Sony a600 Review
A while ago, Sony officially decided to change the NEX moniker for its line of compact E-mount cameras. It now uses the Alpha moniker for all of its camera lineup with interchangeable lens. The Alpha brand name now applies to both the A-mount and E-mount cameras, meaning that some of the Alpha-branded cameras, including the A6000, use E-mount lenses and others feature A-mount lenses. With the A6000, Sony has decided to introduce what appears to be an APS-C version of the A7. For this reason, the company expects that the NEX-7 customers will head to the direction of A7, while the NEX-6 customers will feel at home with the new A6000. Sony A6000 Overview Its predecessor, the NEX-6 is an already well-regarded CSC that has managed to stay the course for four good years. Lasting this long is a testament to how special it was, considering the brief shelf-life of new camera models these days. As an update then, the A6000 has shoes to fill in order to match, or even improve on the staying power and popularity of its predecessor. The A6000 is a high-res speed demon that manages to cram plenty of desirable features, just like it’s NEX-6 predecessor, while shaving off a few hundred dollars of its predecessor’s price. This sounds like a recipe for greatness, and it’s safe to bet that no company would bring out a successor to such an impressive offering that’s just a tinkered version of the previous model. Read on to find out more about what Sony has done with the new model.
Key Specifications of The Sony a600:
• 24.3 MP EXMOR APS-C CMOS sensor• 11fps continuous shooting with subject tracking• Hybrid AF system with 179 phase detection points and 25 contrast-detect• Bionz X Image Processor
• 1080/60p and 24p full HD Video recording with clean HDMI output
• Multi-interface shoe and an In built flash
• 3” tilting LED with 921,600 dots
• NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity
• OLED electronic viewfinder with 1.44M dots
The distinctive NEX shape has been retained, though all has been changed inside. The A6000 features the newly developed 24.3 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with a Bionz X image processor borrowed from the A7R/A7 line up. This combo increases the ISO range to 100 to 25,600 with up to 12,800 for video and up to 51,200 for images equivalent with the Multi Frame Noise Reduction. The image processor is aimed at increasing the level of detail, improving the performance of noise reduction, and reducing the effects of diffraction for smaller apertures.
The Sony A6000 aims for stellar picture quality, and knocks the dusts out of the pack when it comes to autofocus performance. Sony actually claims that this performance outdoes the mid-level DSLRs. The AF system has also been improved with a Fast Hybrid AF system that can autofocus in only 0.06 seconds. However, AF speeds cited by manufacturers are not necessarily accurate for actually capturing an image.
This model also comes with an 11fps continuous shooting with the support of AF tracking. this is quite an improvement to the solid 10fps continuous shooting of the NEX-6 through the Speed Priority Continuous mode, which ideally locked the focus on the first frame of shooting. This meant that if the target’s distance moved at all, getting an in-focus shot during the burst was a bit tricky.
It also provides a considerable increase in terms of AF coverage on the sensor, for both Phase-detect AF and Contrast-Detect AF compared to the NEX-6. The AF now spans about 92% of the width and 91% of the height of the sensor, meaning the sensor is almost all covered by AF points, compared to 47% height and 52% width of NEX-6. There are now a total of 179 AF points for phase detect and 25 contrast detect points within that coverage area. All this works to deliver a great level of flexibility, by allowing the user a lot of freedom to place the focus point wherever they want.
Just like the predecessor, the Sony A6000 comes with in-built Wi-Fi connectivity for use with Sony’s PlayMemories apps for Android and iOS. It also includes NFC support for easy and quick pairing and sharing on smartphones.
Build Quality and Handling
The grip of the A6000 is a bit more pronounced compared to that of the NEX-6. This makes it significantly easier to hold, especially when using the camera one-handed. It also has a nice texture to help you get a good grip on it, while giving is an air of quality. However, the A6000 feels noticeably beefier and chunkier than the NEX-6, though it’s body is actually 2 grams lighter. Its solidness reminds us of the Sony A7R and the A7 with its sharp-edged, angular design.
While the NEX-6 had 2 dials stacked on top of the camera (one for changing the shooting mode and another for setting the shutter speed or aperture) the A6000 has two dials adjacent to each other on top of the camera. Although this takes a bit more room overall, it adds on to the experience of shooting making it easier and helps prevent accidental changes to the settings. The second dial (for aperture and shutter speed) is a bit easier to reach by the thumb, which comes in handy when you want to make some quick changes.
