Sony Alpha 6000 Review - The Sony Alpha a6000 is the manufacturer’s latest CSC, boasting class-leading AF performance and an impressive APS-C sensor
The Sony a6000 arrives to replace the Sony NEX-6, a model so successful that it had held a place in Sony’s CSC line-up for a good four years. As a result the latest model has some fairly big boots to fill.
In an acknowledgement to the previous model’s success, the a6000 retains the same design aesthetic of its predecessor, although it’s a different story with the model’s inner workings.
The model features some of the very latest imaging technology, including the new Bionz-X processor, an APS-C 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor and lightning-quick Hybrid AF system.
The result is a CSC that look to stand out from the crowd, certainly on paper at least. But how does it perform when put under closer inspection?
Sony Alpha 6000 Review – Features
In terms of the a6000’s sensor, the camera makes a big jump in resolution up from the 16.1MP sensor found in the Sony NEX-6.
The model now sports a class-leading 24.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor, complete with angled micro-lenses to aid the camera’s light gathering abilities and therefore boost performance at higher ISO settings.
Speaking of which, the Sony a6000 covers an ISO range of 100 to 25,600, while it also supports full HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 resolution, and at both 60p and 24p.
In terms of the rest of the camera’s performance figures, the A6000 offers some pretty impressive numbers.
For example, the model is capable of shooting up to 11fps continuously for a burst depth of 21 frames when shooting Raw and JPEG, and if you’re happy to shoot just JPEG then the burst depth extends to around 49 frames before the buffer fills.
This impressive burst rate and depth is provided by the camera’s new Bionz-X processor, a chip which Sony claims is some three times faster than the Bionz processor previously featured in NEX cameras.
This new processor also provides some impressive operational speeds, with a barely perceptible start-up speed and shot to shot delay.
The processor also delivers some incredible AF speeds, with Sony claiming a focus acquisition time of just 0.06 seconds – a delay in real terms which is very difficult to even pick up, and one which Sony claims at time of launch is the shortest of any camera in its class.
The focusing system is not only quick, but also promises to be accurate thanks to the presence of both 25 contrast-detect AF points along with 179 phase-detect points covering the majority of the frame.
These two type of points form the camera’s hybrid AF system, an arrangement increasingly found on CSCs and, when you consider just how quick it is, it’s easy to understand why.
Although a host of the a6000’s functionality is certainly an upgrade on its NEX-6 predecessor, the model’s EVF is one area that could be described as a step backwards.
While the NEX-6 featured a 0.5in, 2.3-million dot XGA OLED, the a6000 now features a 0.39in, 1.44-million dot unit that, as the numbers suggest, is both smaller and of a lower resolution.
The LCD screen, on the other hand, is a match for that on the NEX-6. It measures in at 3in and features a resolution of 921,600 dots, and although that’s hardly class leading – with the screen also lacking touch functionality – it’s certainly capable enough.
Completing the impressive specification are a pair of connectivity options in the shape of both Wi-fi and NFC. These allow for the wireless transfer of images along with remote control of the camera.
Furthermore, users can expand the functionality of their a6000 by downloading any of a range of applications from Sony’s PlayMemories app library.
Sony Alpha 6000 Review – Design
Although the a6000 is generally designed to operate like a DSLR, in terms of its general look and feel it certainly maintains an air of its predecessor and thus a conventional CSC.
Thanks to the bulk of the camera’s weight being located towards the hand grip end of the body, when a lens is attached the a6000 is nicely balanced and certainly feels comfortable in the hand when shooting.
The hand grip itself features an ergonomic moulded and rubberised finish which allows for a firm enough hold so that you shouldn’t be afraid to shoot holding the camera in one hand if needs be.
In terms of the camera’s control layout the a6000 features a relatively basic layout which offers quick access to a host of the camera’s functionality. For example, the model offers dual shutter and aperture control thanks to the selection wheel on the rear of the camera and a control dial on the top plate.
