We are continuing our series of recommended settings for cameras, and this time we have the Sony A6000, an advanced interchangeable lens camera designed for enthusiasts and professionals. In this article, I want to provide some information on what settings I use and explain what some of the important settings do. Please do keep in mind that while these work for me, it does not mean that everyone else should be shooting with exactly the same settings. The Sony A6000 has a myriad of settings that can be confusing to understand, so the below information is provided as a guide for those that struggle and just want to get started with a basic understanding of these settings.
Before going into the camera menu, let’s first get started on the exterior controls. The A6000 has a lot of menu options, but there are some things that you can only control with the external controls.
1) Camera Mode Dial and C1
The Sony A6000 has a rather simple and uncluttered top plate. Aside from the hot shoe and camera’s built-in flash, there are only two dials and a single function button you will be dealing with.
The first dial close to the flash unit is the camera mode dial. This is where you set the main camera operating mode, whether it is Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual or one of the Auto or Scene modes. As explained in my understanding camera modes article, I usually shoot in Aperture Priority mode, since it gives me control over the most important camera setting – aperture. The camera does the rest of the exposure calculation work quite well.
This leaves three modes that I find to be the most useful on the A6000: Aperture Priority, Manual and Memory Recall. Although the Memory Recall (MR) mode is targeted at more advanced photographers that want to store settings for different situations, I would encourage every A6000 owner to explore this mode, since it can be very useful when changing from one shooting scenario to another. All you have to do is access “Shooting Menu 7” in the camera menu, then save your settings in one of the three memory banks.
If you don’t want to go that route yet, I would encourage you to try using the Aperture Priority mode instead of the Program Mode, Auto or Scene modes.
The right dial is a function dial that can be used for different purposes depending on what mode you are in. In Aperture Priority and Manual modes, for example, the dial is used to adjust lens aperture, while in Shutter Priority mode, it changes the camera shutter speed. Once you set your camera to Aperture Priority mode, you just use this right dial to tweak the lens aperture (for shallow or large depth of field).
The C1 function button next to the camera on/off switch / shutter release by default is used for changing the Focus Mode. I personally prefer to keep that function in the C1 button, but you can change it to one of many other available functions through the camera menu, as explained below.
2) Rear Buttons
The rear of the Sony A6000 is a lot more functional compared to other parts of the camera, thanks to a number of different navigation and function buttons. The A6000 is definitely “right-heavy” on the back, with almost all buttons located to the right of the camera LCD. The Flash button is a physical button that opens up the pop-up flash – it is not programmable like other buttons. The Menu button located right next to it obviously opens up the camera menu – that’s where you make changes to the camera. Here is how the back of the camera looks:
At the top right side of the camera you will find the AEL button (Auto Exposure Lock), which is conveniently located where your right thumb would normally be. Since I rarely lock my exposure, this is the first button I modified to make it more usable. For normal situations, I use the AEL button for back-button focusing, which imitates the “AF-ON” button on DSLR cameras for focusing and recomposing.
To the right of the AEL button, almost on the side of the camera, you will find a red button that is used for recording videos.
2.1) Fn / Function Button
The Fn (Function) button is a very useful button that you will be using a lot to make quick changes to the most important camera settings such as ISO, White Balance, Drive and Focus modes, etc. Although you can modify and customize the function menu when the button is pressed, I personally find the default values to work quite well. Let’s go through these real quick:
Drive Mode: I mostly keep it at “Single Shooting”, but sometimes switch to Self-Timer when photographing on a tripod to avoid camera vibrations.
ISO: The “Auto” setting usually works pretty well, but it is not as flexible as the Auto ISO feature on Nikon and Canon DSLRs. You can set Auto ISO Minimum and Maximum, but there is no place to set a minimum shutter speed or override the default formula of shutter speed = focal length. I usually leave Minimum ISO at 100, while setting Maximum ISO to 3200 – anything above ISO 3200 is too noisy for my taste.
Flash Mode: Auto. Don’t like using that small pop-up flash!
