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Sony Alpha NEX-6 review

Verdict

The first compromise-free compact system camera: it's a delight to use, and delivers first class image quality

Review Date: 7 Dec 2012

Reviewed By: Ben Pitt

Price when reviewed: £683 (£820 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £764
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

Image Quality
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Not everyone wants to lug a bulky SLR around, but for a long time it was your only choice. These days, though, serious amateurs have a different option: high-end compact system cameras, a genre now topped by the Sony NEX-6.

This is a seriously impressive piece of kit, with a detailed electronic viewfinder, accessory shoe, three rotary controllers and premium price. It’s significantly smaller than most other CSCs at this price, dispensing with the SLR-style viewfinder hump for a more streamlined brick-like shape. There’s a reasonably substantial handgrip but not a huge amount of space for buttons and dials.

This limited space has been used well. There’s a mode dial on top – a first for a NEX camera – a command dial encircling it, and the navigation pad doubles as a wheel, too.

ISO speed, drive mode and exposure compensation are a single button click away, and five other settings can be assigned to the customisable Function menu. We’d have liked a physical manual focus switch and a dedicated white balance button, but we’re not sure where they would have fit.

Sony Alpha NEX-6

The new 16-50mm kit lens is tiny, collapsing right down when the camera is switched off. It has a motorised rather than mechanical zoom, and controlling this motor using the lens ring is surprisingly effective. The entire range can be traversed in a quarter of a second, but small, precise adjustments remain easy to make. It’s also a sharp lens, with none of the corner softness we’ve seen from the bulkier 18-55mm kit lens bundled with other NEX cameras.

Wi-Fi is the latest must-have feature for cameras, and the NEX-6 obliges with a comprehensive set of functions. It can upload photos to Facebook via a Wi-Fi network, or create its own hotspot for direct transfers to a smartphone or tablet. There’s a remote control app with a live feed and a shutter-release control, but it doesn’t give access to other settings. We had no problems running the iOS app on an iPad, but the Android app wouldn’t function properly on an HTC One V.

The NEX-6 can also download and install its own apps to expand the camera’s capabilities. There are currently a couple of freebies supplying creative filters and basic editing, plus two more priced at £3.99 for advanced bracketing and multiframe noise reduction.

Sony Alpha NEX-6 from rear

Elsewhere, the NEX-6 draws on the strengths of previous NEX cameras. Image quality is as high as we’ve seen from a CSC, with crisp details and extremely low noise. Automatic exposures were sometimes on the dark side, but the extra highlight headroom is welcome when processing raw files.

Otherwise, a bit of exposure compensation provides an easy fix. It’s a nippy performer, with a 10fps burst mode and responsive general operation. Autofocus is fast, thanks to dedicated autofocus sensors built into the main imaging sensor. Video quality is excellent, and with capture up to 1080p at 50fps and with manual exposure control, it’s perfect for more serious work.

Sony already dominated the CSC market for sensor quality, but with the NEX-6’s smaller and sharper kit lens, faster autofocus performance, better controls and integrated flash, it feels like the camera we’ve all been waiting for. It’s pricey but it’s hard to imagine a more accomplished compact camera.

Sony NEX-6 sample shots:


Sony Alpha NEX-6 sample images
Click this link for the full resolution version

Sony Alpha NEX-6 sample images
Click this link for the full resolution version

Sony Alpha NEX-6 sample images
Click this link for the full resolution version

Sony Alpha NEX-6 sample images
Click this link for the full resolution version

Author: Ben Pitt

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User comments

Again : This is PC PRO

So why yet another camera review, or could you not pick one from the previous lot just reviewed for your stocking filler.

By davidk1962 on 7 Dec 2012

@davidk1962
To be fair PC Pro have been reviewing digital cameras since before they were worth buying (the cameras, not the magazine).

It's probably best just not to click on things you've little interest in, a luxury not available in the printed magazine where I still have to turn unwanted pages to get to the next article. Almost makes me want to subscribe to the digital edition.

By Mark_Thompson on 7 Dec 2012

Who said...

Who said I was not interested, I am in fact very interested but I visit a site that reviews cameras and nothing else for information on such matters (and independant to boot). All I need to do now is find one that reviews PCs a bit more often.

This was not meant as a direct attack, but I am not the first here to notice that PCPRO seem to be losing direction a little.

By davidk1962 on 7 Dec 2012

Getting back to the camera review for a moment.Very nice, but not as nice as the even more expensive Fuji X-E1 CSC!

By Jaberwocky on 7 Dec 2012

@davidk1962

Its PC Pro - which I take to mean not just motherboards and processors related to PCs but also accessories like digital cameras. I find these accessory reviews more useful than the motherboard reviews - if only because I buy more accessories than motherboards

By cyberindie on 10 Dec 2012

I agree with cyberindie

The line has blurred as to what is a "computer" anymore. Cameras that have computers on-board, store to memory cards and you offload the images onto your PC are very different to the film-based cameras of the past.

I'd like to see more accessories reviewed - especially the budget end of the market which is often ignored. Of course this camera is likely to be good - it's ridiculously expensive for a compact camera. The majority of people would be more interested in much cheaper compact cameras.

David.

By artiss on 10 Dec 2012

@cyberinde

"...accessories like digital cameras."

That made me laugh! Of course, anyone who takes their photography seriously knows that it is the PC which is the accessory to the camera :)

By martindaler on 10 Dec 2012

Philosophy 101

Actually Computers and Camera's are the accessories to life......

excuse me whilst I go meditate
:-)

By Jaberwocky on 11 Dec 2012

Incomplete...

I have no issue with PC Pro reviewing things like cameras, but as a serious photographer I do take exception to their doing a shoddy job. No mention is made of the sensor size in the review nor of the quality/availability of additional lenses - both matters of considerable importance to someone sufficiently interested in photography to be considering spending nearly £700 on a camera & kit lens. Both Canon and Nikon have DSLR kits based on cropped sensors costing less money so either do the review well or leave it to others who can carry out a complete review.

By Minou on 15 Dec 2012

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