Amazing mirrorless camera that can pretty much do it all at a great price, reviewed by a casual photographer.
I've been in the market for a new camera for a while now. I needed to replace an old DSLR that was past its prime. Getting a new DSLR was logical but I always hated how bulky the thing was. I'm not a professional photographer and don't want to drag around 50 pounds of camera equipment. On the flip side, a point and shoot wasn't quite powerful enough for my needs. And smartphone cameras? They're good but not cutting it.
Certainly there must be something in between those options? Something that doesn't weigh a ton and doesn't cost a lot. As it turns out, there are! For me, the Sony A6000 was the obvious choice. I'll detail out the things I think are important to know about this camera. I'm not trying to write an in depth review here, more of a detailed overview intended for the casual photographer.
Mirrorless Versus DSLRThe Sony A6000 (also called the Sony Alpha 6000) is a mirror-less camera, but what does that even mean and why do you care? A mirrorless camera simply means that there is no mirror that the light from the lens has to bounce off of. The light goes through the lens and into the image sensor directly. By comparison, a DSLR uses a mirror that bounce the light from the lens onto the image sensor.
The advantage of a DSLR is that you look through the viewfinder and see what the lens sees which is an optical view. With a mirrorless design like the A6000, when you look in the viewfinder you're looking at a tiny LCD panel which is the same as looking at the LCD on the back of the camera.
Is this good or bad? The Internet loves to debate this one and even professional photographers are divided on the subject. The advantage of a mirrorless design, like the A6000, is that the camera can be smaller and lighter. Sold!
Some will argue that having an LCD behind the viewfinder isn't a good thing since it's lower resolution than an optical view through the lens. For a casual camera user like myself it makes no difference at all. In fact, I like seeing the LCD through the viewfinder as it contains all of the camera settings, image information, etc as I look through it.
FeaturesThe Sony A6000 is a small camera, but it's not point and shoot small. It's not going to drop in your pocket. It comes with a shoulder strap but compared to a DSLR it won't kill your neck after hours of walking around with it. With 24 mega pixel images, it's a lot of camera in a small package.
I bought the "kit" version which comes with the regular 16-50mm lens as well as a 65-210mm zoom lens. The basic lens is an all around great lens for capturing most of your shots. It does well close up, in portrait use, and is excellent for landscapes. It's also very small which I like. The zoom lens does a great job and brings those far away shots close up. It's also an excellent for those fun portrait shots with a crisp subject and blurred background. Switching lenses is easy and done in seconds.
The back of the camera has a large LCD panel which works great until you're outside in the sun at which point it's worthless. It does fold out so you can sometimes get a better view of it but on a sunny day you'll use the viewfinder most of the time.
The main dial on the camera lets you quickly and easily adjust the mode. It has a standard "full auto" option that does a great job in most situations. When you want to get more creative but don't want to deal with manual settings you can easily switch to Scene mode and tell the camera what type of shot you want. The Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes give you a lot of control over the camera without having to be a pro. True professionals can jump to the full manual mode. You also don't have to know a ton about ISO and F-Stops in order to adjust them to your liking.
It's also fun to play with panorama mode which is as easy as holding down the shutter button and sweeping the camera to one direction. The camera snaps a zillion shots (give or take) and stitches them together. It's very accurate even if you're not perfectly steady.
Want to shoot high quality movies? This thing has you covered with full 1080p videos at 60 frames per second. It does an amazing job at making super crisp videos.
There are a lot of settings and buttons to familiarize yourself with but it's far less complicated than it looks at first glance. After a few hours of use you'll have a good grasp on 90% of the various functions this camera offers. Or, at least the 90% that you'll end up using.
Hold My HandI really like that the Sony tends to hold my hand while I learn how to use the camera. There was no full blown printed manual to read through, but it doesn't need one. There are some "help" articles built in to show you what various modes do. But the camera is just so good that it helps you take a great shot in most scenarios. If you don't know what you're doing then the full auto has you covered. If you're learning, you'll have the scene selection modes to get you started.
On top of those, the camera is incredibly fast. Meaning, it can focus and shoot super fast that it's easy to get a sharp image. It also has an amazing burst mode that lets you shoot at 11 frames per second. That means you push the shutter button down and it will snap off 11 photos in a single second. Perfect for getting those action shots. Just "spray and pray" as your kid dives for first base and you're sure to get at least one good shot in the bunch.
ConclusionIf your're a casual photographer that wants more than their smartphone or point and shoot can offer then this might be the camera for you. If you've had a DSLR before and it's time to upgrade, I bet this is a good camera for you. It's a professional level camera for the average user.
Is it perfect? No, of course not. Can I find the flaws? No, not really. I've read enough reviews to know that in very low light it can be a bit noisy (grainy images). I've played a bit with that and to my eye it takes amazing low light shots compared to my old DSLR, but I can see how there are limits. Toss it in HDR mode and fire off 5 different exposures and it does amazing things even in low light.
If I had to pick one flaw it would be a lack of GPS. The cheapest of phones have a GPS chip in them, why doesn't an $800+ camera? This thing should be geotagging every image I take but it doesn't. Sure, there are ways around this through your smartphone and software that will geocode your images after the fact. But I want a built in solution that just works! It would probably add $1 to the cost of the camera, it's such a no-brainer yet it's missing.
I'd also like an LCD I can see in full sun, but then again almost every device on the planet suffers from that issue. I also wouldn't mind a slightly beefier battery even if it isn't what I would call bad in terms of how long it lasts on a charge.
These are all nitpicking items. Well, the GPS is a serious complaint, but the rest are minor issues. Everything about this camera is so good otherwise and I'm very pleased with it. Shop around for the best price are buy the Sony A6000 on Amazon.com. You'll also want a large SD card like this Sony 128Gb card. Or, grab a camera bundle that includes everything and then some.
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