All recent NEX-series cameras followed a fairly consistent design aesthetic, and accordingly there are a lot of similarities between the NEX-6 and the NEX-5R, and to a lesser extent the NEX-7. Like the NEX-7, a large, deep grip extends from the camera's top plate with a sharply sloped platform accommodating the only controls to be found on the front; a power switch which surrounds the shutter button and a dedicated Fn button.
In typical NEX fashion the silver-colored lens mount extends outwards from the front of the body, while the articulated rear LCD panel sits flush with the camera back. The control dial is placed directly in line with the thumb of your shooting hand.
The bulk of the NEX-6's camera's controls are found on the rear, with a dedicated flash, playback and a customizable AEL button along the top edge. A four-way control dial with center button sits between a two 'soft keys'. Movie recording can be initiated from any shooting mode with the press of a button, right up on the upper right corner of the camera. This somewhat odd placement might be in reaction to (legitimate) complaints of accidental movie operation on the NEX-7.
A notable distinction between the NEX-6 and any previous model in the lineup is the inclusion of an eight-position exposure mode dial which rests on the top plate. Sandwiched directly underneath it is a larger-circumference control dial. A built-in flash, new standard ISO hot shoe (that also contains Sony's proprietary multi-interface port) and OLED viewfinder with adjacent diopter round out the remaining controls.
Compared to the NEX-7
In terms of specification, there is precious little other than sensor size (16mp versus 24MP) and price to separate the NEX-6 from Sony's flagship NEX-7. If you have no need for output beyond 16MP and are willing to trade the NEX-7's Tri-Navi control interface and external mic socket for a mode dial, Wi-Fi connectivity and a Quick Navi menu, you can get the NEX-6 with a co-announced 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS power zoom for an attention-grabbing MSRP of $999. In discussions with dpreview, Sony has acknowledged that it expects the NEX-6 to have a direct impact on sales of the higher-priced NEX-7. Clearly Sony considers this to be a risk worth taking.
From the front, the NEX-6 is virtually indistinguishable from the NEX-7, being marginally taller only due to its protruding mode dial. It has more gently rounded edges along its top plate and lacks the metal construction of Sony's flagship model, but is still a solid-feeling camera.
Both cameras incorporate the same 3 inch LCD and OLED viewfinder. Button layout is very similar, with differences only in the placement of the movie record button (which was much-criticized on the NEX-7 for being too easy to press accidentally). The NEX-6 has two control dials (versus three on the NEX-7) and an exposure mode dial. It also lacks an AF/MF switch. The NEX-6 is shown here with the included rubber eyepiece cup. the NEX-7 also has an eyecup (but ours fell off).
On the top plate there is little to distinguish the cameras other than their dial arrangement and the ISO-standard hotshoe on the NEX-6. Yet the small power zoom kit lens, which offers much wider coverage and similar reach to the older 18-55mm lens on the NEX-7, creates a much more compact package.
Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
The 16MP Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is one of the NEX-6's nearest competitors both in terms of design and specification, although notably it lacks an equivalent to the NEX's built-in electronic viewfinder. Here's how the two compare, physically.
The NEX-6 and GX1 are virtually identical in height. The NEX-6 offers a built-in OLED EVF (an optional clip-on LCD unit is available for the GX1) and an articulated (versus fixed) rear LCD panel, though it lacks any of touchscreen capabilities found of the GX1. Both cameras offer a built-in flash and an array of external control points arranged primarily along the right side of their rears.
Both cameras feature a mode dial and a standard accessory hotshoe. The NEX-6 has a much more prominent handgrip, which offers a platform for the power switch, shutter and Fn buttons. The new 16-50 power zoom kit lens brings the NEX line far closer than it has ever been to competing with its mirrorless rivals in terms of overall size. Impressively, the new kit lens is actually not much longer than the GX1's 14-42 power zoom, but the NEX viewfinder (shown here with its rubber eyecup) contributes to a thicker package overall. Of course, it's still much more compact than the Panasonic when the GX1 is mated to its optional EVF...