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Raw and Raw Conversion

Supplied software

The Sony Alpha NEX-6 is provided with the following software:

  • PlayMemories Home (Windows) - This cataloging and browsing application replaces the previous Picture Motion Browser and is part of a suite of cloud-based apps designed to make your content available on both desktop and mobile devices with direct sharing to social media sites.
     
  • Image Data Converter 4.2 (Windows / Mac) - A further development of the previously
    seen Image Data Converter SR, provides advanced raw conversion capabilities, adjustments
    include Creative Style, Sharpness (including overshoot / undershoot tuning), Highlight Color
    Distortion reduction and Noise Reduction. Now includes the side-by-side image comparison features of the old Image Data Lightbox software.

Image Data Converter 4, the raw converter that is bundled with the NEX-6, is relatively simple compared to most third party packages but nevertheless offers all the usual conversion parameters and is easy to use. It provides for the fine-tuning of brightness, color, white balance, sharpness, noise reduction and tone-curve and also lets you choose your preferred Creative Style, reduce the effects of vignetting and change the in-camera setting of the D-Range Optimizer. It also incorporates the images browsing, tagging and cataloging functions of the now-discontinued Image Data Lightbox software.

Image Data Converter incorporates the image browsing and organizing features of the old Image Data Lightbox software from previous Sony cameras. All of the important RAW editing tools can be found on the right side of the screen. Individual adjustments can be floated in windows, if one desires.

Raw file conversion

In the sections below we'll compare the same raw file as processed by Sony's supplied Image Data Converter, DxO Optics Pro 8.1.2 and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 7.3, alongside the associated in-camera JPEG file.

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, default settings
  • IDX - Image Data Converter 4, default settings
  • ACR - Adobe Camera Raw 7.3, at default settings using 'Adobe Standard' profile
  • DxO - DxO Optics Pro 8.1.2, default settings

Sharpness and Detail

As you can see below, converting a raw file has the potential to bring out a more natural, pleasing rendition of ultra-fine detail in comparison to the more aggressive sharpening applied by the camera's JPEG engine. You'll see this the most in the 100% crops from the DxO Optics Pro and ACR conversions, which are very similar in the level of detail shown. The Sony conversion is less impressive, and at default conversion settings detail is mushy, even compared to the camera's JPEG output.

Adobe ACR 7.3 Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
DxO Optics Pro 8.1.2 Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
Sony Image Data Converter 4.2 Raw -> TIFF (Default output settings)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
JPEG out of camera, High quality setting, manual WB (all other settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop

Resolution

The examples below show that DxO Optics Pro delivers the sharpest, apparently most detailed results of the group, with ACR not far behind. Sony's own Image Data Converter doesn't make a good job of our resolution chart at all, and color moiré and blurring can be seen from 1600 LPH.

Adobe Camera RAW 7.3 DxO Optics Pro 8.1.2
Sony Image Data Converter 4.2 JPEG Large/Fine

Real-world benefits of shooting RAW

The NEX-6's JPEG processing is optimized for reasonably sized prints and web viewing. In other words, things look great when printed, and not quite as great when viewed at 100%. You'll especially notice this in areas of low contrast, such as grass or hair, which can appear smudged.

The example below illustrates the improvement in critical detail capture that can be obtained by shooting and carefully processing RAW files with the NEX-6. Here, we're presenting the original JPEG (at default sharpness), a RAW conversion using default settings in Adobe Camera Raw, and a third RAW conversion with sharpness adjusted to taste - the 'ideal' conversion, in our opinion - to get the most detail out of this scene.

JPEG, 1/160 sec; F11; ISO 100 100% crop
RAW (ACR std), 1/500 sec; F9; ISO 100 100% crop
'Ideal' RAW, 1/500 sec; F9; ISO 100 100% crop

The original JPEG has very mushy low contrast detail. Switching to a RAW brings back some detail at default settings in Adobe Camera Raw, and if you really play with the sharpness, you'll get back even more. Some may say that our 'ideal' RAW conversion is a bit too sharp, but that's the beauty of the format - it's all up to you.

There are plenty of other benefits to shooting RAW, beyond just optimizing detail reproduction. If you've botched the white balance or really underexposed the image, a fix is just a few clicks away, likewise recovering clipped highlights and drawing detail out of shadow areas.