Metering Mode: Multi, but sometimes I change to Spot metering when a situation calls for it (see my article on metering modes)
Flash Comp: 0.0
White Balance: AWB (Auto White Balance)
Focus Mode: AF-A, which is a combination of AF-S and AF-C modes, works pretty well on the A6000.
DRO / Auto HDR: Off
Focus Area: Flexible Spot: M. This mode works great for selective focusing. Once you press the center button on the dial, you can easily move the focus points.
Creative Style: Standard. Don’t bother with creative styles, as they are irrelevant when shooting in RAW.
Exposure Compensation: 0.0, I prefer to use the rear bottom dial for accessing exposure compensation instead.
2.2) Navigation and Other Rear Buttons
The multi-functional navigation dial on the back of the camera is very useful and can be used to navigate through the camera menu, make quick exposure changes, as well as access specific functions by pressing each of the four corners. “DISP” switches between different views on the camera LCD; “ISO” allows changing camera ISO; the left side is used to access camera drive mode, while the bottom side is for making exposure compensation adjustments.
There are two extra buttons beneath the multi-functional navigation dial – Playback and C2 / Trash. Playback is obviously to play back images on the LCD and the C2 / Trash button can be used to delete unwanted images during playback. When the camera is not in Playback mode, the C2 serves as another programmable function key. By default, the A6000 opens up the In-Camera Guide. While it could be useful for beginners that want to see some tips, I personally don’t use it and change the button behavior to a more useful function – to zoom in when shooting in manual focus mode. This way, I can easily and quickly switch to manual focus using the C1 button on the top of the camera, then use the C2 button for changing zoom levels, which greatly increases manual focus accuracy.
3) Camera Menu
In all honesty, I do not find Sony’s menu system particularly user-friendly. Although the Sony A6000 adopts the newer menu system from the Sony A7 / A7R / A7S cameras, it is still a rather cluttered and out of place menu system in my opinion. Lots of menu options to go through, with different functions thrown under random menus. Even the menu system of Olympus cameras, which I find to be rather complex to navigate through, is more organized in comparison. Let’s go through each menu setting.
3.1) Shooting Menu 1
- Image Size: Default (24M), grayed out on RAW
- Aspect Ratio: 3:2
- Panorama: Size -> Standard (only visible in Panorama mode)
- Panorama: Direction -> Right (from Left to Right, visible in Panorama mode)
- Movie File Format: AVCHD (Default)
3.2) Shooting Menu 2
- Movie Record Setting: 24p 17M (FH). I rarely ever shoot video, but when I do, I use the setting that consumes least amount of memory
- Drive Mode: Single Shooting
- Flash Mode: Auto
- Flash Comp: 0.0
- Red Eye Reduction: Off
- Focus Mode: Automatic AF (AF-A)
3.3) Shooting Menu 3
- Focus Area: Flexible Spot
- AF Illuminator: Auto
- AF Drive Speed: Normal
- AF Track Duration: Normal
- Exposure Comp: 0.0
- Exposure Step: 0.3EV
I found “Normal” for AF Drive Speed and Track Duration to be optimal for most situations.
3.4) Shooting Menu 4
- ISO: ISO AUTO
- Metering Mode: Multi
- White Balance: Auto
- DRO / Auto HDR: Off
- Creative Style: Standard
- Picture Effect: Off (grayed out in RAW mode)
3.5) Shooting Menu 5
- Zoom: Grayed out in RAW
- Focus Magnifier: Used for zooming in while focusing manually. Grayed out in AF mode, must be in MF to work. I usually have this on the back button AEL, as explained above.
