“The best camera is the one that’s with you.” – Chase Jarvis.
Before mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras existed, an ordinary amateur photographer had two choices: buy a big, bulky DSLR, or buy a fixed-lens point-and-shoot with a much smaller sensor. Sony released their first mirrorless camera in 2010, seeking to attract amateur photographers who were complaining about the sizes of entry-level DSLR cameras. And, I must say, they have succeeded. Not only did the Sony NEX series attracted amateur photographers, it also attracted people who love to experiment – the “Photography Nerds”. I definitely consider myself a photography nerd. I’ve owned the NEX3, the NEX5 and now I’m a proud and happy owner of the Sony NEX6.
I will try to avoid getting into specifications of the camera, you can find the full list here, on Sony’s official website.
Take a DSLR camera, take the mirror out and reduce the size of the body to an absolute minimum. It basically leaves you with a control unit, a battery, a sensor, a screen and a mount for the lens. This, in turn, results in a camera body that’s as thick as my thumb. Sounds good? Sounds good.
Now I don’t hear this mentioned often in mirrorless camera reviews, but taking out the mirror means you can use virtually any camera lens (with manual controls) by using an appropriate adaptor. This opens a door to endless possibilities. (See “Lens Bubbles”)
Not much can be said about it. It’s a rectangle with some buttons on it. There’s no unnecessary “bling”. The grip is very comfortable and it makes the camera easy to hold and handle. The body is made from rigid plastic with a speckled texture, the grip is covered in a rubberised leather-effect material. The lens mount, of course, is machined from metal, possibly stainless steel.
Also, the camera’s tiny. But Sony hasn’t sacrificed any of the essentials: the NEX6 has an electronic viewfinder, a tilt-screen and a big, retro-style mode selector with a shiny adjustment wheel underneath it. It features a pop-out flash that can be tilted back in order to bounce the light and give the shot some indirect lighting (very useful, Sony!)
Form vs. Function.
Form follows function. As mentioned before, the camera is sized down to bare essentials. There are no useless buttons, no secondary wheels, no pointless shapes with no purpose. Everything is there because it has to be there. Bonus points to Sony for grouping buttons and saving space. The on/off switch is carefully combined with the shutter button, the mode selector sits comfortably on top of the adjustment wheel. This makes the design cleaner and simpler, without compromising the usability.
I think it’s absolutely brilliant. Personally, my favourite features of the camera are:
Adaptability. Having the option to use any manual lens.
Wi-Fi. Having the option to control the camera from my smartphone.
The overall size.
The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and focus peaking.
Ergonomics. You can operate the camera fully with just one hand.
USB charging with the option to remove the battery for external charging.
Accessories. Cases, tampered glass protectors, “Speed Boosters” (a.k.a. focal reducers)
The cost. Having the option to mount almost any manual lens on it means that you can become a lens-hoarder for the price of a night-out.
However, not everything is unicorns and rainbows. The interface and the menus are a giant maze. My personal suggestion for any new Sony NEX user would be to take a day-off, unpack the camera, open the user manual and spend the day setting it up. Once it’s set up the way you like it, it becomes a bit less painful to navigate it, but it’s still a hassle. Good thing you don’t have to do it often.
NEX6 comes with an amazing viewfinder. Actually it’s so good that the screen becomes obsolete and rather unnecessary. You can use the viewfinder to take pictures, review photos, navigate the menus, etc. Sunlight and glare-free. The fact that they have added a tilting mechanism to the screen puzzles me even more. This is the only area where they could further minimise the camera and its weight.
Lastly, I must hand it to Sony. They knew that people will go crazy and experiment with different lens set-ups. They knew that there are two kinds of people: the users and the advanced users. They knew they would lose money by not forcing people to use proprietary lenses. But they still chose to implement all the manual focusing aids and allowed users to use non-E-mount lenses. Thank you, Sony.
P.S. Sony, please hire some more UX/UI people. Pretty please.
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