Get the NEX-7's top features at a lower price
What do you do when your award-winning interchangeable-lens compact camera has too many fans that can’t afford to buy it? If you were Sony, you’d take most of what everyone loves about the Alpha NEX-7 and put it into a body that’s a better fit for their wallets—the NEX-6 ($848, street, body only; $998 with 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 lens).
The new model has a very similar body design, the same lovely OLED electronic view-finder as its pricier sibling, and the same change-on-the-fly soft-key interface common to all of Sony’s E-mount ILCs. It also uses Sony’s new more-standard Multi Interface Shoe in place of the NEX-7’s legacy Minolta hot-shoe.
What’s missing? The NEX-6 dials down the pixel count—to 16.1MP from 24.3MP on the NEX-7—and eliminates the third command dial. As you might guess, fewer pixels mean that the NEX-6 loses the resolution battle to the NEX-7, but it also brings better noise performance.
In the Test Lab
Since Sony doesn’t yet produce a real E-mount equivalent to the 50mm f/1.4 that we typically use as a test lens, we continue to test its NEX cameras with their respective kit lenses. In this case, that’s the 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS retractable zoom. We set the lens to 35mm (approximately a 52mm full-frame equivalent) and then captured our test images at f/8 as we always do. Under those conditions, the NEX-6 earned a Very High rating in overall image quality from ISO 100 through ISO 3200. At lower ISOs, resolution was the limiting factor, while noise became the limit at higher ISOs.
Although it came quite close to our lower cutoff of 2250 lines per picture height for an Extremely High rating, the NEX-6’s resolution of 2225 lines at ISO 100 managed only a Very High rating. It held on to enough res to remain Very High up to ISO 12,800 with 2000 lines, the bottom edge of that rating.
To compare, Panasonic’s Lumix GX1 with its kit lens served up 2530 lines at ISO 100 and 2180 lines at ISO 12,800. But the GX1’s images were also significantly noisier at its software’s default noise-reduction settings. We suspect that if you applied enough noise reduction to get the GX1 to match the NEX-6’s noise results at ISO 12,800, then the Panasonic would fall behind the Sony in resolution.
A similar scenario plays out with Fujifilm’s X-Pro 1, though this model showed better noise control than the Panasonic and would give the Sony stronger competition at ISO 12,800. The Fujifilm is significantly more expensive, though, and targets a different kind of photographer.
In our color accuracy test, the NEX-6 barely earned an Excellent rating with an average Delta E of 7.9. By comparison, the Panasonic GX1 turned in an impressive 5.8, while the Fujifilm X-Pro1 was one of the rare cameras to receive the one-notch-lower Extremely High rating, with a Delta E of 9.3.
When we factor noise into our overall image quality rating, we look for the span of ISOs for which the noise rating is Low or better. The NEX-6 meets this criterion from ISO 100 through ISO 3200. However, it’s worth noting that up to ISO 1600, the NEX-6 showed Very Low or Extremely Low ratings. This is outstanding for an ILC and it even beats such DSLRs as Canon’s EOS Rebel T4i and EOS-1D X, as well as Nikon’s D4.