jewel (but a flawed one): Sony A3000 and manual lenses
Altough I have an A7 as a platform for manual lenses, I wanted an APS-C camera to accompany it. As I wanted to stay E-mount, my choices were pretty limited. Especially as I had some more requirements than just an APS-C sensor.
When using manual lenses thete are a few things I care for: especially PASM mode selector to quickly change from A to M or S, because the camera can‘t read the lense‘s focal lenght and often sets the exposure time incorrectly.
Another important thing is a sturdy grip.
As I‘m spoiled by the A7, I wanted somwheat more resolution than the older 14-16 MP models gave me.
Yes, and a viewfinder. I like finders!
MI hot shoe (like the A7 has) would be nice as well.
From what I wrote above It seems there was a single choice – the Sony A6000 which meets all the above requirements. But buying the A6000 - or a newer A6300 - just and only - for manual lenses is a waste of its AF capabilities. You pay for more camera than you actually use.
The older NEX 7 (I wanted to buy a used body anyway) does not have a MI hot shoe and PASM selector. The NEX 6 is „only“ 16MP and the rest of the NEXes and newer Alphas does meet even less of my requirements.
Yes, then there is the new A6500 with 5-axis IS and a touchscreen, which is temtpting, but VERY costly for an APS-C mirrorlesss… even worse price/performance ratio for using ONLY with manual lenses:-(
But wait, there is another body with 20MP, best grip of all E-mount bodies, PASM selector, MI hot shoe and a viewfinder… the now forgotten (and much maligned at the time) Sony Alpha A3000.
Price? 100-150 dollars used. How‘s that possible?
The A3000 has a bad reputation. It was an experiment that went wrong – NEX camera in a DSLR-like body shell, with great sensor, large grip, external PASM selector, built-in flash and a MI hotshoe, but with a cheap LCD, very bad VF and no more external controls than a NEX camera and with the same dreadful menu system. The body was made from cheap plastic and many modern features were missing, like Wi-Fi or IR remote. The AF was slow as was the continuous shooting (3 fps), all that with shallow buffer.
There was only RAW+JPEG or JPEG option (no RAW only), video was Full HD but only with 24p or 30i options and so on.
But do I care about AF and continuous drive for manual lenses. No! And I don‘t do much video either.
So that leaves me with the last - but the worst - problem – LCD and EVF quality. The 230 000 dots touchscreen has poor viewing angles and flickers quite a bit, the panel resolution is on a 2006 level, but it‘s passable. At least it‘s pretty large at 3“ and the color is not thad bad (when viewing straight on). It‘s actually quite OK for manual focus, especially with focus peaking and a magnify option.
But the viewfinder… where to start? Its SMALL, dim, suffers from tearing, colors
look false, the 201 600 dots mean even less resolution than the LCD has and the eyepiece is not very comfortable.
Only way to use it for MF is through live-view magnification, which thanksfully works.
On the other hand, it‘s 100% and helps as a framing assist in a bright light and the camera is more stedy when used with it on the eye.
Both the LCD and EVF look like leftowers from older bridge cameras – and they probably are.
But I decidet to bit the bullet and buy a used A3000 anyway.
And i love it!
(Revuenon 55/1.2 with a tilt adapter on a Sony a3000)
Just use the EVF only when you need to (direct sunlight or low light where the camera needs to be held steadily) and live with the not-so-good-but-fully-usable- LCD.
You will be rewarded by very light camera with very large grip, superb 20MP sensor (the newer a6000/6300 sensor is even better, though), quick access to all exposure modes, built in (altough weak) flash and the same hot shoe the A7 has.
Focus peaking and magnification are a blessing for MF glass user and if you happen to use E-mount AF lenses, the Alpha A3000 can correct them in-camera (unlike older cameras).
And if you have a Speedbooster (or a Lens Turbo II in my case), you can enjoy a pseudo-fullframe experience with IQ quite close to the real deal.
Would I reccomend it as the only camera to have? No, but as a smaller, low-cost companion to my A7 it‘s a good choice. If you are a MF lenses lover and need a cheap platform for your glass, go on and grab the A3000, they are almost free nowadays.