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Sony NEX 6 review

Sabyasachi Biswas March 20 | Updated on March 18, 2013

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Compact, mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses are catching up fast, but does this new Alpha from Sony have what it takes to step into a DSLR’s shoes?

Sony has always come up with something unique for its imaging products. For instance, it was the first to dabble with SLT (Single Lens Translucent) technology with its bigger cameras. Then it dropped one huge bombshell in a tiny, palm-sized package in the form of the RX-100.

But the NEX series is, and will always be known for being the first to make a bold style statement in the mirrorless-interchangeable lens camera segment. When the first NEX was announced, the camera drew attention to both its design and functionality. As of now, we at Smartbuy have been clicking around with the new NEX-6, the latest mirrorless with the Alpha branding. And here’s how it fares.

Design and build

The design, for which Sony grabbed eyeballs, is nowhere near the older NEX models. Au contraire, the NEX-6 has received a more rugged and outdoorsy treatment (the NEX 7 also wore this look to an extent). And that is not a bad thing, considering that the competition, EOS M included, also wear a rugged look.

To get the DSLR feel, Sony has left only a few stones unturned. On the camera body, there’s almost every detail that you’d find on a traditional DSLR. You get a scroll-wheel, an amply equipped mode dial, and another multipurpose dial just under it. The scroll-wheel, along with the secondary wheel, function very well, like a DSLR’s to quickly change exposure and shutter speed values. This arrangement of dials is much better and far less confusing than the NEX 7, which was more dials than camera. The movie record button is placed for the thumb’s access, but people with longer fingers are bound to have problems as it’s a little too on the edge for anyone’s comfort.

The screen is articulated, but the angles offered are not much. The screen can be moved only on the vertical plane, offering flexibility only for top or low angle shots. It does not swing outwards, like say, the Canon EOS 600D’s. So if you’re looking for a screen that can be turned towards the front for self-shots, this is not your thing.

There’s an electronic viewfinder too, which gets activated via a small proximity sensor. The clarity of the viewfinder is good, although I found it to be a little lacking in colour reproduction. You get a small pop-up flash, but there’s a hot-shoe port as well to whet your big flash gun and wireless flash'n appetite.

Tech onboard

The NEX-6 carries the APS-C type (23.5 x 15.6mm), Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, identical to many of Sony’s APS-C frame SLTs and DSLRs. It’s a 16.1 megapixel sensor, and the package comes with the BIONZ image processor.

The bundled kit with this new NEX is the new 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, which is an improvement over the older 18-55mm lens. It’s a proper variable focal length lens, but it’s very different from any of the lenses we’ve seen on the NEX series, or even any competitors’ kit lenses. The lens is collapsible, and the front end extends only when the camera is powered on, saving a lot of space. The ring’s function can be customised to either telephoto or manual focus. What you also get is a power-zoom toggle on the lens. So for those migrating from a regular point-and-shoot to this one, the adaptability would come very easy.

The camera is WiFi enabled, but not the same kind of WiFi enabled as you would expect from the Nikon S800C or the Samsung Galaxy Camera, because this is not a ‘smart’ camera. The WiFi capability can be used to hook it up to a local WiFi network or a smartphone, for quick image transfers. But this can be a bit of a pain to set up.

Performance and results

It’s a little confusing, I must say, while beginning to use this camera. I didn’t really know how to treat this camera – as a point and shoot, a hybrid or DSLR. After the first few shots, it screamed for anything but a regular point-and-shoot. To be honest, the new 16-50 lens confused me a bit. I tried taking a few macro shots with the lens, only to find it very agonising, that the AF didn’t lock on the subject (even from beyond the prescribed macro distance).

The big sensor, however, makes sure that images up to ISO 1600 don’t burst out with noise. Even at ISO 3200, the noise levels are quite acceptable. Although the ISO levels can be expanded up to 2,56,000 I wouldn’t recommend anything beyond 3200. The AF is very fast, even in quite poor lighting conditions. Even the action shots saw quick AF functioning. The only problem I had was with the 16-50’s complicated auto-to-manual focus mode change.

The colours, across all exposure levels, turn out to be quite stellar. Not once did the images look over or under-compensated for colour. We even shot full HD videos with this camera, and the audio and video quality is as good as some of Sony’s high-end Handycams.

We say

This is one camera that begs to be used like a full-bodied DSLR, yet covers only half of a big camera’s footprint. At this price, we would’ve loved to see a touch screen for one-touch focus functions, as with the EOS M, but for now, we’re happy with the amount of functions it offers and the crisp and clear image quality.

Rs 49,990

Love – Big sensor, image quality

Hate – Complicated WiFi system, limited angles on screen

Good for – Low light photography, Full HD videos

Bad for – Creative angles, wireless file transfer

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on March 18, 2013

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