Along with the two new lenses and a black version of the E 50mm f/1.8 OSS, Sony has also introduced two new mirrorless cameras. One of them might make it to our list of new old products, as the NEX-5T adds very little over its predecessor and is more of a mild refresh than a new model. At this point, I would be slightly annoyed at Sony for reasons already discussed, but the second camera might just attract enough attention for NEX-5T barely to be noticed at all. In a strange and bold move, Sony has introduced the A3000 – a mirrorless camera with Sony E mount that looks like a DSLR.
1) Sony Alpha A3000 Overview
Sony is not the first one to try such a move. Panasonic has been at it with its GH series, Olympus tried retro DSLR-ish design with the OM-D E-M5. Sony A3000 can hardly hold a candle against both these cameras in anything but pure image quality of its larger APS-C sensor based on specifications. But then, being the first DSLR-styled mirrorless camera that’s not high-end, it is also much cheaper than more or less any other current interchangeable lens camera.
So what is the point of A3000? Mirrorless cameras caught a large portion of the market, but were not as well received in some regions of the world. They are extremely popular in Japan, for example, but less so in the United States according to statistics. I will not bother you with official numbers, suffice to say sales in the US are quite a bit lower. It is hard to tell why, but Sony obviously thinks it has to do with how the gear looks. Perhaps some beginners care a lot not just about owning a good camera, but owning a camera that also looks “professional”. Among some photography enthusiasts, professional more often than not means DSLR – it has to be big, black and with a viewfinder prism at the top. We disagree, but such a misconception is easy to understand. And thus the A3000, which is basically a mirrorless camera dressed in DSLR suite.
Here is the list of key specifications:
- Sony Alpha E mount
- 20.1 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
- Max resolution of 5456 x 3632 pixels
- ISO sensitivity range of 100-16000
- Contrast-detect autofocus system with 25 AF points
- Fixed 3″ 230k dot LCD screen
- 0.7x EVF with 100% coverage (a given with electronic viewfinders)
- Focus Peaking
- 1080i60 video recording
- Shutter speed range of 30-1/4000s
- Continuous shooting speed of 2.5 frames per second with AF tracking (3.5 frames per second otherwise)
- Weighs 281g (0.62lb / 9.91oz) with battery
- Measures 102 x 58 x 38mm (4 x 2.29 x 1.51″)
- Priced at around $400 with 18-55mm kit zoom lens
As you can see from the list, there’s nothing impressive under the DSLR shell. It may look like one, but is unlikely to handle as well. There are very few buttons on the back of the camera, which looks a little bare and ugly as a result. Is there a point in A3000? We will see. It will either sell or not, but whichever way you look at it, this camera is an oversized entry-level mirrorless option. It doesn’t bring anything with its size except the size itself. If that is a good (comfortable grip) or bad (unnecessary size increase) thing is up to the potential buyers. Personally, I think the whole point of mirrorless cameras is their compact dimensions and if that is a disadvantage to you, perhaps you may want to look at a real DSLR and gain better AF system and a proper viewfinder along with it. If the A3000 does catch up – and it may due to the extremely low price – Sony might actually build on its success and move away from SLT cameras completely at some point. Time will tell.
2) Sony NEX-5T Overview
As I’ve already mentioned, the “new” NEX-5T is but a mild refresh. Actually, it is pretty much as mild as it gets. The only difference between it and the model being replaced is that NEX-5T gets NFC connectivity. There’s a whole new level of re-releasing an old product, isn’t it? If you want to know more about Sony NEX-5T, you may as well read our review of its predecessor, the NEX-5R. After all, apart from NFC, they are identical. Click here to read our review of the Sony NEX-5R.
The only consolation is the $50 lower introduction price of the new model compared to that of NEX-5R.
3) Official Press Release
Here is the official press release for Sony A3000:
SAN DIEGO, August 27, 2013 –Designed to bring the benefits of large-sensor imaging to a variety of new customers, Sony’s α3000 interchangeable lens camera combines DSLR capabilities with a comfortable, easy-to-use package.
The new camera features a large, high-resolution 20.1 MP Exmor™ APS-C HD CMOS sensor, a bright electronic viewfinder and the same lens mount as Sony’s popular line of E-mount cameras, making it compatible with the system’s ever-growing assortment of high-quality lenses ranging from telephotos, wide angles and macros to versatile zoom and portrait lenses.
“The new a3000 represents the ultimate combination of performance and value in an interchangeable lens camera,” said Mike Kahn, director of the interchangeable lens camera business group at Sony. “With a familiar, comfortable shooting design, impressive imaging capabilities and an outstanding price, it’s the ideal choice for customers looking to experience the vast benefits of large sensor, interchangeable lens imaging for the very first time.”
The powerful 20.1 MP APS-C sized image sensor in the α3000 is the same size sensor found in most traditional DSLRs, and is the key to capturing crisp, highly-detailed still images and Full HD videos (1080/60i or 1080/24p). The large sensor also boosts sensitivity, grabbing more light and cutting image noise to produce better quality content in low-light conditions, where a smartphone or point-and-shoot camera typically struggles.
The new camera features a clear, bright electronic Tru-Finder viewfinder with generous 100% field coverage allowing for an effortless framing experience. The viewfinder can also display a variety of key shooting information and shows a live preview of the composed image to illustrate the effect of any setting adjustments. This same “Live View” shooting experience is also available through the bright rear LCD screen for those that prefer to frame and compose at arm’s length.
The new α3000 model features a classic DSLR-style design with a standard P/A/S/M mode dial and several customizable control buttons for making common adjustments to settings. The grip is stable yet lightweight, giving shooters a strong, comfortable grasp of the camera.
Creatively, the new α3000 camera offers a total of 15 different Picture Effect settings including Retro Photo, Miniature Camera, Partial Color and much more. The camera also has Auto Object Framing, which neatly trims portraits, close-ups and even moving subjects for tighter, more professional results. When this feature is engaged, the camera saves both the original and cropped images for review, making it yet another practical learning and teaching tool for beginning photographers.
With the α3000’s Multi Interface Shoe terminal, users can broaden their shooting experience by adding external accessories like flash, video lights, or microphones. Compatible accessories include the HVL-F43M flash with Sony’s unique Quick Shift bounce system for eliminating shadows as well an LED light for video, the HVL-LEIR1 Video IR light for brightening up dimly lit parties and indoor scenes, the ECM-XYST1M Stereo Microphone for capturing clearer dialogue and sound and much more.
Pricing and Availability
The new α3000 interchangeable lens camera will be available in early September for about $400, paired with a black 18-55mm zoom kit lens (model SEL1855).
The new camera is compatible with Sony’s ever-growing assortment of E-mount interchangeable lenses. In total, 16 different lenses are now available including several premium models from Zeiss ™ and G™ Lenses.
The new camera and all compatible accessories will be available for purchase at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) and other authorized dealers nationwide.