This is an in-depth review of the Sony NEX-6 mirrorless camera that was released on September 12, 2012 during the Photokina event, along with three lenses for NEX cameras: Sony 10-18mm f/4, Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 and Sony 35mm f/1.8. Just like the Sony NEX-5R that we reviewed last year, the NEX-6 also comes with WiFi capability and the new hybrid autofocus system, offering both phase and contrast detect for quicker focus acquisition and accuracy. The camera is the first from the NEX series that offers a real PASM control dial, along with an ISO standard hot shoe for triggering on and off-camera flash. In this review, I will go over the features and capabilities of the camera and compare it to other mirrorless options, including the Nikon 1 J2, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Canon EOS M and other Sony NEX series cameras.
The new NEX-6 filled the gap between the NEX-5R and the NEX-7 cameras, having better ergonomics and more features than the NEX-5R, but with a lower resolution sensor and less controls than the NEX-7. With the introduction of the NEX-6, Sony now has four different NEX lines: NEX-F3 (entry level), NEX-5R (mid level), NEX-6 (advanced) and NEX-7 (professional). These models are separated by features, ergonomics and price. Both the NEX-F3 and the NEX-5R are available in different colors, while the higher-end NEX-6 and NEX-7 are only available in black. Let’s take a look at the specifications in detail and go over the features of the new camera.
1) Sony NEX-6 Specifications
- 16.1 MP Exmor™ APS HD CMOS image sensor
- Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection AF/contrast-detection AF)
- 99 AF points (phase-detection AF), 25 AF points (contrast-detection AF)
- Full HD movie shooting 60p/60i/24p
- Object Tracking AF via Touch LCD
- 11 Picture Effect modes
- Panorama Mode
- HDR Capability
- Battery life for up to 270 images (Viewfinder) and 360 images (LCD)
- Tiltable 3″ LCD with 921K dots
- XGA OLED viewfinder with 2.395K dots
- Intelligent Scene Recognition and Face Detection
- “SteadyShot” Image Stabilization Technology
- Electronic Front Curtain shutter
- Up to 10 fps continuous shooting at full 16.1 MP resolution
- Peaking AF display for precise manual focusing
- Wi-Fi Capability
- Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) technology
Detailed technical specifications for the Sony NEX-6 are available at Sony.com.
2) Sony 16.1 MP Exmor Sensor
One of the most important attributes in a digital camera is its sensor – the heart of the camera that is responsible for capturing images. The Sony NEX-6 features the same 16.1 MP Exmor sensor as the NEX-5R, which has a great balance of resolution and noise. This particular sensor has been quite famous in the photography world today – Sony uses a variation of the same sensor on three of its NEX cameras + other SLT cameras, and it sells the sensor to other manufacturers like Nikon and Pentax as well. For example, both the Nikon D7000 and the Pentax K5 use this sensor. In fact, pretty much any 16 MP APS-C camera (except for Canon) you find on the market today most likely uses it.
The biggest advantage of the Sony NEX-series mirrorless cameras compared to other mirrorless cameras on the market such as Micro 4/3 and Nikon 1, is the physical size of the sensor. The 23.5×15.6mm APS-C sensor is currently among the largest sensors used in mirrorless cameras. Large sensor size means larger pixel size, which translates to better low-light (high ISO) performance and better dynamic range. Sony picked the same 1.5x crop factor APS-C sensor size that is used in their “SLT” camera line, which is bigger than Canon’s APS-C sensors with a 1.6x crop factor and about the same as Nikon’s DX sensors. Here is a chart that summarizes sensor size differences (courtesy of Wikipedia):
Another big advantage of a larger sensor is smaller depth of field, which translates to better opportunities to isolate subjects from the background – an important factor for many photo enthusiasts and pros out there. Coupled with fast prime lenses like the Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS, one could capture creative photographs with beautiful bokeh – something that is hard to achieve on small sensor cameras.
At the same time, a larger sensor requires a bigger image circle from lenses, which negatively impacts the size requirements of both lenses and the lens mount (read more on this below).