Sony A6000 First Impressions
A couple of months ago my Sony NEX-7 stopped working. I was out shooting and the controls just stopped responding. I tried all sorts of things to get it back but to no avail. The camera was out of warranty and it was going to cost me €100 just to have it even looked at. I still haven't done anything with it yet, and I do intend to leave it in to be assessed at some point, but I'm just reluctant to spend several hundred euro to get it fixed when they're going for less than €400 now second hand.
I had also been looking at the A6000 as a possible replacement. Over Christmas, there were some good deals at one of my local camera stores so in the end, one day when I felt like some retail therapy I decided to treat myself.
I haven't been using the camera enough for a full review yet, but in the mean time here are some of my first impressions. I should point out that the Images I've shared here are processed the way I would normally work with images. I haven't posted "straight out of the camera" shots, because this isn't intended as a test. I wanted to represent my impressions of using it as I would normally user a camera.
While the A6000 isn't a direct successor to the NEX-7, it is in many ways superior. The sensor is the same resolution but has better iso performance (supposedly) and while the viewfinder has a lower resolution I actually find it much better than the one on the NEX-7. Build wise, the camera feels much sturdier. The NEX-7 always felt a bit delicate, but the A6000 is distinctly chunkier, and feels like a solid piece of metal. The grip is much better too. I had issues with the grip on the NEX-7, so much so that I had to get a half case for it to be comfortable. The A6000 is much more comfortable to hold for long periods of time.
Another huge improvement over the NEX series is the menus. The horrible NEX menus are now resigned to history, and instead, the A6000 features the more user friendly Alpha menu layout (which is kind of similar to Canon's style of menus). The grouping of items is still a little odd, but it's much much better overall. Customisability is still great, with the ability to customise almost all the buttons and dials on the camera, but it's much easier to set up because the menus make much more sense.
For me, one big let down is the rear screen. It suffers from the same issues as the NEX-7 screen, in that the calibration is way off. The screen has a very strong purplish hue, although the viewfinder appears to be calibrated correctly. Also, the gamma used is not right. Images are either two dark or two bright with no option in between. The real kicker is that there is an option to adjust the colour temperature of the viewfinder but not the screen. Speaking of the viewfinder, a lot of reviews have pointed out that the viewfinder on the A6000 is of a lower resolution than the NEX-7's viewfinder. To be honest I haven't noticed this at all. To me the viewfinder seems to be much better. It's not laggy at all and the optics seem to be much better. Another nice thing is that the shooting information is in black bars below and above the image rather than superimposed over it.
One of the other issues that I had with my NEX-7 is that the preset white balance settings were really off, but the A6000 seems to be fine in this regard. The Auto White Balance still looks a little weird in poor light (too pink and red) but the daylight balance seems more accurate. This is not a scientific test by any means, and just my general impression. Also, there could well have been issues with my NEX-7.
The overall speed of the camera is great. General operations are prompt and responsive, which is a problem that some other mirrorless cameras sometimes have. Autofocus is very fast too. I haven't done extensive tests, but it seems to live up to the hype. It doesn't feel any less responsive than a DSLR
In fact for street photography, you can do some pretty cool things thanks to the impressive Autofocus. I had written before about using face detection on the NEX-7 for picking out faces in the crowds, but it works much better on the A6000. If you put the camera in continuous autofocus and walk along with the camera held low and the screen flipped up, the focus picks out faces, and keeps them in focus as it keeps tracking while you move. It's pretty impressive. Of course, it still misses a few, but it's much better than trying t he same trick with the NEX-7.
Image quality seems a little improved in general over the NEX-7. There's less noise at ISO 100, especially in the shadows and as you go up the ISO settings, it seems a bit better at each ISO. The high resolution helps, and with a little bit of noise reduction in Lightroom, most of it is gone. It's useable up to 3200. Images hold up well to manipulation too. You can push them quite a bit in Lightroom and they handle it really well. Lightroom has colour profiles for the camera too, and the VSCO presets also have custom profiles for it, although I had to upgrade mine as when I installed them the camera didn't exist! (You just re-download the installers and re-install it)
The camera also has reasonably good video. It's gotten some good reviews for its video capabilities, and that's part of the reason why I bought it, but to be honest I'm a little disappointed. Video is a little muddy and there's some minor aliasing. Don't get me wrong, it's ok, and for the price, you can't really complain (well, you can!), but some reviews had led me to believe that it was better than it actually is. Having said that, I'm still trying various settings, so I'm withholding judgement for now.
The only really annoying thing with the A6000 (apart from the screen issue) is the charger. Or more importantly the lack thereof. Instead of a separate charger you're given a usb power supply and you have to charge the battery through the camera's usb port. While it's nice to be able to charge the camera through USB, it's not the best for the main charging solution. For one thing it takes ages to charge. A full charge from empty over USB takes around 5 to 6 hours. And you can get an external charger for it, they just decided not to give you one in the box.
Anyway, that's all for now. Like I said this isn't a full review, just some first impressions. Overall, I'm really happy with it. It's a great little camera, and there's one other fact about it that can't be understated. It's really cheap. You can pick the Body only up for a little over €500 with the right offer, so for what you're getting for the price, it's a great bargin.
If you're interested in the A6000 here is the camera on Amazon.
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