Power and Price PerfectionIMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
Economic Design, But Not 'Cheap'IMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
A View to a Minor QuibbleIMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
Built for Mobile MissionsIMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
Fantastic Flexible FlashIMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
- Sony's mirrorless cameras are killing it. The company's adept ability to combine DSLR-class APS-C image sensors and compact designs has flipped the entire camera world upside-down. So much so that camera heavyweights Canon and Nikon still haven't released a mirrorless design that even comes close to Sony's lineup in terms of performance, speed, and affordability.But just because Sony is in the lead doesn't mean it's standing still. Whereas the NEX-6 was a slightly gimped NEX-7 with Wi-Fi, the company's new Alpha 6000 is the perfect hybrid of both cameras with a streamlined design and a very attractive price ($800). After playing with the A6000 for over a week, I strongly believe Sony just set the new benchmark for all other mirrorless cameras to live up to.
More power, same compact designThe NEX-6 improved on the NEX-7 — its "big brother" if you will, in many ways. Sony added Wi-Fi, better light sensitivity, more focus points and reduced the weight. At the same time, the NEX-6 also took a few hits: 16 megapixels versus the 24 megapixels on the NEX-7, lower battery life and the loss of the microphone jack.The A6000 can be considered a hybrid of the NEX-6 and the NEX-7, with a few caveats. While I do wish the A6000's exterior construction was made of metal and not plastic, I'm sure most people will appreciate that it's super light (285 grams, body only). The A6000 has the 24-megapixel APS-C image sensor of the NEX-7 and the maximum 25600 ISO of the NEX-6. The A6000 also carries over the PASM mode dial from the NEX-6, but separates the control dial from being integrated with the mode dial, like on the NEX-7.Everything else is still pretty much the same. You still get the 3-inch LCD screen that tilts 90 degrees up and 45 degrees down, a pop-up flash that can be held backwards to create a desirable light bounce and a hot shoe on the top for additional accessories. (If you want a screen that flips 180 degrees up for selfies, you should consider the A5000 instead.) There's still no touchscreen, but it's forgivable since Sony does right by the buttons and dials.The buttons are all nice and clicky (and marked clearly now). There's a lot of freedom for customization: seven programmable buttons that can be assigned one of 43 functions and two custom buttons and a Fn button that can be mapped to one of 12 functions. The only oddly placed button (there's always one on every camera it seems) is the video recording button located on the side of the rear thumb grip.If you know your Sony mirrorless cameras, you're aware that the video record button has inched its way from directly above the thumb grip (a good spot) to where it is now. This weird button placement results in lots of video recordings with shaky beginning and ending footage. (You'll probably want to trim those beginnings and endings with a video editor such as iMovie, Final Cut or Adobe Premiere.)Battery life is about what Sony claims: 310 shots with the electronic viewfinder and 360 shots with Live View (the screen). I was able to get somewhere in between those figures, alternating between using both the viewfinder and the LCD.Also included with Wi-Fi is NFC, which means that you can pair a smartphone or tablet running the PlayMemories app without much fuss. And if you were hoping for the return of the mic jack for video recording from the NEX-7, as well as the helpful level gauge that tells you if your picture is straight, you're out of luck.
One speedy guyIn the camera world, records don't hold up for very long. One camera may claim to have the fastest autofocus for the time being, but you can bet good money its competition is hard at work designing a camera that'll beat it.
The A6000's most prominent feature is its ultra-fast autofocus systemThe A6000's most prominent feature is its ultra-fast autofocus system. Sony says its 0.06-second autofocusing capabilities are the world's fastest on a mirrorless camera with an APS-C image sensor (note the specific wording). While I didn't go out and measure the exact autofocus speed, I can say that it's almost instantenous when autofocusing between objects in the foreground and background.
The camera's autofocus speed is lightning fast primarily due to the 179 phase-detection autofocus points Sony crammed in. (The more autofocus points a camera has, the more area it can cover, and thus less of that "hunting" you get with other cameras.) In comparison, Sony's high-end NEX-7 had 25 AF points and the NEX-6 "only" had 99 AF points. And both of those cameras were no slouches when they were released in 2011 and 2012, respectively.Combine the super-fast continuous autofocus with the 11 frames per second (fps) burst shooting the A6000 is capable of, and you have a camera that can handle virtually any shooting scenario with absolute ease. Indeed, I was able to easily photograph speeding Citi bikersMy only real complaint with "machine-gunning" during burst shooting is the buffering afterwards (especially when shooting in RAW). In order to review the photos you've taken, you'll have to wait nearly 30 seconds while the camera writes data to the memory card. And if you want to take more pics just after burst shooting, things slow down to a crawl.
