Review Price £670.00
Sony A6000 review: first impressions
Is the Sony A6000 the CSC to wait for?I have good news and bad news. The bad news? The NEX range of cameras is dead. The good news? Sony’s just changed the name. As per Sony’s new naming scheme for its compact system cameras (CSCs), the A6000 is effectively the replacement for the highly regarded Sony NEX-6 and NEX-7. As such, the Sony A6000 borrows some of the best technology from Sony’s latest models and squeezes them into a compact body, which if it matches and exceeds the NEX cameras it replaces will win it many friends.
To underline the lineage, the A6000 and the NEX-7 look very similar – no doubt a good thing so far as the NEX fans are concerned. But that’s just what’s on the outside; on the inside things are a great deal more interesting. We'll have to wait until April to see how it performs in test conditions, but here are some first impressions from the launch event.
Watch our hands-on Sony A6000 review
Sony A6000: Build and FeelOn size alone it would be easy to dismiss the A6000 – at just 120 x 66.9 x 45.1mm, it’s only slightly larger than the pocket-sized but highly capable Panasonic Lumix TZ60. It’s very compact.
There are plenty of controls, with dual dial and wheel control plus six customisable buttons available. At 285g (with kit lens) the A6000 is a good weight and size, too, and the brushed metal and tough polycarbonate body proving very reassuring.
I like the look of Sony’s redesigned and simplified menus as well. The new look is very straightforward and makes the system user-friendly and slick.
Sony A6000: Key SpecsSo it's a similar size to a compact, but that's where the similarities end. The A6000 employs the same 24.3-million-pixel APS-C Exmor APS HD CMOS gapless design sensor that featured in the Sony SLT-A77 and the full-frame Sony A7. That’s a promising start, but operation and focusing are noticeably faster due to a new focusing algorithm and the Bionz-X processor that’s now three times faster than that found in the Sony SLT-A99.
The end result is an autofocus speed of just 0.06 seconds, which is even 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 didn’t get the chance to try it in low-light during my time with the A6000, but a built-in flash with AF-beam assist should help here and there’s a hotshoe to connect additional lighting options as well.
The A6000 looks like a good contender if you’re a keen action photographer, too. It claims a maximum burst speed 11fps of RAW JPEG for 21 frames or 49fps of fine JPEG before it begins buffering, and I was still able to continue shooting but at a much slower 1-2fps when it was full.
The A6000 is mainly aiming at mid-range CSCs and DSLRs, and Sony showed me numerous comparison shots between it and rival models like the Nikon D5300. While it’s best to reserve judgement until we’ve tested it, my initial impression is very encouraging. Looking at 100% crops of a garden scene containing a mix of stone and plant detail, the A6000 managed to resolve sharper edge detail and less 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.
Sony A6000: Viewfinder and DisplayThere was some gossip online that the A6000 wouldn’t have an EVF, but such fears were unfounded. The A6000’s EVF is an OLED with a 1.44-million dot resolution and 100% frame coverage. 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.
Sony A6000: Other FeaturesCollaboration with Sony’s camcorder division appears to have produced video performance as good as I’ve seen on any camera in this class. The SteadyShot feature proved highly effective in my time with the A6000, and it supports a 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.
Sony also teased us by revealing it’s using an unnamed new material in its colour filter array, which it believes increases the signal response by 20%. If true this should improve colour accuracy, and early evidence is encouraging.
The ISO ranges from 100 to 25,600 (multi-shot mode only), and 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. While the buildings were clear in the other camera’s examples, their noise reduction had all but completely lost the ripples of light on the water that were clear to see in the A6000 example.
First ImpressionsThe 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. On this evidence many people will find themselves considering this new camera, even previous NEX owners will now have a good reason to consider upgrading.
The A6000 goes on sale in April but pre-orders are open now
Next, read our Canon 1200D first impressions