Speed and quality are what the new 24.3-million-pixel Sony Alpha 6000 is all about. Capable of 0.06sec autofocus, Sony says it will never miss the perfect shot. Jon Devo takes aim. Read our Sony Alpha 6000 review...
Replacing the NEX-6 and NEX-7, the A6000 borrows some of the best technology from Sony’s latest models and squeezes them into a compact body, which will no doubt attract a lot of attention from discerning enthusiasts and prosumers looking for a highly portable solution that packs a premium punch.
AP Technical Writer, Jon Devo gets his hands on the new Sony Alpha 6000
Physically there are very few differences between the A6000 and the NEX-7, which will be a good thing for many people who have become loyal followers of the NEX brand. It’s a popular form factor amongst the mirrorless camera class and it instantly looks like a high-end piece of kit.
Despite sharing many similarities with its predecessors, the A6000 is unmistakably modern and will likely peak the interests of many enthusiasts and pros following its announcement at this year’s CP+ expo in Yokohama, Japan.
The 24.3-million-pixel APS-C Exmor APS HD CMOS gapless design sensor that featured in the Sony SLT-A77 and the Alpha a7 is utilised in the A6000. However, operation and focusing are noticeably snappier following the development of a new focusing algorithm and the Bionz-X processor, three times more powerful than the original processor used in the Sony SLT-A99.
Engineers from Sony also revealed to AP that they have begun using a new undisclosed material in their colour filter array, which they say has increased the signal response by 20%, the accuracy of the A6000’s colour reproduction appears to be improved as a result.
Sony has managed to record a 0.06 seconds autofocus speed by the CIPA standard, which is faster than the much-celebrated Fujifilm X-100S. In the limited time I had with the pre-production model, AF did appear to work well, with the selection of the correct subjects being seemingly instantaneous. I do look forward to seeing how well focusing performs in lowlight, but the inclusion of a built-in flash with AF-beam assist, and a multifunction hotshoe will provide additional lighting options.
The A6000 is also capable of shooting 11fps of RAW+JPEG for 21 frames or 49fps of fine JPEG before it begins buffering, I was still able to continue shooting but at a much slower 1-2fps. Fast burst shooting and performance of the A6000 will certainly appeal anyone planning on shooting action sports.
During the hands-on preview we were shown various image and video comparisons between the Sony A6000 and some comparable mid-level CSCs and DSLRs, the results were impressive. Looking at 100% crops of a garden scene containing a mix of stone and plant detail, the A6000, utilizing diffraction reduction technology, managed to resolve sharper edge detail and reduced haloing compared to the 24.2-million-pixel Nikon D5300, particularly at f/11. Colour and contrast also appeared slightly more accurate on the images printed from the camera.
Viewfinder and Display
In contrary to the fears of rumour site readers, the A6000 does indeed have an EVF, positioned to the left on the back of the camera. The 1.44-million dot resolution OLED “Tru-finder” EVF provides 100% frame coverage, and it works very well in practise, although it’s not quite as clear as an OVF, the additional shooting information displayed on it is very clear indeed, reducing the need to take the camera away from your face whilst shooting. The EVF protrudes slightly from the back of the camera, and the buffering around it is rubberised for extra comfort.
The A6000 also has a 3.0-type 921K-dot tiltable LCD, which is bright enough to be used in daylight, and even fairs well in direct sunlight thanks to anti-reflective coating.
Collaborating with their camcorder division, Sony appear to have delivered HD video recording performance as good as I’ve seen on any camera in this class, thanks to the inclusion of a highly effective SteadyShot feature and continuous hybrid autofocus during movie mode, combining contrast and phase detection AF capable of recognising and focusing on subjects in motion. The 179-point hybrid AF can cover 90% of the field of view and also uses defocus mapping to calculate the distance of each element in the frame.
Capable of ISO sensitivity from 100 to 25,600 (multi-shot mode only), the images I saw show promising lowlight potential well beyond ISO 800. The camera’s area specific noise reduction appears to work well to preserve highlight detail, demonstrated best in a night video scene of a waterfront. Whilst the buildings were clear in the other camera’s examples, their NR had all but completely lost the ripples of light on the water, these were clear in the A6000 example. However, on darker surface the NR smoothes the details a little too heavily as very little luminance noise is visible. The resulting effect is slightly unrealistic dark surfaces that lack in texture.
Build and Handling
Judging the A6000 by its size, you could make the mistake of not taking it seriously, at only 120 x 66.9 x 45.1mm, it’s only slightly larger than the pocket-sized but highly capable Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60, but it’s a different class of camera entirely. Dual dial and wheel control, plus six customisable buttons make it possible to tailor your shooting experience to your needs, this will appeal particularly to the advanced enthusiast photographer.
When you pick it up, the 285g A6000 is a good weight for its size with the 16-50mm kit lens mounted. Made from a mix of brushed metal and polycarbonate tough plastic, it’s a camera that has been made for photographer with a discerning appreciation for modern design and quality build.
Sony have also redesigned and simplified their menus to be uniform across all of their current cameras, the new look is very straightforward and makes the system user friendly and slick.
The new Bionz-X processor is helping Sony’s latest range of cameras squeeze some excellent performance from technologies that have already proven solid and popular in its NEX range. As a result the familiar feeling Sony A6000 feels like a souped-up NEX-6 with improved handling. But with the addition of extra processing power and impressive video features, many people will find themselves considering this new camera, even previous NEX owners will now have a good reason to consider upgrading.