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Sony A6000 arrives in April for $800: NEX-6 replacement delivers faster autofocus (hands-on)

A slightly streamlined design and beefed-up autofocus system are some of the Alpha ILCE-6000 camera's highlights.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
5 min read

For the successor to its generally excellent Alpha NEX-6, Sony claims improved performance from an updated autofocus system, better image quality from a new sensor and bump to the latest Bionz X image-processing firmware, and a refined design over its predecessor. The latest ILC to get Sony's ILCE rebranding, the Alpha ILCE-6000 (aka the A6000) seems to have been improved in every way except the way it most needed -- shortening its startup time.

Sony A6000 debuts more streamlined, configurable design (pictures)

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The NEX-6, with its hybrid autofocus system, performs pretty well, but the A6000 finally offers a solid burst frame rate with continuous autofocus. The updated system provides phase-detection sensors covering more of the image area -- 92 percent, according to Sony -- which should help with focusing on off-center subjects and subjects moving across the frame. However, it remains to be seen if Sony has reduced the camera's long startup time, a problem that continues to plague all of its mirrorless models; the boot time on the preproduction model we saw still seemed awfully slow.

Shop for Sony Alpha A6000 (body only, black)

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The new sensor incorporates the latest gapless microlens technology that most modern sensors now use and coupled with the Bionz X processor I think we should see some pretty good photo and video quality. Sony also brings the feature set up-to-date by adding NFC for quick wireless pairing, clean HDMI output, and Zebra (tone-clipping indicator).

Sony will also be offering three new A6000-compatible apps in for its proprietary PlayMemories platform in the spring, StarTrail (for long-exposure sky photography), LiveView Grading (which despite using the term "grading" looks more like special effects), and Smooth Reflection (a digital neutral-density filter for long exposures). All will cost you extra bucks. The new Sync to Smartphone app (for simultaneously saving to mobile device and camera) will be gratis, however.

On the one-step-back front, Sony seems to have downgraded the EVF -- it's much lower-resolution and a hair smaller -- though it remains competitive with those of the other cameras in its class.

Here's the current landscape for some similar cameras:

Nikon 1 V2 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Sony Alpha ILCE-6000 (A6000) Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony Alpha NEX-7
Sensor (effective resolution) 14.2MP CMOS
12 bits
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
12 bits
13.2mm x 8.8mm 17.3mm x 13mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal- length multiplier 2.7x 2.0x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 160 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Burst shooting 5fps (single AF, mechanical shutter); 60fps (electronic shutter)
n/a
3.5fps
unlimited JPEG/20 raw
(8fps with fixed focus and exposure)
4fps
17 JPEG/11 raw
(9fps with fixed focus, exposure and WB)
11fps
n/a
3fps
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure and focus)
3fps
unlimited JPEG/6 raw
(10fps with fixed exposure and focus)
Viewfinder 0.47-inch TFT EVF
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
n/a
EVF
n/a-inch
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.01x - 1.15x/ 0.5 - 0.58x
EVF
n/a-inch
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.15x/ 0.58x
OLED EVF
0.4-inch
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.07x/ 0.71x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/ 0.73x
EVF
0.5-inch
2.4-million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/ 0.73x
Autofocus 73-point
phase detection, 135-area contrast AF
81-area contrast AF 35-area contrast AF 175-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF 99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a n/a 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 30 - 1/4,000 sec (1/16,000 sec electronic).; 1/250 sec x-sync 60 - 1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (max) 60 - 1/4,000 sec; bulb to 8 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (max) 30-1/4,000 sec; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync 30-1/4,000 se.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering n/a 324 area 324 area 1,200 zones 1,200 zones 1,200 zones
Metering range n/a -2 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Flash Yes Yes Included add-on Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Image stabilization Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift Optical Optical Optical
Best video 1080/30p; 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV
(22 mins)
1080/60i QuickTime MOV @ 20, 17Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic (via accessory shoe) Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input
LCD size 3-inch fixed 920,000 dots 3-inch tilting touch screen
1.04 million dots
3-inch tilting touch-screen OLED
614,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
Wireless Optional
(via WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter)
Wi-Fi None Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi None
Battery life (CIPA rating) 310 shots 320 shots 330 shots 420 shots 270 shots
(VF); 360 shots (LCD)
430 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)

4.2 x 3.2 x 1.8

4.7 x 3.2 x 1.8 4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 4.8 x 2.9 x 1.8 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.1 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.7
Body operating weight (ounces) 11 (est) 14 (est) 15.1 12.1 (est) 12.3 12.4
Mfr. price $799.95 (body only) $699 (body only) $799.99 (body only) n/a $649.99 (body only) $949.99 (body only)
$899.95 (with 10-30mm lens) $799 (with 14-42mm lens) $899.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $799.99 (with 15-60mm PZ lens) $799.99 (with 15-60mm PZ lens) $1,049 (with 18-55mm lens)
$1,049.95 (with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses) n/a $1,099.99 (with 12-50mm lens) n/a n/a n/a
Ship date November 2012 March 2014 April 2012 April 2014 October 2012 November 2011

In related news, Sony shared pricing and availability for the full-frame FE-mount 70-200mm f4 lens announced around the time of the A7/A7R: it will ship in April for $1,499. Five more FE lenses are planned for this year and another five should arrive in 2015.