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Customer Review

616 of 666 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent camera that falls just barely short of perfection, May 1, 2014
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This review is from: Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera - Body only (Camera)
Let me start this review with some background of my photography experience. (Short story, I am an amateur, skip to “PROS” section)

I bought a Nikon D40 and had it for several years before selling it in college and I was short on cash. Ever since then I’ve been relegated to my various cell phone cameras. I always had intentions of buying back into the hobbyist camera space at some point, and with an upcoming trip to Europe this summer, there was no time like the present to make a purchase.

I had set a budget for myself that basically put my sights on the OM-D E-M10 and the Sony A6000, sans kit lens and spending the money (well worth it, we’ll get to that in a bit) to get a fast prime near the 50mm equivalent range.

I never got a hold of an E-M10, so I will not compare the two, but will say that the APS-C sensor size of the A6000 was a key point for me. Without stirring the micro four thirds vs. the world debate, for me, sensor size still means something. Reality is that for the hobbyist, honestly, I don’t think you can choose incorrectly.

The purchase was an A6000 (body only) with the well-reviewed SEL35F18 lens. I am forgoing the kit lens and intend to fill out my lens set (eventually) with the SEL1018 and another mid-range zoom. I cannot emphasize enough how great the SEL35F18 lens is. I am in love with it, and I think that it will really teach me to shoot correctly, rather than lean on the “zoom” crutch. If you have the extra cash, I would highly recommend this kit as a great starting point.

I am not a professional, I have not taken photography courses, so I will cover the camera from the perspective of a guy looking to take photography to the next level. Let’s dig on in…

PROS:
-The A6000 is small. Coming from a rather chunky D40, I was pleasantly surprised by this. With the relatively small lens, a 35mm prime, it feels very well weighted, if just a tad plastic-y. Large lenses could upset the balance of the camera, but you wouldn’t have a 70-200 mounted for walk around use, anyways.

-Controls…plenty of them. Spend some time while laying it bed to just mess with the settings and feel the camera out. DO NOT let your first experience with the camera be something special, such as a graduation or wedding. There’s a lot of options and flexibility here to make your photos shine, and keeping it in Auto or Superior Auto means you’re missing the point. That said, Sony does a good job of catering to the new photographer as well as those well versed in photography (and everyone in between). The controls allow you to grow and take more and more control as you learn (and less while you’re still figuring it out).

-Menus: They go hand in hand with the controls I mentioned above, there’s a lot to them, but the layout is simple. Take some time to understand them, and you’ll be A-OK.

-Viewfinder: You’re not going to mistake it for a traditional mirror box, but it gets the job done and it plenty functional. It’s not grainy or low quality by any means. Being my first OLED viewfinder, I have no comparison points but I’ve come away impressed so far. Though, the sensor that enables it is a bit too sensitive, can’t find a way to adjust that.

-Focusing: Lightning fast. Allegedly a huge improvement over older compact system cameras, and for that I am grateful. Haven’t done any serious continuous AF shooting quite yet, but its done what it hasn’t skipped a beat.

-Image quality: Given that I am an amateur, I am by no means a pixel peeper. So I think the IQ is fantastic. I think the JPG engine turns out somewhat dull images by default, but with a little tweaking, that can be easily fixed. We’re getting to the point where most any compact ILC can pump out decent images, and for me the A6000 certainly doesn’t disappoint.

CONS:
-I almost wish the grip was slightly bigger. I’ve got bigger hands, so things get tight after awhile. With a larger lens on the camera, I worry that the small grip won’t be sufficient to support the setup, forcing me to a 2-handed shot. The other benefit to the bigger grip would be an improvement in…

-BATTERY LIFE. Through my use so far, I’d say it’s around ~300-325 shots. That’s not a lot. When I unboxed the camera I was shocked at how small the battery is. A slightly larger grip to fit a bigger battery would be a wise decision. A fine line between keeping the setup compact and improving the shooting experience, but I think Sony has some room to tip toe further towards that line, especially when you move beyond the tiny kit lens.

-The Screen: To start, it’s a 16:9 screen and the sensor is 3:2. When reviewing images the on-screen image is pretty darn small. The screen itself is functional, bright, and effective; but the aspect ratio is a head scratcher. Also…

-NO TOUCHSCREEN: The camera has nearly 200 AF points, and to pick a spot focus you use the tiny D-pad to the right of the screen. It is, to say the least, not intuitive, and slows down the act of taking a shot.

