If you’re still asking yourself whether or not you should go mirrorless, check out last week’s post to find out why this trend is here to stay and if it’s the right answer for you.
The fact is that today you can wield as much creative control with a mirrorless camera as you can with a DSLR, in a smaller package and at a smaller price.
So the question becomes which one? Hopefully this Sony NEX 6 digital camera review will help you decide.
Here’s what I think
I haven’t reviewed every single mirrorless camera or every feature nor have I done any scientific tests (except on one lens I’ll get to later). I’m just telling you my thoughts on it, how I picked my camera, and what I think of it now that I’ve been using it for awhile.
It’s all about sensor size
For me choosing the right mirrorless camera comes down to sensor size. Cameras come with about a dozen different sensor sizes, but to simplify things lets consider five groups in order of size from smallest to largest:
- tiny sensors you find in phone cameras
- slightly larger sensors found in most point-and-shoots
- micro four thirds found in some new mirrorless camera systems
- APS-C found in a huge number of DSLR’s and a few mirrorless cameras (including both my Canon 7D and my Sony NEX6)
- full frame, which is the same size as the 35mm film was, found in very expensive top of the line DSLR’s and a couple of mirrorless cameras.
This handy-dandy not very scientific graphic that I threw together demonstrates the sizes.
Understanding this makes the choices much easier. Obviously the best choice would be full frame. The full frame mirrorless cameras are:
- the Leica M-E (18MP CCD sensor) for $5,450;
- the Leica M (24MP CMOS sensor) for $6,950;
- the new Sony A7 (24MP CMOS sensor) for $1,700.
By the way, these prices are for the body only.
You can see why there’s been so much fan fare over the new Sony A7! If you can afford it, it’s the obvious choice. But for many people, myself included, the $1,700 price tag is out of my range when there are still lenses to buy. Especially considering that I already have a perfectly good Canon 7D.
I ruled out the micro four thirds cameras because there are affordable cameras with larger sensors, so why bother.
That left the variety of mirrorless cameras with the APS sensors. I first looked at the Canon because all of my SLR’s have been Canons. It was called the EOS-M. It had terrible reviews and it was a total lemon. I think they stopped making them.
Out of the cameras that were left, I used my tried and tested technique for finding the best one for me. This is what I do: I hold it in my hand and see if it feels good. I look at how you access the settings and see if everything I need is easily accessible. That’s it.
That’s how I picked Sony over Fuji. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the Fuji’s, don’t get me wrong. They both have awesome image quality and the same sized sensors. I simply picked the one that felt good.
For the record, I did also pick up an Olympus even though it has a smaller sensor. I know a lot of people like them, but the Sony just felt better to me and that’s why I picked it. Not very scientific I know! I’m just telling you how I came to pick my camera because people always ask me that.
NEX6 vs. NEX7
Now, why the NEX6 over the NEX7? The key factor in my decision is that the NEX6 has 16 mega-pixels and the NEX7 has 24. Now you might think that 24 is better than 16 because more is better right? Well, I don’t think so.
Remember the sensor is the same size so that means that the mega pixels are smaller on the NEX7. The reviews I read confirmed my suspicion that the NEX7 would not perform as well in low light conditions. And I don’t mean hand-held photography at night with a high ISO kind of low light. I’m referring to the ISO100, on a tripod, long exposure low light photography that I love.
It also costs $890 versus $650 for the NEX6. It doesn’t make sense to me to pay 40% more for a camera that *might* have lower image quality. Maybe it doesn’t have lower image quality. But I would rather put that extra money into a lens than into a body that might not be as good. That’s my theory.
NEX 6 vs. NEX5
By the way, the NEX5 is also an awesome camera! I bought one for my husband at the same time I bought my NEX6 and he loves it. It is virtually identical to the NEX6 with the biggest difference being that it doesn’t have a viewfinder. It’s all LCD and it has touch screen focus. For me, the lack of viewfinder was a deal breaker, but if you’re moving up from a point-and-shoot and you like using the LCD, by all means get the NEX5.
