Movie Mode

As usual for Sony, the a6000 boasts a pretty impressive video specification, not just in terms of the headline spec of 1080p video at 60/30 and 24p (50/25/24 in PAL markets), but also in terms of how much control is offered and how many supporting features are included.

The recording rates and formats are summarized below. The a6000 doesn't offer the XAVC S compression included on the company's more recently-announced cameras (the a7S and RX100 III), but this is a solid consumer-level set of quality options, which combines with the rest of the video features to suggest one of the most capable video cameras in its class.

Sizes • AVCHD
1920 x 1080 60i/50i Avg. 24 Mbps (high quality)
1920 x 1080 60i/50i Avg. 17 Mbps (standard quality)
1920 x 1080 60p Avg. 28 Mbps (highest quality)
1920 x 1080 24p/25p Avg. 24Mbps (high quality)
1920 x 1080 24p/25p Avg. 17Mbps (standard quality)

• MP4:
1440 x 1080, 1080p (30/25fps), Av. 12Mbps
640 x 480 (30/25fps), Av. 3Mbps
Audio • Dolby Digital Audio
• Stereo audio capture via built-in or external mic (with optional adapter).
Format AVCHD / MPEG4
Recordable time Approx 29 minutes for AVCHD, 20 minutes for MPEG4 (1440 x 1080)

Features

The a6000 offers complete control over exposure settings during video recording: you can choose anything from program mode, through to full manual. The manual option continues to allow Auto ISO, so that you can specify the shutter speed and aperture to define the 'look' of your footage, with the camera adjusting sensitivity to maintain the correct brightness. Better still, the camera lets you continue to adjust any exposure setting during shooting, meaning you can change aperture, shutter speed, sensitivity or exposure compensation while shooting. You can also apply AEL during shooting.

In terms of focus, the camera gives you the choice of either AF-C or manual focus. To aid manual focus, the camera offers three sensitivities of peaking (in a choice of three colors, to ensure it's visible against your target).

Autofocus mode offers a surprising amount of control. You have the option to set how persistently the AF tracks a subject during movie shooting, and you can define the focus drive speed for movie shooting. You can also change focus area mode during AF-C recording, though it doesn't appear to give the level of control you might expect: you can reposition the focus point but the camera doesn't then refocus to that point (half-pressing the shutter then forces a refocus, but it's not always as smooth as you'd hope). It's also possible to engage and disengage subject tracking during movie shooting, which is pretty impressive. Setting one of the customizable buttons to 'AF/MF Control hold' or '-toggle' gives you an effective AFL option, too.

In terms of audio, the a6000 only offers an on/off option, with a similarly binary approach to its wind-cut filter. This is the real weak point in the a6000's video spec.

The menu options for zebra, peaking, movie quality and movie exposure mode are pretty spread-out across the menus, so you may want to consider grouping them together in one line of the customizable Fn menu, if you're regularly changing settings.

Overall, though, Sony should be applauded for essentially continuing to give full control over the camera while shooting footage - something none of its rivals currently do. Not all of the control points are ideally designed for use while recording (the shoulder dial's detents are firm enough that you're likely to shake the camera if it's not well secured to a tripod, and the position of the [REC] button risks the camera shifting at the start and end of each clip), but regardless of that and the slight loss of responsiveness that comes from the need to occasionally Fn-menu dive, the a6000 offers an excellent degree of control.

Video Quality

The video image quality itself is about standard for this class of camera, which is to say: not hugely impressive. Comparing the horizontal resolution target, with the vertical resolution target shows the camera is capturing finer detail horizontally than vertically. This results both in the asymmetrical rendering of the focus stars (which is interesting to compare with the RX10's result, based on full-sensor readout), and the false color that is appearing on several details around the scene.

Compared to the Sony DSC-RX10, you can see the a6000's video is much less detailed. The Samsung NX30 shows a better result, thanks to high levels of sharpening (though the Samsung then lets itself down with clumsy compression that shows heavy artefacting with movement between frames).

Sample 1

1080p24 movie shot at 1/50sec, on a tripod, SteadyShot Off. Lock-On AF set on the boat initially.

1920x1080 24p 22Mbps, MTS, 15 sec, 50.9 MB Click here to download original file

Sample 2

1080p60 movie shot at 1/125sec, on a tripod, SteadyShot Off. Lock-On AF set on the boat initially.

1920x1080 60p 28Mbps, MTS, 46 sec, 127.9 MB Click here to download original file

Sample 3

This video (also handheld) shows how well the camera handles motion at the 60p frame rate.

1920x1080 60p 28Mbps, MTS, 28 sec, 75.3 MB Click here to download original file