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:||16.5 oz (468 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Sony A6000 specifications|
Not only does this high-res speed demon cram in plenty of desirable features, the Sony A6000 also shaves a couple of hundred dollars off its predecessor's price. That's the recipe for greatness, so it's no surprise this has been one of our most popular reviews in recent memory -- and now, it's finished! So what was our final verdict on this affordable, swift-shooting camera, and is it time you bought one for yourself? Read our in-depth Sony A6000 review, and see what we thought!Pros
Amazing image quality for the price; Blazing-fast hybrid autofocus; Swift burst shooting with generous buffer depths; Good battery life with LCD monitor; More compact than a DSLR; In-camera Wi-Fi wireless networkingCons
Continuous autofocus can't match its burst rate; High-ISO JPEGs can look overprocessed; Sluggish startup performance; No touch-screen display; Wi-Fi can be a bit frustrating to usePrice and availability
The Sony A6000 launched 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).Imaging Resource rating
5.0 out of 5.0
$1231.33 (76% more)
20.3 MP (16% less)
Also has viewfinder
Sony A6000 Review
Overview and Hands-on Preview by William Brawley
Shooter's Report by Eamon Hickey
Preview posted: 02/11/2014
04/11/2014: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality Analysis
04/25/2014: Shooter's Report Part I: Getting Things Fixed and Heavenly Light
04/29/2014: Posted Test Results. See Optics, Image Quality, Flash, High ISO NR and Performance pages!
05/23/2014: Shooter's Report Part II: Focusing on a world in motion
06/25/2014: Shooter's Report Part III: Completing the picture
07/14/2014: Conclusion posted and review finalized!
In our most recent Best Mirrorless Camera for Under $1,000 article, we chose the Sony A6000 as one of our top picks. At the time it was on an incredible sale, but even at list it's a fantastic choice. Read the article now to see how it compares in the 'under $1,000' bracket.
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 we're 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! (Note, though, that AF speeds cited by manufacturers often don't include actually capturing a photo, so their claims are not directly comparable to our lab measurements.) 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 look 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 zebra 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 60p, 60i 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 stereo audio recording features such as the ability to disable audio recording, and an optional wind-cut filter. Like the NEX-6, audio levels are not adjustable, nor is there a standard 3.5mm jack for external microphones. The A6000 does however support Sony's hot-shoe-mounted ECM-XYST1M stereo mic, which includes adjustable recording directions, a low-cut filter, fuzzy windscreen cover and a mic-out jack for use with cameras that don't have Sony's proprietary Multi Interface Shoe. Thus, videographers wanting more professional-level audio quality have the option of going with the Sony external mic or 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 360 shots per charge when using the LCD monitor which is the same as the NEX-6, though the A6000's battery life when using the EVF is rated at 310 shots, a significant improvement over the 270 shots the NEX-6 provided with its EVF. 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, such as the aforementioned Sony ECM-XYST1M external mic.
Pricing and Availability. The Sony A6000 is 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 launched 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).
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Sony A6000 Shooter's Report Part I
Getting Things Fixed and Heavenly Light
When I reviewed the Sony NEX-6 last year, I liked a lot of things about its performance and image quality, but I had some pointed criticisms of its usability. Those usability faults were important enough to me that when I decided to buy a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera a few months later, I left the NEX-6 off my shopping list. I ended up buying its older brother, a Sony NEX-7, which I've used with reasonable happiness for the last six months or so.
Now comes the Sony Alpha 6000 to my doorstep, and the first question I had was: did Sony fix what I thought was broken in the NEX-6? I'll tackle that issue in this first installment of my shooter's report, and then explore the camera's performance upgrades in later installments.
The fixes. My Sony A6000 came with a standard kit lens, the E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS. I also got the new FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS lens, which I'll put through its paces in later installments. I've taken them on walks in the New York Botanical Garden, in Washington Square Park, and along the shore of Eastchester Bay.
One of my major complaints about the NEX-6 was that it did not allow you to separate autofocus activation from the shutter-release button. In fact, this by itself disqualified the NEX-6 from my shopping list last year.
Read on to find out about the changes and improvements to the Sony A6000.
Sony A6000 Shooter's Report Part II
Focusing on a world in motion
In this shooter's report installment I'll backtrack a little and talk about the Sony A6000's feel and handling, and then move on to a deeper discussion and real world testing of the highly touted AF performance.
Handling. When I first unpacked the Sony Alpha 6000, it felt immediately familiar. To me, its shape, size, and weight seem similar to the NEX-6 and NEX-7. That's also true of the way it feels in my hand, and that's a good thing. I find all three models very easy to hold securely, even with just a couple of fingers. I've now carried the A6000 for more than 15 hours on 12 different outings, and I have no complaints at all about its portability and comfort. As we noted above, it feels reasonably solid, but I felt a little cautious about torquing it too much when the large Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS lens was mounted. [Note: Image comparisons beside the NEX-6 can be seen in our A6000 overview.]
