Whereas the NEX-6 doesn’t share the all-metal construction of the NEX-7 it nonetheless feels like a solid and well-built camera. The hand grip is deep enough to get a good grip of the camera with, while the rubberised finish also makes it feel secure in the hand. Those with fatter fingers might find the barely one centimetre gap between the hand grip and the lens a bit restricting though.
With the new 16-50mm power zoom attached the NEX-6 is just about small enough to fit inside a large coat pocket, although switching to any other lens might make this awkward. Speaking of the new kit zoom, while we like how it allows you to take manual control over focal length (or focus when the camera is being used in MF mode) we did find that the overall compactness of the camera means that your right (camera-gripping) hand can get in the way somewhat when trying to operate the zoom/focus ring with your left hand. For those who’d prefer to just use the Power Zoom control this won’t be an issue, as the rocker switch can easily be nudged either way with your left thumb without the need to reposition your hands or have them fight for space.
As with all NEX cameras, physical controls are somewhat sparse, and many of the buttons sit flush to the body, which makes pressing them a little bit fiddlier than need be. Another issue is the memory card slot, which is positioned right on the edge next to the battery compartment door, which makes card removal more difficult that it needs to be. Other than these minor grips however there’s little to fault with the rest of the camera’s design.
The display easily pulls away from the body and falls back into place just as snugly, while the menu selection dial on the back and the command dial just under the exposure mode dial on the top plate both move with a pleasing fluidity.
Over the past couple of years there has been a marked improvement in the quality of electronic viewfinders and Sony has been very much at the forefront of this with its Alpha SLT and NEX cameras. The 2.4million-dot OLED display fitted to the NEX-6 impresses for a number of reasons. It’s large, it’s bright, it provides plenty of contrast and it displays 100% of the scene before it with unprecedented clarity. Naturally, it can’t reproduce colour and fine details as precisely as an optical viewfinder, however judged against other EVFs the NEX-6 is undoubtedly one of the very best we’ve used.
Used in single-shot drive mode the NEX-6 is impressively quick at processing and writing images to the memory card, which means you can shoot one shot after the other with no upper limit on the number of images you can record. Switching over to continuous drive mode the NEX-6 is billed as offering a top burst speed of 10fps. During testing we found that the camera was able to sustain this rate for up to nine consecutive Raw and JPEG frames, after which the camera took between 10-12 seconds to process the images. Whereas many cameras lock up and become unusable while the camera is busy processing a sequence of images, we were pleased to note that the NEX-6 returns to being operational during the latter seconds of writing.
One interesting feature of the NEX-6 is its ‘hybrid’ autofocus module. The way this works is that the NEX-6’s sensor has been modified with a number of pixels given over to phase-detection AF duties, which work alongside the contrast-detect method that is more traditionally employed by mirrorless cameras. Sony claims that this should improve focus speeds and reduce hunting. Testing the NEX-6 with the new 16-50mm power zoom kit lens, however, we did find that the AF system is prone to some hunting, which actually makes it a touch slower than competing models. Pleasingly though, there appears to be no shutter lag, with images captured as soon as you press the shutter button.