Sony Alpha ILCE-3000 Review

The ILCE-3000 looks like a DLSR, but it’s actually a budget mirrorless model that sits rather uncomfortably between the two camps.

Sony Alpha ILCE-3000: On the plus side

The Sony ILCE-3000 — known in some markets as the A3000 — looks for all the world like a DSLR, but without the kind of price tag that you’d associate with such models. If you like a larger handgrip and heft, there’s a lot to be said for this kind of design, and if you want to appear as if you’re shooting professionally, it might just do in a pinch. The thing is, it’s got a lot more in common with Sony’s smaller NEX series of ILC cameras, because that’s essentially what it is. It’s just that, like the iPhone 5c, it’s got a new hat, and this one makes it look like a DSLR.
In terms of core specifications, the ILCE-3000 has a 20.1MP APS-C sensor with a 3 inch 230K LCD panel and inbuilt Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). It’s not going to wow the pure pro crowd, though, but for the wider consumer market there’s some appeal there. It comes with an 18-55mm e-mount lens; if you’ve got A-mount lenses you’d need an adaptor to use those. Something tells me that most buyers of the ILCE-3000 would probably just buy it and never shift the lens off in any case.
It is also, as I found, perfectly possible to get some rather nice shots with the ILCE-3000.
Isn’t that all a camera needs to do?

Sony Alpha ILCE-3000: On the minus side

The issue — and I’m not pretending here that I’m a pro photographer at all — is that getting there involves a lot of compromises.
The ILCE-3000 is inexpensive because it’s cheaply built, and this becomes apparent when you pick it up and realise how hollow it feels. Or when you put the EVF up to your eye and realise the cap around it isn’t rubber (as you’d expect on a DSLR) but instead hard plastic. For me, that meant going clunk in a comical fashion against my glasses, rendering the EVF less useful than it really should be. To add to the confusion, there’s no IR sensor to switch between the two modes. You’ve got to do so manually with a button, which is highly annoying.

A camera and some lenses, loitering. Waiting... for something.
A camera and some lenses, loitering. Waiting… for something.

The ILCE-3000 looks like a DSLR, but it’s nowhere near as quick. Even with a fast card installed, its shot to shot time was leisurely when you might want it quick, even in panorama mode. It’s slow to switch on, and it’s slow to focus. These might not be issues depending on what you want to photograph, but the reality is that around the same price point you can get, if you’ll pardon the pun, far snappier cameras.
Then there’s the software. The ILCE-3000 uses the same menu structures as the NEX system cameras. Initially, this seems very novice friendly, with big friendly pictograms for the camera, image size, brightness/color, playback and setup. Once you go beyond those, though, there’s a mess of text menus and the growing realisation that any fine tuning you do want to do prior to taking a shot is going to take several button presses every single time. If you’re shooting in full auto that may not matter to you, but as soon as you start to branch out, it’s going to quickly become an annoying limitation.
The ILCE-3000 uses a Sony FW50 battery, but there’s no supplied charger. Instead, it charges via microUSB, and you’re expected to supply a charger for that purpose. They’re not that expensive to acquire — it’s the same one that charges every smartphone save for the iPhone — but omitting it from the box feels like penny pinching, even on a budget camera.

Sony Alpha ILCE-3000: Pricing

The ILCE-3000 retails for $499.99 in Australia.

Sony Alpha ILCE-3000: Fat Duck verdict

I was intrigued by the premise of the ILCE-3000, because I’ve long liked the NEX models it’s based upon, and figured the idea of matching that to the comfort of a full DSLR style body might make for something special.
The reality is that while it is feasible to get some decent shots with the ILCE-3000, you’re going to have to work too hard to get them compared to similar models at around the same price point, and put up with cheap build quality along the way.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.