Overview and features
Although rumours suggested that Sony would also place its full-frame a99 (and RX1) sensor in the NEX series, the NEX-6 has arrived sporting a 16.1 million pixel APS-C CMOS sensor.
It’s joined by a new Bionz processor and a fast hybrid AF system.
As such, it includes an (electronic) viewfinder, and direct access dials to key camera parameters.
There’s also Wi-Fi functionality, which ties into Sony’s recently announced PlayMemories apps service, which allows for expansion and customisation of the camera via downloadable apps which will be available later in the year.
A new 16-50mm power zoom lens has also been announced in conjunction with the NEX-6. This is roughly half the size of the standard 18-55mm kit lens which has accompanied NEX cameras until now.
With an RRP of around £810 ($1,140) or £830 ($1,135) with the kit lens, the NEX-6 competes with cameras such as the Panasonic G5 and perhaps the Olympus OM-D.
Build Quality and Handling
The body and build of the NEX-6 is very similar to other cameras in the NEX series, so if you’re familiar with those, you’ll feel very at home here.
A good texture covers the NEX-6 which gives it an air of quality and helps with gripping the camera, especially when holding one-handed. Similarly, the grip of the camera is very well designed, allowing for good purchase on the camera.
The new 16-50mm lens finally gives the NEX series a sleeker appearance. Up until now the very small body coupled with larger lens could look a little odd, so it’s good to see Sony listening to feedback regarding this.
Sitting just below the NEX-7, the NEX-6 has several high-end features, which will appeal to many users.
First up is the high resolution, 2.359k dot resolution electronic viewfinder, which includes an eye-sensor for automatically switching from the LCD screen to the EVF. Sony says that it has worked on the speed of switching between the two, and we found it to be very quick. That said, it also doesn’t switch to the EVF too easily, which is good when you want to shoot from the hip and the camera is close to the body.
More advanced photographers will likely appreciate the new dial on the top of the camera which sits directly below the mode dial and can be used to control parameters such as aperture, when using aperture priority.
A Fn button adjacent to the shutter release button can be used to access commonly used settings. The menu which is accessed from this button is fully customisable, so if you find you need quick access to one particularly function regularly, you can assign it to appear here.
Movie recording can be accessed quickly via a dedicated button, which appears angled on the back of the camera just below the mode dial. It’s angled setting means it’s more difficult to accidentally knock it on, without being hard to reach, and is a welcome improvement on the positioning of the NEX-7 video record button.
A typical NEX menu is found on the camera, which again anyone familiar with Sony’s other products in the range will be aware of. Some of the functions are frustratingly hidden away, but as things can be accessed via the Fn button, this isn’t the bugbear it could be.
The new kit lens features some interesting build points. A switch on the side of the lens can be used, or if preferred, a ring at the front of the lens can be twisted in the traditional way a zoom lens is extended. This has been designed to help create a seamless transition for people used to shooting with more traditional optics. If shooting in manual mode, this zoom ring transforms into a manual focusing ring.
It’s difficult to fully assess the results from the camera after only spending a few hours with it, but what we have seen so far is promising.
We’re used to seeing high quality images from NEX cameras, so it comes as no huge surprise to see that trend continuing with the NEX-6.
The LCD screen, which tilts downwards and upwards is nice and bright, and well viewed from a variety of angles. It coped well in the lighting conditions we used it in, but it’s difficult to say how well it would cope in very bright sunlight.
One particularly impressive feature is the high resolution EVF. Sony has really made leaps and bounds with its EVF technology, which it says it believes is the best solution available for consumers right now. It may take a bit of getting used to for those who are used to the optical variety, but the benefits of EVF are numerous and soon become apparent after shooting for a while.
A key beneficial aspect is being able to see a played back image straight away in the viewfinder to help determine whether an exposure has been captured the way you wanted it.
Another is being able to see exactly how an image will appear, before you hit the shutter release – something which just isn’t possible with an optical viewfinder.
The tilting screen is useful for shooting from awkward angles, and is also has a good viewing angle. It’s difficult to say how well it performs in ultra bright light, but in the conditions we have been using it in, it has performed well.
So far we’ve found that the NEX-6’s hybrid autofocusing does a good job of locking onto the subject quickly, although on occasion it struggles a little with objects in the far distance.
Sony’s new PlayMemories apps includes the ability to add different digital effects to images. Sony says that more will become available to download, which should appeal to the Instagram crowd. Although it’s great that you can still adjust parameters such as aperture while using digital effects, it’s a little frustrating that you can’t shoot in raw format and remove the filter later in post-production.
The ability to retouch images is another of the apps available on the camera. Here, basic editing, such as resizing, brightness control and contrast control is available and is a good quick option for those that don’t want to spend too much time working on images at a computer.
These mages are from a preproduction sample of the NEX-6 and consequently we are not allowed to publish them a t full-size.
Sony had lots of critical success with the NEX-7, while the cameras in its NEX-5 range have always proven quite popular. Here the company is presumably looking to combine the high quality of the 7, with the popularity of the 5.
So far, we’ve been pretty impressed with what we’ve seen. The new kit lens makes the NEX-6 a much sleeker proposition, making it much closer in size to Micro Four Thirds cameras which of course use a smaller sensor.
It’s clear that Sony is listening to customer feedback, and what it is producing at the moment is very interesting and looks like it could deliver to a wide range of customer bases.
Although many are still skeptical about electronic viewfinders, the device on the NEX-6 is another example of how good the Sony engineers have managed to make them in recent times.
Incorporating Wi-Fi and PlayMemories apps means that this is also a camera that can deliver that all important connectivity, and perhaps more intriguingly, the ability to expand and customise the camera further down the line.
We’re really looking forward to getting our hands on a full-production version of the camera to fully assess its quality.