Sharp Enough to PosterizeIMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
Top Shelf Color AccuracyIMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
Good Dynamic Range? Check.IMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
Amazing in Low LightIMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
Blazing Fast AutofocusIMAGE: MASHABLE, RAYMOND WONG
- with little motion blur, teams playing soccer on the green and crazy cats chasing lasers at a friend's house.
DSLR image quality, improved HD videoDSLR shooters will always tell you that a mirrorless camera can't even come close to their babies. Maybe that was the case when Olympus and Panasonic were just releasing their first couple of Micro Four Thirds cameras, but it's just not the case anymore, especially with Sony's mirrorless models.The majority of mirrorless cameras usually hover within the safety of 16-megapixels. Why? Simply because it's more than enough for casual shooters to print photos with decent sharpness, even up to poster size, and it still gives advanced shooters room to crop.Considering how well-regarded Sony's NEX mirrorless cameras were (they now go by the Alpha moniker) — constantly praised for their exceptional image quality — it didn't surprise me at all that the A6000 performed like a champ.Thanks to its large 24.3-megapixel DSLR-class APS-C image sensor and updated Bionz X processor, the A6000 produces images that are superb for such a compact camera.
Photos are crisp and have spot-on color (hello, auto white balance that doesn't suck)Photos are crisp and have spot-on color (hello, auto white balance that doesn't suck), good dynamic range, which can also be boosted by the DRO (D-Range Optimizer) setting, and great contrast. And, of course, low-light performance was excellent, too.
After shooting a week's worth of photos, I found that I had very little to adjust in Lightroom and Photoshop. To my delight, the 16-50mm power zoom kit lens is pretty decent, with less distortion than I've experienced with the old 18-55mm kits lens.People looking to use the A6000 as a video camera will also find it be competent. You can record video in 1080p full HD at 24p (for that movie look) or 60p. Compared to previous NEX cameras, I noticed less rolling shutter (known as the "jello" effect) when panning.
Slight electronic viewfinder downgradeIt's debatable whether or not electronic viewfinders (EVFs) will ever be better than optical viewfinders. But one thing is certain: they're just as good today as they were three to four years ago. Way back with the NEX-7, Sony proved an EVF could be big, bright and high-res. The NEX-6 carried on that tradition of EVF excellence.For cost-cutting reasons, Sony downgraded the A6000's EVF resolution from the 1,024 x 768 (2.36-million dot) to 800 x 600 (1.44-million dot). The EVF's magnification also dropped a smidge from 0.73x to 0.70x, which is a small drop in overall view size, but not by much.While pros and advanced shooters who have shot with a higher-resolution EVF will dislike the resolution drop, most people buying a mirrorless for the first time or upgrading from a camera without one won't notice what all the commotion is about.It's a move I've seen before. Olympus reduced the OM-D E-M1's 2.3-million dot EVF to a 1.4-million dot one in the cheaper OM-D E-M10 in order to sell the camera for $800, too.Maybe we'll get that 2.36-million dot EVF back in a future camera, but for now, the 1.4-million dot one is good enough for almost everyone. But if I really want to nitpick, I would say the EVF could be a little brighter, blacks could be deeper and the eye-sensor a whole lot less sensitive to when my fingers are held near it.
The king is still kingNo matter how small, or how well-built a camera is, its image quality always takes center stage. Because what good is a camera if the images it produces are terrible?
With the A6000, Sony maintains its huge lead ahead of its closest competitors.With the A6000, Sony maintains its huge lead ahead of its closest competitors.
There's very little I didn't like about the A6000. The camera is really light, but not cheap, despite its plastic exterior. Its 16-55mm kit lens is better than I expected. And its uber-fast autofocus just blew me away. Plus, it only costs $800 — $200 less than what the NEX-6 retailed for when it was released two years ago.The A6000 is the real deal if you're looking to ditch your DSLR. Heck, the A6000 impressed me so much that I went and ordered one from Amazon. (If you must know, I went with the black body, not the silver one Sony lent me for this review.)
Tags: CAMERAS, DSLR, GADGETS, MASHABLE CHOICE, MASHABLE MUST READS, MIRRORLESS CAMERAS, MOBILE, REVIEWS, SONY, Tech