Sony seems content with rolling out endless variations on its popular line of mirrorless cameras. The final one for 2012, the NEX-6, fills out the pricier end between the NEX-5R and the NEX-7, but can it find a foothold to thrive among so many siblings?
What Is It?
A 16.1-megapixel mirrorless camera with a compact body and interchangeable lenses.
Who's It For?
Semi-pros and enthusiasts who have been holding out on mirrorless cameras because the high-end ones are too expensive and the low-end ones aren't robust enough.
It's hard to imagine a better design for a mirrorless camera. The body size and shape are identical to the NEX-7. But the finish, button placement, the action on the dials — it all feels matured. Best of all, it retains that beautiful big grip that puts the ergonomics of Sony's mirrorless cameras above any other.
The NEX-6 elevates itself from the NEX-5R and the NEX-F3 by offering more refined physical controls. It has a mode dial on top, and two wheels for adjusting shutter speed and aperture. You don't have the "tri-navi" interface of the NEX-7, but after using both, we don't think you will miss the extra dial.
Sony has retained its crappy menus, but you should rarely need to use them, because the function button gives you access to white balance, metering and focus options. Speaking of focus, the NEX-6 has the re-vamped hybrid focus system that debuted on the 5R, and it works great. Image quality on the NEX-6 is fabulous.
Among the other mirrorless lines, the NEX-6 image quality is slightly ahead of Olympus (either the OM-D EM-5, the E-PL5 or the E-PM2). It's slightly behind Fuji's X-Pro1 or its X-E1. But none of those cameras can offer video capabilities like the NEX-6. Despite a little moire and aliasing, this video quality really elevates the camera into the realm of a multi-use pro tool.
The Best Part
The overall physical design. It really seems like Sony is honing its craft with each new NEX that arrives. This camera is so comfortable to hold and shoot with.
No mic jack. It's an infuriating omission. Now, the only way to add decent sound to the strong video is to attach a Sony accessory to the hot-shoe. But at least there is a standard hot-shoe — the NEX series used to have a widely criticised proprietary style.
This Is Weird...
It doesn't come with an AC battery charger — you can charge the battery with a microUSB cable connected to the camera.
- Our sample images were shot RAW with the new 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, and the new 10-18mm f/4 lens, then converted with Adobe Lightroom.
- Sony introduced a brand-new 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens with the NEX-6. Design-wise, it is an improvement over the old kit lens—it's powered, and it retracts to a fairly compact size when turned off. We tested both and found the old 18-55mm to be sharper with less barrel distortion at the wide end.
- Like the 5R, the NEX-6 features WiFi and apps for uploading, sharing and altering your photos. There are only a few apps so far, and they aren't anything special beyond uploading to a phone or computer. But there is potential.
Should You Buy It?
Yes. It's an all-around great camera. There are brands out there that do specific things better, like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 for autofocus and lens selection, and the Fuji X-E1 for image quality. But none can do great video and great stills with such ease.
If you are trying to decide between the bevy of NEX models out there, choose the NEX-6 over the 5R if you value a built-in viewfinder and solid physical controls. An extra $400 gets you a NEX-7 body with a higher resolution, 24-megapixel sensor and a microphone jack. But that camera is due to be replaced soon. For now, we think the NEX-6 is the most complete, capable and best-rounded NEX that Sony makes.
• Sensor: 16.1MP Exmor APS-C CMOS • ISO range: 100-25,600 (expanded) • Lens mount: Sony E-Mount • Display: 3-inch 921,000-dot • Video: 1920x1080 @ 24p/60p, 1440x1080 @ 30p • Price: $1099 RRP in Australia (body only), $1299 with 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens