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UPDATE 2: due to high demand again, the SONY A7 review was translated to English (thanks Mihai for your time and help). Read it here.
I had a beautiful dream last week. All week long.
It was like this: the very day SONY announced the new a6000, I don’t know by what miracle made possible by the guys at F64, I was the first in the country to get one of the few samples available for test, and took it away with me, wherever I saw fit.
As we all know, dreams are weird and many times when you wake up, you actually don’t want to believe them. But when you wake up, you realise everything was real.
So real that I couldn’t help but take a shot of it
The heir of NEX6 (and at least until we dream nice again, also of NEX7), SONY a6000 is the most beautiful and successful NEX camera in the series, which is not a NEX anymore :). SONY completely dropped the NEX nomination for its mirrorless cameras, calling everything it will produce from now on an Alpha (α) camera.
And to keep the dream even more interesting and to make an older dream of mine come true, SONY also quit using the most stupid and intricate Menus and User Interface (the old NEX ones, which I couldn’t bear), in favour of the beautiful A7/A7r menus (wrote about this camera here – UPDATE, now in English), a good practice started with the RX1 (you guessed it, I wrote about this one here)
Major upgrades from the NEX6 you will find almost everywhere you look on a6000, but there are some which attract us almost immediately
- 24,3 Mpx EXMOR APS HD CMOS coupled with the image processor borrowed from his full frame brothers, BIONZ X
- Higher ISO filed of values, up to ISO 25.600 (100-25.600)
- Hybrid Focusing System (Contrast Detect + Phase Detect) with not least than 179 phase detect points covering 92% of the sensor surface
- 11 fps burst rate with continuous focus
- NFC & WiFi for greater connectivity
- Magnesium alloy body
Nothing of all of the above mean anything but marketing selling points unless tested. “Dreams, my friends, dreams” … was what I thought until I put my hands on the camera and started testing everyone of them.
What can and can’t do the new a6000?
I’ll start with what the camera can’t do:
It can’t cook (even if it can shoot easily kitchen cooking sessions), and also, it cannot disappoint.
SONY a6000 + Carl Zeiss 16-70 mm F4 + 2 Nikon SBs remotely triggered by a small chinese device, thanks to its multi-hotshoe compatible with ISO standard
I dreamed about those shrimps being so tasty (mean face now).
I thought that at least the price will disappoint a little, but looking at those specs and how the camera performs, thinking back on it, I find it almost a bargain, at 649 £ on Amazon.co.uk (check price, or here at F64)
Design & handling
As soon as you’ll get your hands on the a6000, it will inspire confidence, good build quality and it’s impossible not to be attracted by its straight lines. It’s an era of “retro is fantastic” and a6000 screams Retro. Here are some comparisons with its bigger brother, the A7 and below with the older NEX6
image source www.imaging-resource.com
Looking at the EVF, I have to point out a few things. First, its resolution was lowered (1.44 mpx compared to 2.35 of the NEX6) and also its physical size. But what may look like a disadvantage was compensated by the display used: a new and improved Tru-Finder OLED which is so bright and incredible in delivering colours and details.
When I’ve tested the A7 I said about its EVF that it was the first one I would use instead of an optical one. The one on a6000 is the second. When reviewing an image shot with the a6000 through its EVF, the feeling is just like watching a 3d image, so great the impression was to me.
Another thing to point out about the EVF is that the rubber around it, is incredibly rigid and hurts your eyebrows after some hours of shooting with the camera.
Even so, I prefered the EVF to the LCD due to the high reflective surface of the last one even in light not so strong. Not the case when you want to shoot from the water level, in case which, the tilting LCD is invaluable.
Speaking of ease of operation, the camera is very customisable by the user’s needs. The two C1 and C2 custom buttons may become anything you need, but an extra is the Fn button and its functions list, which again is very easy to make it “your own”. Not only this, but almost every button on the a6000 can be changed, transforming the camera by your needs.
