Operation and controls

Although the a6000 looks a like a slight evolution of the original NEX-5 hybridized with the more enthusiast-targeted NEX-7 (moreso than the NEX-6 did), the changes over both those cameras are significant enough that, when seen in total, that these reference points should perhaps be ignored.

The a6000 may look NEX-shaped, then, but its handling is rather more conventional than that and is all the better for it. No longer do you need to glance at a black panel down the side of the screen to work out what a particular button does - the a6000 is a dedicated dial and fixed button camera.

Better than that, though, it's a camera on which many of the primary contact points and menus can be adjusted to suit your needs and shooting style.

Control dials

The a6000 has two control dials: a large, solid thumb dial on the top right-hand corner and a four-way controller/dial on the rear face of the camera. By default, these dials both control the same function.

Exposure mode Shoulder Dial Rear dial
P Program Shift Program Shift
A Aperture Value Aperture Value
S Shutter Speed Shutter Speed
M Aperture Value Shutter Speed

Thankfully, as well as the option to swap the Aperture and Shutter Speed controls in manual mode, the a6000 also has the option (Settings tab, page 6, Dial/Wheel Ev Comp) to devote one of the dials to operate exposure compensation.

Customizable Fn menu

Rather than the NEX interface, in which the two buttons next to the screen were constantly changing their functions depending on mode and context, the a6000's buttons are all dedicated to single functions, with the upper one providing access to the Fn menu. This is a fully customizable menu, into which you can position up to 12 functions, in any order, from the following list.

• Drive Mode
• Flash Mode
• Flash Comp.
• Focus Mode
• Focus Area
• Exposure Comp.
• ISO
• Metering Mode
• White Balance
• DRO/Auto HDR
• Creative Style
• Shoot Mode
• Picture Effect
• Lock-on AF
• Smile/Face Detect.
• [Stills] Soft Skin Effect
• [Stills] Auto Obj. Framing
• [Stills] Image Size
• [Stills] Aspect Ratio
• [Stills] Quality
• Steady Shot
• Zebra
• Grid Line
• Peaking Level
• Peaking Color
• Not Set

We particularly like the fact that, if you only find six options you want quick access to, you can create a single-line, six-time version of the menu, taking up less of the screen and making it easier to quickly see which settings you've selected.

In addition to the function menu, the a6000 also offers the latest version of Sony's Quick Navi interactive control panel. It's engaged by default and can be accessed by pressing the DISP button to cycle through to it (any other view modes you don't want to have to cycle through can be disengaged in the 'DISP Button' menu option on page 1 of the menu's Settings tab).

The Quick Navi screen can be accessed by pressing the DISP button to cycle through the selected display modes.

Once selected, it works like a classic DSLR display - putting your eye to the viewfinder will still show a view through the lens (albeit via the sensor, in this case).
Press the 'Fn' button while the Quick Navi view is displayed and, instead of getting the standard 'Fn' menu, you can navigate around the page and change settings, either by pressing the center button to visit a dedicated page of options or by spinning the four-way/dial.

Custom buttons

The a6000 offers two dedicated custom buttons, but that isn't the extent of its available customization - seven buttons in total can have their function adjusted. Between this button customization and the user-definable function menu, it should be possible to put all your key shooting parameters at, or near, your fingertips.

The following functions can be assigned to customizable buttons:

Key
Available functions

AEL button

Center button

C1, C2

Left, Right and Down buttons

• Drive Mode
• Flash Mode
• Flash Comp.
• Focus Mode
• Focus Area
• Exposure Comp.
• ISO
• Metering Mode
• White Balance
• DRO/Auto HDR
• Creative Style
• Picture Effect
• Smile/Face Detect.
• [Stills] Soft Skin Effect
• [Stills] Auto Obj. Framing
• SteadyShot
• [Stills] Image Size
• [Stills] Aspect Ratio
• [Stills] Quality
• In-Camera Guide
• Memory
• AEL hold
• AEL toggle
• [Spot] AEL hold
• [Spot] AEL toggle
• AF/MF Control Hold
• AF/MF Control Toggle
• Lock-on AF
• Eye AF
• AF On
• Aperture Preview
• Shot Result Preview
• Zoom
• Focus Magnifier
• Deactivate Monitor
• Zebra
• Grid Line
• Peaking Level
• Peaking Color
• Send to Smartphone
• Download Appli.
• Application List
• Monitor Brightness
• Not set
• Standard (center button)

Auto ISO

The a6000 offers two Auto ISO modes: a conventional one and a second, JPEG-only, mode that shoots three images and combines them to reduce noise. If you select 'Auto' as the ISO value, the camera lets you define the upper and lower ISO limits that it will use. These values apply both to conventional Auto ISO and Auto ISO [Multi Frame NR].

In Auto mode, the camera will change ISO at around 1/Effective Focal Length or 1/60th, whichever is fastest, and there's no option to adjust this threshold. This formula should keep you safe from hand shake while shooting, but doesn't take subject movement into account. To cope this this, you either have to engage shutter priority mode, to keep the shutter speed up or combine Auto ISO with manual exposure mode.

The a6000 not only allows Auto ISO in manual exposure mode but also allows exposure compensation to be applied (by pressing 'down' on the rear dial). This means the user can set their desired aperture and shutter speed, and have the camera change the ISO to provide the correct exposure, while still giving control over image brightness.