When it entered the mirrorless market with the NEX-3 and NEX-5 back in 2010, Sony, along with Panasonic and Olympus, saw vast potential to attract the millions of compact camera users who wanted better image quality but without the bulk of a DSLR. Today, however, as the smartphone market continues to erode compact camera sales we see camera makers increasingly turning their attention to a smaller – but potentially more eager – group. Namely, enthusiasts who want a lighter, more compact DSLR alternative, but still demand the level of customization and camera control to which they’ve grown accustomed.
Accordingly, the past couple of years have seen a rash of high-end interchangeable lens cameras like theSony NEX-7, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Panasonic DMC-GX1 and Fujifilm X-E1, which in both price and feature set are aimed well beyond point and shoot upgraders (ironically, the constituency that was originally supposed to be most profitable for ILC manufacturers).
With the announcement of the NEX-6,
Sony appears to be refining the high-end concept by merging much of the technology from the NEX-7 with the connectivity options of the NEX-5R. In essence, the NEX-6 combines the hallmarks of an enthusiast-oriented camera – control dials and a high-quality viewfinder – with Wi-Fi functionality and apps. Oddly though, considering it has created a camera that is obviously designed to appeal to smartphone owners, Sony has removed the touchscreen operation found in the NEX-5N and 5R.
The NEX-6 and NEX-7 are so similar in both appearance and specification (save for the latter’s 24MP sensor) that a lot of people might wonder whether the flagship model is still relevant.The NEX-6 offers
the same stunning 2.3 million dot OLED EVF, a built-in flash, 1080/60p video, and even adds an exposure mode dial and (finally) an ISO standard hotshoe connection. It also gains the NEX-5R’s hybrid phase/contrast-detection AF system. The NEX-6 is missing the NEX-7′s Tri-Navi three-dial controls, but this seems unlikely to be a deal-breaker for most photographers. A few minor features from the NEX-7 have been chopped as well, such as 3D panoramas, automatic LCD brightness adjustment, and a handful of Creative Styles.
Now about that hybrid AF system. The NEX-6
, like the NEX-5R, uses a modified CMOS sensor which accommodates pixels devoted to performing phase-detection to provide a hybrid autofocus system. The phase-detection pixels are used to determine depth information about the focus target, which means the camera has to perform less hunting to hit accurate focus. Sony is the fourth manufacturer (following Fujifilm, Nikon and Canon) to go down this route, with the potential of faster focus, improved continuous focus performance and better autofocus in movie shooting. The NEX-6 has
99 phase detection ‘AF points’, ranged in the middle of the frame.
And as with the NEX-5R, the NEX-6 has built-in DLNA-compliant
Wi-Fi and on-camera apps. While the app collection is rather limited at the moment (currently only eight are are available), Sony has made
clear it plans to expand offerings in the near future. And the possibility of enhancing your camera’s current capabilities through user-friendly app downloads, as opposed to firmware updates is one that could be worth the wait.
The Wi-Fi capability allows you to push images from the NEX-6 to an iOS or Android smartphone, to your Mac or PC, or straight to Facebook (or Sony’s PlayMemories site) across a Wi-Fi network. You can also use your smartphone as a remote viewfinder/trigger. We’ve covered the NEX-6′s connectivity
options in detailin these pages.