Noise and JPEG profile

The Sony Alpha NEX-6 delivers excellent low- and midrange-ISO-sensitivity results for JPEG images. Sony's image processing is extremely good, and images shot though ISO 400 look very clean; depending upon content they can be usable and printed large (13x19) as high as ISO 6400, and ISO 12800 when scaled down.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 100 JPEG

In its default Standard Creative Style setting, the NEX-6 produces sharp but not crunchy-looking photos with the contrast pushed a little, but not so much that you lose significant detail in the shadows or highlights.

(1/100 sec, f5.6, AWB, spot metering, ISO 100, 16-50mm PZ lens at 36mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 200 JPEG

ISO 200 quality looks about the same as ISO 100.

(1/125 sec, f6.3, AWB, spot metering, ISO 200, 16-50mm PZ lens at 34mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 400 JPEG

No compression or noise-reduction artifacts appear at ISO 400 in reasonable light, and even in dim light they're quite clean.

(1/60 sec, f3.5, AWB, spot metering, ISO 400, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 400 JPEG

You can see a little color contouring and the beginning of JPEG artifacts in the sky.

(1/50 sec, f2.2, AWB, spot metering, ISO 400, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 800 JPEG

You can start to see artifacts at ISO 800, but not across the board. For instance, these textures look really clean. The color aberrations are from the lens.

(1/100 sec, f2, AWB, spot metering, ISO 800, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 800, no noise reduction

One reason the high-ISO-sensitivity images clean up so well is the extremely fine grain of the noise.

(1/30 sec, f2, AWB, spot metering, ISO 800, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 3200 raw vs. JPEG

Processing raw helps produce cleaner edges, especially in the out-of-focus areas, but overall the JPEGs look quite good, with no hot pixels. I did not attempt to fix the fringing in the out-of-focus areas.

(1/50 sec, f4.5, AWB, spot metering, ISO 3200, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 6400 JPEG

While there are obvious artifacts here, ISO 6400 photos can still be quite usable, especially scaled down.

(1/30 sec, f7.1, AWB, spot metering, ISO 6400, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 6400 raw vs. JPEG

At ISO 6400, you can extract some extra detail by processing raw (note the grille on the air conditioner) and smooth out the noise a bit better.

(1/30 sec, f7.1, AWB, spot metering, ISO 6400, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

ISO 12800 JPEG

This looks pretty mushy at full size and printed at 13x19, but scaled down by at least 50 percent it's okay. (The upper right-hand corner is a bit messy, though.)

(1/125 sec, f2, AWB, spot metering, ISO 12800, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Color

The camera has a bit of trouble getting automatic white balance right on cloudy days, and I really wish it had a neutral Creative Style setting. Nevertheless, the color is very good and pretty accurate.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Creative Style

As with many cameras, Sony's default color settings (Standard Creative Style) push the contrast and saturation, resulting in some clipped shadow detail. It's not severe enough to force color shifts, though.
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Highlight recovery

I was able to bring back a considerable amount of detail in the raw from the accidentally blown-out flash shot on the right.

(1/125 sec, f1.8, AWB, spot metering, ISO 200, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Flash

The NEX-6 has a tiltable flash that makes it easy to get subtle light enhancement without it looking like a flash shot.

(1/30 sec, f1.8, AWB, spot metering, ISO 100, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Bokeh, 16-50mm PZ lens

Out-of-focus highlights render pretty nicely for a multipurpose lens.

(1/60 sec, f3.5, AWB, spot metering, ISO 100, 16-50mm PZ lens at 16mm)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Aberration, 35mm f1.8 lens

Chromatic aberration at wide apertures isn't unusual, but it's quite noticeable with the 35mm lens.

(1/50 sec, f2.2, AWB, spot metering, ISO 800, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:

Bokeh, 35mm f1.8 lens

The 35mm lens produces reasonably nice out-of-focus highlights.

(1/100 sec, f2, Cloudy white balance, spot metering, ISO 100, 35mm f1.8 lens)
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Photo by: Lori Grunin/CNET / Caption by:
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