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Sony Alpha NEX-6 Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Compact: First Look

Sony Alpha NEX-6 Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Compact: First Look

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Photokina 2012

September 12, 2012

Sony today unveiled its second Wi-Fi enabled mirrorless interchangeable-lens compact camera, the NEX-6, which offers features and and price designed to appeal to a wide range of photographers.

Sony NEX-6

The Sony NEX-6, which was introduced today and will be available soon from Adorama, is a fast-focusing, more compact competitor to starter DSLRs with familiar DSLR-type operation and a range of features designed to appeal to experienced photographers looking for a responsive compact digital camera system, as well as to beginners who want the image quality and flexibility of an interchangeable-lens camera with a 16MP APS sensor that is known to deliver outstanding image quality. The NEX-6 is the second Sony NEX series camera to feature WiFi—the first, the Sony NEX-5R, was announced last month; read the Adorama Learning Center First Look at the Sony NEX-5R—and will use the just-announced PlayMemories Camera Apps.

Sony NEX-6 Key Features

  • 16MP APS-C Sensor
  • 10fps burst rate
  • Full HD video
  • Hybrid contrast/phase detect  AF system with claimed DSLR speed
  • XGA OLED optical viewfinder
  • Wi-Fi and downloadable camera apps
  • Quick Navi controls said to offer DSLR-like operation
  • Multi-interface Smart Accessory Shoe for flash, GPS, more
  • 11 Picture Effects for stills and videos
  • Photo Creativity mode

With the introduction of the
Sony NEX-6, Sony has created a new high-end-enthusiast camera that is just a step below the prosumer-level Sony NEX-7 (read the Adorama Learning Center review of the Sony NEX-7) and should appeal to serious photographers who seek a compact camera capable of taking high-quality images while providing a DSLR-like experience. The Sony NEX-6 features a 16.1MP sensor—the same highly-rated sensor found on many of today’s highest-rated APS sensor DSLRs, but somewhat lower resolution than the Sony NEX-7—as well as an eye-level, 2.4 million dot resolution OLED viewfinder.


Sony NEX-6


A Closer Look at the Sony NEX-6’s features

Let’s take a closer look at the
Sony NEX-6, based on information provided by Sony.

Responsiveness: Sony claims the
Sony NEX-6’s Fast Hybrid AF, which combines Phase Detection and Contrast Detection Autofocus, will deliver faster autofocusing (although Sony does not claim a specific lag time), while the camera’s imaging engine is said to provide 10fps burst rate at full resolution.

Autofocus: In addition to natively fast autofocus, the
Sony NEX-6 offers Intelligent Autofocus, where the camera pre-focuses as you compose the shot, further reducing lag time by eliminating the wait for focus acquisition.  In addition, Tracking Focus continuously tracks a user-designated subject; Sony says it has improved this feature so it is now more effective at tracking people. If the subject turns away from the camera, face-detection tracking automatically switches to subject tracking and continues tracking.

Manual focus:  Sony has a couple of helpful features for those who prefer to focus manually. Peaking AF highlights the edges that are in focus in the user’s choice of three colors (white, red, or yellow). This is especially helpful during macro or portrait photography where the focal plane can make or break your shot. Manual Focus Assist greatly magnifies the viewfinder image when you touch the focus ring. This feature only works with E-mount lenses.

Ergonomics: A Mode control dial and Quick Navi are said to assure quick and intuitive operation that Sony says is comparable to DSLR cameras. Control dial, Fn (function) button and touch screen (including touch shutter function) are available. The
Sony NEX-6 features a newly developed Multi-Interface Shoe that dramatically expands compatibility via Handycam accessories for both still and video, all of which will be available from Adorama.

Flash: A modest built-in Guide Number 6 flash is located on the camera’s top plate. It can be used in a pinch for dimly lit settings, or as a fill flash when shooting in bright sunshine or to produce catch lights in portraits. While the flash’s power is low, that might be OK when shooting ISO 2500.

Video: The Sony NEX-6 captures full HD movies at 60p, 60i or 24p cinematic frame rates, all at full 1920x1080 resolution. Images are recorded in AVCHD or MP4 codecs.

Sony NEX-6


Cool tech features

Sony is always on the bleeding edge of technology, and the
Sony NEX-6 deploys several features designed to improve images or add special effects:

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi connectivity lets users transfer photos directly to smartphones and tablets with the PlayMemories Mobile appPhotos can be easily transferred to smartphones and tablets, viewed on large screen TVs or saved to PC’s.

Auto HDR: The
Sony NEX-6’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography captures mode more scene contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining the best highlight detail from one shot and the best shadow detail from another. The NEX-6’s Auto HDR handles severe backlighting and other high-contrast scenes by capturing three images in a split second and combining them in-camera.

6-Image Layering: The camera captures six images in a fraction of a second, then then combines the data from the 6 different images (up to ISO 25,600) to create a single image. This method is used to control blur in Anti-Motion Blur mode or to get cleaner, sharper nighttime pictures in Hand-held Twilight mode.

Sweep Panorama: This mode lets you capture expansive landscapes automatically. Press the shutter, sweep the vertically or horizontally.  The camera does the rest, continuously shooting images and stitching them together for up to 23MP images at up to 202 degrees, the equivalent of a 16mm focal length.

Exposure modes: In addition to Program, Aperture, Shutter and Manual modes,and a Photo Creativity Interface, which translates the above into more beginner-friendly terms (Background Defocus, Brightness, Color, Vividness and most Picture Effects.) the NEX-6 offers six creative modes: Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset and B&W as well as the ability to fine-tune contrast, saturation, and sharpness to your personal taste. 11 Picture Effect modes are: Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow), Soft High-key, High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera (Normal, Cool, Warm, Green, Magenta), Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, and Miniature.

The competition

In addition to competing directly against such cameras as the Olympus E-P3, Panasonic GX1 and Nikon 1 V1, the
Sony NEX-6 will be fighting for a similar audience as the recently-announced Fujifilm X-E1, which has a similar layout and also has a high-quality 16MP sensor and high-resolution optical finder.

Summary and recommendation

Sony NEX-6 seeks the sweet spot between serious (and, for many, unaffordable) compact camera and a camera that will deliver high-end responsiveness and quality at an enthusiast price. While we can’t wait to get our hands on this new model, the first impressions are that it will meet the goals set by Sony and that it merits serious consideration.

Sony NEX-6 will be available from Adorama in November. Price to be announced.


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