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Sony NEX-6 review

Ben Pitt
4 Dec 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
819
inc VAT

The best compact system camera to date – start saving up

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Specifications

23.5x15.6mm 16.0-megapixel sensor, 3.1x zoom (24-75mm equivalent), 465g

Otherwise, the controls are hard to fault. ISO speed, exposure compensation, drive mode, autofocus point and AE Lock all have dedicated buttons, and a Function button reveals another five (picked from a list of 15) on the screen. There are two dials for adjusting settings, giving direct control of shutter speed and aperture in manual exposure mode. There's no shortage of smart shooting modes, including automatic panorama stitching and high-dynamic-range shooting. Best of all, there's a physical mode dial – something that's been sorely lacking from previous NEX cameras, including the NEX-7.

Sony NEX-6 sample shot

Sony excels for sophisticated shooting modes, such as this automatic HDR shot made by merging three frames at different exposures

Priority and manual exposure modes work exactly the same for photo and video capture. With Full-HD capture at 25p, 50i or 50p and clips up to 30 minutes, this is one of the most capable cameras around for video. Autofocus is smooth and silent, and the motorised zoom isn't too invasive on the stereo soundtrack.

Sony NEX-6 sample shot

The low noise and detail retention in this ISO 1250 shot is as good as you'll get from any camera under £1,000

Photo quality is hard to distinguish from the NEX-5N, which places it among the best CSCs available for noise levels and a strong contender for details too. However, direct comparisons revealed that the NEX-5N exhibited slightly lower noise at fast ISO speeds. This is a surprising and a little disappointing, but there wasn't much in it and it was only perceptible at ISO 6400 and above. The benefit of the NEX-6's sharper kit lens was much easier to spot.

Sony NEX-6 sample shot

Sony's aggressive noise reduction handles the block colours in this ISO 2500 shot incredibly well

We got a chance to try the NEX-6 out with Sony's new 35mm f/1.8 lens, the SEL35F18. This gives an effective focal length of 52mm, which is perfect for general snapping. It delivered seriously sharp focus at f/4 and – predictably – superb low-light performance at f/1.8. The only snag is that the NEX-6 limits the aperture to f/4 on automatic settings, only using wider apertures when the ISO speed is maxed out at 3200. We had to switch to aperture priority mode to make the most of its low-light capabilities.

Sony NEX-6 sample shot

The new 35mm f/1.8 lens (giving a 52mm equivalent focal length) is further proof that the E Mount isn't short of high quality lenses