade White Balance

f/5.6 @ 55 mm, 1/100, ISO 500, Auto White Balance
at sunset

f/5.6 @ 54 mm, 1/125, ISO 100,
Shade White Balance

8192 x 1856 in-camera panorama - f/11 @ 33 mm, 1/100, ISO 100

f/4.5 @ 39 mm, 1/60, ISO 3200, No Flash, Auto White Balance


I really missed not having another wheel and some kind of D-Pad or Joystick on this camera. This really inhibited me from getting the results I wanted or missing shots. I also think the LCD for both the rear of the camera and the electronic viewfinder are horrible. With the bad news out of the way, I think this camera is a steal at this price!

With a very good lens that you can change with other great Sony E-Mount lenses, a decent APS-C sensor, a great pano mode, in camera stabilization and an excellent price I think that it’s the perfect camera for non-gadget geek beginners. Teens and those who want a DSLR quality without the DSLR investment price will enjoy having a “real” camera, but they’ll appreciate the ease of use thanks to the auto features. It’s mirrorless design makes it smaller, lighter, and quieter than DSLR as well, yet the camera has a surprisingly solid high quality feel.

A good grip, a pop up flash and hot shoe makes it a camera worth a lot more than it’s sales price. In fact, this camera reminds me a bit like ink jet printers where they darn near give you the printer for free because they know they’ll make thousands off you in ink and paper. This camera has a quality that feels subsidized to get you on the Sony platform, so it’s a deal that is hard to beat. In fact, it’s like getting a decent camera for only $100 with a good lens that retails for $298 as of the time of this writing.

Where to order

Click here to order or learn more about the a3000 at B&H.

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Unknown said...

Nice summary review of this camera. I am sure that you answer the main question regarding this camera

drpankajshukla said...

Thank u for the review !I wish u had more images from this cam ! said...


Yeah, sorry that I didn't get around to taking more images with it. I was reviewing three cameras at the same time, and this one just wasn't as good as the other much more expensive cameras that I was reviewing.

Dan said...

I bought an a3000 a week or so ago, primarily because of the comfortable grip, and of course the fact that every review, including those that were highly critical, acknowledged that the actual photos produced by the camera were excellent. I agree. However, while there's still time to return it, I have to ask: Is there a comparably priced, less conspicuous camera out there that you'd recommend? If I could find something I could carry in my pocket, and that I could use in public without drawing so much attention, and that could produce photos of equivalent quality, I'd much prefer it. When I was 40 years younger I loved my big black SLRs and the looks I got when I used them. Today, I don't particularly want even to be noticed, but I still would like to be able to make better photos than my cell phone or my various point-and-shoots can produce. Suggestions in the $400-$500 range? said...

Hi Dan,

I'd have to steer you towards a Fujifilm x10 or x20 as that's what I prefer for this pricepoint.

There is a sale right now on the x10 right now that makes it a great option.

Dan said...

Thanks, Ron. The X10 is what I was leaning toward, based on your writings and others. I'll order it today. All the shots on my Smugmug page were taken with an iPhone 4 or 4S, and while I want to see if I can upgrade from that, I definitely want to stay in the vicinity of that form-factor. I appreciate your insights.

Dan said...

Ron, one last question, and thank you for your expertise and for this web site. What's your opinion of the Fujifilm XF1, particularly in comparison to the X10? I don't see a review here, but if I've overlooked one, forgive me please and just point me in the right direction. said...


I haven't tested the XF1 so I can't comment, but I will be reviewing the X-Q1 later this year.

You'll enjoy the X10 and B&H has it at a great price right now.


Anonymous said...

Just want to let you know, image stabilization is not built in the A3000 camera but a lens based one.