Sony a6000 key features
- 24 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-25600 (expandable to 51200)
- Hybrid AF with 179-point focal plane phase-detection and 25 contrast detect points
- Up to 11 FPS continious shooting
- 3-inch tilting LCD with 921,000 dots
- OLED electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage and 1.4 million dots
- Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
- SD/SDHC/SDXC and Memory Stick Pro Duo/ Pro-HG Duo memory
- Compatible with Sony E Mount lenses
Sony’s NEX-6 was a departure from the company’s usual lineup of mirrorless cameras when it was introduced in the Fall of 2012. It slotted in between the various NEX-5 models and the NEX-7, and staked out a middle ground between the two, aiming to offer an accessible camera that offered a strong feature set for photographers. So you got a small camera with an electronic viewfinder and a degree of direct control. To this the NEX-6 offered two things that were yet to appear on any Sony mirrorless camera: an exposure mode dial and an ISO-standard hot shoe.
The new a6000 sits in the same place in Sony’s mirrorless lineup and offers a broadly similar feature set, but adds a number of significant new features (while also losing the NEX moniker of its predecessor). The resolution and processor have been bumped up, the most notable feature on the a6000 is its updated Hybrid AF system.
Where the NEX-6 had 99 phase-detect points covering approximately 50% of the sensor, the a6000 has 179, with 92% coverage – by far the most comprehensive of any contemporary camera. This, combined with the new Bionz X processor, allows the camera to shoot continuously at 11 fps with subject tracking, according to Sony. The company also claims that the a6000 has the fastest AF performance on the market, though those statements should always be taken with a grain of salt.
The only major losses are that the a6000 utilizes Sony’s lower resolution, SVGA viewfinder, rather than its top-end XGA panel. It also loses the NEX-6’s level gauge – which seems like an odd thing to remove, just to help it hit a lower price point. However, those cost-cutting measures seem to have worked: the a6000’s list price is $100 lower, at $649, than the NEX-6’s was at launch.
The major changes here are related to the sensor. The new 24 megapixel ‘Exmor APS HD’ CMOS sensor has on-chip phase detection like its predecessor, but it covers a much larger area of the frame. Sony promises better AF tracking, especially when shooting continuously. The a6000 uses Sony’s latest image processor – Bionz X – which touts improved detail and smarter noise reduction as improvements.
While the specs of the a6000’s movie mode aren’t a whole lot different from the NEX-6, users now have access to a zebra pattern (a live exposure warning that can be set to indicate a chosen brightness level), and can output ‘clean’ video over HDMI. The menus have switched to the new ‘Alpha’ style found on the a7 and a7R (for better or for worse), and the camera can now be controlled via a Mac or PC over a USB connection. The Wi-Fi feature is about the same as on the NEX-6, offering remote control from a smart device, the ability to transfer images from the camera and options for uploading to the cloud, across Wi-Fi networks. The camera can also download and run Sony’s feature-enhancing ‘Playmemories Apps’ of which there are an increasing number.
If there’s one area that makes the a6000 stand out from the crowd, it’s the camera’s improved AF system. While the 25-point contrast detect part of the system remains the same, the number of phase-detect points has increased from 99 to 179 since the NEX-6. All of those extra phase detect points give you a much wider coverage area: roughly 92% of the frame, compared to around 50%. The benefit? A wider area that lets phase detection autofocus do what it does best: track moving subjects.
Bionz X Processor
The company’s latest ‘Bionz X’ processor is considerably more powerful than the previous generation, allowing what the company says will be more sophisticated processing.
Sony is being a little vague on specifics, but is touting the new processor as offering ‘Detail Reproduction Technology’ which appears to be a more subtle and sophisticated sharpening system. The company promises less apparent emphasis on edges, giving a more convincing representation of fine detail.
Another function promised by the Bionz X processor is ‘Diffraction Reduction’, in which the camera’s processing attempts to correct for the softness caused by diffraction as you stop a lens’ aperture down. This processing is presumably aperture-dependent and sounds similar to an element of Fujifilm’s Lens Modulation Optimization system (introduced on the X100S), and, as we predicted when we first saw it here, it’s subsequently appeared across several brands, including Olympus.
Finally, Sony says the Bionz X chip offers a more advanced version of its context-sensitive, ‘area-specific noise reduction’, which attempts to identify whether each area of an image represents smooth tone, textured detail or subject edges, and then apply different amounts of noise reduction accordingly.