Sony A6000 Review
|Full model name:||Sony Alpha ILCE-A6000|
|Kit Lens:||3.13x zoom
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Dimensions:||4.7 x 2.6 x 1.8 in.
(120 x 67 x 45 mm)
|Weight:||16.2 oz (460 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
Sony A6000 Review -- Hands-on Preview
By William Brawley
The well-received Sony NEX-6 not only gets refreshed with the NEX "de-branding" we expected, but also upgraded with some very significant performance enhancements in the new Sony Alpha 6000 (from here on out called the A6000). Looking like a blend of three cameras -- the NEX-6, NEX-7 and Alpha 7 -- the new A6000 sits squarely in Sony's compact system camera lineup aimed at step-up users, advanced hobbyists and enthusiasts looking for DSLR quality and performance in a much smaller, lighter package.
Although were not sure of the fate of the Sony NEX-7, for which users have been aching for an update, it seems all but replaced by the introduction of the Sony A7. However, for those who aren't ready to jump to full-frame or want a smaller, lighter camera and for a significantly lower price, the A6000 offers photographers a number of improvements, inside and out, over both the NEX-6 and NEX-7 that should satisfy users just stepping up to a more advanced camera as well as seasoned photographers demanding advanced performance and control.
What's New. On the inside, the Sony A6000 features a big sensor upgrade over the NEX-6 with a newly developed 24.3-megapixel EXMOR APS HD CMOS sensor coupled with Sony's BIONZ X image processor which was borrowed from the A7/A7R lineup. This pairing increases the ISO range of 100-25,600 (up to 51,200 equivalent with Multi-Frame Noise Reduction and up to 12,800 for video), and the processor aims to increase detail and improve noise reduction performance as well as reduce the effects of diffraction when shooting at smaller apertures.
Not only does the A6000 aim for stellar image quality, but it also knocks the ball out of the park in terms of autofocus performance -- performance that Sony claims beats even mid-level DSLRs. Thanks to improvements to their Fast Hybrid AF system, the Sony A6000 is claimed to unseat the briefly-reigning king of AF, the Fujifilm X-T1 with its 0.08 sec AF speed, with the ability to autofocus in only 0.06 seconds! Sony says the A6000 also provides a performance boost for Fast Hybrid AF in movie recording.
The Sony A6000 also has another trick up its proverbial sleeve that fans of fast action will enjoy: 11fps continuous shooting with AF tracking. This is a significant upgrade to the NEX-6's solid 10fps continuous shooting via the use of Speed Priority Continuous mode, which locked focus on the first frame of shooting. If your subject's distance moved at all, you may have been out of luck to get an in-focus shot during the burst.
The A6000 provides a significant increase in the AF coverage on the sensor for both contrast-detect and phase-detect AF compared to the NEX-6. Now, AF coverage spans approximately 91% of the height and 92% of the width of the sensor (up from 47% x 52% on the NEX-6). The sensor is nearly covered by AF points: there are now 179 phase-detect AF points within that coverage area as well as 25 contrast-detect points. This delivers tons of flexibility in composition by allowing you a lot of freedom to place the focus point where you need it.
The A6000 also features a variety of other AF enhancements such as lock-on AF for tracking moving subjects, Eye-AF for quick focusing on the subjects' eyes, as well as Flexible Spot AF with adjustable "spot" sizing.
Like the NEX-6, the new A6000 includes built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for use with Sony's PlayMemories Mobile app for iOS and Android devices. However, like Sony's other recent cameras, the A6000 also includes NFC support for quick and easy pairing of smartphones -- Android-only for the foreseeable future, however.
Hands-On: Design and Build. Users of the NEX-6 and NEX-7 should feel right at home with the new A6000, as Sony's kept with many of the same design concepts that advanced users enjoy such as the built-in EVF, Multi-Interface Shoe, pop-up flash, and a dedicated PASM mode dial.
In the hand, the Sony A6000 feels noticeably chunkier and beefier than the NEX-6, though, it's actually a bit lighter at 285 grams compared to 287 grams (body-only). The A6000's solidness is very reminiscent of the Sony A7 and A7R with its more angular, sharp-edged design. In fact, the A6000 looks and feels like an A7 with the pentaprism-shaped EVF hump chopped off. The NEX-6 was comprised of a metal and polycarbonate plastic design, and the A6000 follows suit, however the new model feels more metallic, in a way, with a smooth, black paint job that lacks any sort of texture or speckled finish like the NEX-6.
The Sony Alpha 6000 (left) is closely resembles the Sony Alpha 7 (right) and 7R in terms of both exterior finish and styling as well as in size.
Looking at a side-by-side top-down comparison of the A6000 and the NEX-6, you can easily see that the A6000 is quite a bit thicker than its predecessor, however it's practically the same height and length, and therefore the sheer portability isn't really affected. With the Sony 16-50mm kit lens, it's a nice, lightweight and compact package with easy to reach controls and a rubberized covering on the handgrip.
The Sony Alpha 6000 (left) is noticeably thicker than the NEX-6 (right), but overall very similar in size and weight.
EVF & LCD. Like the NEX-6 before it, the Sony A6000 features a built-in EVF and tilting LCD screen. The specs for the EVF in the A6000, however, are different from its predecessor with a smaller, seemingly lower-resolution OLED display. Carrying the Tru-Finder branding, the 0.39-inch 1,440K-dot OLED EVF does looking noticeably smaller than the 0.5-inch 2,359K-dot OLED EVF of the NEX-6 on the outside.
