Sony Alpha 6000
12th Feb 2014 | 12:50
What do you get if you cross the A7 with the NEX-6? The A6000!
It's been a few months since Sony took the decision to officially drop the NEX moniker from its E-mount compact system cameras, renaming all of its interchangeable lens cameras with the Alpha brand, regardless of whether it is an A mount or an E mount (those formally known as NEX) camera. This means that some Alpha cameras (such as the A6000) take E mount lenses, while others take A mount lenses.
Since then, the most exciting product to make its debut has been the Sony A7 and the Sony A7R, the company's full-frame E-mount camera which has been causing waves. Although its price compares well with other full-frame cameras like the Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D800, it is still a stretch for many.
So – the solution? Sony has taken the decision to introduce what amounts to an APS-C version of the A7 in the shape of the A6000. As of now, two of the NEX lines will be discontinued – the Sony NEX-7, which was the camera aimed at the semi-pro audience, and the NEX-6, which sat at the top of the enthusiast range.
Sony expects NEX-7 customers will head in the direction of the A7, while NEX-6 customers will be catered for by the new A6000.
The A6000 has a similar look and feel to the A7. It features a newly designed 24.3 million pixel APS-C CMOS sensor. Like the device in the A7, the sensor has a gapless on-chip design, which is supposed to increase light collecting efficiency.
The sensor also has 179 autofocus points, of which all 179 are used for phase detection, but 25 are also contrast detection points for the camera's hybrid autofocusing system.
This autofocusing system facilitates Sony's claim that the camera has the fastest AF in the world, for those cameras with APS-C sized sensors at least anyway – and that claim stretches to DSLRs as well as other compact system cameras. With the A7 it also shares features such as Lock on AF, Eye AF and AF area settings.
The camera is also equipped with Sony's latest processor, the Bionz X, something which is also found in the A7/A7R. Sony claims this to be three times faster than the previous generation.
On the back of the camera is a tiltable LCD screen, which is joined by an electronic viewfinder - the same device found in the recently launched RX10 bridge camera.
Along with ditching the NEX name, Sony is ditching the NEX menu system, unifying menus across the entire range of Sony cameras – taking the lead from existing Alphas. This should mean that anybody familiar with any type of Sony camera can easily pick one up from higher (or lower) in the range and be able to get started with it straight away.
As is starting to become pretty much standard, the A6000 comes complete with inbuilt Wi-Fi and NFC technology. Like other recent Sony cameras, it is also customisable with apps which can be downloaded to increase functionality – for instance, a time-lapse app is available.
Build quality and handling
Taking a look at the A6000 there are a lot of similarities between it and the NEX-6 which it sort of replaces.
Those photographers which appreciate a lot of dedicated dials and buttons will probably enjoy using a camera like the A6000 which has plenty of these available.
The grip of the A6000 is ever so slightly more pronounced than on the NEX-6, making it easier to hold, especially when using the camera one-handed. There's also a nice texture to the camera, which helps with getting a good grip on it, as well as lending it an air of quality.
Where the NEX-6 had two stacked dials on top of the camera – one for changing the shooting mode (such as aperture priority, fully automatic or fully manual mode) and another for setting the aperture or shutter speed – depending on the mode you were shooting in, the A6000 has two dials next to each other on the top of the camera. While this takes up more room overall, it makes the experience of shooting easier and less prone to making accidental settings changes. The second dial (shutter speed or aperture) is very easily reachable by the thumb, which is handy for making quick changes.
As with most other Sony cameras of late, most of the buttons on the a6000 are customisable. Sony knows that users like to set for themselves their most commonly used settings, so it's nice to see that brought across here too. There's also a type of quick menu available by pressing the function button – again everything that appears in this menu can be swapped out for something you find you use more often.
A small custom button can be found on the top of the camera, useful if you want quick access to one particular setting often, such as wireless settings.
It's something we keep repeating, but we continue to be baffled by Sony's decision not to include touchscreens on some of its CSCs, especially given it definitely has the technology elsewhere in the portfolio. It seems especially odd not to use one here on the A6000, when the lower specced and cheaper NEX-5R does use one. Including a touchscreen would make it extremely quick and easy to set autofocus points and to navigate through menus, but perhaps the company believes that more experienced photographers are not in favour of touch-sensitive devices.
Sony has produced some excellent cameras of late, and we continue to be impressed by the performance of its sensors. Although it's difficult to give any kind of definitive verdict at this stage in the review cycle, we feel pretty confident that the A6000 will be capable of producing excellent images.
One thing we have been able to get a feel for is focusing speeds. Sony is very proud of the work it has put into increasing speeds, and it does seem to be paying off. In the brief time that we were able to use the camera we can see that it is extremely fast – noticeably quicker than the NEX-6. It will be interesting to see how the camera copes when light levels drop, as opposed to the fairly bright meeting room I was in while using the A6000.
Once again Sony has brought something intriguing and exciting into the compact system camera territory. Those who spent the latter part of 2013 gazing longingly at the A7, baulking at the high price tag will probably be especially be tempted by the A6000.
We're looking forward to putting it through its paces properly, to really test out those world's fastest AF speed claims and to see how that 24 million pixel sensor performs.
These images were taken on a pre-production version of the a6000, and as such, may not be representative of final image quality. We were also unable to take the camera out of the room.
Detail resolution is good.
Colour reproduction in images straight from the camera seems to be good too.
Shallow depth of field effects can easily be achieved with the camera.
General purpose metering seems to do a reasonable job of producing accurate exposures.
Here the camera has coped well with the conflicting light sources in the frame to produced a balanced exposure.
This image shows the kit 16-50mm lens at its widest point.
In this image, the kit lens has been zoomed to the maximum telephoto length.
Here, Sony's Clear Image zoom has been used to zoom even further into the scene.