What I did find until now very difficult on SONY cameras, was how difficult was to change the focusing point (except models with touch screen) when you were in Flexible Spot focus area. Not anymore.
On a6000 (could be that I missed this on other models?!) it’s easy to change it, by pressing the button inside the back-wheel and then moving it around with the directional, or even faster using the two wheels available on the body, like in the clip below
Image quality on a6000
I shot various scenes with the a6000: at sunrise and sunset, interiors and outside, different ISO values and different lenses.
SONY G 18-105 F4 | 63 mm | F4.5 | 1/1000 s | ISO 100
The image quality is something that cannot be measured easily, but all in all I’m pretty impressed by the images I got. Taking into consideration the model I had was a pre-production one, there is room for improvement for sure, and even more when thinking about the relation camera-lenses.
SONY G 18-105 F4 | 18 mm | F9 | 1/100 s | ISO 100
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about the camera in general, but about this model I had in particular. Best results I didn’t get by using the Carl Zeiss 16-70mm F4, or by using the Sony G 18-105 F4, but with the kit lens, which got me into thinking the sample I had was optimised for this particular kit lens, the 16-50 mm f3.5-5.6 PZ. It’s hard to believe a kit lens being better than a Zeiss 🙂
Even if it’s not me when doing camera reviews, I did some comparison tests with all 3 lenses I got, taking into account suggestions I got and questions from the DPreviews forums.
Camera was set on tripod and OSS was off.
I won’t say a thing about these images above, not until I will redo test with a final sample of a6000. But I can say a thing or two about each lens in particular:
The Kit – Sony 16-50 f 3.5-5.6
- small and portable, best retro-look for the a6000 (for some people will matter :D)
- perfectly optimised on this a6000 sample I had, good optic quality starting f5.6 on all focals
- very fast AF-C using PDAF (phase detect auto-focus)
- no optical artefacts, flare or vigneting
- silent power-zoom, excellent for video
- variable aperture, pretty slow lens at 50 mm (f5.6)
- different gray shade than the one of the camera body (could be due to sample items)
- small filter diameter and difficult access to the thread
Carl Zeiss 16-70 mm f4
- sits perfectly on hand and on a6000
- classic zoom, not by-wire, which make possible zooming while shooting bursts at 11 fps or during exposure (impossible with the PZ lenses)
- incredibly fast on AF-C and getting focus using PDAF (phase detect auto-focus)
- build quality and materials
- normal size filters (ø55)
- constant aperture (f4) at all focal lenghts
- price, the lens can cost as much as the camera
- a little soft at zoom ends and wide-open – possible due to the camera being a sample not optimised yet for this lens
SONY G 18-105 mm f4
- better reach due to extended focal range
- power-zoom, excelent for video
- fast AF-C using PDAF (phase detect auto-focus)
- normal size filters (ø72)
- F4 all the way
- good price
- soft images at all focals and apertures – possible due to the camera being a sample not optimised yet for this lens
- this one is harder to explain: the focal is not similar to other lenses, the image being more cropped at the same focal length. Ex. at 35mm (focal available on all 3 lenses I had) the image you get with this lens is more zoomed-in than on the others (like it was shot at 40mm, aprox.)
- too big and heavy for the a6000
- on contrast detect autofocus, it hunts more than the other lenses (maybe because of the heavy lifting needed to move so much glass)
Letting lens quality aside, we should keep in mind that the sensor and the image processor, both take a good part in delivering great image quality. So, in low light, at high ISO, these two have a lot to say.
Personally I find images taken with the new SONY a6000 easy usable up to ISO 8000 and with care and some processing, even up to 12.800.
Below is the same scene photographed at various ISO values:
Since the MFNR (multi frame noise reduction) technology was introduced by SONY, it never ceases to amaze me. It works better than any other noise reduction method. Now more scenes in the a6000 use this feature and even on Auto the camera detects situations to use it.