-RAW+JPG Shooting: When shooting in JPG mode, you get the option to use some in-camera effects. Some are cheesy, others such as HDR can produce genuinely nice results. If you switch to RAW+JPG shooting, you lose the ability to use those effects for BOTH the RAW and the JPG image. Now, for the RAW image this makes sense, but it would be nice to be able to capture an unmolested raw file while still messing around with the in-camera effects/filters on the corresponding JPG file. From my understanding, competitors such as Olympus handle this much better.

The rest is all gravy. Nit picks here and there that are more quirks than true cons.

CONCLUSION:
This camera rocks. It’s not perfect, hence the 4/5 rating, but it’s probably the best camera money can buy at the current MSRP (body only). It’s got a good size to it, plenty of controls and easy to navigate menus that allow you to grow into the camera, a viewfinder that’s unassumingly tucked away into the body (rather than atop it), a great AF system, and excellent image quality. As for what could be improved, I’d like to see a bigger grip to accommodate larger lenses and a bigger battery to build upon the mediocre battery life. I think a touchscreen was a glaring omission that really slows down the shooting experience. And the fact that choosing JPG + RAW shooting mode disables most all in-camera effects, even for the JPG copy is a bummer. It’s basically Sony forcing you to either act like a professional, or act like a child, but you can’t mix work and pleasure. Competitors handle that aspect better.

If you go with the A6000, skip the kit lens and spend some time with a fast prime. If not the SEL35F18, then look at the cheaper Sigma Primes. The kit lens may not be bad, but shooting with a prime really makes you think about your style and understanding of composition.

Hope you found this a worthwhile review. Happy to answer any and all questions (Again, from an amateur perspective) in the comments.
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Showing 1-10 of 32 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 2, 2014, 12:22:46 PM PDT
Yair Marx says:
How is the autofocus in low light with the 35 1.8?

Thanks for the review!

Posted on May 5, 2014, 8:58:17 AM PDT
N. DAMICO says:
I can pickup a new Sony NEX-6 for ~$500. Is it really worth the jump in cost to the A6000? For someone upgrading from a point n shoot camera, you still suggest skipping the kit lens?

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2014, 2:48:25 PM PDT
iburke says:
Wether or not it's worth the ~$150 more for the A6000 is your decision. You get more camera for that $650, no doubt. Notably, 24MP vs. the 16MP gives you more room to crop down in post processing if needed. You get an upgraded processor that better handles things such as high-ISO shots, as well as better in camera compensation for things like CA (when shooting jpg).

You also get a revamped menu system that is allegedly less bewildering than prior Sony Compacts. I cannot comment on the comparison but can say that I feel like everything is fairly well laid out on the A6000, whereas you tend to read the opposite when reading of the NEX6 menu structure.

As for the lenses. I don't think the kit lens is bad, let's be clear on that point. But I also don't think it really taps the potential of the A6000. Will your pictures look fine with the 16-50 lens? Of course. But the A6000's ability to resolve incredible detail won't truly be unleashed until you put higher end lenses on the body.

Simply put, if you want the most out of the camera, you have to invest in the glass to go with it.

There's a saying I learned back when I bought my DSLR, and it still holds true today. Your "investment" isn't the camera body, it's in the lenses that unlock the potential the body can put forward.

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2014, 2:52:52 PM PDT
iburke says:
Haven't done any serious focusing in low light beyond several "infinity focus" shots of a skyline from far away (handheld, none the less). I will report back when I have a chance to test.

I have shot with the setup at f/1.8 in good light and found focusing to be excellent. It was AF-S, static object focusing, so not a test of AF-C, but it seemed to handle anything I threw at it this weekend.

I should also point out that the AF points coverage of the sensor is a godsend. On the NEX6 I believe there were only AF points in the middle 50% of the sensor, the A6000 has points covering 92%, or nearly edge to edge. Pretty cool to be able to get the SEL35F18 to focus on something in the far left of the frame, letting everything else fade away in to a pretty impressive bokeh. I didn't notice any drop of in AF performance, regardless of the AF point I selected.