The a6000 also features two custom buttons which can be assigned to any required function, while the presence of an ‘Fn’ button above the model’s rear control wheel further enhances the customisable nature of the camera.
So although there are a lack of extensive physical controls located around the body offering direct one-touch access to various functionality, the amount of customisable buttons means that it’s rare that you’ll need to delve in to the menus.
Sony Alpha 6000 Review – Performance
Although we mentioned earlier that the EVF found on the a6000 is, on paper at least, a bit of a step backwards in comparison to the NEX-6, in use the viewfinder itself doesn’t feel like a downgrade.
In fact, the new viewfinder offers approximately a 100% field of view, along with greater vibrancy and clarity than the unit found in the NEX-6, and as such it seems to be a case of Sony getting more out of a lesser-specified unit.
Another area in which the a6000 promises to deliver some impressive results is with regards to the camera’s AF performance. As mentioned previously the camera sports a hybrid AF set-up that Sony claims delivers an almost instant AF acquisition.
In use, the a6000 certainly performs to a level in keeping with these claims, managing to lock on to a subject or focus on a scene almost instantly.
This impressive AF performance is best utilised when it comes to tracking moving subjects and when shooting at the high continuous shooting rate. In such a setting the a6000 is truly in its element, tracking a moving subject with ease and delivering a level of performance more in keeping with a high-end DSLR than its CSC peers.
In terms of the camera’s Wi-fi connectivity performance, the a6000 manages to connect to either smartphone or tablet with the minimum of fuss, and the process is made even easier by the presence of NFC connectivity.
It’s also a real boon to have the option of adding extra functionality to the camera through the PlayMemories app library. Although not all of the apps are free, most are very affordable and as such add really useful functionality for not a huge extra cost.
One other welcome feature is the presence of a tutorial, or ‘shooting tip’, section of the camera’s menu. This allows the rookie, or beginner to the world or more advanced photography, to gain precise guidance to the various shooting modes which might dumbfound them to begin with.
Sony Alpha 6000 Review – Image Quality
Colour and White Balance
In terms of the a6000’s auto white balance performance, it’s safe to say that the camera performs well in a range of different conditions. Even in mixed lighting conditions the a6000 manages to pick the right setting and deliver an even scene displaying accurate colours.
If you want to tailor the colours in a scene to suit your needs, you can select from one of the 11 presets, make your own call with the custom setting, or, finally, use one of the ‘creative’ modes if you require something a bit more outlandish.
The Sony a6000 utilises a 1,200-zone evaluative multi-segment metering system that, on the whole, excels when it comes to delivering true-to-life exposures.
The sheer amount of zones taken in to account means that a large portion of the frame is taken in to consideration when shooting, and as such you can depend on the camera to deliver consistent results.
Furthermore, the a6000 delivers an impressive level of performance with regards to its dynamic range. It balances shadow and highlight detail well, and thus delivering even exposures and pleasing images straight out of the camera.
In terms of resolution, the a6000’s 24.3MP sensor delivers some impressive results. In fact, with a score of 34 at ISO 100 on our res charts, the camera out-resolves DSLRs such as the Nikon D5300
In terms of image noise, this is generally well controlled right up to ISO 6400, a level of performance that’s certainly impressive considering the high resolution of the sensor.
Beyond this setting noise does begin to take over the frame somewhat, although this can be alleviated somewhat by using the camera’s multi-frame noise reduction technology.
Sony Alpha 6000 Review – Verdict
The Sony a6000 was always going to be up against it, facing some stiff competition and replacing a model which had stood in the range for some four years.
The good news, however, is that on the whole it’s an impressive model. It feature an impressive specification with some real stand-out features, including the blisteringly quick AF performance and an impressive burst mode.
On the whole, it’s difficult to pick out any substantial flaw on the camera, and it’s safe to saw that it’s one of the most impressive CSCs on the market
Sony Alpha 6000 Review – Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of images capture with the Sony A6000. For more, head over to the Sony A6000 review sample image gallery.