You could by a Canon G16 for your bang around, all purpose beater camera. You'd get a nicely built little brick with a smaller than average imaging sensor, a claustrophobic .85% optical finder and a pretty decent non-removeable lens. You'll spend about $600. Or you can see what Sony just tossed into the ring. Looks like they took the brilliant APS-C sensor from the a58 (great color, nice DR and lots of resolution), put it in a body with hand hold ability, dropped in a useable (not spectacular, judging by the specs) EVF and finished it off with a Nex lens mount and a decent (but not exceptional), small and light 18-55mm kit lens that also has a very decent optical image stabilizer. Just for grins they added a good movie mode and then priced the whole package at about 2/3rds the cost of the Canon.
No, I don't think the Sony a3000 is waterproof or able to fire at 12 fps or able to lock onto fast moving soccer players in low light. But I do think it will provide a big step up in image quality for a huge number of consumers who would have been targets for point and shoot cameras or who may have defaulted to cellphone cameras. And for a legion of students and people with limited budgets who are just starting out it gives good access to a sensor that should be competitive with the sensors in APS-C Canons and Nikons. If all that really matters is the imaging quality of the sensor and access to decent lenses then this camera is an entry level no-brainer.
I read, with no little amusement, a sampling of the hundreds and hundreds of baffled comments on one of the forae that predicted this camera would cause a Sony "face plant." That no rational human would want to buy a camera that didn't have state of the art screens or throughput. I laughed when they suggested that no reasonable photographer would want one as I placed my pre-order on Amazon. Who wouldn't want a functional (and potentially great image producer) that is also a beater and available new at such a low price point that one could, in some situations, consider the camera an "expendable?"
To make a tired car analogy: Yes, we mostly all would love to drive "aspirational" cars like M-series BMW's and turbo-charged Audi's. Yes, we'd all love to drive fast all day on the AutoBahn. Ahhh, the smell of rich Corinthian leather.....
Well, I don't know about you but I've got a Toyota Corolla and a Honda CRV parked out in front of my house and they are functional and dependable everyday users. And I think that's what Sony had in mind here.
You may not remember when the SLR market matured in the old days of film but if you didn't need the special build or features of a Nikon F3 or Canon EOS-1 you could always buy an economy DLSR with fewer features for a fraction of the cost of the big boys. Given that you could use the same lenses and the same film, the image quality differences straight through were nil. We have now hit back to that same paradigm where a camera maker gives you the option of having a great sensor and a lens mount that can be used with lots of lenses at a price even a student can afford.
The scary thing for camera enthusiasts is that when you equalize the quality of the imaging chain and offer that quality at a tiny price point the difference between a bright eyed, poor student's photo and the well equipped hobbyist's photo is now reduced to the quality of the idea and the polish of the execution.
It's always humbling when someone can make really nice art with tools that cost a itsy-bitsy bit more than that Billingham camera bag you bought......
Sony may have a tremendous holiday hit on their hands. What's not to like for the vast majority of intended users?
Don't like it? Don't buy it. Take a look at the Leica Vario X instead...