- Long Exposure NR: On
- High ISO NR: Off (grayed out in RAW mode)
- Lock-on AF: Off, but can be a good option when something needs to be actively tracked
- Smile / Face Detect.: On (Regist. Faces) – works pretty well for registering and tracking faces
3.6) Shooting Menu 6
- Soft Skin Effect: Off (disabled in RAW)
- Auto Obj. Framing: Off (disabled in RAW)
- Scene Selection: grayed out in Aperture Priority, but will show a bunch of scenes when in Scene mode
- Movie: Grayed out in Aperture Priority mode. When in movie mode, I usually pick Aperture Priority as well
- SteadyShot: On – keep this turned on. It is for image stabilization, but only works with lenses that have it
- Color Space: Although color space does not matter for RAW files, I use AdobeRGB because it gives a slightly more accurate histogram to determine the correct exposure (since the camera shows histogram based on camera-rendered JPEG image, even if you shoot exclusively in RAW).
3.7) Shooting Menu 7
- Auto Slow Shut.: On
- Audio Recording: On
- Wind Noise Reduct.: Off
- Shooting Tip List: has some good info for beginners
- Memory recall: only available when when MR mode is selected on the top of the camera. Allows picking one of the three presets.
- Memory: going here will save all the current settings in one of the selected presets. I usually toggle between two presets – for Landscapes and People. For landscapes, I set camera mode to Aperture Priority, Manual Focus, ISO to 100, turn Auto ISO off and turn off other irrelevant settings such as face registration. For portraits, I set the camera to AF-A focus mode, ISO to Auto, and tweak other relevant settings.
3.8) Wheel 1
- Zebra: Off
- MF Assist: On – a great feature that automatically zooms in when you move the focus ring in manual focus mode.
- Focus Magnif. Time: 5 Sec, I like to keep it a bit longer
- Grid Line: Rule of 3rds Grid
- Auto Review: 2 Sec
- DISP Button:
Monitor: No Disp Info and For viewfinder checked. Display All Info is too cluttered and Graphic Display occupies too much of the screen.
Finder: No Disp. Info, Histogram
3.9) Wheel 2
- Peaking Level: Mid – focus peaking only works in MF mode.
- Peaking Color: Red
- Exposure Set. Guide: On
- Live View Display: Setting Effect ON
- Disp. cont. AF area: On
3.10) Wheel 3
- Pre-AF: Off
- Zoom Setting: Optical zoom only (grayed out in RAW)
- Eye-Start AF: Off – do not enable this, as it could drain the battery. This setting will automatically detect if you are using the viewfinder and try to focus. And if you put it against your body, the camera will indefinitely try to acquire focus.
- FINDER/MONITOR: Auto – will automatically switch between viewfinder and LCD.
- Release w/o Lens: Disable – do not allow firing the camera without a lens.
- AF w/ shutter: On – if you want to focus and recompose, set it to Off and use the AEL button on the back for AF On as explained earlier
3.11) Wheel 4
- AEL w/ shutter: Auto
- e-Front Curtain Shutter: On
- S. Auto Img. Extract.: grayed out in Aperture Priorty. Only works in Superior Auto mode
- Exp.comp.set: Ambient&flash
- Bracket order: 0-+
3.12) Wheel 5
- Face Registration: used for registering faces.
- AF Micro Adj: Off, don’t do this unless you want to calibrate a lens
- Lens Comp.:
Shading Comp.: Off
Chro. Aber. Comp.: Off
Distortion Comp.: Off
3.13) Wheel 6
- Function Menu Set.: Function Upper and Lower – leave these at default
- Custom Key Settings:
AEL Button: AF On, for focusing and recomposing
Custom Button 1: Focus Mode
Custom Button 2: Focus Magnifier. Once you do this, you will be able to use the C2 button in MF mode to zoom in during MF. Pressing the center button on the dial will allow to zoom in up to 11.7x (pixel level). The button won’t do anything in AF mode.
Center Button: Standard
Left Button: Drive Mode
Right Button: ISO
Down Button: Exposure Comp.
- Dial/Wheel Setup: F/no, SS
- Dial/Wheel Ev Comp: Wheel – since the lens aperture is controlled with the dial, I like to use the rear dial for exposure compensation.
- MOVIE Button: Always – will record movie any time without going into Movie Mode
- Dial / Wheel Lock: Unlock
3.14) Connection 1 and 2
I don’t care for or use these. Might be best to keep “Airplane Mode: On” to save battery life.
