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

In lab testing, the rest of the camera's performance didn't measure quite so well, though it's still fast enough that it's sufficiently responsive and shouldn't have you missing any shots. The exception is the start up time, which remains as slow as the NEX-6: 2.1 seconds. (And lest you think startup time unimportant, my colleague Josh Goldman sold his NEX-6 and got a dSLR in part because he kept missing photos of his kids as a result of slow startup.)

In other respects, performance is fine, just not outstanding. Time to focus and shoot in good light is nearly identical to the NEX-6, it's just that the NEX-6's time rounds down to 0.2 second from 0.24, while the Alpha 6000's rounds up from 0.25 to 0.3 second. (Fun with math!) In dim conditions the Alpha 6000 focuses a little more quickly than its predecessor, shaving about 0.9 second off for a 0.4 second time to focus and shoot. There seems to be a substantial increase in shot-to-shot time for the Alpha 6000, though really 0.5 second isn't too bad; it might be a result of having to process larger amounts of data from the increase to 23 megapixels from 16. Flash recycle time improves as well, dropping flash shot-to-shot time to 1.3 seconds, which is pretty average.

Design and features

Sony fixed some -- though not all -- of the things I disliked about the design of the NEX-6, making the Alpha 6000 an even more enjoyable camera to use. Improvements include a memory recall entry on the mode dial that brings up 3 slots for settings; separation of the mode dial from the adjustment dial; the addition of a second programmable button; and integration of the newest, more traditional menu system rather than the great NEX experiment.

Its grip is delightfully large compared with the typical ILC and really comfortable to use. The body in general is a really good size: not so big and clunky as a dSLR, but not so small that klutzes like me get fumbly. On the top of the camera sits a standard mode dial with the the usual manual, semimanual and automatic modes, a manual movie mode, and sweep panorama. The mode dial is next to a context-sensitive control dial; next to the shutter is a function button that calls up user-programmable quick-access settings. There's also a nice pop-up flash that can be tilted back for bouncing the light, along with the hot shoe. There's a huge eyecup on the viewfinder that you still have to remove when you use the shoe.

On the back is the standard control wheel with programmable buttons that default to ISO sensitivity; drive mode; display settings; and a mode-dependent exposure compensation, in auto, access to tone, color and background defocus (aperture shift) settings. There are also a reprogrammable autoexposure lock, menu and quick menu/send-to-phone buttons. The movie record button on the side remains poorly located and hard to press, and the shutter seems oddly loud.

The power zoom kit lens is similarly well-designed, with a big zoom switch that's easy to feel and operate in both portrait and landscape orientations. Plus, there's a ring for manual focus or zoom operation, though it's a little too twitchy for zooming.

Nikon 1 V2 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Sony Alpha 6000 (ILCE-6000) Sony Alpha NEX-6
Sensor (effective resolution) 14.2MP CMOS
12 bits
16.1MP Live MOS
12 bits
24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
Sensor size 13.2mm x 8.8mm 17.3mm x 13mm 23.5 x 15.6mm 23.5 x 15.6mm
Focal- length multiplier 2.7x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x
OLPF No Yes Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 160 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 (exp)/ 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Burst shooting 5fps (single AF, mechanical shutter); 60fps (electronic shutter)
n/a
3.5fps
unlimited JPEG/20 raw
(8fps with fixed focus and exposure)
11fps
n/a
3fps
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure and focus)
Viewfinder EVF
0.47 in/12 mm
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
n/a
EVF
n/a
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.01x - 1.15x/ 0.5 - 0.58x
OLED EVF
0.4 in/10 mm
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.07x/0.71x
OLED EVF
0.5 in/12.7 mm
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/0.73x
Autofocus 73-point
phase detection, 135-area contrast AF
81-area contrast AF 179-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF 99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity range n/a n/a 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) 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync
Metering n/a 324 area 1,200 zones 1,200 zones
Metering range n/a -2 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes No
Image stabilization Optical Sensor shift Optical Optical
Best video 1080/30p; 720/60p H.264 MPEG-4 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV
(22 mins)
AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Stereo; mic input Stereo Stereo; mic (via accessory shoe) Stereo; mic input
LCD size 3 in/7.5 cm
fixed
920,000 dots
3 in/7.6 cm
tilting touch-screen
1.04 million dots
3 in/7.5 cm
tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
3 in/7.5 cm
tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
Wireless Optional
(via WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter)
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi
Battery life (CIPA rating) 310 shots 320 shots 420 shots 270 shots
(VF); 360 shots (LCD)
Dimensions (WHD) 4.2 x 3.2 x 1.8 in
107.8 x 81.6 x 45.9 mm
4.7 x 3.2 x 1.8 in
119.1 x 82.3 x 45.9 mm
4.8 x 2.9 x 1.8 in
120 x 66.9 x 45.1 mm
4.8 x 2.8 x 1.1 in
119.9 x 66.9 x 42.6 mm
Body operating weight 11 oz (est)
338 g (est)
14.3 oz
405 g
11.6 oz
330 g
12.3 oz
348.7 g
Mfr. price
(body only)
$800 USD
n/a
$700 USD
£530
$800 AUD
$650 USD
£550
n/a
$650 USD
£450
n/a
Primary kit $900 USD
£800
n/a
(with 10-30mm lens)
$800 USD
£700
$999 AUD
(with 14-42mm lens)
$800 USD
£670
$1,099 AUD
(with 15-60mm PZ lens)
$800 USD
n/a
n/a
(with 15-60mm PZ lens)
Alternative kit $1,050 USD
£970
n/a
(with 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses)
n/a n/a
£880
n/a
(with 16-50mm and 55-210mm lenses)
n/a
Ship date November 2012 March 2014 April 2014 October 2012

Sony brings the feature set up to date by adding NFC for quick wireless pairing, clean HDMI output and Zebra (tone-clipping indicator). There's really nothing missing for this class of camera, except perhaps a touchscreen.

The Wi-Fi connectivity works fine, and it has a full-featured remote-shooting app. But I really hate that in order to update to the full Smart Remote app from the extremely limited built-in one or to add the Send to Smartphone app -- capabilities that most competitors simply build in -- you have to set up a Sony Entertainment Network account. And it's a real pain entering text on a phone without a touchscreen, encouraging the use of the shortest, most insecure password possible. That's just to download an app that offers more than a shutter button and exposure control. Plus, lots of the non-free apps cost $5 and $10. Downloading PlayMemories Camera Apps really makes Android look really appealing to me as a camera OS over Sony's proprietary platform.

For a complete accounting of its features and operation, download the Alpha 6000's manual.

Conclusion

Aside from continuous shooting, the Alpha 6000's performance is solid but not class-leading, and while the image quality is excellent, it's not quite the sharpest in low light; however, with a great feature set, especially if you're willing to fork over extra bucks and personal information for task-specific apps, the overall package of the Sony Alpha 6000 ranks as one of the best cameras available in its price class.

Shooting time (in seconds)

Nikon D3300
0.4
0.6
0.2
0.2
0.5
Sony Alpha 6000
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.5
2.1
Sony Alpha NEX-6
0.2
0.5
0.2
0.2
2.0
Olympus OM-D E-M10
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.4
1.3

Legend:

Shutter lag (typical)
Shutter lag (dim light)
JPEG shot-to-shot time
Raw shot-to-shot time
Time to first shot

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)

Olympus OM-D E-M10
3.3
Sony Alpha NEX-6
3.5
Nikon D3300
5.1
Sony Alpha 6000
11.0

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

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