Verdict: 3 stars ★★★
It’s one of the cheapest mirrorless cameras on the market, yet it has a 24-megapixel sensor, an electronic viewfinder, 11fps shooting and advanced hybrid autofocus. So what’s the catch?
The A6000 is an APS-C mirrorless camera first launched by Sony in February 2014. It has a rectangular ‘rangefinder’ style shape rather than a DSLR-type design but incorporates an electronic viewfinder, which is an advantage in any mirrorless camera and rare at this price.
Since its launch, the A6000 has been superseded twice; once by the A6300 in early 2016, which brought a more advanced autofocus system, 4K video and touchscreen control, and again by the A6500 in late 2016, which added a better buffer capacity for continuous shooting and in-body image stabilisation.
Through all this, though, the A6000 has remained on sale, getting cheaper and cheaper, until it now undercuts more novice-orientated mirrorless cameras which don’t even have viewfinders.
This isn’t a camera for beginners, though. It does have full auto and scene modes, but the A6000 is aimed at a more advanced users, and the low price is simply a result of it having stayed on the market for so long.
Sony A6000 specifications
• Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 24.3MP
• ISO range: 100-25,600
• Autofocus: 179-point phase detection, 25-point contrast detect
• Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
• Video: 1920 x 1080 at up to 60/50p
• Viewfinder: Electronic, 1,440k dots
• Screen: 3-inch TFT, 921k dots
• Memory: 1x Memory Stick Duo/SD/SDHC/SDXC
• Battery: NP-FW50, 350 shots
• Weight: 344g (body only, with battery and card)
• Dimensions: 120 x 66.9 x 45.1mm
It was launched over four years ago in 2014, but the A6000’s specifications look pretty fresh even now. You don’t get 4K video – it’s limited to full HD – and it doesn’t have a touch-screen interface, but then not everyone is looking for that.
But what it does have is a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, which is still the highest resolution currently available in this format, an electronic viewfinder (where most entry-level mirrorless cameras don’t), a continuous shooting speed of 11 frames per second and a hybrid phase detection/contrast autofocus system that still looks pretty good today.
That is a lot of camera for the prices currently being asked, but there are some drawbacks. This is a four-year-old sensor design, so the image quality at higher ISOs isn’t quite as good as a more modern camera’s, and the electronic viewfinder’s resolution isn’t as high as most these days. The bigger problems, though, revolve around handling quirks and the question of where Sony is actually going with its APS-C cameras.
So first the handling. There are two control dials, which is what enthusiasts will look for since it makes it easier to make manual exposure adjustments, but one of them is part of the four-way navigational controller on the rear, and these are almost always awkward to use because you often end up clicking when you meant to spin.
The rear screen is a bit below par too, partly because it’s easily swamped by glare in bright light and partly because it shows smears really easily. If you’re out shooting in bright sun, you’ll have to keep finding bits of shade so that you can see the screen properly to check your pictures.
That’s not the only thing wrong with this screen. It’s a 3-inch display, which sounds fine on paper, but it has a 16:9 aspect ratio, so it’s fine for video, but when you’re shooting stills, there are black bars on the left and right edges and your pictures look quite small.
And then there’s the kit lens. Sony’s 16-50mm PZ (power zoom) lens is pretty compact, but its image quality is poor even for a kit lens – and that’s saying something. The centre of the image is adequate on our sample, but the edge softness is pretty objectionable. It’s worse than pretty much any other kit lens we’ve used and could really do with being replaced by something better.
But what? There’s not really been a sniff of a new Sony APS-C mirrorless camera since the launch of the A6500 in 2016, and while Sony does release the odd APS-C format lens now and again (like its recent 18-135mm), it seems to be putting almost all of its efforts into its full frame mirrorless cameras. Third party lens makers also support the A6000’s E-mount lens system, but not in any great numbers. This doesn’t feel like a system that’s really going anywhere right now.
If you’re looking for a compact, low-cost mirrorless camera, the A6000 is a great deal. It’s capable of great image quality and it has features to satisfy the enthusiast as well as the beginner. But the handling isn’t great, you don’t get 4K video, there’s no touchscreen display and lens development seems to have slowed. It’s a great bargain buy for a cash-strapped enthusiast, but not a great choice for building a future system.
You could forget about the viewfinder and go for something a bit more modern and stylish, like the Fujifilm X-A5, or go for the excellent Panasonic GX80. It has a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor and 16MP rather than 24MP, but it’s small and neat, it too has a viewfinder and it shoots 4K video. Both are cheaper than the A6000.