Viewfinder and Rear Screen
One of the more controversial aspects of the Sony a6000 is change to the electronic viewfinder (EVF). The NEX-6 featured a 2.3 million dot EVF with 0.73x magnification, while the a6000’s finder is slightly smaller at 0.7x, and loses resolution down to 1.4 million dots. There have been lamentations about Sony crippling the viewfinder and so forth. However, like many who have used both will tell you, the a6000’s EVF is actually the better finder. Sure, the first time you pick it up, you can see the pixels a little more than in the higher resolution EVFs, but after that, I never gave it a second thought. What is noticeable is that the a6000’s EVF is brighter, clearer, easier to see and has lower noise and generally lower lag than the one in the NEX-6, and overall, this makes it a better viewfinder. The size is still quite large, with a view roughly the same size as earlier full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 1Ds Mark II. The optics also provide better eye relief than the NEX-6’s EVF, especially for us eyeglass wearers. I always had issues seeing the entire viewfinder with the NEX-6, but the a6000 poses no such problem. While not up to the standards of the Fuji X-T1, Sony A7 or Olympus OM-D E-M1, it is nevertheless quite a nice EVF. It’s hard to complain given the camera’s low price.
The rear screen is a 921,000 dot 3″ model, though the continued use of a 16:9 aspect ratio means that the view you get will be smaller than on cameras that have a 3:2 aspect ratio 3″ screen. The screen is relatively clear and pleasing to view, though the dynamic range of the screen is not as good as either the EVF or the camera’s imaging capabilities. As a result, sometimes areas may look blown out on the rear screen when in reality they’re just fine. One benefit to the 16:9 aspect ratio is that the camera information is generally displayed in the black bars to the side, keeping a lot of data off your image, but I’d still rather have a 3:2 screen. Unfortunately, the a6000’s rear screen isn’t touch capable, which is something I’d like to see.
As I mentioned in the build quality portion, the rear screen mechanism is a bit flimsy, though in practice it works fine. However, if you have a tripod quick release plate on the camera that doesn’t account for the drop of the screen, you won’t be able to tilt the screen downward when that’s mounted due to the way the screen is hinged. Plates from Really Right Stuff account for this, but generic plates generally will not.
The a6000, like all recent Sony mirorrless cameras, includes focus peaking, which will aid in manual focus. The in focus areas are outlined in a color of your choosing (I use red for its visibility). The a6000’s focus peaking is essentially identical in practice to other Sony bodies. When it shows up, it’s quite visible, though I have always found Sony’s peaking to lack precision. On high contrast objects, the peaking is quite visible, but often will show up when the camera is just slightly out of focus, so the precision for fine focusing can’t be relied on with the focus peaking. I also found in lower light or finer detail, the peaking won’t show at all. It works fine for quick focusing, but for critical manual focus, zooming the finder is the way to go.
Autofocus and Performance
One of the biggest surprises about the a6000 given its mid-range price point is that it is a camera built for speed and performance. The camera features a continuous frame rate of 11 frames per second, which it can rattle off for up to 20 RAW images. The a6000 writes to the memory card relatively quickly, though one failing is that it will not allow image review while it’s writing to the card. Normally, that’s not an issue, but if you try to review images after a burst, you will get an error message until all images are written to the card. Still, the camera is impressively responsive, and not just when burst shooting. Shutter lag is also quite short and the camera generally boots up quickly as well. The only exception is when inserting an unformatted SD card or changing the battery. The camera does some sort of battery initialization that takes about 4 or 5 seconds whenever you switch batteries.
As far as autofocus is concerned, the a6000 is quite quick and generally accurate. Single shot AF with a fast lens is up there with the fastest cameras on the market. For the most part, the camera is very accurate with focusing as well. I did notice that when the focus point is set to its smallest size, the accuracy of the AF does go down a bit, but otherwise it’s spot on.
