Sony Alpha 6000 (ILCE-6000) review: Sony Alpha 6000 mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera almost has it all

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 4 user reviews

The Good The Sony Alpha 6000 has seriously fast continuous shooting for the money, and its design improves upon its predecessor's already excellent one. Plus it's got an extensive feature set.

The Bad The movie record button remains annoying, and while it delivers excellent photo quality, it's not best-in-class in low light. It's also slow on startup.

The Bottom Line Despite small annoyances, the Sony Alpha 6000 is a great overall camera for more advanced photographers who want something smaller than a dSLR, especially if they need the continuous- shooting speed.

8.4 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Image quality 8.0
CNET Editors' Choice Jul '14

Editors' note, July 2, 2014: After evaluating subsequent products in this class, I've retroactively granted the Alpha 6000 an Editors' Choice for consumer mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, replacing the older Alpha NEX-6. While it's not perfect, it's the best all-around option in its class.

For the successor to its Editors' Choice-winning Alpha NEX-6, Sony improves the autofocus system, image quality, and design, and delivers a great burst rate for the money.

Coupled with the compact -- compared to a dSLR -- design and excellent feature set, there's a lot to like about the Alpha 6000.

While the whole package makes a great impression, though, it's not best in its price class in all criteria.

Image quality

The Alpha 6000's JPEG images generally look excellent, though in low light they don't remain as sharp as photos from some competitors. The new 24MP sensor incorporates the latest gapless microlens technology that most modern sensors now use, coupled with Sony's latest Bionz X image processor.

At low ISO sensitivities JPEGs are sharp, with a relatively broad tonal range and good color in the default settings. The neutral setting does render more accurate colors, since it doesn't push the saturation and contrast as much, but the default Creative Style doesn't shift hues. Once you hit about ISO 800, all but the most in-focus edges in JPEG images get soft and smeary. That said, I did get printable images as high as ISO 12800, and Sony manages to keep color noise under control quite well. If you shoot raw there's a reasonable amount of recoverable shadow and highlight detail, at least at low to medium ISO sensitivities.

A6000 noise sample
Low ISO sensitivity JPEG comparison. (Note: if your browser window isn't maximized to at least 1500 pixels wide, these samples will be scaled and nonrepresentative.) Lori Grunin/CNET

A6000 high ISO sensitivity samples
High ISO sensitivity JPEG comparison. Lori Grunin/CNET

It's hard to make direct comparisons with the NEX-6 because the additional resolution adds a level of visible detail. However, I think the cheaper Nikon D3300 outperforms it starting at around ISO 800, as does the slightly more expensive D5300; the Nikon's OLPF-free sensor simply preserves sharpness a lot better as noise and processing increases.

Sony A6000 vs the Nikon D3300
ISO 1600. Lori Grunin/CNET

The video looks quite good, with solid control over artifacts, and the built-in stereo mic is surprisingly clear and warm.

Performance

The big improvement in the Alpha 6000 over its predecessor is the ability to shoot continuously at 11fps with autofocus and autoexposure, for at least 50 JPEGs or 22 raw (at 23 it slows a lot, though). That's one the best I've seen in this price class, including similarly priced dSLR kits like the Canon EOS Rebel T5i. Yes, Nikon zips past it, but that's with a far-lower-resolution, 1-inch sensor.

The updated system provides phase-detection sensors covering more of the image area -- 92 percent, according to Sony -- which does help with focusing on off-center subjects and subjects moving across the frame. That's a big win. The lock-on autofocus -- Sony's version of tracking AF -- works well when it locks onto the correct subject. However, it seems like the lock-on AF uses the contrast autofocus, but the phase-detection autofocus doesn't always seem to "hand off" the focus area to the lock-on AF correctly. In other words, for example, while the phase detection is locked on the correct subject, when the lock-on AF kicks in it doesn't always lock on the same subject. I spent a bit of time mentally stamping my foot and yelling, "No! Don't focus on the bush!" Overall, as long as the subject isn't moving erratically, like a dog running around the yard, you should get a reasonable number of hits vs. misses. And really, it's still quite better than many other cameras in its price range.

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