With the launch of the Sony A6000, Sony introduced what amounted to an APS-C version of the full-frame Alpha 7. At the same time, two old NEX lines, the NEX-7 and the NEX-6, were discontinued. Sony expects the NEX-7 owner to upgrade to the A7 range, while the A6000 was designed to meet the needs of the NEX-6 owner, sitting at the top of the company’s APS-C enthusiast line.
Small and sleek, the A6000 has a similar look and feel to the A7. It featured a newly designed 24.3-million-pixel APS-C CMOS sensor and it competed at the time with the likes of the Fujifilm X-E2, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the Panasonic Lumix G6. Today, its low price point puts it up against entry-level DSLRs and beginner-friendly mirrorless cameras, but although we consider it one of the best cameras for beginners because of its price, it’s actually more powerful than these.
Even now, we consider the Sony A6000 is one of the best mirrorless cameras, mostly because of its performance, longevity and sheer value for money. It's certainly still one of the best Sony cameras you can buy, despite the countless new iterations that have come along since.
Model number: ILCE-6000
Sensor: 24.3 million APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm) CMOS sensor
Focal length conversion: 1.5x
Viewfinder: Electronic viewfinder, 0.39 inches, 1,440,000 dots
ISO range: 100 to 25,600
Autofocus points: 179 phase detection points, 25 contrast detect points
Max burst rate: 11fps
Screen: 3-inch, 921k-dot tilting LCD
Shutter speeds: 1/4000-30sec plus Bulb
Weight: 344g (with battery and memory card)
Dimensions: 120 x 66.9 x 45.1mm
Power: NP-FW50 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
The A6000 is equipped with a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, which was state of the art when this camera was launched back in 2014 and only a couple of APS-C cameras improve on this even now. The image sensor has 179 phase-detection autofocus points. There are also 25 contrast-detection AF points for the hybrid autofocussing system. At the time of launch, Sony claimed that the camera had the fastest AF in the world among cameras with an APS-C sized sensor, and while a few cameras have improved on this since then, it still feels extremely responsive, even by today’s standards.
On the back of the A6000 is a tiltable LCD screen, which is joined by an electronic viewfinder: the same 0.39-inch, 1.4-million dot device found on the first edition RX10 premium bridge camera. Reflecting the broader trend, the A6000 comes complete with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC..
As its standard kit lens choice, the A6000 comes with a 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 power zoom – the same lens that is packaged with the A5000. You can also buy it body only, giving yourself the freedom to choose from the large range of different E-mount lenses now available. Perhaps the perfect all-round lens for this camera is the Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 optic, but that comes with a £799 price tag – quite a bit more than the camera itself.
Build and handling
Those who appreciate lots of dials and buttons will enjoy the A6000. It has plenty of controls available, and, like other Sony cameras, pretty much all of them are customisable to help you adjust the camera to suit the way you take photos.
The grip of the A6000 is ever so slightly pronounced, making it quite easy to hold, though with a larger lens like the Sony 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 it starts to feel slightly front-heavy.. There’s also a nice texture covering the camera. On top of the camera are two dials: one for controlling the shooting mode (such as automatic, semi-automatic or manual), and another for altering the shutter speed or aperture, depending on the mode you’re shooting in.
Setting the autofocus point on this camera is a task that would be speedier with a touchscreen, but it’s not too bad if you set the right custom buttons. To make things quicker, set Focus Area to Flexible Spot. From here, you simply need to press the button in the centre of the scrolling dial on the back of the camera to bring up the focus point selection option. You can then use the directional keys to move around the screen. It’s worth noting that this is the default option for the central button when Flexible Spot is selected: if you’ve got it set to anything else, it won’t work in the same way.
Although it’s not a touchscreen, the screen tilts, which is useful for shooting from some awkward angles, or for shielding the screen from glare. The viewfinder is bright and clear except in broad daylight, when it’s too easily lost in the glare. It’s also a ‘wide’ screen, so in the regular 3:2 aspect ratio for stills, it doesn’t use the full screen width, which makes the screen feel quite small and cramped.
The 1.44m-dot EVF has a low resolution by today’s standards but it does the job pretty well – and it’s especially good to get a viewfinder on an APS-C mirrorless camera at this price.
What you don’t get with this camera is a front-facing screen or 4K video (it’s restricted to full HD), but this reflects the marketplace when this camera was launched. For stills photographers, though, it’s got pretty much everything you might need, even now. Its 11fps continuous shooting speed is especially impressive.
We compared the Sony A6000's lab test results with three key rivals in today's market. We chose the Canon EOS M50, which also has a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and a viewfinder, as does the under-rated Fujifilm X-T100. We also chose the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II (not the later Mark III). It might only have a 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, but it holds up well against the A6000 for both image quality and features.
Despite its age, the A6000 still delivers the best resolution (just) of all its closest rivals. For the record, it matches the best resolution we achieved from the 32.5MP Canon EOS 90D. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II also does well up to ISO 800, but then its resolution starts to fall away (due to its smaller sensor).
Signal to noise ratio
As we mention in the review, high ISO image noise is not the Sony A6000's strong point. Noise is not really a problem at lower ISOs, even though it scores below the others in our lab tests, but at higher ISO settings you'll need to work harder with your software's noise reduction options. The other three cameras – including the Olympus – are noticeably better in this respect.
The Sony keeps up well with the Fujifilm X-T100 and Canon EOS M50, though its dynamic range starts to fall away from ISO onwards. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II doesn't start off as well as the rest, but offers surprisingly good dynamic range further up the ISO scale.
Overall, we can characterise the Sony A6000 as offering very good all-round performance, especially resolution, at low ISO settings up to ISO 400-800, but at higher ISO settings its performance drops off more markedly than its rivals'.
Sony has produced some of the most interesting compact system cameras currently on the market, many of them in the A6000 series that the A6000 started off. Even by current standards, the A6000 is a great performer. Its images are very sharp, with beautifully saturated colours. You can experiment with how JPEGs look straight from the camera by adjusting Creative Styles – a number of which are available as pre-stored settings.
Detail is rendered very well by the A6000. Generally, image smoothing only starts to become problematic for normal printing sizes in shots taken at around ISO 3,200 upwards. Examining images at 100% from around ISO 1,600 upwards, you will find areas of the image that have a painterly effect, but the overall effect is good. High ISO quality is one area, admittedly, where the A6000 starts to fall behind the latest cameras.
The camera’s metering system does a good job with exposure, although it sometimes struggles in high-contrast situations, when you’ll need to dial in some exposure compensation. Similarly, the automatic white balance system is a good performer, although it can be slightly confused by some artificial light sources.
In good light, autofocusing speeds are very quick, dropping as the light levels drop, but only struggling to lock on at all in very dark conditions.
The 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is a good all-rounder to get started with, but what you gain in compactness you lose in image quality, and if you want to see the best this camera can deliver then you’ll probably want to replace it with something better (we really rate the long-zoom Sony 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6.
Battery life isn’t bad for a mirrorless camera, but it’s still worth buying a spare battery if you travel or go on longer outings.
Can a camera launched back in 2014 and superseded by no fewer than five new models still be competitive? It’s true that the A6000’s specs now look distinctly old hat compared to what’s come along since, but only in a couple of key areas. Newer cameras have 4K video, which won’t bother you if you don’t shoot video, and more advanced AF systems – but for most of us, the A6000’s AF is plenty good enough. It was advanced for its time and still holds up now.
The key with the Sony A6000 is its price. Sony has kept it on sale year after year, and at steadily falling prices. If you want a low-cost mirrorless camera that’s way better than its price suggests it should be, get the A6000. We hope Sony carries on making it for years to come!