More impressive than the single shot autofocus and the 11 frame per second burst rate is the fact that the camera’s hybrid phase detect and contrast detect AF algorithm can perform continuous AF on a moving subject during an 11 frame per second burst. The new 24 megapixel sensor in the a6000 has 179 phase detect points spread across almost the entire sensor area, allowing for accurate continuous autofocus anywhere in the frame. Hammering the shutter when in high-speed burst mode sounds like a (quiet) machine gun, and even more impressive is that the camera does a darn good job of keeping things in focus while doing it. While it’s still not quite as good as a pro-grade DSLR in continuous AF accuracy, it is probably the best in the mirrorless world, and easily on par (or better than) lower end DSLRs. Check out the image to the left, which was taken in continuous AF while she was swinging. Swings are an incredibly challenging test for any camera, and while the hit rate in this scenario was only about 20%, I’ve frankly never gotten much above that with ANY camera. In more predictable moving scenarios, the a6000 has a much higher hit rate.
The a6000, like most mirrorless cameras, has a face detection mode that can focus on any face it finds, or only faces that you’ve taught the camera to recognize (allowing you to make sure you focus on your child’s face at the party, rather than their friend’s face). I found the face detection on the a6000 to be among the best of any camera I’ve used. The camera consistently placed focus directly on the eyes of my subject, and would favor the closer eye if there was a discrepancy. To that effect, there is also a button-assignable ‘Eye AF’ function, that will allow you to quickly toggle to lock on detected eyes of a subject. This too works fairly well.
31 thoughts on “Review: Sony a6000”
Very nice review.
How do you rate this camera when compared to the X-E2 or X-T1?
It’s hard to say. The a6000 for the most part has feature parity with the X-T1, excepting the intervalometer..but you can pay for that…plus a higher burst rate and a wider PDAF area. In some cases it’s superior, in others it’s not. The X-T1’s viewfinder is notably better (though the a6000’s is a bit better than the one in the X-E2), and both Fuji cameras are built better…the X-T1 notably so. While I enjoy shooting the a6000, I do prefer the control scheme on the Fujis more. The X-T1 feels like a pro grade camera, and the a6000 feels like a mid range (but performs like a pro-grade).
The a6000 is definitely the better bargain, but I still prefer my X-T1 overall, primarily because of the amazing EVF and especially the quality and direct controls, which I prefer to any camera I’ve ever owned. I’ve shot a lot with my a6000 over the past several weeks, though, and it’s a wonderful small camera with an amazing feature set.
Image quality wise, the a6000 has more detail and when shooting landscapes with foliage at a distance, can resolve green detail better. At high ISO, the Fuji cameras are cleaner (even when accounting for ISO fudging), though the a6000 retains more detail at similar sensitivity (along with more noise). The Fuji files do hold up to punishment better, as the RAWs are completely uncompressed…shadow noise when pushing the shadows at low ISO is notably better as well. DR seems very similar between the two, and color and contrast rolloff is different, but it’s hard to say which is ‘better’. The Fuji produces images with more punch right out of the camera, but the Sony images produce more pleasing natural tones in many cases.
If choosing between the two when starting a new system, I think the lenses hold more sway, and there, Fuji has the upper hand when it comes to enthusiast/pro level lenses….the Fuji glass is exceptional, and they have a very wide array of fast high end gear, while the Sony APS-C lineup is more consumer oriented. While there are some excellent Sony lenses (and the Sigma trinity is outstanding), overall, the Fuji lens lineup is better. Right now I use my Fuji kit as my main kit, and the a6000 + a few lenses as my ‘small’ kit. (The a6000+ the 3 Sigma Art primes is very tiny and VERY high quality.)
thank you for your good review.
How about focus speed when you use sigma 60 compare with sony lens?
The Sigma 60 focuses quite quickly. No major difference between it and my 18-105mm f/4, though there may be a slight edge to the Sony lens there. However, the Sigma 60 doesn’t appear to use PDAF for tracking, so in continuous AF it’s no question that the Sony lenses will do better there. My Sigma 60mm review will be coming in the next week. (Hint, it’s an incredible lens).