In my first hour with the Sony Alpha 6000, I spent a fair bit of time checking out the buttons, dials, and menus. The control placement works very well for me. I can quite easily reach the AEL button (which I use for autofocus) and both control dials with my thumb, and the custom and function buttons are also readily accessible, meaning I can make fast settings changes. We mentioned the new menu system in our overview, and I'll just add that it's as big an improvement in use as you would hope. I'd give a lot to get my NEX-7 updated to the new menu layout.
The A6000's AF speed is super fast, but can it handle sports? Read on to find out.
Sony A6000 Shooter's Report Part III
Completing the picture
Performance (other than AF). I spent a lot of time talking about autofocus performance in Part 2 of this report, but I wanted to add a few thoughts on the overall performance of the Sony A6000. The slow-ish wake-from-sleep time that I already mentioned has continued to annoy me a little, but it's something you can mostly learn to work around. In all my normal shooting with the camera, performance has otherwise been crisp -- controls respond immediately; there's practically no shot-to-shot delay; scrolling through menus or reviewing images is fast.
There is, however, one modest fly in the ointment: when the A6000's buffer fills up, it can take a long while to clear. And until it does, burst rate is greatly reduced and many of the camera's features are inaccessible. I ran into this a lot when shooting my long AF test bursts, especially when shooting in raw format. When I hit the buffer limit, I could still change certain settings like shutter speed and aperture, but I had to wait as long as a minute before I could access the menus. I was using a Class 10 SDHC card rated at only 15MB/s for writes, though. A faster one should reduce this time considerably, so buy the fastest card you can afford.
Read Shooter's Report Part III for additional thoughts on real-world performance and handling.
Sony A6000 Image Quality Comparison
How does the A6000 stack up against the competition?
Sony has made it clear that the A6000 is their logical successor to the popular NEX-6, but they equipped it with a 24-megapixel sensor similar to the NEX-7, and have yet to announce whether or not that model will get a successor, so we've included both cameras here for direct comparison. We also included two worthy APS-C sensored cameras and one highly popular Micro Four Thirds model, the Panasonic GX7.
Thus, we compare the Sony A6000 with the Fujifilm X-M1, Nikon D5300, Panasonic GX7, Sony NEX-6 and Sony NEX-7 using our standard Still Life test target.
NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. And remember, you can always go to the Comparometer to compare the Sony A6000 to any camera we've ever tested.
See how the A6000 held up in our lab test comparison.
Sony A6000 Print Quality
Sometimes you just want to hold a print in your hand.
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
Get the scoop on the A6000's print quality.
Sony A6000 Conclusion
The mirrorless for everyone?
The Sony Alpha 6000 arrived on the scene as the hotly anticipated successor to the NEX-6 (and possibly the higher-end NEX-7, as well), and it boasts a raft of upgrades and refinements. Chief among them are a new 24-megapixel sensor and a much improved hybrid CDAF/PDAF autofocus system.
The A6000 bears a close family resemblance to the NEX-6 and NEX-7. While not made to quite the premium standard of the NEX-7, it still feels solid with a high quality fit and finish. Although it's not the smallest mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera, we found the A6000 to be nicely compact and portable -- easily carried in a jacket pocket with its slim kit lens. Like its predecessors, the A6000 features both a tilting rear LCD and an electronic viewfinder (EVF), and we love the viewing and composing versatility this provides, indoors and out.
Happily, Sony has made major improvements in the usability of the Alpha A6000 compared to previous NEX cameras. There's a new, much more efficient menu system and -- finally! -- the ability to memorize and recall banks of user settings. Several important shooting functions are now much more directly accessible, including exposure compensation and toggling between autofocus and manual focus. In short, for mid-level and advanced photographers, the usability of the A6000 is now on par with other good advanced cameras.
Click here to read our final verdict on the Sony A6000!
In the Box
The Sony A6000 retail kit package (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Sony Alpha ILCE-6000 camera body
- SELP-1650 16-50mm E-mount Power Zoom lens
- NP-FW50 rechargeable Li-ion battery
- AC-UB10 AC adaptor
- Shoulder strap
- Micro USB cable
- Lens cap
- Eyepiece cup
- Instruction Manual
- Wi-Fi Connection/One-touch (NFC) Guide
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. 16GB Class 10 should be a minimum.
- BC-TRW Dedicated Battery Charger (~US$50)
- HVL-F60M External Flash/Video Light (~US$550)
- ECM-XYST1M External Stereo Microphone (~US$140)
- LA-EA4 A-mount to E-Mount Adapter (~US$350)
- Additional lenses
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.
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