I don’t usually use any applications, but you can use things like Smart Remote to remotely control the camera.
3.16) Playback 1 and 2
- Display Rotation: Off – I don’t like it when the camera flips verticals
- Other settings are used for accessing specific playback functions
3.17) Setup 1
- Monitor Brightness: Manual
- Viewfinder Brightness: Auto works pretty well
- Finder Color Temp.: 0
- Volume Settings: 7
- Audio signals: Off – I always turn these off
3.18) Setup 2
- Tile Menu: Off – you don’t want extra icons to access the menu
- Mode Dial Guide: Off – won’t display the guide when changing camera modes
- Delete confirm: “Delete” first – don’t want to scroll when I need to delete something
- Pwr Save Start Time: 1 Min usually works pretty well
3.19) Setup 3
- Cleaning Mode: used for cleaning the camera sensor
- Demo Mode: grayed out
- Remote Ctrl: On (for remote control)
- HDMI Resolution: Auto
- CTRL FOR HDMI: On
- HDMI Info. Display: On
3.20) Setup 4
- USB Connection: Auto
- USB LUN Setting: Multi
- Language: English
- Date/Time Setup: usually turn Daylight Savings On
- Area Setting: For setting the timezone
3.21) Setup 5
- Format: for formatting SD cards
- File Number: Series
- Select REC Folder: skip this
- New Folder: Skip this
- Folder Name: Standard Form
- Recover Image DB: Skip this
3.22) Setup 6
- Display Media Info.: Shows what’s on the card
- Version: Display firmware version
- Setting reset: will reset the camera settings or reinitialize the camera
I hope you found this article useful. Once again, these are settings that work for me and they might not necessarily suit your needs. It is best that you explore your camera and learn about each setting as much as you can in order to take advantage of all the available features and customizations!
Excellent info thank you so much!!! I would love to get help with shooting at night! An incredible full moon last night and I just could not get any decent shots😢
Thanks a bunch, excellent guide
Excellent .tutorial is good
May be a silly question but if I change the settings in the MR function will it effect anything if I then us the camera to Auto??
i want to know about the function of button next to view finder. how to use this rotating button?
i want to know about thefunction of button next to view finder. how to use this rotating button?
I’m so glad I found your article about the a6000 since Sony does not have a decent Users Guide. The description of the buttons on the back was very helpful in explaining why certain buttons act differently depending on other selections. I totally agree that the Menu is very poorly organized, mis-labeled and confusing. I plan to create my own navigation guide so I can find the settings I need without going through every menu. Thank you for a clear aid to using the a6000.
Could be a lot of reasons…
Are you relying only on the lcd screen image to determine that the picture is in focus? That might be misleading you in thinking your picture is better than it is. You really see how spot on the picture is ( or not) when you download it to your computer or photo program and enlarge the image. There is a lot to learn about using the various focus features and areas to get those spot on pictures. Practice using the various focus areas and even practice using manual focus. Try using the peaking tool. Also be sure you undersatnd the role of aperture, shutter speed and ISO in how clear your pictures are.
One tool I find handy is I use custom settings to set my ael button to zoom. This allows me to enlarge the picture on the lcd to determine if it looks like the picture I just took was as clean as I am hoping. Final determination is when I download to my computer and look closer.
If you downloaded your pictures to your computer and the picture looks great on your computer screen but gets blurry when you post to social media or email then maybe the resolution settings you are using to export the pucture are too low. Our a6000 takes pictures at 6000×4000 which looks terrific when printed or on your computer screen. But you need to lower the size of the pics for social medial. Using a resolution of 1024 long edge and 300 pixels per inch resolution is quite adequate on social media.
Best of luck!
My apologies if this questions has already been answered (either in the article or comments).
For some reason, the quality of my photos come out a little blurry/distorted whenever I transfer them to my phone and try to text/upload them on social media. Do you know how to fix this problem? The photos look great on the camera itself.