Posted on May 12, 2014, 9:27:21 AM PDT
Photo-Am says:
Hello iburke, thanks for your review.
This new Sony camera seems to be a really good one and I was thinking about purchasing it, but I got pretty much confused when looking at the "Used" tab on the sellers' page - if this camera just for a few days became available for immediate ordering, then why there are a number of "used" ones for sell? My question is: Is there any hidden problem with this camera which either was not reported in the existing customers reviews, or one of reported issues is so annoying that people prefer to return back that otherwise nice camera? I would appreciate any info or ideas on that matter. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2014, 10:33:56 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 12, 2014, 10:37:26 AM PDT
iburke says:
@Photo-Am:

As of this post, May 12 @ 1:30EST, here's what I see:

Body only: no "used" items for sale
Kit: 4 "used" items for sale, all by "Amazon Warehouse".

This is Amazon's internal used sales marketplace. It's most likely these 4 units were either returned, or their packaging was damaged in transit and thus cannot be considered for sale as "new". I would say that 4 units out there being sold as "used" is not indicative of any critical flaw.

Why were they returned? To me, the fact that they are kit lens items is telling.

1: The A6000 doesn't work magic. It won't make you a grade-A photographer. It has capabilities that far outpace most users talent (including myself). If you are looking for a silver bullet that take you from cell phone selfie to NatGeo published photographer, you'll be disappointed and likely return the camera.

2: The Auto-Focus is highly marketed and a key feature. But from reading DPReview and other reputable sites, it again takes some level of talent to get it to work it's wonders. If your expecting to just point, shoot, and get 11FPS with 100% in focus "keepers" with little to no effort on your part, you'll be disappointed.

I don't consider either of these flaws. I think it's mis-guided expectations (further driven home by the fact that the only used options to date are kits). The camera will take pictures that look fine in Auto, but you truly unlock the IQ potential of the camera when you take control of the settings and invest in glass beyond the kit lens.

I suspect those who buy body only pretty well understand that you have to put in the effort (and money for nice lenses) in order to get the best out of the camera.

Hope this helps.

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2014, 10:56:24 AM PDT
Photo-Am says:
Hi iburke, I really appreciate your comments, thoughts, and prompt response, thank you. Have you got or have some information about the Sony/Zeiss SEL1670Z Vario-Tessar T E 16-70mm F4 lens - is it really much sharper and better in other aspects than the kit lens? Does such a replacement worth the money (even with $300 discount) or not that much? Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2014, 11:19:37 AM PDT
iburke says:
Glad to help.

The SEL1670Z, one of the most discussed lenses on the E-Mount Platform.

I don't have one, so I can't comment on the lens from a usability perspective. But I have done a fair amount of research on the lenses.

When released, it appeared there were some complaints of some lenses coming with elements off center, leading to subpar sharpness and focus. While numbered, those complaints have seemed to settle.

When you get a good copy, it sounds like a lens that's a significant upgrade over a kit lens, just not a $1k upgrade. For me, the f/4 constant is a huge plus for me.

The somewhat mixed reviews (but overall good) have likely depressed sale of the lens, which may be why they're trying to move some bundled with the A6000 at a pretty heavy discount. It's not on my near-term buy list, mainly because I like shooting with a prime, and hope to get an ultra wide angle lens for landscape/scenery photography. If it fit my needs, I'd strongly consider it at a lower than $1k price.

A quick google search for "SEL1670 reviews" or "impressions" will get you some good context. If you also go to the DPReview Sony NEX forum, you'll see user reviews and sample images. They love to debate the 1670.

Fair warning. The DPReview crowd is highly critical, full of "pixel peepers", but you can glean great insights and make your own assessment based on others experiences.

In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2014, 11:35:27 AM PDT
Photo-Am says:
Thank you and good luck with your photography.

Posted on Jun 8, 2014, 5:30:36 PM PDT
"-Image quality: Given that I am an amateur, I am by no means a pixel peeper. So I think the IQ is fantastic. I think the JPG engine turns out somewhat dull images by default, but with a little tweaking, that can be easily fixed. We're getting to the point where most any compact ILC can pump out decent images, and for me the A6000 certainly doesn't disappoint."

Hello,
What do you mean it can be fixed with some tweaking?
Do you mean in camera settings, or post processing?

Thank you.
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