THE SONY a6000 - FULL REVIEW AND OWNER / USER EXPERIENCE

FOR ALL MY POSTS ON THE SONY a6000 - CLICK HERE

Above is a link to all my posts on the Sony a6000. There are articles about the camera in use, tests using various lenses, comparisons with other cameras etc. I thought that now, after 4 months with the camera, I'm in a position to collect my thoughts about it. 

I've always believed that long term use reviews are useful because it takes time to get to know a camera. Over a prolonged period of use problems find solutions and what seemed to be advantages become irritations.

It has always been my practice to keep on adding to my owner / user experiences over time and that is going to be an important component of the SOUNDIMAGEPLUS blog going forward. Because if I offer anything different, I offer this. I buy all the cameras I write about and more importantly I use them for my work over a period of time and get to know them well. And by collecting together a series of posts over time as in the link at the top of the page, those of you who are interested in the camera can see what that long-term use is like. Does my opinion change? Are their issues that emerge? Is it something I will keep and use long term or is it yet another destined for ebay?

Sony A6000, Sony SEL1018 10-18mm f/4.0 Zoom Lens, Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM a-mount lens for Sony, Sony SEL55F18Z E-mount Carl Zeiss Full Frame Prime Lens, Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 Canon fit MF prime, Sony Alpha SAL85F28 85mm f/2.8 A-mount, Sony LA-EA4 A-mount to e-mount adapter, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens

Sony A6000, Sony SEL1018 10-18mm f/4.0 Zoom Lens, Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM a-mount lens for Sony, Sony SEL55F18Z E-mount Carl Zeiss Full Frame Prime Lens, Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 Canon fit MF prime, Sony Alpha SAL85F28 85mm f/2.8 A-mount, Sony LA-EA4 A-mount to e-mount adapter, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens

Above is an image of my Sony a6000 with some of the lenses I use with it. Mix and match yes, but like many mirrorless cameras the a6000 has the capacity to use an enormous number of lenses. The native mount is e-mount so the camera will readily accept that range of APS-C and full-frame / 35mm lenses. Also with the excellent LA-EA4 fitted, all a-mount lenses can be used. With adapters many more lenses, old and new, become available, though manual focus only. 

One of the common complaints about the Sony mirrorless e-mount system is this lens issue. Though this is more usually reserved for the A7, A7r and A7s with it's full-frame / 35mm requirements. But in reality, there are a lot of lenses available if you are prepared to use adapters. I have nothing but praise for the LA-EA4 Sony a-mount to e-mount adapter. It allows me to use seriously sharp and fast lenses like the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART and the underrated 85mm f/2.8.  

However, there is no doubt that people prefer system lenses and for APS-C sensor cameras Sony have a fair range. Now some of these lenses are somewhat 'ordinary' in terms of their performance, but pretty much all of them will turn out decent usable files. The a6000 came with the 16-50mm kit lens, which I've since sold. It's an OK lens, very useful but needs an awful of correction. This happens with the out of camera jpgs. and with Adobe software, so for the most part, it isn't an issue. However, I have lenses I preferred to that so I sold it.

Above are some of the better e-mount lenses. The Sony / Zeiss FE full-frame / 35mm lenses above, the 55mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/2.8 are pretty special lenses, as has been well documented, but I must give a special mention to the lens that is on the camera. The 10-18mm f/4 wide-angle zoom is one of the e-mount 'stars of the show'. Nice and sharp and with the distortion corrected it's  a terrific performer.

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens

The a 6000 is a small camera. To give some idea of it's size I've shot it side by side with some of my other cameras in the pictures below.

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens Sony A7r, Sony SEL55F18Z E-mount Carl Zeiss Full Frame Prime Lens

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens Sony A7r, Sony SEL55F18Z E-mount Carl Zeiss Full Frame Prime Lens

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens, Fuji X100s

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens, Fuji X100s

Sony a6000, Sony SEL55F18Z E-mount Carl Zeiss Full Frame Prime Lens, Leica T (Typ 701)

Sony a6000, Sony SEL55F18Z E-mount Carl Zeiss Full Frame Prime Lens, Leica T (Typ 701)

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens, Nikon Df DSLR

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens, Nikon Df DSLR

Sony a6000,  Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM a-mount lens for Sony

Sony a6000,  Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM a-mount lens for Sony

Sony a6000,  Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM a-mount lens for Sony

Sony a6000,  Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM a-mount lens for Sony

However, when I mount my Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM a-mount lens on the camera it becomes much larger and heavier. But, it's still lighter and smaller than using one of the Sony APS-C DSLT cameras like the a77 and with the lens cradled in my left hand it's surprisingly comfortable.