The rear of the camera has a button layout that’s almost identical to that of the NEX-6, though the labelling scheme is straight out of the A7 series. There’s now a custom function (C2) button at the lower right corner, which essentially switches the playback button for menu button.
Just like most of the recent Sony camera models, most of the buttons on the A6000 can be customized to the user’s preferences. The company knows that most users want to set up their most commonly used features for themselves, and it’s nice to see they brought this ability here too. Pressing the function button brings up a type of quick menu, and everything that appears here can be swapped for something you use more often. There’s a small custom button on top of the camera that’s useful if you’d like to be able to access a given setting more often, such as wireless settings.
EVF and LCD
Just like the NEX-6, the A6000 has a built-in EVF and a tilting LCD screen. The EVF specs have changed, bringing is a smaller, and an OLED display. The 0.39-inch 1440K dot OLED EVF appears noticeably smaller than that of the NEX-6 on the outside. But comparing both side-by-side, you’ll instantly realize the EVF on the A6000 is the clear winner, as it has more accurate color profile and it’s easy to discern details on it.
However, the LCD is a holdover from the NEX-6, with a 921,600-dot 3-Inch TFT LCD display and similar articulation angles (down 45 degrees, up 90 degrees). This makes it much easier to take good shots on awkward and difficult angles. The A6000 also comes with peaking for critical focus and zebra overlays for the over-exposed regions.
We were baffled by Sony’s decision not to include a touchscreen on its A6000 offering, given that it uses the technology on other models in its portfolio. It just seems a bit odd not to include one here, when the cheaper and lower-specced NEX-3 has one. Adding a touchscreen would make it much quicker and easier to navigate through menus and to set autofocus points. Perhaps the company has the impression that pro-level photographers don’t favor touch-sensitive devices.
But this is not too bad, considering you have the option of setting custom buttons. To make things quicker, you can set the Focus Area to a flexible spot. This way, you will only need to press the center button of the scrolling dial at the back of the camera to bring up the option of selecting your focus point. The directional keys can also be used to move around the screen fast enough.
The A6000 gets rid of the colorful, bright, scrolling- and icon-heavy menus of the predecessors. In their place, Sony has brought the same interface you’d find on the RX-series as well as the A7 and A7R line. It therefore has a simpler, easy-to-use menu system, that can be customized any way you want, as mentioned earlier, to avoid having to dig through menus while you’re shooting.
The Sony A6000 is a capable camera that produces some fantastic images. The colors are well saturated, though it can occasionally err towards over-vibrance. However, the effect is generally very pleasing. It also renders details very well, maintaining great level of detail throughout the low-mid range of sensitivity.
While in use, the a6000 can switch the focus points quite rapidly, when using the 11fps high-speed burst mode to track objects. Focus may drop on a few occasions, but it can capture a lot of frames in between, so it’s largely not a problem.
The metering system does a great job in producing accurately exposed shots. The automatic white balance is also decent in accurate color reproduction, though some artificial light sources can manage to slightly confuse it, leading to warm toned photos in some situations. If this is problematic, you can switch to a more appropriate white balance setting.
Fortunately, the battery life is not quite as bad as the A7/R, perhaps due to the smaller sensor. You might need to buy an extra battery if you want to bring the Sony A6000 on long trips, but this is just to be on the safe side.
What We Liked and Disliked About the Sony A6000
There’s a lot to like about the A6000: the excellent image quality, the excellent viewfinder, and the high resolution screen. Our most favorite feature on the a6000 however is the way all the buttons as well as the function menu can be changed to suit the needs of the user. This makes it a great device to work with, and lets you dump all of the settings that you never use, and instead have the buttons and functions you use often readily accessible.
However, for a camera of this caliber, it’s annoying that there’s no quick way to set the AF point. If you’re someone who changes the AF points a lot, you’ll likely grow tired of how time-consuming changing the point can be. The lack of a touchscreen also makes less sense on such a camera.
Product Name: Sony a6000
Product Description: Sony ILCE6000LB Compact System Camera with SELP1650 Lens Kit (Fast Auto Focus, 24.3 MP, Electronic View Finder, Wi-Fi and NFC) - Black