Thank you for your information. and waiting for your review sigma 60mm
Thanks so much for this review. I have enjoyed all of your reviews. I have the NEX6 but mostly shoot the E-M1 because of the superb set of lenses I have for it. I have enjoyed the image quality of the Sigma 60 (90mm equiv) on the NEX and actually feel it is sharper than the Olympus 45mm (also 90mm equiv)… but wouldn’t stake my live on it just yet 🙂
Thanks for the review on the EVF on the 6000. My problem on the NEX6 is 1) the darks are blocked up and 2) with glasses I can’t see into the corners which is especially problematic because I always use the live histogram and the right side of the histogram is in the bottom right corner. Grrr.
And finally, since I am always searching for good lenses for the NEX6, I have read your review of the 18-105. How does this lens stack up on the newer a6000? I can’t remember whether your review used the NEX7 or the lower pixel NEX6.
The 18-105 is about as good on the a6000 as it is on the NEX-6. You get a tiny bit more resolution out of it due to the higher sampling, but overall it’s, again, a competent lens, but not an outstanding lens. The NEX-6 was used for that review, but the conclusions are valid on a 24MP sensor as well.
I would like to know if you are an iPhone or Android user, as the experience with PlayMemories app is VERY different. Everything works very well on Android, on iphone, the experience can be very flakey. Some iOS versions work better than others. On Android, anything Android 2.3 on works without issues.
Also it’s worth mentioning that you can connect the camera to your PC and download the apps from your browser, you don’t have to navigate the PlayMemories app store on the camera itself. This is my preferred way of doing things. it’s so much easier. It’s also worth mentioning that there are plenty of decent free apps there, and any apps you want to buy, if you don’t like using creditcards, you can buy pre-paid cards to use (both this and Playstation Network use the same “SEN” card, so a PSN-prepaid card will work just fine to buy camera apps.
I’m an iPhone user. The app as a whole works pretty well except for the odd ‘exit then go back in’ behavior much of the time, but that does it when it thinks too much.
Good review and even better sample shots!
One thing I’d add to your “Cons” (Pros & Cons): Sony’s got a ways to go to catch up on the breadth of lenses — at least half-way attainable non-Zeiss ones.
I’m currently on Olympus, and own every single focal length of lens I want, none costing over $1000 (most much less), and all are _excellent_ and of either quite fast or very fast aperture.
They’re getting better for this APS-C E line, but I’d still like to see a more complete selection of native fast AF primes that don’t cost a kidney or a first born child.
I agree on the E-Mount line, though the line has expanded enough that there are good choices for the most part (though still a distinct lack of native fast glass), but this isn’t a system review, but a camera review.
I primarily shoot in manual mode. Do you find it easy to adjust the exposure triangle with the available buttons/dials? Or do you have to do a bit of menu digging to say adjust ISO in M mode.
No menu digging necessary. If the rear wheel is active all the time, you have aperture on the top and shutter speed on the rear wheel (you can switch these if you choose). ISO is accessed by pressing right on the 4-way then adjusting with the rear wheel. (or whatever button you set ISO to…it’s the right direction by default). It’s not as easy as with a camera with dedicated dials, but it’s not bad.
Thank you for the prompt response. That is great to know. It just might be my future purchase
I really enjoyed your review, but I would like to know if you believe the a6000 is worth upgrading from the NEX-6? I would also like to know what are the best lenses for the NEX or a6000 cameras.
Firstly, my congratulations on a truly excellent review of the A6000; certainly the best I have read.
I am wanting to change from Nikon D700 + heavy lenses to a lighter system with improved resolution. I am torn between Fuji and Sony and your comparison between the XT-1 and the A6000 are most helpful. (If only I could combine the best from both…)
As it is, neither camera/system ticks all the boxes, so the indecision continues.
I am holding off my decision until the news is available re new cameras/updates from Photokina next month. I would dearly like Fuji to announce improvements to the XT-1, or an X-Pro2, to more closely match what the A6000 offers in critical areas.
Again, my thanks.
Great review with top-notched photos as usual. I am also on the fence when it comes to interchangeable mirrorless so your reviews offer a great deal of info for me to consider and therefore many thanks for that.
