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In the Field
Even a camera overflowing with noise-free resolving power would be worthless if you couldn’t control it properly. Ergonomics and controls are where the NEX-6 really showed its value.
Despite its small size, the camera has a pleasing grip: While not tall enough to accommodate your little finger (unless you have tiny hands), it nonetheless feels secure when you hold it. We also appreciate the space-saving strategy of placing the mode dial atop the command dial. The latter is easy enough to turn that you’re not likely to accidentally change modes when you meant only to, say, stop down the aperture.
Given that the NEX-7 lets you use three different command wheels independently, we were a little perplexed that the NEX-6 won’t let you assign a function to the wheel on the back of the camera when you are not in manual exposure mode. In that mode, the rear wheel controls shutter speed, but in aperture-priority mode, it controls nothing at all. Why can’t we program it to adjust exposure compensation or ISO? These each are quickly accessible via the shortcuts on the four-way controller, yes, but having exposure compensation at the ready on a command wheel can be a great boon to shooting in autoexposure modes. (Note to Sony: Please consider a firmware update to remedy this.)
In addition to the usual cool Sony features, such as Sweep Panorama (for automatic stitching), Handheld Twilight (for low-noise low-light shots), and Auto HDR, the NEX-6 adds built-in Wi-Fi as well as the same focus-peaking found in the Alpha 99 (see our description of that in the test here) for easier manual focusing.
You can pair the NEX-6 with your iPhone or Android device via a download of Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app, which allows you to simply and easily transfer images from the camera to your phone for upload to your favorite image-sharing website or app. Once set up, the process becomes pleasingly seamless. On one occasion, we were able to share an image immediately after it was shot, and we already had a request for a print by the time we got home. This helped us prioritize our RAW conversions.
As is typically the case in ILCs of late, the NEX-6 focuses quickly in bright light and slows down noticeably in dimmer scenarios. Switching from the kit lens to Sony’s fancy (and pricey) 24mm f/1.8 sped things up, thanks to the extra light hitting the sensor. The autofocus system did a reasonable job of keeping up with moving subjects once it achieved its initial lock.
Video shot with the NEX-6 compares favorably with footage captured with other APS-C-format mirrorless cameras—there’s plenty of detail and pleasingly saturated colors. Plus, the AVCHD files should be fairly easy to work with in most video-editing software.