Sony A6000 very first impressions

Hear, hear, the A6000 is here !!

CannelleMar14-02ISO 1000, 35 @F1.8

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.

MarlaMar14-07Let’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…

MarlaMar14-11Seiss 16-70 at F4

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.

TestA6K-01I 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).

MarlaMar14-08One 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.

CannelleMar14-01Speaking 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…

MarlaMar14-09High ISO is pretty good, except the jpeg engine has this damn tendency to smear detail heavy handedly in order to avoid noise. I’ve tried NR set to Low, and figured out Off was the way to go.

TestA6K-02The light was horrible today, so there wasn’t much I could do

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.

TestA6K-04The 16-70 makes the *perfect* all around zoom for this camera

TestA6K-08SEL35 at 1.8, that’s plenty of subject isolation

TestA6K-07I see some definite pop here

MarlaMar14-146K1.8 ISO1600, 1/50th, Custom WB, NR Off

CropA6KTotally *unedited* crop of the former


MarlaMar14-12I apologize for the somewhat bland pics, tomorrow will be better

MarlaMar14-06It’s been years she pined for a Nintendo…

MarlaMar14-10Can you believe some people still hate the 16-70 ?? I can’t…

TestA6K-03It sure is sharp when need be !

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.


About marla2008

Shutterbug. Shallow DOF nut. Mother of Child. Student of the Horse.
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31 Responses to Sony A6000 very first impressions

  1. Joachim Wulfers says:

    Thanks for your first impression revue. Great shots by the way, crappy light or not. I look forward to more, before I get my pre-ordered A6K. So how “bad” are the reversed dials? Can one get used to them rather fast?

    • marla2008 says:

      Thank you Joachim. I answered that question in the DPR thread where you asked it as well. It’s bad, because the mode dial falls very naturally under one’s thumb, and for my style of shooting in particular I used to spin the N7’s left top wheel as my main control scheme, so I may be more affected than say, someone using A or S mode and dialing in exposure comp with the right wheel ? It’s liveable with, unless you hate the camera and every little thing becomes a deal breaker. But I happen to like it a lot, so I’ll just curse Sony engineers under my breath, and keep on shooting 😉

  2. Azon says:

    Thanks for a nice and fast review. How do you feel about the camera compare N7 in high ISO field?

    • marla2008 says:

      That’s a tough one. I hated the high (and not so high) ISO shots on the A7, because no matter how you try to turn noise reduction Low or even Off, detail gets smeared very badly in an attempt to handle noise, while the N7’s noise is more present, but less objectionnable. So I had this same impression with the A6K, until I made a close comparison and was forced to admit that I was holding a grudge, and that the A6K actually gives cleaner and more detailed output than the N7. I will make another comparison to share with you guys, as the one I made for me was not good enough to share. Currenty the NR is set to Off on the camera.

  3. Great article! Nice photos and lovely thoughts. Have a great day!

  4. Todd says:

    Decent article, thanks. But the lazy naming of the bodies was confusing. I think you had room to write the actual names.

    • marla2008 says:

      Sorry Todd, I didn’t figure it was much mental gymnastics understanding N7 for NEX7, and A6K for A6000 😉

      • marla2008 says:

        There’s absolutely nothing to conflict about. I think SOME people got confused about the new AF and the LA-EA adapters. Let’s make it clear once and for all, the LA-EA2 and LA-EA4 adapters with pellicle mirrors do TAKE OVER the A6000’s own AF system. So you basically get the SLT-A55/58/56′ AF module. It’s not the best out there, about entry to mid level DLSR, but it’s satisfactory for most sports. One last thing, I found it worked a tad better and more reliably on the A6000 vs. the N7.

      • Ho says:

        Sure, anyone with a brain can figure out N7, A6K — but I’ve been reading A6000 reviews and comments for almost a week, and you are the only one who is too lazy to write out the full titles. The role of an author, which you aspire to, is to communicate with your audience, not to put a stumbling block in the way. The use of unconventional, albeit decipherable shortcuts, distracts the reader. For instance, A6K is too close to A7, so the reader has to constantly figure out if the reference is to an Nex-Alpha style camera or the A7/A7R variety. Frankly, your above response to Todd reeked of arrogance. I want to give you feedback that I too found the abbreviations in your article a major distraction. Fix it.

      • marla2008 says:

        I truly do not see the need for the harsh tone here. Consider yourself a guest, and act with adequate manners. I’d think you’re the lazy one if it’s too mentally challenging for you to decipher A6K vs. A7. You’re free to come here (I’ll even peacefully answer your hostile comments), feel free not to come, as well. Best regards.

