Sony A6000 Image Quality Comparison

Is the A6000 really an NEX-6 and NEX-7 combined?

Posted: 04/11/2014

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, below are our Still Life test target crops comparing the Sony A6000 to the Fujifilm X-M1, Nikon D5300, Panasonic GX7, Sony NEX-6 and Sony NEX-7.

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 our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Sony A6000 to any camera we've ever tested.

Sony A6000 versus Fujifilm X-M1 at base ISO

Sony A6000 at ISO 100
Fujifilm X-M1 at ISO 200

The increased resolution of the A6000's 24 megapixels certainly helps in comparison to the X-M1's 16, but it's also interesting to note how poorly the X-M1 handles the fabric swatches in comparison here at base ISO, losing a lot of contrast in the red and fine detail in the pink, while the A6000 delivers crisp detail in the fabrics as well as the mosaic tiles crop.

Sony A6000 versus Nikon D5300 at ISO 100

Sony A6000 at ISO 100
Nikon D5300 at ISO 100

At identical resolutions, these turn in similar performances here at base ISO, with the A6000 taking a slight nod for nice detail in the pink fabric, which the D5300 seems to miss a bit. The D5300 also shows a touch of moiré in the red-leaf swatch which isn't evident from the A6000.

Sony A6000 versus Panasonic GX7 at base ISO

Sony A6000 at ISO 100
Panasonic GX7 at ISO 200

The GX7 has the only Four Thirds sensor of the bunch here, and combined with its lower resolution of 16 mp, it can't quite compete at base ISO with the A6000 for fine detail and sharpness, taking a noticeable backseat in most of the target crop areas.

Sony A6000 versus Sony NEX-6 at ISO 100

Sony A6000 at ISO 100
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 100

Ah, we finally get to the heart of the matter, as the NEX-6 is the predecessor in the line to the A6000 despite having 8 more megapixels than the NEX-6. Other than the obvious difference in size when viewed at 100% though, the NEX-6 looks surprisingly good here. The A6000 is better in the pink fabric and produces fewer sharpening artifacts, but the NEX-6 looks great in most all other areas and holds its own.

Sony A6000 versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 100

Sony A6000 at ISO 100
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 100

Another interesting comparison, as the NEX-7 is the flagship of this storied line, and from these comparisons you can certainly see why. There's better clarity and higher contrast from the NEX-7 in the first two crops though it shows more obvious sharpening halos, and slightly better reproduction of the difficult red fabric swatch. The A6000 does take the nod in the pink fabric swatch, but a slight nod to the NEX-7 all around. It will be interesting to see what happens below as ISO rises.


ISO 1600 has become a much more prominent low light setting over the past few years as cameras have gotten better at dealing with noise reduction and other contributing factors, so these should prove particularly useful.

Sony A6000 versus Fujifilm X-M1 at ISO 1600

Sony A6000 at ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-M1 at ISO 1600

Fairly similar results here, with the X-M1 doing a good job at retaining clarity in the mosaic tiles of the bottle label, but losing contrast in the red fabric, and not doing a good job with the pink fabric.

Sony A6000 versus Nikon D5300 at ISO 1600

Sony A6000 at ISO 1600
Nikon D5300 at ISO 1600

The D5300 introduces quite a bit of grainy noise here, which could be OK for a film grain type look, but in general the A6000 images are preferable with lower noise and better clarity, though they do have a more "processed" look.

Sony A6000 versus Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600

Sony A6000 at ISO 1600
Panasonic GX7 at ISO 1600

The smaller sensor of the GX7 starts to take its toll here, and displays more apparent noise and less clarity in finer detailed areas than the A6000, as well as beginning to entirely lose all detail in the red fabric swatch.

Sony A6000 versus Sony NEX-6 at ISO 1600

Sony A6000 at ISO 1600
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 1600

The NEX-6 does a remarkable job handling noise here in comparison, being a full generation older. It's a close call between these two here, though the A6000's higher resolution is still evident.

Sony A6000 versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 1600

Sony A6000 at ISO 1600
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 1600

The NEX-7 shows its mettle here, and stands up quite well given it's from 2011. The A6000 performs slightly better in a few areas like the pink fabric swatch, but the NEX-7 takes the nod with better clarity in the mosaic tile area.

