Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Short Time With The NEX-6

As is usually the case, when a camera comes in that I like, I beat the pavement to find a store willing to let me capitalize their demo model for an hour. As was the case with the new, Sony NEX-6.

After the NEX-6's sensor disappointed in comparison to the old, NEX-7, I didn't go in too hopeful. A downgrade in the sensor for the sake of an upgrade in the camera didn't seem like the kind of thing that I would find acceptable. I waited, though, to make my judgment, and it was worth it. The NEX-6 is the best NEX camera to-date.

The first upgrade is in the autofocus. Even though I give the NEX-7 as my choice for the mirrorless camera to buy, I cautioned that it is not fast. It will fail for moving subjects more often than not (although not as bad as Fuji, to be fair), and in low-light it at times hunts for focus lock quite a bit more than even my old Panasonic GF1.

It's obvious that Olympus and Panasonic figured something out when it comes to the performance of CD-autofocus, because even with the new NEX-6's CDAF/PDAF combo, it has not yet achieved the speed and accuracy of the Olympus E-M5. The one area where the NEX-6 may be better is in continuous-AF, which I was unable to test, and which is receiving very little attention online. Regardless, in my experience, when it comes to speed of operation, Micro 4/3 is still the mirrorless system to beat.

I have never had too much trouble with Sony's menu system, perhaps because I've owned so many poorly thought-out gadgets in my life that I simply adapt. Still, though, I found my way through the NEX-6 quickly and easily. Many elements of the design appear more oriented toward soccer-mom types than pro-thusiasts, but I didn't mind. If you want to shoot things that require super-fast changes to settings because of a dynamic environment, this isn't your best choice. Actually, your best choice is still a traditional SLR.

I love the ergonomics. I prefer the ergonomics of the NEX-7, but this is similar. It sits in my hand very well, and the bends in my fingers seem to find comfortable spots in both landscape and portrait orientations. It will never match an SLR for comfort, especially with large lenses, but it gives it the ol' college try.

I didn't do a head-to-head comparison of the images, since I had no residual NEX-7 photos kicking around, but you don't need me for that. The sensor in the NEX-6 isn't quite as good as the sensor in the NEX-7, which is a big disappointment. It's also a crippling disappointment for the NEX-6 specifically.

The NEX-7 is the CSC of choice because of its sensor. It is inferior to Micro 4/3 in every other way. The NEX-6 loses the sensor, but only closes some of the gap. It invariable comes in second to the E-M5 in every way except for the sensor, and even here now, the difference is small. The NEX-6 either needed to close the performance gap entirely or have a stellar sensor. It did neither, and as such, the best NEX camera to date is also something of a stillborn in my eyes.

That's not to say it's a bad camera. The best NEX camera is still a fully usable camera and the first mirrorless from Sony to be a real option for a person's all-the-time tool. Moreover, it has Sony's ace in the hole, focus peaking, which Micro 4/3 SHOULD HAVE, but as of yet, does not. Still, though, I just could not see myself buying the NEX-6 when the NEX-7 and E-M5 exist.

Further adding to the knocks against the NEX-6 is that all interactions with it now take place under the pall of the recent rumors that Sony is working on a full-frame mirrorless system, even while the lens selection for its already fucking here mirrorless system sucks. When the NEX-7 came out, it indicated that we would have a bunch of high-end lenses by now, and Sony has let us down. And instead of working to rectify that, they have a bunch of crap in their lens roadmap, and are releasing another system that they won't support. Great.

I liked the NEX-6 a great deal, but I would never buy it. Micro 4/3 has gotten just good enough to completely keep my interest while NEX has gotten less interesting.

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