Once again Sony has brought something intriguing and exciting into the compact system camera territory. Those who spent the latter part of 2013 gazing longingly at the A7, balking at the high price tag, will probably be especially be tempted by the A6000.
This camera comes very close to being the perfect compact system camera. It's so close it's frustrating.
A big part of this is the fact that setting the AF point is just too laborious, especially for a camera of this calibre. While it may seem like a small issue, it can slow down the process of taking pictures, and, that's pretty much the most important thing. I remain hopeful that Sony might be able to correct this problem with a firmware upgrade, as it's much easier to set the AF point using the A7/R. Focusing speeds are excellent though, only dropping a little when shooting in low light.
On a more positive note, the other elements of using the camera are very good. It's nice to be able to customise the various buttons to control what you want them to, while the scrolling dial for altering aperture and shutter speed is nicely reachable by the thumb.
Although the screen is, annoyingly, not touch-sensitive (which would have helped with the AF setting problem), it is at least tilting, which makes it useful for shooting from awkward angles. The electronic viewfinder is also great, being bright and clear and with an eye sensor which makes using it a seamless transition.
It's great to see Sony has revamped the menu system, giving all of its camera a unified look. It's a simple and easy to use menu, with everything where you'd generally expect it to be – it's certainly a welcome break from the confusing, and frustrating at times, menu system of the NEX cameras of old.
Coming to perhaps the most important aspect – image quality. It's great in the majority of situations, with the A6000 producing detailed, vibrant images. Low light performance is also good, with low noise and high detail, and not too much evidence of image smoothing except at the very highest sensitivities.
The 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is a great all-round performer too. This is the kind of camera that you'll likely want to buy additional lenses for, and happily, Sony has a great range available now.
There's a lot to like about the A6000, not least the tilting, high resolution screen and the excellent viewfinder. Aside from the excellent image quality, probably the best thing about the A6000 is the way that all of the buttons, and the function menu, can be customised to suit your needs. It's a great way to work and means you can dump those settings you never use, and have quick access to the ones you use often.
It's pretty annoying, for a camera of this standard, that there's no quick way to set the AF point. It really shouldn't be that difficult, or time consuming, to change the point, and if you're someone who likes to do that often, it can quickly make you grow tired of using the camera. It's something we mention often, but the lack of a touchscreen makes even less sense here. Sony has this technology readily available in its portfolio, so it remains a mystery why it is insistent on leaving it off its high-end products, especially when its biggest rivals, including Samsung, Panasonic, Olympus and the newest Nikon CSCs, are all embracing it.
Sony has come within touching distance of creating the perfect compact system camera, but it's not quite there yet. Fantastic image quality, a small and sleek system, customisable buttons are all great to have, but there are a couple of niggles keeping it from true greatness.