White Balance and Brightness

Shooting in low artificial light, the NEX-6 delivered a pretty uninspiring pet portrait, here. As you can see from the JPEG on the lower left, exposure is dull, and there's an unpleasant yellow-ish color cast, both of which make this shot a definite 'reject'.

JPEG, ISO 3200, AWB Processed raw file

However, after spending a few minutes with the simultaneously-captured raw file in Adobe Camera Raw 7.4 RC, we've been able to greatly reduce the color cast, significantly boost exposure, and increase contrast just enough to give the image some 'pop'. Taken at ISO 3200, the raw file also benefited from some luminance noise-reduction, too.

Shadow Detail

Another benefit of shooting in raw mode is that because of their wider tonal range, raw files typically allow much greater latitude for exposure adjustment post-capture, allowing you to bring out detail from shadow areas much more successfully than would be possible with JPEGs.

Shadow Detail/Noise Compared

Below is our standard test scene, taken in RAW and overexposed by three stops in Adobe Camera Raw. We've included the Canon T4i (which shares the same sensor as the EOS M mirrorless camera), Fujifilm XE-1, and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 to show how the NEX-6's sensor compares to its competitors.


Sony NEX-6 ISO 100, ACR +3EV, NR off 100% crop
Canon T4i ISO 100, ACR +3EV, NR off 100% crop
Fujifilm XE-1 ISO 200, ACR +3EV, NR off 100% crop
Panasonic GX1 ISO 160, ACR +3EV, NR off 100% crop

The NEX-6's sensor is clearly very capable, and our (pretty extreme) +4EV brightness adjustment has brought out a lot of detail in the shadow area of our studio scene. Although there's a little chroma noise in the brightened image, compare it to the Canon Rebel T4i/EOS 650D, where the only thing that we've really 'revealed' by brightening the raw file is noise. The Fujifilm X-E1 has done well, and as we'd expect from our recent in-depth test of that camera, there's very little chroma noise in the brightened raw file. The Panasonic Lumix DMX-GX1 is less impressive though, and like the Canon, there's a lot of noise hiding in the shadows.

In the scene below, (chosen for its deep shadows more than aesthetic qualities) you'll see the the entrance to an underground parking lot, inside of which is some signage. This is barely visible when the scene is exposed normally, which makes this a good example to show just how much detail you can get out of the shadows in raw files compared to JPEGs from the NEX-6 (and indeed all cameras that offer raw capture).

The crop of the signage (indicated with a red rectangle) is completely dark in the original JPEG. 100% crop

This is the JPEG after exposure was increased by 4 'EV' in Adobe Camera Raw. As you can see, we've been able to pull a lot of detail out of the darkest areas of the scene, but the smallest text on the signs is illegible, and chroma noise is pretty obvious. There's also some severe postarization on the wall at the far left.

100% crop
Shooting RAW instead of JPEG and increasing the exposure by (again using ACR) to match the brightness of the brightened JPEG reveals more detail in the signage, (including the smaller text) and less chroma noise, with none of the same postarization on the left-most wall. 100% crop

The photos and captions speak for themselves. There's simply more detail in raw files than JPEGs, and our raw conversion literally brings detail back out of the darkness, with a lot less visible noise than the JPEGs. That said, it's impressive how much detail there is also hiding away in the shadows of the NEX-6's JPEG file. Naturally, in a real-world shooting situation, unless you were correcting dramatic underexposure you'd want to selectively apply the shadow brightening to your raw files, rather than universally, as we've done here.

Raw files for download

Here we provide RAW files from the sample shots we've taken, so you can apply your own workflow techniques and judge the results for yourself.

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Comments

Total comments: 30
Galbertson
By Galbertson (4 months ago)

Maybe an old subject...has anyome fhotshoe adapter to allow 3.5...or 2.5 mic jack other than sonys on
Y external microphone?

0 upvotes
RichMack55
By RichMack55 (4 months ago)

Which camera would compete well with the nex 6..?
Any opinions greatly appreciated.

I originally wanted to invest in a canon 700 d ( just missed out on a greal deal on the 600d ) but the fact tthat the viewfinder is optical swayed me.

