Sony NEX-6 review
23.5x15.6mm 16.0-megapixel sensor, 3.1x zoom (24-75mm equivalent), 465g
A product gets a Best Buy award if it's the best of its kind that we've seen, but every now and then we're treated with something that's not just better than the competition, but as good as we could possibly hope for. The Sony NEX-6 comes very close, building on the successes of the Sony NEX-5N and Sony NEX-7, while taking a few pointers from the best of the rest.
Its 16-megapixel sensor is closely related to the 5N's, delivering breathtakingly low noise levels in low light. It's on a par with the best SLRs at this price, and comfortably ahead of any other brand of CSC. As with the NEX-5R (review coming soon), this updated sensor incorporates phase-detect autofocus points to speed up autofocus – something that NEX cameras have struggled with in the past.
Sure enough, the NEX-6 outperformed the NEX-5N in our tests. Getting them both to refocus repeatedly on nearby and distant subjects, the NEX-6 averaged 0.54 seconds from pressing the shutter button to capturing a shot, while the 5N came in at 0.72 seconds. That's not a massive improvement but it's enough for us to say that autofocus performance is no longer a concern. It's a fast camera in most other respects, taking 0.7 seconds between shots for both JPEGs and raw capture. Continuous mode is at 10fps, slowing to 2.9fps after 12 frames.
Another feature shared with the NEX-5R is built in Wi-Fi. It can join an existing network and upload photos directly to Facebook. Entering username and password information is fiddly, though, and portrait-shaped photos were displayed on their sides on Facebook.
More usefully, it can create a network for a smartphone to join, thereby allowing uploads wherever there's mobile coverage. Transferring photos directly to an iPad using the PlayMemories Mobile app was simple and quick, with an option to resize photos to 2 megapixels before they were transferred. We could transfer videos, too, but only if they were recorded in MPEG-4 rather than the more flexible AVCHD format. We were also able to control the camera remotely from the app, complete with a live view feed and instant transfers. There wasn't much lag but control over settings was severely limited on both the camera and the app – we weren't even able to adjust the zoom.
PlayMemories Mobile is available for Android too, but we had less success here. The remote viewfinder failed to work on both an HTC One V and a Samsung Galaxy Note II. Image transfers worked temperamentally on the HTC, and were complicated by an inability to save directly to the phones' storage – instead, we had to choose another app to send them to.
This is the first camera we've seen that can download and install apps
The Wi-Fi functions also include the ability to download and install apps to the camera. These must be especially written for the camera but the platform is open for third-party developers to sell apps. The online store was closed for maintenance at the time of testing, but there was an app installed for basic photo-editing tasks, while another added creative effects while shooting in PASM modes (Program, Aperture and Shutter priority, plus Manual) – a great idea, although the conventional camera controls became noticeably less responsive.
The Picture Effect+ app is perfect for creating moody (or pretentious) Facebook profile images
It's an interesting idea, but time will tell whether developers and customers want to invest their time and money here. We'd be more inclined to spend it in Android or Apple's app store. However, if Sony gets the ball rolling with more free apps to improve these cameras' shooting abilities, that's fine by us.