      • Ho says:

        Sorry 🙂

      • marla2008 says:

        No problem, we can all have bad days 😉 But I read your comment first thing in the morning only half awake, hence my reaction. I hope you can put up with my abbreviations in the future, and that it won’t keep you from checking out the next reviews, I should have one up for the Fuji XT-1 (T1 for short !) soon !

  5. Great job but I have a question. In the beginning you said you would’ve “touch the 16-50PZ with a ten feet pole”. Why? I’m asking cause I pre-ordered mine with the lens. Thanks.

    • marla2008 says:

      Oh, I didn’t mean to give any PZ users and lovers a bad vibe. My issue with this lens is that, aside from being ridden with various aberrations and distorion, all more or less corrected in camera, or in LR, the lens is painfully slow at nearly all focal lenghtes. See, it has the same 3.5-5.6 max aperture over the range as the 18-55 does, but reaches its smallest aperture much, muche quicker. I know kit lenses are about convenience, not optimum IQ or subject isolation, but if I can make compromise on the former, my shooting style is all about story telling, and relies a lot on the latter. So while the 18-55 is not a background blur champion by any means, it’s still noticeably better at it vs. the PZ, not to mention brighter at nearly all focals, which I like when I shoot in a castle, museum or restaurant, and that extra 55mm at the tele end is also useful to me. For nearly two years I chose the 18-55 over the PZ. I now have the excellent Zeiss 16-70/4 that tops them both. But don’t take my word for it, the 16-50PZ is very, very convenient in use, and also has the advantage if you do a lot of video. Enjoy yours !

  6. Rob says:

    Thanks, Much for you quick look at the A6000

  7. Ramin says:

    If you could possibly do a side by side comparison of Nex 7 and A6000 in raw and ISO 3200 and 6400, that would help some audience. Thanks.

  8. Pingback: A6000 test roundup (with noise comparison). | sonyalpharumors

  9. Marco Barrios says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the A6K. Just the kind of details I wanted know. Mine was supposed to be delivered last week but TNT managed to lose it somewhere. I haven’t owned the N6 or N7, but the based on the short time I’ve spent with them, it definitely would makes more sense to have the dials reversed. I’m just hoping it doesn’t make it really uncomfortable to use.

    • marla2008 says:

      Marco, as I have repeatedly stated in my post “either or”, I think using the A6000 is either by itself or along with an A7 will be no issue at all. It’s joint use with a N6 or N7 that would create a headache. ENjoy it when it comes !

  10. Ronny Obando says:

    Excellent review, thank you! Where you able to find a digital level gauge option on the a6k?

  11. Thanks for your very helpful review. When NEX first came out I went with the NEX-3 and kit lens but have been frustrated by its softness and lack of viewfinder. I’m now pretty much planning on getting an A6000 — but can’t afford a Zeiss lens and will be stuck with the PZ. I have been tempted by RX100 due to its great portability and better(?) Zeiss branded lens despite smaller sensor size & lack of viewfinder (its LCD seems much better than NEX-3, but still not sure about it in bright sunlight). Any comments or suggestions? Bottom line is I want something I can use in bright sunlight to give me sharper landscape photos than I’m currently getting.

    • marla2008 says:

      Any E mount will still give you significantly better IQ than the RX due to larger imaging chip. Why not a 5R/T ? The Sunny Weather mode is very useful to make up for the lack of viewfinder, if you can live without one. If not, a NEX6, NEX7, or A6000 should be fine.

  12. how it works with the LA EA2?

  13. jim says:

    Is it fair to say that rx100 and or rx10 is going to be sharper imaging than the nex 6 with their on board fixed lenses?
    I am struggling with my decision over the three cameras as to which is really the best choice for me. RX100/m2 above average imaging/ fast focus 100mm z lens. Rx10 pro grade features for video and great 2.8 200mm z lens or now the a6000 with new bionz x chip with current fastest focusing feature. All have plus and minus to them and sony has me frustrated with such choices when I only want and need one camera to do it all!

    • marla2008 says:

      Jim, it really boils down to how you’ll use it, and what your priorities are ! It’s very hard to tell you without knowing what you shoot. Personally I’d always go with the bigger sensor, but that’s really up to you…

  14. usera6000 says:

    diferences between LA-EA2 and LA-EA4 adapter???
    Which One is better for the a6000??

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