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First Look: A really, really nice camera

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First Look: A really, really nice camera

3:03 /

The Sony Alpha NEX-6 delivers an as-yet-unbeatable package of image quality, performance, and design, even for its rather expensive price tag.

I really like the Sony Alpha NEX-6. Possibly the best designed NEX model does far. This interchangeable lens camera delivers excellent photo quality, very good performance and a great feature set as well. It's also cheaper than the NEX-7. All of that makes it a much better deal and such replaces the NEX-7 is editor's choice. For people who are looking for something more compact than the DSLR, but with the same level of control, quality, and performance. Unlike any other NEX models, the 6 has a real mode dial on top, plus enough direct access controls the streamline shooting for those of us who like to operate that way. The electronic view finder's bright and refreshes quickly enough for burst shooting. Because the camera is bigger than the models without a mode dial or AVF, there's even more room on the back or a comfortable grip. The menu system still gets a little annoying. And now the card sub menu has been rolled into setup, which makes it quite tedious to find important options like card formatting and WiFi setup. Like the 5R, the WiFi features are pretty basic. The most competitors offer similar. You can upload to Facebook or Sony's Play Memories service or transfer directly to your phone. There's also a remote shutter app that lets you use your phone or tablet as a larger screen but all you can really do is snap the photo. Also new is the ability to download and install the proprietary apps, but the whole operation seems to offer more benefit to Sony than to the camera owners. For instance, the free Picture Effect Plus app duplicates the effects in the camera but adds water coloring illustration, both of which are already built-in to the NEX-F3. Photo quality really is quite good with clean JPEGs as high as ISO 800, and for the most part, usable image is as high as ISO 6400 depending on the scene. Sony's image processing is so well-done that I really couldn't get noise reduction better at any ISO level by processing the RAWs. That still helps for recovering highlights or shadow detail. Colors look relatively accurate, though Sony doesn't offer a neutral color option, and it renders a nice tonal range. The video has some artifacts, notably aliasing and moire. The low-light tonal quality looks better than average, and there's lots of color noise than usual. The new 16 to 15 millimeter power zoom lens complements it well. Though there's no way to control the zoom from the camera body, it's got a nice, easy to feel and find zoom switch. And unlike Panasonic's power zoom lens, you don't give up a manual focus or any. The lens is good but at 16 millimeters, there's quite a bit of edge to distortion and vignetting. The camera's quite fast as well, pretty much quick enough for any shooting except maybe fast-moving sports. While the WiFi and app implementation is pretty annoying, the rest of the camera feels pitch perfect. I'm Lori Grunin, and this is the Sony Alpha NEX-6.

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