Hear, hear, the A6000 is here !!
Ok, where do I start ? The box it comes in, I guess… It’s tiny ! I ordered it body only, as I wouldn’t touch the 16-50PZ with a ten feet pole, and the box is really diminutive. The good part is, since there’s no lens, Sony had to give me a body cap (if you ordered the kit, please chime in and let us know whether it came with the lens mounted on body and no caps ?). The battery is similar to that used in other NEX cameras (oops, it’s not a NEX, I forgot that), but it’s all black and severe looking, with a little hologram marking on the bottom. I have no idea if it’s suppose to hold more charge than the older, regular NEX batteries, but it looks both the same, and different.
Let’s talk build for a second. Build is a huge deal to me. I’m a long time NEX7 user and lover, and its full metal case has a very specific weight and feel in the hand, that is in no way equalled by the semi plastic construction of the N6, which feels too light, and a bit hollow, for my taste. The A7 was better, but not quite there. I hear the A7R is yet a bit superior, and very similar to the 6K. It makes sense, as I’d rate the latter at around 90 (or maybe 85%) of the N7’s sturdiness and tactile enjoyment. Dials : stiff !!! The LCD hinge feels a bit cheap, not nearly as fluid as the N7’s. I hope the dials, as well as the screen, will losen up with prolonged use. Dial placement : that’s a toughie. It’s been noted by nearly every reviewer and early user of this camera, but it bears repeating. The Mode dial and unmarked top dial *should have been reversed* !! I keep accidentally turning the stupid (super stiff) Mode dial with my thumb to adjust speed, as that’s where it falls naturally. So that’s a big operational glitch here, maybe the biggest of the camera. The other being than the enlargement process in Playback is nearly as annoying as on the A7, which Sony has royally failed to address in the recent FW update…
The EVF. Definitely smaller than the N7’s at first sight. A bit of tunnel vision when you first put your eye to it. But after about half an hour, the difference doesn’t seem so big anymore. One very nice touch is the diopter adjustment wheel. It offers the finest tuning of viewfinder I’ve ever seen. I was able to tune it *really* finely to my sight (which isn’t as great as I’d like). Once you’ve set it, you can clip on the rubber eyecup. It’s exactly the same size and dimension as the N7’s, but the material is slightly harder, stiffer. A reviewer noted how it hurt his face after an hour or so of shooting, and it sounds quite plausible. Later during the evening I was able to compare it again with the N7’s EVF, and boy, it does make a difference… in favor of the A6K ! The refresh rate is better and it’s way clearer and less noisy in super low light than the previous generations.
I guess what you *really* want to hear from me, is about the AF performance. I’ve been moaning and bitching about NEX AF since I got my very first 5N, which was so bad it was actually a joke, and cause me to go ALL manual focus for over a year !!! Later I got the 6, whose PDAF I called a perfect placebo effecr, as it was in no way any faster than my N7 (possibly less good, actually). The A7 did get a small bump in AF speed, mostly in good light, but in lower light is was still the same pathetic snail as the others.
Enters, the A6K. BAM ! In anything but super crappy light AF is *INSTANT*. It’s so quick with the PDAF enabled (AF-C, Wide focus zone) that it has locked in place way before you’ve figured out it has. If you chose the flexible AF point, which you can move around over nearly the whole area of the frame, it’s still pretty darn fast. In really low light the lens takes a second to move to focus, but there is close to no hunting involved (very little anyway).
One thing that strikes me about the A6K, is that aside from the much maligned (by me !) HUMP, and the FF sensor size, it’s pretty much a baby A7. Sure, the AF performance is night and day, but otherwise, it’s VERY similar. The customization of controls is pretty sweet. C1, C2, AEL button, right, left and down positions of the rear wheel can be assigned a host of useful functions, not to mention the 1 to 12 two rows function menu letting you access pretty much any setting at the push of the Fn button. The very best part of this scheme is the ability to chose the role of the unmarked top wheel in M mode. In case you are curious, here is how I set mine :
Fn menu top row : AF mode, Creative Style, Grid, Picture Effects, Flash comp., DRO.
Bottom row : Zebra, Peaking level, AF-ON, Image size, Image ratio, Image quality.C1 button : Peaking color, C2 : White Balance, AEL : Focus area. Top wheel in M mode : Shutter speed.
Speaking of Zebras, I’m glad it’s featured on the camera. Why ? Because the full time exposure simulation via “Live View”, which has been the main appeal of mirrorless to me ever since I tried it, is not as faithful as it is on NEX cameras. It acts exactly like the A7, meaning the final image is always a tad darker than hat you saw on the LCD/in the EVF, even if you tweaked those to try to match reality. The obvious solution to that is to expose a step brigher than you normally would. It’s ok if you’re shooting the A6K along with the A7, for instance, but harder if you use it side by side with the N7, because in this case you have to constantly adapt from one camera to the other…
So, it is worth the “upgrade” over the N7 ?? It’s hard to tell. The amazing thing about the N7 is that, so “long” after its introduction, in digital terms, it still sits on top of the mirrorless crowd, in many ways. It’s a unique camera, a benchmark, a Classic. Now, if AF speed is a primary concern to your photography, and it is to many of us, then the A6 represents not an improvement, but a total LEAP in performance, over any other E mount camera that came before it. I’d say the EVF is a draw, since it’s better on the A6K, but larger on the N7. Feel in hand and handling still goes to the N7, but customisation is taken a level higher with the 6K.
A word about Peaking. In anything but really low light, it works very well both on the LCD and in the EVF, so I see no issue using this body with my wonderful older lenses, as well.
Tomorrow I will put the camera through the pony day test. Chances are we might not use the indoor barn, in what case I won’t be able to torture it as well, but I’ll try to make sure and have at least a few shots there. I’ll also pair it witht the LA-EA2 and Bazooka (Sig 70-200/2.8) and see how it performs. Overall I’m pleased with my first contact with the A6K, and can only recommend that you take a long hard look at it.