Is there an all round dslr for amatuers coming from a bridge version with the following...
EVF.
Decent lens ( perhaps a Compact system type ) mid range 18-55mm or a little more
High ISO
Lighweight
Flip screen, preferably one which can actually swivel round to take portraits...
Touch screen is NOT necessary
And of course a decent battery which the camera makes tend to overlook...
I feel Canon have lost sight where Nikon is concerned whereas Sony and Lumix seem to have come a long way and are doing what Olympus did in the 70s and the 80s...
Again, any thoughts on the above..?

0 upvotes
RichMack55
By RichMack55 (4 months ago)

I am just about to purchase this camera on the basis that I can return it within 15 days if unhappy...
I thought I had done my homework when decidng on the nex 6 but I am unable to find out if it is possible to override the function of having the screen on.
It seems that the EVF switches on automatically when you place your eye close up to the corner of the camera ( thrus the screen goes off...) and the screen does the same when you move away from the EVF.

To my surprise there is quite a 'waste' of battery time...
Living in a sunny country means the use of an EVF is much more practical.

Can anyone give any tips on how to make the battery last longer.
Ideally, taking three on trips is practical. An external charger is wise too.
And the pc method when on the go is practical as well. Nevertheless, total control over the screeen makes sense nowadays.
I share your point too photosym. That does not make sense as a selling / marketing point. Is this the case with most sony cameras??

0 upvotes
photosym
By photosym (5 months ago)

I don't know who designed this camera, but it certainly wasn't an active photographer. It would be a superb machine, but there's a massive design flaw. You can't use the self timer or an electronic shutter release when in HDR or Auto bracketing modes. Absolutely crazy!!! I've been in touch with Sony and they don't have any plans for a firmware update. I'm not sure if this applies to other Nex or Sony models, but be aware. This is the last Sony camera I will buy, I'll stick to Canon or Fuji in the future.

1 upvote
GirusVirus
By GirusVirus (5 months ago)

I agree with you photosym. This would be a great camera, but it is really useless in the respect of remote control bracketed photography. The remote control is useless when you can't have timers, and other manual settings. It is a shame.

0 upvotes
Herbert001
By Herbert001 (2 months ago)

I just bought a Sony nex 6. What a amazing camera. Yes you can use HDR and Auto Bracketing with a remote. At list via wifi with my android phone and ipad. Better than the Leica M digital. With more options. As a reporter I love this camera.

0 upvotes
zblues
By zblues (5 months ago)

Appears from the manual no input jack for an external mic attached to the shoe for this camera. Will use the new mic on the Nikon 5100.

0 upvotes
zblues
By zblues (5 months ago)

I ordered the new SHURE VP83F LensHopper Camera-Mounted Condenser Microphone with Integrated Flash Recording for this camera and it's std size shoe mount to record and video shoot indoor stage Band performances.

Anybody else tried an external mic mounted to this camera.

0 upvotes
rodoki
By rodoki (7 months ago)

I just unboxed my Sony alpha Nex6 a few minutes ago.
I have several Panasonic Lumix's and a Canon Rebel.
The Sony, however, is the first camera I've encountered whereby I cannot simply recharge the battery in a compact charger!
Instead I have to connect a wire from the camera into the charger and thence into a wall socket meaning I cannot have second backup battery.
If I'm on vacation I can't simply leave a battery charging at a hotel room and go out and use my camera with a second battery.
I have to leave the WHOLE camera behind to charge!
Am I missing something here? It seems VERY odd.

1 upvote
ManInTheStars
By ManInTheStars (7 months ago)

you can buy original sony charger, I have it but i leave hotel with both batteries charged anyway :) in-camera charging is also great, do your all previous cameras have such feature?

1 upvote
jeremyclarke
By jeremyclarke (6 months ago)

+1, I wish Canon and others would add this feature. While external chargers are vital for certain uses (long trips with brief access to power for example) internal chargers are WAY more convenient. Just bring a USB cord and your iPhone's USB->power adapter and you can plug in your camera to suck some juice whenever you have the chance.

I certainly don't hear people complaining about how the batteries in their phones work these days, we just need to get used to the same thing with cameras (especially the "grab some juice while you can" part, don't wait for it to empty out!)