The results are in on the Sony NEX6. I LOVE IT!!!
Weight and Size
The biggest reason for switching to mirrorless is the unbelievable difference in weight and size between this camera and my Canon 7D. It is 3 times lighter and smaller!
For me, that is a massive difference because after having back surgery 15 years ago, I can only carry 20 pounds. With this camera I will be able to hike longer without getting back pain and I might even be able to take more lenses along.
Because there is no mirror in the mirrorless cameras (duh) the viewfinder is electronic, not a mirror image. I read that a lot of people don’t like the electronic viewfinder so I was expecting that might be a problem. But it turns out that it is awesome! The image that you see through the electronic viewfinder is actually being read off the image sensor itself, so you can focus and preview it exactly as it will be shot. Cool!
You know what’s even more cool? When you review your images after the shot, you don’t have to look on the LCD. You can look through the viewfinder and it’s just like looking through a loupe!
I didn’t know about that ahead of time and discovering it was a happy accident.
Accessing the settings
At first I was a little worried about the menu system. All my previous cameras were Canons and you get used to how the menus work.
In particular the settings menu has a bazillion options! The menu goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on …. you get the idea. It’s a little hard to find what you’re looking for.
However, everything I really need in the field is easily accessible via buttons on the back of the camera including ISO, exposure compensation, shooting mode, focus point, focus mode etc.
***A VERY IMPORTANT WARNING***
Do not buy the NEX6 with the 16-50 power zoom on it. It’s the stupidest lens ever, I hated it. I bought the kit like that to begin with and I took it back because the lens is so bad. I did a relatively scientific test on it and found that less than half of my images were in focus. I admit I didn’t buy it from my reputable local camera shop like I should have and that was a mistake.
I thought maybe I just got a bad lens. But when I went to my reputable local camera shop like I should have in the first place I found out that they are all like that. They told me that every single one they sold to a professional photographer with that lens on it came back to them so now they always recommend buying the body only.
I currently have the 18-55mm lens (it’s the one that comes with both the NEX5 and the NEX7) and the 55-210mm and both are excellent lenses. The next one on my wish list is the 10-18mm, but it’s expensive, ouch!
I just have to mention the very cool panorama feature. It’s just like it works on one of those phone apps where you simply hold the camera in front of you and start moving it around in a circle while it takes a whole whack of photos and puts them together for you in-camera. It doesn’t work well in extreme low light, but on an average day it works just great! No more stitching in photoshop!
Totally awesome! You can swivel the LCD up so you can hold your camera close to the ground and see what’s happening without having to lie on your stomach. It swivels down too so you can hold the camera way over your head and still see what’s in the viewfinder.
Frames per second
10!! 10!!!!! That’s even better than my 7D.
Ok, there has to be some cons right? Here’s what they are:
- You can’t use the 2 second timer in conjunction with auto bracketing. I know!! Come on Sony what’s with that? So since I like to use the 2 second time to prevent hand shake on my low light long exposures, I do the bracketing manually.
- The battery life is very short. Good thing the batteries are small and light. I just carry three of them and I’m good.
- It’s not great at focussing in low light. But really what camera is?
- Oddly I discovered that for some reason my hand shake is worse with the little camera than with the big camera! I don’t know if the big camera just grounds me more or what. The Canon 7D certainly fits my hand better. With the NEX I can see my hands shaking trying to keep the little camera still. The result is that my minimum shutter speed for hand-holding is a little higher with then NEX that it is with my 7D.
- There are not very many lenses available in comparison with a DSLR. But I’m sure that will change.
I absolutely recommend the Sony NEX6. Not only does it have all these great features in a lightweight package, but it’s so fun to use!
Here are some images I have made with it so far so you can see the image quality in a variety of situations. You can click any of the images to view larger versions.
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