For years, Sony has made the best cheap compact, interchangeable-lens cameras. With the new A5000 it's most beginnerist in the line camera is getting an impressive guts overhaul as well as a new name. Here's what hasn't changed: It's hard to find a better buy for $600.
First of all, let's talk names. As Sony hinted when it announced the A7 and A7r full frame mirrorless cameras in the Fall, the company is leaning away from the NEX branding that it's used on its E-Mount interchangeable lens cameras for years. It seems everything will simply have "A" model numbers now. The A5000 is the successor to the NEX-3N, although, because of its slightly higher price tag and better feature set, you could argue it's more of a NEX-5T successor. Blah, blah, blah, let's get to the details.
Speaking of Sony's glorious full-frame interchangeable-lens cameras, the Sony A5000 is getting the same Bionz X image processing engine as those wonderful shooters. The processor is very powerful, especially when it comes to noise reduction at high ISO.
The A500o also has a new 20.1-megapixel APS-C sensor, which is higher resolution than its predecessor. With the A7 and A7r, Sony illustrated that it can jam more pixels on a sensor without jeopardizing image quality, so we suspect the new sensor will perform fine. Unfortunately, this new image sensor only has contrast detect autofocus sensors. Sony declined to upgrade it to the better hybrid contrast/phase-detect AF system that's on Sony's pricier models.
Finally, Sony is outfitting the bottom of its interchangeable-lens line with Wi-Fi and easy NFC pairing with compatible devices. No surprise there as Sony has added it to basically every other camera it's released in the last year. To summarize the features as briefly as possible: You can wirelessly access your you camera and the contents of your memory card from your iOS or Android device. It's pretty easy to use.
Like the NEX-3N before it, the A5000 is really tiny and light: The diminutive body weighs just 7.4 ounces. The 460K-dot LCD screen flip up 180 degrees so that you can take perfect selfies.
The camera's $600 price tag comes with the same 16-50mm lens. Overall, that's a very good deal, but keep in mind that last year's model, which was a solid beginner camera in its own right, is currently selling for just $400. What's more, anybody shopping at this price point should ask themselves if they're really going to invest in tons of lenses. If not, there's really no reason to buy an interchangeable-lens camera. Spend a little more and get either the RX100 or Rx100 II point-and-shoot cameras. What we've got here is a nice compromise between price and features—but it makes no sense to buy it if you're not going to use its key features.