ISO 3200 was once a bit on the high side for APS-C cameras, but that's beginning to change these days, so it merits close examination.

Sony A6000 versus Fujifilm X-M1 at ISO 3200

Sony A6000 at ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-M1 at ISO 3200

Similar results on display here, with both cameras performing fairly well for this sensitivity. A nod to the A6000 for being slightly crisper, but the Fuji generally looks more refined.

Sony A6000 versus Nikon D5300 at ISO 3200

Sony A6000 at ISO 3200
Nikon D5300 at ISO 3200

As with ISO 1600, fine grain noise in the D5300 yields a film grain effect. This may be usable in some situations, but not something you'd likely want every time. On the other hand, you can tell the Sony is working hard to produce a smoother looking image.

Sony A6000 versus Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200

Sony A6000 at ISO 3200
Panasonic GX7 at ISO 3200

We've yet to see a Four Thirds sensor handle ISO 3200 as well as most APS-C sensors, and the GX7 is no exception. As a general rule, it's best to keep MFT cameras at ISO 1600 and below, at least for larger prints.

Sony A6000 versus Sony NEX-6 at ISO 3200

Sony A6000 at ISO 3200
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 3200

Once again the NEX-6 holds its own against its successor the A6000, even performing slightly better in the red swatch, though not quite as well in the pink swatch. If you're an NEX-6 owner hoping for vastly improved low light performance, you're not likely to find it with the A6000, although it has certainly improved in other areas like autofocus times.

Sony A6000 versus Sony NEX-7 at ISO 3200

Sony A6000 at ISO 3200
Sony NEX-7 at ISO 3200

Another close match here. Each are slightly better in certain areas, but a close race overall. With the A6000 being priced lower than the NEX-7, at least you know you're getting flagship quality at mid-level prices.


Detail: Sony A6000 vs. Fujifilm X-M1, Nikon D5300, Panasonic GX7, Sony NEX-6 and Sony NEX-7


ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. This is where the Sony A6000 shines the brightest in the image quality department, at wielding fine, high-contrast detail. It is superior to all but the D5300 at base ISO for incredible sharpness, and easily bests all the competition at ISO 3200 and 6400. Shooters of imagery requiring fine, high-contrast detail will certainly want to take note here.



Sony A6000 Review -- Print Quality

Excellent 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100/200; a nice 16 x 20 at ISO 1600; and a good 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

ISOs 100 and 200 deliver excellent 30 x 40 inch prints with superb detail, contrast and color. Wall display prints look great up to a whopping 40 x 60 inches.

ISO 400 prints are quite good at 24 x 36 inches, again showing nice detail with the exception of typical softening in our difficult red swatch. Wall display prints are possible here up to 36 x 48 inches.

ISO 800 images look good at 16 x 20 inches. 20 x 30s aren't bad, and are definitely usable for less critical applications, but are a bit on the soft side to merit our "good" print standard.

ISO 1600 yields a good 16 x 20 inch print as well. There is a hint of luminance noise in flatter areas, but it's not bad at all. This is a great size to achieve at ISO 1600.

ISO 3200 prints a similar 13 x 19 as the 16 x 20 at ISO 1600, with only minor noise in the shadows behind our test target.

ISO 6400 is where the A6000 starts to show strain from noise processing, requiring a reduction in print size to 8 x 10 for a good overall print.

ISO 12,800 makes a nice 5 x 7 inch print, which is still a capable feat at this ISO.

ISO 25,600 prints a nice 4 x 6, which good color reproduction for such a high ISO.

The Sony A6000 succeeds the popular NEX-6 but sports a sensor with 24-megapixel resolution in line with the flagship NEX-7. This resolution bump allows for excellent 30 x 40 inch prints at the lowest ISOs, something not achievable with sensors in the 16mp range due to the actual pixels becoming apparent beyond 24 x 36 inch prints. It also slightly outperforms the NEX-6 at ISO 400, but after that the recommended max print sizes are the same from ISO 800 through the rest of the range to ISO 25,600, indicating not much in the way of improvement in high ISO shooting performance over the NEX-6. However, two thumbs up to Sony for the ability to yet again achieve a good print at the highest ISO setting, as this is something not all manufacturers can claim due to the over-marketing of a camera's high-ISO capabilities (but we're not complaining because this is one of the reasons you count on us!).

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)


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