However, comparing the two side-by-side, the A6000's EVF is the clear winner as it produces much more accurate colors and easy to discern details. Both cameras' EVFs provide 100% coverage, but the A6000's offers slightly lower magnification at 1.07x versus 1.09x for the NEX-6. Still, the view inside the A6000's EVF is bright and large.
The LCD, however, is a holdover from the NEX-6, with a 3-inch tilting TFT LCD display with 921,600-dot resolution and similar angles of articulation (up 90-degrees, down 45-degrees), making it easier to take shots from difficult or awkward angles. The A6000 does provide peaking for critical focus as well as zebras overlays for over-exposed areas.
Out with the new, in with the old. The icon-based main menu of the NEX-6 (right) has been replaced with a tabbed menu similar to the A7/R cameras (left).
Menus. With the Sony A6000, gone are the bright, colorful, icon- and scrolling-heavy menus of the NEX line of cameras. Instead, Sony's brought over the same user interface from the A7/R and RX-series cameras. Just like with the A7 line, the A6000 provides a simpler, easier-to-navigate menu system that features all the button, dial and on-screen "Quick Navi" configuration you could want -- to help you avoid digging into said menus while you're out shooting.
Controls. Like we mentioned above, users of the NEX-6 and NEX-7 should feel right at home with the A6000's control layout. Particularly on the rear of the camera, the button layout is nearly identical to the NEX-6, but with the labeling scheme straight from the A7. The A6000 does add an additional custom function (C2) button at the lower right corner, and switches the playback button for the menu button.
Also gone are the two unlabeled buttons that change function corresponding to on-screen options. They've now been replaced by a dedicated Function (Fn) button, which brings us a table of settings and options for quick adjustments, and the playback mode button.
The top dial controls display a hybrid of NEX-6 and NEX-7 designs. The full PASM dial is carried over from the NEX-6, with the inclusion of Memory Recall and Movie Mode options. This dial feels nice and stiff, and while it's not a locking mode dial, as we've seen introduced on more cameras lately, it doesn't feel as if it could be easily bumped and rotated unintentionally.
From the NEX-7, we have a secondary label-less dial that serves as the aperture control (by default), as well as a way to scroll through menus. This dial is easier to rotate than the mode dial -- as it should be -- but resists rotation enough to avoid an accidental light bump or brush. You can also customize the function of this dial to serve as the shutter speed adjustment, with the rear 4-way scroll dial on the back of the camera being used for aperture adjustment. (As expected, this dial serves as shutter control by default in Manual Exposure mode.)
HD Video Recording. The Sony A6000 features the same basic set of Full HD video recording features including 1,920 x 1,080 resolution video with both 60p and 24p frame rate options in AVCHD format along with lower resolutions in MP4 format, and provides support for full PASM exposure modes. The dedicated video recording button allows for motion picture capture in any exposure mode for quick, one-press video recording, although there is a dedicated Movie Mode.
Despite lots of advanced video recording amenities for the image side of things like focus peaking, zebras and an adjustable AF drive speed, there are only basic audio recording features. Like the NEX-6, audio levels are not adjustable nor is there a 3.5mm mic jack input for external microphones. NEX-6 users had the option of an external hot-shoe-mounted stereo mic (the Sony ECM-XYST1M), which includes adjustable recording directions, a low-cut filter, fuzzy windscreen cover and a mic-out jack for monitoring with headphones. There's no word yet if this microphone will work with the A6000, however. Videographers wanting more professional-level audio quality will hopefully have the option of going with the Sony external mic or they must resort to external audio recorders and synchronize the audio in post production.
Power, Storage and Connectivity. Users upgrading from an NEX-series camera or looking to add the A6000 to their stable beside the A7/R will be pleased to hear that Sony has kept the same battery format for this new model. The NP-FW50 InfoLithium rechargeable battery pack is CIPA-rated to provide around 420 shots when using the LCD monitor, which is a significant improvement over the 360 shots the NEX-6 provided with LCD. Like its predecessor the Sony A6000's battery is charged in-camera via USB, with an AC adapter and USB cable provided in the bundle.
As with previous Sony models, the A6000 uses a dual-format card slot that accepts both Secure Digital cards (SD, SDHC and SDXC) and MemoryStick cards (PRO Duo, Pro-HG Duo and PRO-HG HX Duo).
As mentioned above, the A6000 features both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for smart device pairing and control. For wired connection, the A6000 includes an HDMI connection (Micro HDMI, Type-D) -- which can provide clean HDMI output for video recording -- and a multi-use Micro USB port for file transfer or for use with remotes, like the optional Sony RM-VPR1 controller.
Also mentioned previously is the A6000's Multi Interface Shoe which not only supports standard flashes, it integrates 21 additional pins for adding accessories to the camera, however we don't have a list of compatible accessories yet.
Pricing and Availability. The Sony A6000 looks to be a stellar upgrade to not only the NEX-6, but also the NEX-7 with its high-resolution 24.3MP sensor, blazingly-fast AF and much-improved burst shooting with AF tracking. The A6000 is set to launch in April 2014 in both a kit configuration with the Sony 16-50mm Power Zoom lens for around US$800, and as a body-only option for around US$650, in both an all-black color and a silver version (with corresponding silver 16-50 kit lens).
Place your pre-order with a trusted Imaging Resource affiliate now:
- Sony A6000 body-only, black: ADORAMA | AMAZON | B&H
- Sony A6000 with 16-50mm lens, black: ADORAMA | AMAZON | B&H
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