Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
Thumbnail image for Sony_A3000_on-a-table.jpg
  • 20.1-Megapixel Imaging Sensor
  • 3.0-Inch LCD Screen
  • Smaller E-mount lens system
  • 4fps burst shooting
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • iAuto and Superior Auto shooting modes
  • Full 1080p HD video recording
  • Pop-up flash
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion battery
  • Ultra compact dSLR body
  • Memory Stick PRO Duo/Pro-HG Duo
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
Pros
  • iAuto and Superior Auto shooting modes are accurate and easy in all situations
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record
  • Very compact body is easy to handle
  • Excellent image quality at lower ISO settings
  • Performance surpasses Sony's claims
  • Shooting via LCD or EVF
  • Great Battery Life
  • One of the most affordable dSLR's available
Cons
  • Weak pop-up flash
  • Very high noise levels at the higher ISO settings
  • Very sensitive onboard mic with no mic input
  • Lower resolution EVF and LCD
  • No HDMI output for HD movies on an HDTV
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.3 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 2/10 to 4/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.80 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 1.36 seconds
  • High Speed Burst = 4fps
  • All tests were taken using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1, 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Sony a3000 is a compact and affordable dSLR that provides great image quality and good performance. It is also one of the most affordable and great idea for anyone that is looking to take on their first dSLR.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for an affordable an affordable dSLR that is still small enough to carry easily and is a great option for a first dSLR.
The Sony Alpha 3000 is one of the most affordable and compact dSLR-style cameras on the market. It has been designed for use by beginner and amateur photographers, keeping the camera control and use as simple as possible. It is also one of the smallest dSLR-style cameras around, and unlike most of the other Alpha labeled models, the a3000 uses Sony's mirrorless E-mount system; which uses smaller and lighter  lenses. This keeps the size and weight even lower, making the camera easier to use and carry.

Featuring a 20.1-Megapixel, APS-C sized EXMOR image sensor; the a3000 provides better image quality, higher resolution and better low-light performance than any compact camera that you will find in its price range. It also provides you with an LCD and EVF for composing your images, dedicated video recording button for full 1080p HD video, 3.5fps burst shooting and Sony's Panorama shooting mode. This is one of the easiest to operate dSLR-style cameras you will find thanks to these great features combined with their Intelligent and Superior Auto shooting modes. 

The light, compact body is comfortable and easy for any sized hands to hold and operate. A soft, rubber grip of the right side gives you total control over the camera, leaving you to operate the zoom and focus (for manual focus) with your left. The on-body controls are simple and well placed, so you will be able to make your shooting adjustments quickly on the body.

It is a far different story when it comes to the camera menu, especially when you are not in the Auto shooting modes. These menus can be very overwhelming, especially for anyone that is new to photography or a dSLR/ILC.

Sony has provided you with two options for composing your images. First there is the EVF (electronic viewfinder), that allows you to shoot eye-level like a standard SLR, but with the convenience of all of the digital information shown exactly the same way as on the LCD. The information can be switched back to the LCD with just one push of the LCD/EVF button.

The 3.0-inch, 230k dot LCD screen is another option for composing your images, as well as viewing your captured images. This is a lower resolution screen for a camera in this category, but it gets the job done, making it easy to navigate the menus and shoot like you would with a compact camera. 5 levels of brightness allow you to adjust the LCD for any lighting conditions. 

Performance from the a3000 is surprisingly good for an entry-level model. It does start a little slow, taking 2.3 seconds before it is able to capture its first image. Once it is on, it does much better. The shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused. When allowing the camera AF system to work, it averaged between 2/10 and 4/10 of a second. In single shot mode, the camera has a shot-to-shot delay of 8/10 of a second or 1.36 seconds when using the flash for each shot. If burst shooting is more your style, the camera is capable of burst rates of up to 4fps during our tests for the first 20 images before slowing. This surpasses Sony's claim of 3.5fps, which is always a nice surprise. All of our tests were completed using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 8GB SD card, Program mode, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults. 

Our outdoor sample images were captured in both Superior Auto and Program shooting modes. Our samples show excellent overall image quality for an entry-level dSLR/ILC. Exposure, color and image detail are all great; making these images really stand out. Superior Auto gave us a more vivid image, with slightly warmer tones than we saw in Program mode. Aberrations and other image flaws have been well controlled, but we did notice a little image noise in the darker areas of some of the images, even at ISO 100. 

Looking closely at our indoor sample images gives us a very good idea of the overall image quality produced by the camera. The camera produces excellent results at the lower ISO settings. ISO 100 through ISO 800 show amazing amounts of detail and very low noise levels from these settings. Starting at ISO 1600, the noise level starts to increase quickly and the detail in the image fades just as fast. The highest setting, ISO 16,000, is actually ridiculous, looking like a terrible cell phone camera picture. The pop-up flash also shows that it is a bit underpowered for the camera. At ISO 100, it did not have enough to properly expose our image from just a few feet away. If you are using slightly higher ISO settings, it will still be useful as a fill or main flash if necessary. 

With the two Auto modes and the Portrait scene mode, portrait photography could not be easier. Face detection software allows the camera to quickly recognize and follow any faces that are present in the shooting frame. This keeps the faces in focus and properly exposed, even if they are moving before you can capture the image. This will assure you that your subjects will always be the focus of your photos. Our samples, both with and without the flash, show their good and bad points. Without the flash, the ISO settings were a little too high. This takes away a little from the detail of the image, especially where it counts the most, in the face and eyes. With the flash, the ISO and detail is much better, but we were a little disappointed with the redness in the eyes of all of flash images. 

As with most Sony cameras, the a3000 features their patented Motion Panorama shooting mode. This mode makes it incredibly easy to capture beautiful panoramic images by just pressing the shutter release and panning the camera. The direction of the panning can be changed to go vertical or horizontal to meet your needs. Our samples turned out very well, with good color and exposure. We did have a "spot" that showed across the sky of all of our samples, but we could not find anything on the lens that would cause it. Other than this issue, everything looks great. 

It has never been easier to capture full 1080p HD videos on a dSLR than with the a3000. No matter your shooting mode, the camera is always ready to record just by pressing the dedicated video recording button on the back. The camera features a slew of video settings to meet your shooting needs. Audio on the other hand is limited to the onboard microphone, which is very sensitive and will pick up anything that is close to the camera. An audio input would have been an excellent option. Our sample video recorded vivid, smooth playing videos that were a pleasure to watch both on the camera and on a computer. The audio was full of wind and background noises, despite trying to stay away from it. 

Powering the a3000 is a 7.2V, 1080mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. During our tests, this battery was more than enough for us to complete our tests, capturing approx. 300 images and various videos on a single charge, without worrying that the battery was going to deplete. This falls in line with Sony's claim that the battery is powerful enough to capture up to 480 images on a single charge. An included AC adapter allows you to keep the camera charged and ready to go anywhere there is a place to plug in. As we always do, we recommend having a spare battery charged and ready to go at all times. It will always be the worst possible time when your battery will die. 

Bottom Line - The Sony Alpha 3000 is an incredibly compact and one of the most affordable dSLR-style cameras on the market. Using Sony's E-mount lenses, the compact body is complimented with the smaller lenses making it even easier to handle and carry. Its image quality was very good and the performance surpassed Sony's claims with 4fps in our burst mode tests. With a MSRP of US $399.99 with the kit lens, this is a great option for anyone looking for a starter dSLR/ILC that does not want to initially invest a large sum of money.


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