Sony's latest contribution to the mirrorless camera market is the NEX-6, a replacement for the popular Sony NEX-5. See Group test: what's the best interchangeable lens camera?
The all-important sensor is very large, an APS-C type which is DSLR-sized at 23.5 x 15.6 mm. This 16.7Mp CMOS sensor helped ensure excellent picture quality, while noise levels tended to be very low even at high ISO settings. Even up to ISO 25600 our low-light shots remained clean. Captured images showed impressive levels of crispness. Vibrancy and colour reproduction were excellent. Take a look at our Panasonic DMC-G3 review.
The Sony NEX-6 also takes good video, now up to 1920 x 1080p at up to 50 fps, against the original NEX-5’s 1080i at 25 fps. We did find a split second of lag between pressing the record button and video capture, which might crop the start of spur-of-the-moment filming. Other than that, video was very good – sharp and vibrant and free from jerkiness. Unlike the Sony NEX-7, the record button is recessed and to one side so you're less likely to hit it by mistake.
Our Sony NEX-6 sample came with a 16-55mm zoom lens but you can use any Sony E-mount lens, or an A-mount if you use an adaptor.
The NEX-6 is fairly simple and straightforward to use. A real mode dial on top – featuring Superior Auto, Intelligent Auto, Scene, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual and Sweep Panorama modes – makes it easier to navigate than the NEX-7.
Like the NEX-7, it also features a built-in OLED viewfinder. That’s good news for anyone with unsteady hands or who simply prefers to compose images that way.
There is also the option of a live view on the 3in LCD screen, which you can handily tilt upwards by 90 degrees or downwards by 45. Unlike the earlier NEX-5N and some NEX-6's competitors like the Canon EOS M, the screen is not touch-sensitive.
While for some people Sony's superior auto mode may be cause for celebration, simplifying as it does the creation of good photos, we found the lack of control over aspects like focus a little frustrating. The Intelligent Auto or Manual mode were less rigid alternatives. The Sweep Panorama mode worked well.
In playback mode video and stills are confusingly not all displayed together chronologically – you have to manually switch between the two.
The Sony NEX-6's adds Wi-Fi abilities, handy with its ‘view on smartphone and 'send to computer' options, but limited to some Android phones compatible with DLNA (digital living network alliance).
You can also download apps for the camera, including the impressive (and free) PlayMemories Mobile for iOS and Android, This smart remote control app turns your tablet or phone into a remote shutter release and allows time-lapse photography.
At just 287g and 120 x 67 x 43 mm the Sony NEX-6 is very light and reasonably small. We like the retro styling and texture. A solid, chunky rubberised hand grip on the side enables the use of any large Sony E-mount lenses without too much discomfort. Build quality is superb and nothing feels cheap or plasticky – even the port cover has a smooth action.
There’s a built-in flash as well as a hotshoe for attaching an external flash. And you can easily charge the camera with a Micro-USB cable instead of only through a proprietary charger.