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Sony's new mirrorless cameras strive for enthusiast sweet spot

Jackie Dove | Aug. 28, 2013
Sony has released a pair of midlevel compact interchangeable lens cameras designed for the consumer step-up and enthusiast market.

sony mirrorless cameras

In a concerted effort to combat the Canon-Nikon DSLR juggernaut on the consumer market, Sony has released a pair of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras—the Alpha 3000 and the NEX-5T—specifically for the step-up consumer and advanced photo crowd. Both are midlevel models, loaded with features for hobbyist shooters, at competitive prices.

In recent years, the general public has gravitated mostly to smartphones and occasionally to entry level point-and-shoot cameras to capture images on the go. But enthusiasts still pine for compact, lightweight cameras that will yield better image quality and offer more control over their shots—note the enduring popularity of sub-$600 models like the Canon Rebel T3i and Nikon D3100.

Sony has positioned the new Alpha 3000 to compete directly for this class of photographers, while the NEX-5T is additionally designed with entry-level or advanced DSLR users in mind, who seek to eliminate the bulk and weight of a mirrored camera, or who desire a second, lighter camera for everyday shooting.

Sony has equipped both cameras with E-mount lenses, broadening the lens collection for both the Alpha and the NEX lines as well as other Sony cameras. Both have APS-C sized sensors, as do most entry-level DSLRs.

Alpha 3000
The 20.1-megapixel Alpha 3000 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (a DSLT, which features a fixed translucent mirror). It shares the same Bionz processor as Sony's high-end A99, and offers an ISO range of 100 to 16000 with area-specfic noise reduction for low-light shooting. Videographers get to shoot HD 1080/60i with an option for shooting 1080/24p with ISO up to 3200.

While not a pocket-sized camera (unless you have extremely large pockets), the Alpha weighs in at about 10 ounces with approximate dimensions of 4 by 2 by 1.5 inches. Sony's E-mount design and autofocus operation benefit traditionally minded beginners, and the Alpha is fast and easy to use without a learning curve, Sony says. Using the camera's onscreen controls, you can change the menu system and see real-time effects applied via Live View. The camera is built from the ground up using Live View, so the scene is the same whether you're looking at the LCD screen or through the viewfinder.

One big difference between advanced and step-up shooters is that the latter are accustomed and even prefer to focus and frame their shots with a high-resolution LCD screen as opposed to a viewfinder. The Alpha 3000 accommodates such Live View composition via its 3-inch, 230,400-dot LCD. Sony is not neglecting the electronic viewfinder, though, and for those who want to use it, there is 100 percent scene coverage though the EVF with QVGA resolution.


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