1 upvote
jeremyclarke
By jeremyclarke (6 months ago)

Just to update this, I didn't realize that you can't use the camera at all while it's charging (mentioned in an Amazon review). That's a very tedious element of this equation if it's true. I can imagine a LOT of situations where I'd want to review photos, make picks or just mess around with the camera while charging it.

It should "work like your phone" like I said in the comment above, if you can't use it while it's charging that's not like a phone. Of course, it IS like every camera previously if you only own one battery ;)

Comment edited 44 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
MotoP
By MotoP (5 months ago)

Any number of aftermarket and also (expensive but sure) Sony's spare battery and chargers will add external charging and spare batteries. Safe reliable aftermarket ones are not that expensive and will provide a much more convenient way to refresh the power than with having only one battery. I usually have up to 3-4 batteries always on hand for any primary cameras, two of which are always on the charger during vacations.

I guess in this market for consumer price wars, Sony can't include expensive batteries in the original bundles, at cut-rate prices, nor confuse the ever impatient general consumer who just wants things simple?

0 upvotes
photosym
By photosym (5 months ago)

You're correct, it's very odd and another fudge by Sony.

0 upvotes
Kurnia Lim
By Kurnia Lim (5 months ago)

LOL I love charging direct to camera, and yes we need to buy extra external charger, but you can just buy cheap chinese charger for around 10-15 USD, with that I can charge 2 battery at the same times, and also I can charge with powerbank when it need.

0 upvotes
coolboy
By coolboy (8 months ago)

Hi!
Can anyone please explain me if I can add an PANASONIC 20mm f1.7 II pancake to this camera? Is it fully compatible?

Thanks

0 upvotes
john Clinch
By john Clinch (8 months ago)

No that lens is microfour thirds only. This only takes NEX lenses. That is Sony E-mount

0 upvotes
MotoP
By MotoP (5 months ago)

Direct mounting is only with SONY E-Mount Lenses, however you have the option to add a LA-EA2 or LA-EA4 adapter to use any Sony A-mount lenses with full Auto Focus features intact. This is also true for all AF Minolta Lenses that use the A-mount as well.

Also, with aftermarket mounting adapter solutions, almost any SLR lenses can be used with MANUAL focus. Canon lenses can operate with some adapters with limited AF functions as well.

Comment edited 52 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Flower girl
By Flower girl (1 month ago)

Can I use my canon 18-200 on the sony . Has anyone done it and how does it handle?

0 upvotes
kastaldi
By kastaldi (9 months ago)

I bought the RX100 and now I miss the viewfinder of my old P60. A movable screen would also be useful. What a pity...

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
esad
By esad (9 months ago)

@dpreview.com: As you know, the performance of a camera depends very much on the quality of the lens. What lens did you use to test the NEX-6, please? I couldn´t find any hints in the article.

2 upvotes
LJS
By LJS (10 months ago)

I personally do not agree about adding a touchscreen to the NEX line of cameras. I simply don't like touchscreen and I know a lot of people that feel the same way.

2 upvotes
kreislauf
By kreislauf (9 months ago)

sure your do. sure you do.
but fact is, navigating is easier with a touchscreen.

4 upvotes
jeremyclarke
By jeremyclarke (6 months ago)

Seriously what an odd thing to be worried about. As long as you can disable it why deny it to those who would find it helpful?

0 upvotes
MotoP
By MotoP (5 months ago)

Providing a touchscreen, with the ability to enable/disable will meet 100% of user preferences no? ;) Instead of battling opinions on if it should be there or not? I think that's what the review implies...

0 upvotes
Gabriel Yeo
By Gabriel Yeo (10 months ago)

Sony continues without fail, to make ugly-looking cameras.

2 upvotes
FRANCISCO ARAGAO
By FRANCISCO ARAGAO (10 months ago)

You are joking, right?

13 upvotes
Henderson May
By Henderson May (8 months ago)

this is subjective

2 upvotes
nanajan
By nanajan (11 months ago)

Just want to know if Sony Nex-6 had a time and date feature. I have looked through all the materials and have not seen it.

0 upvotes
A V Cole
By A V Cole (11 months ago)

As it takes RAW files all of these details will be on the file along with shutter speed, aperture used etc.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 30