Sony Alpha a6000
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Conclusion - Pros
- 24 megapixel APS-C sensor is one of the best in its class
- Small body with generally well placed controls
- Very fast continuous shooting
- Class-leading continuous autofocus
- Excellent level of control over video (including manual exposure)
- High quality, responsive viewfinder
- Electronic first-curtain option
- Good JPEGs with well-judged sharpening
- Extensive feature set, including sweep panorama and auto-object framing
- Wi-Fi with plenty of options
- USB charging offers convenience
Conclusion - Cons
- Flash exposures often misjudged
- No In-camera Raw conversion option
- Noise reduction can be a bit heavy-handed
- No touchscreen
- No electronic level gauge
- Battery life feels low (though provided charge percentage info helps judge remaining life)
- Specifying an autofocus point can be cumbersome
- Lens range not as well developed as rival systems
- Movie record button can lead to shaken footage at start and end of clips
- Lack of included external charger makes keeping a second battery charged awkward
The a6000 is one of Sony's first E-mount cameras to eschew the NEX branding that first introduced the company's range of mirrorless cameras around four years ago. And, while it may look very similar to the NEX-6 that preceded it, the cumulative effect of the changes means it's a very different camera. In part that's because of the rate of technological progress at Sony, but it's also because Sony has finally decided to pair a fully photographer-focused user interface with its impressive image makers.
So, while the a6000 may see its viewfinder downgraded compared to the NEX-6, just about everything else is a step forward. And this isn't just a step forward for Sony: we've not before seen a camera at this price able shoot so fast and track focus so well, nor one that offers such complete control over its movie shooting. And, for that matter, it's not just a step forward for mirrorless cameras: we'd struggle to think of another camera in this price bracket that offers so much in the way of stills and video capability in such a coherent package.
It's not perfect, of course: I personally find the Olympus E-M10 more fun to shoot with, thanks to the layout of its control dials that can be operated with different digits, and the a6000's kit lens can't hold a candle to the Fujifilm X-E2's excellent XF 18-55mm F2.8-4R LM OIS. Fujifilm's X-T1 offers further ergonomic and build-quality advantages. But in terms of image quality per size and per dollar, the a6000 is hard to beat. While some people will never step away from a DSLR, the a6000 makes a very strong case for being able to do everything a Nikon D5300 or EOS 700D/Rebel T5i can do, even in terms of autofocus.
The a6000 fits in the hand nicely and then makes it easy to bring most of the camera's key settings near to hand. This combination of button customization and the user-configurable Fn menu make the a6000 that bit nicer and more straightforward to operate than its NEX predecessors.
The a6000 has two control dials, which offer a little control over their function. We'd have liked to see two full control dials (ideally designed for operation with different fingers), but the reasonably solid detents on the four-way/ rear dial mean that it can be controlled with a good degree of precision. It's not as good as the likes of the Olympus E-M10 or Fujifilm in this respect, but still offers a good degree of control - and more than the Canon or Nikon DSLRs at this price.
As a video camera the a6000 isn't quite so well worked out: you can still change all the key settings during movie shooting, but having to turn click dials and navigate Fn menus isn't optimal, if you're trying to keep your footage smooth and responsive. That said, it's a hard balance to strike and we'd rather the a6000 worked well as a stills camera while still offering all this video control, rather than compromising either the stills handling or the level of video control offered.
Image Quality and Video
The a6000's image quality is very good, both in JPEG and Raw. The improved sharpening in the latest generation of Sony camera brings a significant improvement to the JPEG quality, though we'd recommend turning down the High ISO noise reduction as its claims to be context-sensitive seem to have emboldened Sony's engineers to push its intensity up a bit too high. The DRO+ algorithm allows the camera to incorporate lots of dynamic range into JPEGs without them looking too 'flat.' Sadly you have to all but guess what level of DRO to apply, since it's hard to see that sort of tonal subtlety on the rear screen and there's no in-camera Raw processing option to let you select it after shooting.
The camera's Raw files have plenty of flexibility - whether in terms of the extensive DR that's there to be taken advantage of at low ISOs, or the scope for applying more subtle noise reduction at the other end of the sensitivity scale. You don't have to shoot Raw with the a6000, but if gives you more options if you do.
Video quality is pretty good, too. It's not in the class of Sony's own RX10 or Panasonic's GH4, in terms of detail, but for a consumer-grade camera it's more than acceptable. Combined with the high level of control the camera provides, the a6000 is the best all-rounder for shooting stills and video under $1,000 we've tested.
The final word
The a6000 is a really solid camera and is better than its predecessor in almost every respect - anyone worried about Sony cutting corners to hit a lower price point should be reassured that it has done so intelligently. The result is a really capable camera, offering impressive image quality in both Raw and JPEG modes, plus class-leading video features. That it then does so in a small, convenient, well featured and competitively priced package is what really seals the deal for us. It's strong in all areas and outstanding in some.
If you plan to shoot video as well as stills, this is the camera to buy in this class. If your focus is purely stills, things are a little less clear-cut, and the decision should probably come down to lenses: Sony's approach to its E-mount lens lineup doesn't seem as enthusiast orientated as those of Olympus or Fujifilm (with a bit more focus on consumer zooms than accessible primes), and the power zoom included here offers lots in terms of convenience and flexibility, but falls short on ultimate image quality. As such, more than usual, the a6000's full potential isn't truly realized without buying additional lenses but, if you're willing to make that commitment or can appreciate the a6000 kit as a really canny all-rounder, then you'll end up with a camera that's difficult to beat.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The a6000 brings Sony's latest interface improvements and enhanced JPEG processing to a well-featured, competitively-priced mid-range camera. Its stand-out features are its comprehensive video controls and continuous autofocus performance unprecedented at this price. The flexible but optically average power zoom make this a highly capable and compact package.