I’ve got a question about Rokinon 12mm f2.0, your photos show amazing quality. What is your thought on it vs Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 or Fuji 14mm f/2.8?
Also, Samyang 10mm F2.8 ED AS NCS CS was just introduced and that makes me even more excited although the price is ~double. Are you going to review that lens too :)? Thanks
I’m weighing APS-C cameas … A6000 and the 7D2 … quite different, including price, thus a dilemma. Any thoughts? Choice?
Similar to HF’s question:
I’m looking at the Olympus OM-D5-II and the Fuji X-T1, but the Sony 6000 is there in the background as a somewhat cheaper alternative. It looks more plasticky, and the focus got horribly confused in the shop (as the X-T1 but not the Olympus), but it does seem from what is said to be a really good and compact camera body. One of my requirements is “takes less room in the bag than my DSLR”.
I tend to shoot in available light, so have ended up using fast primes to push the performance of my Nikon D90 to the level required. But a big problem I’ve had with the D90 is the whole “Focus, Compose, Shoot” process and I hope that any replacement camera can help here. Again the OM-D1 seems good as I’ve used it, the Sony good on paper, and all I’ve experienced of the Fuji is that it didn’t perform so well in the shop.
I do like the ergonomics of the Fuji. I feel the Olympus will take some getting used to.
So which one? There’ s a huge price difference between them with the a6000 kit now under £500, and the Olympus and Fuji exceeding £1000.
If the Olympus or Fuji detect multiple faces, can I tell them which one to use? How useful is touch to focus in real life? I guess it means not composing through the viewfinder.
The face detection for Fuji and Olympus is pretty basic, though it works well for both. It’ll try and hit the close eye if possible, and with Olympus you can specify preference for features.
If you want fast primes, the Fuji system is amazing with their fast glass. There are some really good fast lenses for m4/3 as well, though they won’t give you as shallow depth of field if you’re into that. Sony has some very good lenses, but nothing faster than f/1.8.
The a6000 is a really nice camera, though I prefer my X-T1 to it for most things. It’s very subjective, though, and what works for me may not work for another shooter. Perhaps it may be worth renting your top few for a few days at a time with a nice lens and see how they fit you. Sure, it’s not a super cheap outlay to try three systems, but it will probably be worth it to get what works best for you, considering the potential future investment in glass.
Love your reviews. Trying to decide between the A6000 and the GX7. Both can be had for reasonable prices. I’m looking to step up from a Canon G15. I like aspects of both cameras but am having a hard time deciding. I like taking landscape photos and pictures of my 2 1/2 yr old daughter as well as random photos around NYC. Any advice would be appreciated.
It’s really hard to go wrong. The a6000 will have slightly better image quality, but the lens selection for m4/3 is significantly better. If you’re after action shots of your kids, the a6000 will track motion better than the GX7, though the GX7 will be faster in single shot focusing mode.
Which better one is better for landscape? A6000 or XT-10?
Apparently this Sony series has no real Macro option that is worth a discussion.
Seem to be great for portraits and landscapes, but Macro shooters need not apply.
I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. There aren’t a lot of APS-C only lenses for this, but there are definitely some high quality options.
Sony has three lenses that do 1:1 reproduction that are native E-Mount lenses. The decent (but not great) 30mm f/3.5 macro is the worst of the three. The FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro is brand new, reasonably priced and has excellent optics from what I’ve read (I plan on reviewing this lens fairly soon). And finally, the FE 90mm f/2.8 macro (my review here) is absolutely fantastic. Sure, it’ll be big on something like the a6000, but it’ll also give you great working distance and truly outstanding image quality.
Finally, there’s the Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Macro (which I reviewed here in Fuji X mount), which is a native e-mount lens as well, and made for APS-C. This lens is fantastic optically, though it costs a fair bit.
And, if you’re OK with manual focus, you can adapt many wonderful manual focus macro lenses in a wide variety of mounts.
Do you know the base ISO for the A6000? My RX-100 is 125 but I think for the A6000 it might be 200. Thanks