The results are incredible considering you shoot handheld in this light.
Carl Zeiss 16-70 F4 | 22 mm | F18 | 1/8 s | ISO 3200 MFNR
Carl Zeiss 16-70 F4 | 16 mm | F6 | 1/60 s | ISO 3200 MFNR | Handheld Twilight Scene
Speaking of proprietary features, it seems that SONY improved the algorithm of Auto Portrait Framing feature, because the camera recommends better crops than models before it.
And to be able to easily get to the next step, the one everyone expect so much (I’m sure some of you jumped directly to the AF section 🙂 ), I cannot help but mention Picture Effects (13 in total) that can be applied to photos and videos
The moment everyone expected. I was close to wake up from my dream, everything that was happening being too much even for a dream 🙂
How is it even possible: 11 fps with continuous focus between each frame?! Something like this few high end dSLR can be proud of.
As SONY said when launching the camera:
Shoot in 0.06 seconds: the world’s fastest autofocus
Your eyes jump all over the place when following the little green dots playing around the EVF or the LCD. I put the iPhone’s camera inside the viewfinder and I did a short movie to show you how the a6000 feels when you shoot it like a machine gun 🙂
What I don’t get is why SONY forces me to shoot AF-C and Wide Area focus in order to be able to use thos 179 PDAF points?! I mean, I shoot mostly AF-S and I would love to have phase detect on this mode too. It seems that the camera reverts to contrast-detect only in this case, and for sure you are not able to select any of the little green dots by yourself.
On AF-C the camera chooses by itself the subject to track. I wish I was able to select myself the subject, and from there to start the tracking. In a way you can overcome this by using Lock-on AF, but you have to start from center of the screen and then reframe. Not that easy in all cases (esp. with fast moving subjects).
But all in all, I can say with all my heart, this little guy which is a6000, is the most precise and fast focusing mirror-less camera I have ever tested. Even better than many dSLRs that got in my hands.
The proof is the clip below, made only from image sequences shot at 11 fps bursts
And because the dream could not stop here, a6000 provides also tools needed for manual focusing old lenses: focus magnification, focus peaking and zebra for video.
SONY a6000 with Canon 50 f1.4, on it’s side SONY NEX-F3 + Carl Zeiss-ul 16-70
And the proof you can take incredible pictures using 50 y.o lenses
Ionut, the guy who lent me his adapter and lens. Thanks man.
My dream in video
I was inspired to document my dream by photos and by video clips, so this is my little adventure with the a6000 in video. I’m not a videographer, but just a mere enthusiast. Even so, a6000 proved a great tool for me. Full HD 25 fps.
How to share a dream?
Easy: either you write on blog an article that took hours to finish (and even more to translate :p), either you go for NFC and WiFi.
It is said that we dream in black and white and with no sound. It’s not true, you can even hear my voice in the clip below (but when you dream you speak your mother tongue, in my case Romanian :D)
What I remember
- fastest and most precise focusing system ever on a mirrorless camera (and not only)
- excelent sensor dynamics
- perfect design and retro look
- 11 fps burst with continuous focus
- good ergonomics by lots of customisable buttons
- excelent EVF
- MFNR function
- battery wise I shot more than SONY advertise (more than 1000 pics and lots of video with one full charge). Love that you get a proper charger and not the one to charge the battery inside the camera.
- it wakes up faster from StandBy than previous models
- the menus
Not that good parts
- LCD is difficult to see in daylight
- lack of touchscreen
- the rubber near EVF extremely stiff and annoying after many hours of usage
- proximity sensor too sensible, difficult to shot from hip
- not able to use PDAF on AF-S
All nice dreams end in a brutal nightmare. Mine was the moment I had to return the a6000 🙁
It was then when I woke up and I still dream about the SONY a6000.Read next: HX400v user review
You might also find interesting my Second full review in English, this time the HX400V super-zoom gets my attention. Read it here.
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