For larger lenses I usually add a leather half case and a wooden base grip I got from JB Camera Design in the states. I wrote about this in a previous post.

Sony a6000, Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 SL-II Aspherical AI-P (Nikon F-Mount), Kipon Nikon F > e-mount adapter, Prostraps leather half-case (from China via Amazon) and JB Camera Design Wooden Base grip.

Sony a6000, Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 SL-II Aspherical AI-P (Nikon F-Mount), Kipon Nikon F > e-mount adapter, Prostraps leather half-case (from China via Amazon) and JB Camera Design Wooden Base grip.

Adding this extra depth downwards gives me a much more solid grip and makes using the camera for an extended period of time much more comfortable. Looks good too!!

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens

Sony a6000, Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens

Sony a6000,  Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM a-mount lens for Sony

Sony a6000,  Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM a-mount lens for Sony

CONTROLS, LAYOUT and MENUS.

I'm hesitant to make any judgements about these, because it does depend on what you are used to. I've used Sony cameras for quite a while now and I'm used to the way things are laid out. There are changes between models, but there is pretty much a Sony style. Now whether or not you get on with this or not will, to a large extent, depend on what you've used before. 

For me taste, the Sony menus could be somewhat more logically designed and again from a personal angle I do prefer the all touch screen or all knobs and dials approaches found on the Leica T (Typ 701) and Nikon Df. It just keeps things simpler. The a6000 is like a lot of mirrorless cameras, in that it's a hybrid dials / menu system. The a6000 doesn't have a touchscreen, so it's a case of working through the menus and using the dials or the one wheel at the back of the camera. 

All the major parameters that you might want to change are accessed via the Fn button on the back. And as usual there is customisation possible for what you use the most.

SCREEN AND EVF

These aren't the best but then they aren't the worst either. Despite it's lower resolution the screen is actually nice to use. It's OLED so polarised sunglasses friendly. My comment on this would be that I can't think of any issue I've had with either in all the time I've used the camera.

AF SPEED

Sony have seriously pushed this feature. And yes it certainly is quick to lock on focus. Is it the quickest? Well I have no way to measure that, but it is pretty rapid. However, I'm not convinced it's any quicker than either my RX10 or Panasonic FX1000. But this is really splitting hairs. It is, without doubt one of the fastest focusing cameras ever. It's also accurate and reliable, which is more important in my book.

Sony a6000, Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 SL-II Aspherical AI-P (Nikon F-Mount), Kipon Nikon F > e-mount adapter

Sony a6000, Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 SL-II Aspherical AI-P (Nikon F-Mount), Kipon Nikon F > e-mount adapter

Sony a6000, Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 SL-II Aspherical AI-P (Nikon F-Mount), Kipon Nikon F > e-mount adapter, Nikon Df

Sony a6000, Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 SL-II Aspherical AI-P (Nikon F-Mount), Kipon Nikon F > e-mount adapter, Nikon Df

MANUAL FOCUSING

This has always been one of Sony's strengths. They have a very good focus peaking system and you can see the red outline of that in the picture above. It's quick and efficient and makes using manual focus a pleasure rather than a chore. It does, of course, require some slowing down to get it right, but with the right lens it can give some pretty special results. It works very well with my Voigtlander 20mm above. I get a 30mm approximation / 35mm 'equivalent' from it and the images are nice and sharp. I keep wondering about getting a Metabones Speed Booster, which would give me an extra stop of speed and make the Voigtlander work at pretty much it's 'true' focal length. But since I have the excellent 10-18mm zoom, I probably won't bother.

IMAGE QUALITY

I've left the best for last. 

If you want to see some posts on that click the links below.

http://www.soundimageplus.com/soundimageplus/2014/06/sony-zeiss-55mm-f18-compared-to-fuji.html

http://www.soundimageplus.com/soundimageplus/2014/07/sony-10-18mm-fuji-12-24mm-panasonic-12.html

http://www.soundimageplus.com/soundimageplus/2014/9/17/leica-t-compared-to-sony-a6000

http://www.soundimageplus.com/soundimageplus/2014/9/23/sony-rx10-and-a6000-image-quality-compared

Sony raised some eyebrows when they announced the NEX-7 with it's 24MP APS-C sensor, but it shows just how well they have progressed that sensors such as these are now commonplace. The quality that I can get from my a6000 files is really very good indeed. Absolutely no problem getting results that would satisfy the most demanding clients. At low ISO settings it's as good as anything you'll see, from either APS-C or 35mm / 'full-frame' sensors. It's also pretty good at high ISO's as well.

