Let me get this out of the way first: I am an official Sony Global Ambassador of imaging which means I am affiliated with Sony. That said, I wrote this article from my own ideas and perspectives. The main reason I am writing this article is because I am often asked what camera I would recommend for people ‘on a budget’. Most of the times I would recommend be the A6000. There are several reasons why and I am trying to explain those in this article. This article also has a review aspect in it which isn’t only to promote the camera. I am addressing both it’s positive and negative points.
It’s an old camera, why buy it now?
The A6000 was first announced in February 2014. In the ‘Sony camerabody world’ this seems ages as Sony is updating their camera bodies frequently. The A6000 currently has 2 successors, the A6300 and the A6500. Please don’t ask me about their numbering regarding the A6000 series. I’ve had discussions about it and it just seems totally random. The Sony A7 body naming with the S for sensitivity and R for resolution makes much more sense. So that brings me to the other reason I am writing this article now, about 1.5 years after its initial release with already 2 successors. That’s exactly the point: I’ve heard people complaining about the quick upgrades of the A6xxx line but the great thing about it is: The original A6xxx keeps dropping in price! I even saw the body for less than 400 USD at B&H and Amazon currently, which is a bargain for this camera. For the sake of this article and the 'bargain' aspect I shot most of the sample images (especially at the end) with the kit lens to show what it is capable of.
The A6000 kit with the (interchangeable) 16-50mm kit lens and 1 battery
For the people fairly new to cameras in general and the current ‘mirrorless hype’, let’s talk about mirrors a bit. If you’re an experienced mirrorless camera user you can skip reading this and the ‘interchangeable lens’ part. Key points of mirrors cameras are that they (obviously) do not have a mirror, so they are lighter and more compact. They are based on live view and a digital viewfinder. It basically makes them perfect to quickly grab, put them in your handbag or even your pocket and bring them around everywhere. There are a lot of different mirror less cameras with different camera sensors.
The A6000 is an allrounder where image quality and speed are its key points. While the camera has been out for a while the image quality is still great for the current generation of cameras. If we go back in time, people known with the Sony cameras will probably remember the NEX series. The A6xxx series are the successors of the NEX series. The A6000 has an APS-c sensor meaning it is around 1.5x smaller than a full frame sensor. A smaller sensor has advantages and disadvantages in general. Obviously, the biggest advantage is that it’s smaller, so the camera body can be smaller and the native lenses are smaller too. That means that the whole package weight is a lot lighter than a full frame package also. Another important thing is the price of not only the camera but also the lenses. APS-c lenses are generally cheaper than full frame lenses. The disadvantages are that you will have to give in regarding some aspects of image quality regarding dynamic range and especially ISO performance (more noise at higher ISO). In general, the average hobby photographer will not really notice the differences.
The A6000 kit is very compact. I say ‘kit’ because you generally buy a body with the 16-50mm kit lens. This lens can be changed for a different lens. The Sony A6000 has the famous E-mount meaning it can fit any lens that has the E-mount fitting, including the full frame lenses for the A7x series. And there are a lot of choices these days! The Sony E-mount is currently very popular and not only Sony but also lots of other brands like Zeiss and Samyang have a wide variety of lenses available. Like full frame and APS-c bodies differ in sensor size, full frame lenses and APS-c lenses also differ in size. They have the same mount but are meant for a different sensor. Full frame E-mount lenses fit perfectly fine on the APS-c sensor of the A6000, although the sensor only uses part of the lens (the center) because the sensor is smaller. This has no impact on image quality. Keep in mind though, that a full frame lens has 1.5x more ‘reach’ on a crop sensor because you’re only using the center of the lens. A 50mm lens would turn into 75mm equivalent (with a 50mm DOF) because of the crop sensor.
The Sony A6000 kit has a 16-50mm kit lens. For the average photographer this is good enough. It’s extremely small which makes the whole package great to carry around. This is important for a lot of people. The image quality of the kit lens is decent, especially at 16mm. And if you ever want to upgrade, no problem. There are lots of ‘upgrades’ to choose from regarding both wide angle lenses and tele zooms. I’m a big fan of the Sony 10-18 f/4 and the Zeiss Tuit 12mm f/2.8 regarding wide angle lenses. Almost all lenses can be adapted to fit the Sony E-mount. For example Canon or Nikon lenses can be used with an adapter or even very old manual lenses that you might have lying around from the past. In some cases (especially with old manual lenses) the autofocus will obviously not work.
You can go as crazy as you want. Here I am using a Sigma 150-600c (full frame) lens on the A6000 body via the Sigma MC-11 adapter which makes the body look so small. This lens now gives me a 225-900mm range on the 24mp sensor of the A6000. Perfect for photographing butterflies, birds or even the moon!
weight: 285 Gram
Autofocus points: 179
Resolution: 24.3 Megapixel (6000x4000 pixels)
Sensitivity: ISO 100 - 51200
Frames per second: 11 fps
Video: Full HD 1080P (no 4k)
Liveview and electronic viewfinder
Display can be flipped
Wifi : Yes
In built flash: Yes
The Sony A6000 is a typical allrounder. There are some properties that really show it's all round capabilities like it's speed in taking photos as well as focusing in combination with it's great image quality at 24 Megapixels. It also has a built in Flash, which the A7x (full frame) cameras do not have. You can of course put another flash unit on it. The speed of the A7x bodies is also not as fast as the A6xxx bodies including the A6000. Apart from photography the A6000 shoots very decent video with the only downside that it does not shoot 4k.
As stated earlier the A6000 shoots an impressive 11 frames per second in RAW format with autofocus tracking. If you’re interested in doing fast action shooting this camera will hold up well. It’s recommended to buy a fast memory card though! With the 179 autofocus point spread across the sensor the camera is fast and accurate even in lower light.
