Sony A6000 First Impressions

Back when I was looking to upgrade my gear, I spent months looking up reviews and going to stores to try out the different camera bodies. One of the cameras that I seriously considered was the Sony A6000. I must preface, I have not had time to fully review the body and use it in the field so this will not be an in-depth review. Also, none of the photos in this article are mine for the same reason that I have not spent enough time to do an in-depth review. This will be my first impressions and and why I decided to go another route.

The Camera

Well, since this is a review, here are some basic specifications.

  • 24MP
  • APS-C CMOS sensor (23.5×15 mm/1.5x crop factor)
  • Shoots JPEG and RAW still images
  • Shoots maximum 1920 x 1080p @60 fps video in XAVC S, AVCHD, MP4
  • 3″ Widescreen tilting LCD display
  • Mirroless design
  • ISO sensitivity of 100-256000 (expanded)
  • Shutter speed of 30-1/4000 second with Bulb mode, 1/4-1/4000 second in video mode
  • Continuous shooting 11 fps

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The camera itself boasts some pretty impressive statistics, especially for video recording. Since it’s part of the Sony Alpha series, it also boasts a mirrorless design, which enables some pretty sharp pictures. The expanded ISO 256000 is uncharacteristically high for a camera of this price range, and while it’s a pretty impressive statistic it’s mostly useless if you want to reduce noise.

First Impressions

When I first saw the camera, I dismissed it as another point-and-shoot with a big hyper-long zoom lens, but a closer look reveals that it’s a fully fledged DSLR with a series of beautifully designed lenses made my Sony and Carl Zeiss (among others). While smaller DSLR bodies are all the rage nowadays with manufacturers like Leica putting incredible high-performance in uncharacteristically small cameras, but I have a findamental problem with this one.

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If you look at the Sony A7ii, they share plenty of the same body designs only the A6000 is smaller. That begs the question; why did Sony make this camera so small? It may seem beneficial to have a smaller camera as they are easy to carry, but making the camera small forced them to make some sacrifices. One such sacrifice is the grip. It’s uncomfortably shallow. When I was holding the camera, I found myself struggling to hold the camera. Holding the camera gives me the feeling that the small size of the camera was an afterthought, as if a Sony exec looked at the finished product and said “let’s just make this smaller”. One such detail that gives it away is the viewfinder.

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The viewfinder is in somewhat of an awkward place, although when actually looking into it isn’t too uncomfortable. The tilting LCD is a useful tool, especially for video, but as you can see, it takes up quite a bit of space, limiting space for buttons to easily access and manipulate the parameters of the images. This brings up another issue I had with the A6000. Since the camera is so small and the LCD takes up most of the back area, there’s no room for a secondary display to easily see your shutter speed/aperture/etc. This means you’re constantly muddling around with the various boxes displayed on the LCD to manipulate the settings.

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The other thing about the size is the availability of lenses. See, my Nikon D7200 paired with my Rokinon 14mm Wide angle lens sits perfectly on the table. The bottom hood of the large front element sits exactly flush with the bottom of the camera, making it easy to set down on places. However, if you should use such a lens on the A6000 (which you can as Rokinon makes an E-mount version of the 14mm), the lens would be far larger than the camera which will make storing it with a large lens difficult. Also, on the topic of lenses, they have to be tailor made for mirrorless designs as well as the size, so this will drive up the price of available lenses quite a bit. It also means you won’t be able to  use gloriously big telephoto lenses on this body.

The Biggest Problem

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To put it blunt, Sony does not use two-ring zoom/focus rings for their lenses on the camera. When you’re in manual focus mode, you have to use a slider to zoom the lens and use the outer ring to focus. When you do focus, the display in the viewfinder zooms in 100%, which is a somewhat useful too for precise focus but it reduces the ability to easily create artistic effects such as shallow depth-of-field bokeh. It also makes it a hassle to change the point of focus after you’ve started focusing. For that reason and that reason alone, I decided to go a different direction.

Conclusion

The Sony A6000 gives you a big bang-for-your-buck, especially if you’re looking for a first camera to learn with. Statistics wise, it’s also a pretty impressive for video purposes and you can definitely get some great photos, but you’ll  find that there’ plenty of little quirks to get used to. In fact, you may find that over time these little quirks will become increasingly annoying. In my opinion, it would make a pretty good backup camera.

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