I did a test with the a6000 and Nikon Df here - http://www.soundimageplus.com/soundimageplus/2014/9/16/sony-a6000-zeiss-55mm-f18-compared-to-nikon-df-sigma-50mm-f14-art and the a6000 does suffer by comparison, but then pretty much very else does compared with the Df. But at ISO 1600 and even at ISO 3200, with the proviso that underexposure creates a lot of noise, it is usable. 

The a6000 also takes advantage of the vast improvement in Sony jpg. processing. This is greatly improved and it's now the case that I only need to work with the raw files on very rare occasions. Sony jpgs. are now sharp as well as clean and the days of obliterating detail when removing high ISO noise are now passed. I would imagine very people would have a problem with the a6000 in low light for domestic use. For high ISO professional use it might be an idea to think about another camera, but certainly up to and including ISO 1600, I see few problems as long as exposure is spot on.

The a6000, which is the successor to bot the NEX-7 and NEX-6 has certainly improved image quality over those cameras, which I can testify to since I've owned both. Sony are now the pre-eminent sensor manufacturers and rightly so. They have taken the Bayer sensor onwards and upwards through the past few years. We can now expect top class results from any camera that has a Sony sensor in it. AA filtering is kept to a minimum, dynamic range has improved as has control over luminance and colour noise. And the a6000 takes full advantage of all these advances. 

Sony a6000 10-18mm wide angle zoom

VIDEO

As well as being a top class stills camera, the a6000 also shoots excellent HD video. I've already used it on a professional job. By the way have a listen to the sound. I've left off my usual music soundtrack because I think the built in microphone is superb.

CONCLUSION

In one of my previous posts I called the Sony a6000 the best mirrorless camera I've ever used. A bold statement but one that I stick by. It may not be my favourite, it may not also be the best at any one thing, but for an overall good value quality package for all aspects of still and moving image making I can't see what beats it. It is just so versatile. Plus it hasn't got the lack of lens issues of the FE system, the 'difficult' raw processing of the Fuji X system and the poor(er) high ISO performance of m4/3. And of course in terms of the Fuji and m4/3 systems it has a higher pixel count. And it has to be said again it is tremendous value. You get an incredible camera for the money and it must be the best 'bang for your buck' available these days. Plus all of this in a small light package. 

It also is very much in the mirrorless / CSC / E.V.I.L ethic. These days a lot of mirrorless cameras are actually bigger than their mirrored, DSLR competitors. But the a6000 is determinedly small and light. It also still holds it own against all in one superzooms like it's stablemate the RX10 and cameras like the RX100 and other 1" sensor cameras. Plus there's nothing in current smartphone technology to challenge it. 

Could it be better? Well yes of course. A simplified interface would be nice. Having bought and used the Leica T (Typ 701) I can now see the advantages of touchscreen controls and a huge live view screen, but then you can buy two a6000's (and more) for the price of a Leica T. I would also like to see other manufacturers as well as Panasonic embrace fully tiltable view screens. The a6000's screen is OK but it's the same old issue that it's useless in vertical / portrait format. And some of the knobs and dials aren't that easy to use. 

But overall it is a terrific package and for me it doesn't really have a major weakness. In fact it has lot's of strengths. I liked the NEX-7, the NEX-6 was one of my cameras of the year, so it's not surprising I like the a6000. If Sony could actually come up with a killer kit lens like Fuji or m4/3 then it would be the market leader I'm sure. And that is the real issue that does temper my enthusiasm.

As I said at the start it is possible to put together a decent lens system that does the sensor justice, but I don't have that one great zoom lens I can stick on the camera and forget about everything else apart from making pictures. My Leica T has one, so does my Df and more to the point so does Fuji X and m4/3. The Sony 18-55mm is mediocre and I tried one of the 18-200mm super zooms but wasn't impressed and while the 35mm and 55mm Sony Zeiss primes and the 10-18mm are great there is no standard or super zoom available that makes me want to rush out and buy it. 

However, that doesn't detract from the overall brilliance of the a6000. It is a serious camera for serious photographers and is capable of seriously good performance. It's a powerhouse in the guise of a point and shoot compact and it fully deserves my (rarely given) accolade of Highly Recommended.

UPDATE

As a follow up to this post I have shot some some ISO tests. CLICK HERE for the article.