Most mirrorless cameras in APS-C format are able to take a great photo. The Sony a6000 reaches this sector increasingly crowded with the intention of highlighting a handful of new tricks and updated technology, but it is too similar to the camera it replaces, the 2012 Sony NEX-6.
What is it?
The Sony NEX series may be gone, but it has only been done as a trade name. Its excellent cameras are very much alive under the umbrella of the Alpha (a) range. The a6000 is a mirrorless camera with mid-range sensor of 24 megapixel and APS-C size, and the E-Mount from Sony. It costs $650 USD body only and $800 USD with a 16-50 mm f / 3,5-5,6 lens.
Why is it important?
It is the first camera restructured Alpha line pointing to a higher input level (not counting , of course, the powerful Alpha a7 and A7R full format). It is important because it replaces the NEX -6 and probably also the NEX -7, which was revolutionary when it came out in 2011.
While respecting the NEX design a lot, the a6000 also inherits much of the angled design and an industrial feel of the a7 and a7R. It’s a good mix, because it distinguishes Sony’s estetic from all other manufacturers looking for a retro style, or look like the Leica. The A6000 style is modern, but clean and without giving up the controls for the sake of minimalism for minimalism.
The top of the camera features for practically following almost a straight line, which is good in terms of design, but makes the dials a little less attainable. The grip is excellent, probably the best in its class thanks to the prominent handle on the right side. The rest of the controls maintain it’s personality and touch from the other Sony cameras. Sony applies the philosophy of "if something works, do not change it."
Using the a6000
The a6000 takes excellent pictures, but if you’re looking for a qualitative leap on the NEX generation, it may disappoint you. The new 24 -megapixel sensor is, of course, an improvement over the old of 16 of the NEX -6, but if we look at RAW, the quality is the same in both chambers. In fact, we have compared the a6000 with the old NEX-C3 and we have not found a tangible difference.
This does not mean at all that the a6000 is a bad camera. This very near the top in terms of image quality on APS-C format and can be measured on an equal basis with equivalent models of Fujifilm, Nikon, or Panasonic. However, we can not say that the camera stands out from their predecessors.
All sample photos that you will see below were taken with a 16-50mm f / 3,5-5,6 lens, exported to Adobe Lightroom. (Click to enlarge)
SONY A6000 & E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS | 1/100S f/3.5 16mm ISO 1250
SONY A6000 & E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS | 1/60S f/4.0 22mm ISO 3200
SONY A6000 & E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS | 1/60S f/4.0 16mm ISO 400
SONY A6000 & E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS | 1/60S f/4.0 16mm ISO 1250
The a6000 stands on its predecessors in a handful at first glance inconspicuous areas. The battery, for example, is able to take an average of 420 images before running out. The NEX -6 only reached 360. Autofocus also benefits from a hybrid system of contrast and phase detection that has become the standard of the pointers in APS-C format models. The difference is particularly evident in the continuous approach. It doesn’t reach the level of a DSLR, but it does a very good job as long as we work with enough light. Autofocus in one image is as fast as an a7.
Sony offers a good range of controls in their latest cameras, and a6000 is no exception . At the top we find the mode dials and aperture, the shutter button and a customizable feature.
On the back is the control wheel surrounded by the usual buttons . I have only found two problems maybe it’s a too picky product. The first is that it is not easy to differentiate the dials at the top by touch when we are looking through the viewfinder. You have to test a lot with your finger. Similarly, the buttons on the back protrude very little from the housing. They are so buried there that it’s hard to know exactly where they are groping or spend a few seconds touching. It is not something that will ruin the experience, but I am one who believes that the best buttons are those that you can find with your eyes closed. In the a6000 this process simply takes time.
Speaking of electronic viewfinder, the a6000 is a step back compared to the NEX-6, at least on paper. Lowers from 2.4 million points to 1.4 million points. Fortunately, the decrease in this figure does not ruin the experience. Still a very clear display, and even better in low light where the NEX already showed grainy.
If you are considering purchasing a6000 with the kit, there are a couple of things you should know. It is a good lens input in terms of detail, color and zoom capability. It has a good optical stabilization, and its size is contained. However, if you shoot in RAW, the lens shows a fairly noticeable distortion at the edges, producing a small vignetting effect. You can easily fix it if we use lens profiles in Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop. If you shoot in JPEG , the problems are corrected by the camera itself.
We always recommend investing in a bright lens with a good opening, but it is not always possible with a limited budget. The only downside of the Sony E-mount is that it has so many lenses available as the Micro Four Thirds or Fujifilm X.
Photo before lens corrections
Photo after lens corrections
Video recording on the a6000 has pros and cons. The detail and color are decent, but suffers from compression artifacts, especially in low light. Theres available a fairly wide range of frame rates (34, 30, or 60) where the Olympus, for example, is much more limited.
In general, you will find better quality video mirrorless cameras with Panasonic, as the GX7, GM1 or GH4. As for the continuous autofocus works well most of the time, but not up to the excellent Dual Pixel autofocus on the Canon 70D. The biggest video mistake here is probably the lack of an external microphone input. The only way to add this accessory is through the flash dock of Sony’s own format. It’s a strange and not very advantageous solution and considering how cheap it is a microphone in standard 3.5 mm jack.
Other features of the Sony mirrorless that have remained in the a6000 are a retractable flash, WiFi connectivity, NFC, face recognition, and scene modes that are good for beginners but are not comparable to learn to take photos by yourself .
What we like
The a6000 design is very good, and combined with a robust set of physical controls and a comfortable grip. It is a camera capable of producing excellent photos and a moderately good video with a very fast autofocus. The controls are logically placed and has enough customization possibilities. The electronic viewfinder is far above what is in other mirrorless cameras in the $650 range.
What we don’t like
Despite the jump in resolution, image quality has remained the same as in the NEX. The buttons could have been a little better. The lack of a conventional audio input is a problem for those who record video, and the range of E -Mount mounts still have no good autofocus lenses.
Should I buy it?
To cost $650 USD, the a6000 offers a very solid value. However, not much different from the NEX -6, so unless you care a lot for a very fast autofocus or higher resolution images, maybe it’s a good idea to seek the latter, which will be below that price.
Alternatives around $650 are the Olympus EM-10, for $700, which is smaller. This camera has better stabilization and great lenses, but lower resolution and less quality in low light. The Panasonic GX7, which costs $800, will give you higher quality video, while the Fujifilm X-E2 gives you roughly the same quality, but at a much higher price of $900.
Sony has yet to find a feature or two that allows you to differentiate their chambers of competition in APS-C format. While waiting for these functions, a6000 it is still a great camera at a very balanced rate.
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