This is an example of the A6000 in action where I made 20 photos by just holding the shutter button. These were made by hand (no tripod) with the following settings: 1/320 shutter, f/4.0, ISO 320, with the kit lens at 16mm.
All the photo info is displayed realtime on the display of the A6000. The display can easily be flipped so you don’t have to lie on the ground when shooting low angles. The big advantage of live view is you can see exactly what you’re doing. ‘What you see is what you get.’ That means if you change settings like shutter speed or aperture you immediately see what influence it has on your photograph. This is different when you’re used to a traditional DSLR where you have to take a photo first to see what kind of effect certain settings have. The A6000 also has an electronic viewfinder where you can look through. The Liveview of the A6000 also gives some other interesting functions like focus peaking. Focus peaking displays where your focus is by showing coloured dots on where the focus exactly is. This is nice for focusing with manual lenses especially.
Focus peaking in action. You can see the red dots around the tree to see that the focus is aimed at the tree.
People who are used to basic camera functions and menus will quickly find their way. For less experienced people the wide amount of options and settings may be a bit overwhelming in the beginning. The good point is that everything is very customisable. You can set up the camera exactly how you want it to be. Most of the buttons are programmable meaning you can put different functions to different buttons. For example, I put White Balance and Focus modes on different customisable buttons that are in natural positions for me. Even buttons that already have standard functions can still be changed to different ones via the menu. The menu structure can be a bit confusing as not everything is at a very logical place. This takes some time getting used to. The camera also has Wifi. This is nice if you quickly want to transfer some photos from your camera to your smartphone. The camera can also be remotely controlled via the Sony Play memories App through your smartphone.
For people that shoot in RAW: The dynamic range of the Sony A6000 is simply good. Raising shadows from near black with almost no noise or pushing back highlights goes very well as long as everything is shot inside the histogram. If you shoot JPG, there’s an option called DRO (Dynamic Range Optimisation) that automatically optimises your files by raising the shadows and crushing the highlights a bit, giving you a JPG that looks more balanced out. There’s also and auto HDR function where the camera makes multiple shots and combines them for you. Needless to say I almost never use these functions as I always shoot RAW. This is an example of the RAW Dynamic Range:
This is a shot that I underexposed to still get the detail in the sky. There was enough shadow detail to easily lift them up in Lightroom:
There’s very few noise in the shadows in the final result.
The ISO of the A6000 can be pushed up to 51200. Normally you wouldn’t use a high ISO like this because of the high amount of noise. I would say that the A6000 is perfectly usable up to around ISO 3200. ISO 6400 is possible but the noise becomes apparent. For a compact system-camera the A6000 performs very well regarding ISO performance. It beats a lot of older full frame DSLR cameras and even some current ones. Examples:
ISO 3200 with the kit lens at 32mm, f/6.3, 1/8s shot by hand. Directly out of the camera without any edits. 100% crop (left).
ISO 800 with kit lens at 16mm, f/3.5, 1/200s. Directly out of the camera, no edits
ISO 1600 with kit lens at 50mm, f/5.6, 1/400s. Crop in which I adjusted the exposure a bit in LR.
Things that could be better
The A6000 does a lot of things well but could have some improvements. The battery doesn’t last extremely long. This of course depends how you use your camera, but it’s mainly because of the fact that the camera is small so the batteries are small too. I usually carry a lot of extra batteries with me which is not a problem at all as they weigh next to nothing and are very small and easy to carry with you. I would recommend buying 1 or 2 extras. Another tiny complaint is that the camera does not have touch screen. Touch screen is not important for me at all, but it might be something some people would find important. The newest model in the A6xxx series, the A6500 does have touch screen.
- The A6000 is the perfect allround camera on a budget.
- Very compact (when used with compact lenses).
- Excellent image quality because of good Dynamic range and ISO performance.
- Fast 11 fps with autofocus.
- Possible to use almost any lens on the Sony E-mount.
- Great ‘Bang for Buck’
- Battery life could be better.
- No touchscreen
So why is this camera still a great buy?
If you’re a hobby photographer and you don't want to spend thousands of euros on a camera then the A6000 is a great choice. It’s a great allrounder and offers many upgrade possibilities regarding lenses. With it’s wide variety of options and professional features this camera is a good choice for both starting photographers as well as the more pro oriented photographers. The starters kit with the 16-50mm kit lens is a perfect entry kit for the starting photographer that will not be let down when advancing to a more advanced/pro photographer regarding skills. This camera definitely has years ahead of itself before it will be considered ‘old’. It’s compact and easy to carry around. Even if you already have a DSLR camera you can still easily bring it along without it being a lot of extra weight. A big DSLR camera often doesn’t go everywhere with you while you could fit the A6000 even in your pocket to bring along with you. It can also use your lenses via an adapter if you would already have some.
Let’s quickly go back to the start of this article to the question ‘Why buy it now?’ As I said in the beginning of this article: Because of the new A6300 and A6500, the A6000 will keep dropping in price while it’s core features are great for a lot of photographers with its price being low for the amount of quality you’re getting. It’s in my opinion simply the best ‘bang for buck’ kit you can currently find in it’s price range. The Image quality is on par (if not better) with camera’s twice the price of the A6000.
More sample images:
Hand-shot with kit lens, 16mm, f/7.1, 1/25s, ISO 100
Hand-shot with kit lens, 43mm, f/8, 1/30s, ISO 100
Tipod, kit lens, 22mm, f/8, 1/40s, ISO 100
Tipod, kit lens, 50mm, f/8, 1/6s, ISO 100
Photo to show the sunstar of the kit lens at f/22, 22mm, f/22, 1/80s, ISO 100
Hand-shot, kit lens, 17mm, f/6.3, 1/15s, ISO 200