04/22/2013 11:35 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2013

Sony Alpha NEX-6 Almost the Top of the Heap

2013-04-20-nex6crop.png What Is It? The Sony Alpha NEX-6 is the company's not quite top of the line Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens camera. The main difference from the top of the line NEX-7, besides being $100 cheaper, is the lower number of pixels, 16.1MP on the NEX-6 versus 24.3MP on the NEX-7. The menu system on the NEX-6 is a little different, and the NEX-6 offers Wi-Fi connectivity, while the NEX-7 does not. The NEX-6 also offers a faster and more accurate auto focusing system than the NEX-7. The Wi-Fi enhancement is a pretty big deal since it allows you to not only share your photos wireless through email or social media, but it also allows you to download third party software that enhances the camera's feature suite. The kit lens on the NEX-6 is a very compact 16-50mm lens. It's a decent basic lens, but if you're any kind of photographer, you'll want to add a couple of Sony's better grade e-mount lenses. We used two of them. The Sony SEL1018, 10-18mm wide angle zoom lens


which offers the sweeping view of a fisheye without the distortion, will set you back as much as the camera, a substantial $850. We also shot with the Sony SEL 18200

2013-04-20-jumer1crp.jpg, an

incredibly versatile 18-200mm lens that costs $900. Sony also makes a slightly less bulky version, the SEL18200LE, which has the same range, but costs $50 less. However we found the more expensive lens is sharper, especially at longer distance. Of course, with a zoom lens with that kind of range, you give up some sharpness at the corners, but you get a lens that's good for the vast majority of shooting situations. If you're hitting the road for some serious sightseeing, I think you can easily travel with just two lenses, the 18-200 and either the 10-18 or another super wide angle or fisheye. If you want to take video with the NEX-6, it will give you a 1080p HD picture. And with the NEX-6, Sony altered the position of the video button so it's tougher to trigger accidentally (which was a problem for the NEX-7).

Is It Boomer Friendly? The NEX-6 offers a bright tiltable LCD display screen, though I much prefer using the camera's built-in through the lens OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) so I don't have to worry about the LCD getting washed out in the sun. I would rate the EVF as probably a key mission critical feature that separates the NEX-6 from most comparably priced rivals. Most of the cameras major functions can be accessed from a dial on top, while menus and shooting tips can be found using the buttons and dial on the back of the camera. I enjoyed the simple shooting tips, especially in choosing scene modes. But you should be prepared for a learning curve. The camera has more modes and more features than most photographers are likely to use in a lifetime. Lenses are easy to exchange, and the Sony E-mount system makes it easy to use an adapter that will fit your legacy lenses from Nikon, Canon, or others. The slot that holds the SD card next to the battery compartment is pretty snug, and you may have an issue if, like me, you have fat fingers.

Frustration Factor? I found the NEX-6 relatively easy to get up and running, and to do the initial setup. But, unless you've worked with Sony's menu system, you should be prepared to spend a couple of hours learning your way around the menu choices before you hit the road. After all, once you've invested in this gear you don't want to miss the picture of a lifetime because you didn't know the right setting to use.

Is It Worth the Money? Sony lists the NEX-6 with an 16-50mm kit lens for $900. We've been able to find it online for $875. If you're willing to get the body without the lens, you'll find it online for as little as $748. In comparison, the higher end NEX-7 costs $1000 from Sony without any lens. And the NEX-5R, which has many of the same specs but lacks the electronic viewfinder, is available with a 18-55mm kit lens for $650 from Sony. Among other popular mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras are those from Samsung, Olympus, Fujifilm, Panasonic and Nikon. With the exception of one Panasonic model that comes in at about $500, the offerings from the rest of the pack with an electronic viewfinder (a key feature of the NEX-6 in my view) are all several hundred dollars more than this Sony. In short, if you're looking for a fully featured interchangeable lens camera with an electronic viewfinder, you're not likely to do much better on the combination of quality, features, functionality, and price than the NEX-6.

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