We are not camera reviewers or even remotely interested in camera tech. We just make photos, concentrating on the experience, with familiar gear we know to be reliable and of the highest quality. However, as professional photographers and athletes, we have long dreamt of a small camera capable of making perfect images for publication. One that would also have to be very fast so as to capture just the right body position necessary for many of our subjects. If you want the tech stuff, and to read reviews from people who know about comparisons with other cameras, there is a never ending Google-able supply. But as a very experienced pro mountain sport photographer who is out every day using camera equipment, I can give you a basic overview for that need.
Last year we bought the small Sony RX100 and found the quality superb, but the user experience not so – the screen was too hard to shoot with and it was far too slow, and not wide enough (28mm) to shoot what we needed it for, mountain running. For most people the camera is just about perfect, but for us, it came up short.
Then along came the Sony Alpha a6000. We read some reviews and suddenly it was part of our camera family. Yesterday we took it for a big mountain run in perfect sunny weather in the Swiss Alps. In no way are we affiliated with Sony, we bought the camera ourselves, and here’s what we found.
Sony Alpha a6000 and 16-50 (24-75mm) kit lens
Familiarization and learning the camera system is super easy, Sony did a great job with the button layout. The mini buttons all crammed together make for a bit of a mess on the back when trying to make rapid adjustments, but this is expected for the size of the camera.
The camera feels like a small DSLR – one selling point for us was the ability to look through a viewfinder and not just be limited to framing on the screen. This allows for more creativity and ease of use in bright light.
Sony has figured out the focusing – the camera’s auto focus nails it every time. And, there are numerous focusing modes guaranteeing one will be just right for the situation.
Speed….. whoa, 11 frames per second is for real. Shooting running was made effortless. Find the right framing, shoot. Done. Somewhere in that group of images is the exact right body position. Next!
Battery – Sony says one battery will get 330 images. We made 800 on one battery (although we did not spend time in camera editing). But still, the battery drained very quickly when shooting in high speed. Looks like we’ll be buying more batteries for the running trips.
Image Quality – Rich blacks, wide tonal range, large RAW files that allow for cropping, and razor sharp images thanks to a focus accuracy and the large sensor. We did find the corners to be a bit soft at 16mm (24mm with conversion). In terms of low light and noise… we only shot on a sunny day – to be determined.
Our goal is to be able to do our sports and always have a camera along that we can whip out and shoot. For us, this camera is not about being super creative or diving into the image making process, rather, it is about getting a very real image from a real experience. The RX100 was too limiting in terms of speed and use while our 5d’s are just too big. All these years of shooting mountain running have required us to split the DSLR body and lens between us, but this insures missing images as it is not convenient to shoot on the fly. The saying goes that the best camera is the one you have with you – but if that camera is not ready, you may not use it. The a6000 is the camera at the ready. This is our first ever camera review and I can honestly say that I am one thrilled photographer to have it in my pack.
All the images posted here are from our first day with the camera. The test was to go for a mountain run and see, 1) How easy the camera is to use. Can it be pulled out when ahead of or behind a runner and quickly shot on the fly thanks to the camera controls? (YES). 2) If we stop and do a quick shoot, is it fast enough to make the process brief? (YES, 11 fps gets the shot!), and finally 3) Do we come home confident in our image files so that they can go right into our stock collection ? (YES).
Sold. Have you used this camera? Let us know what you think.
And by the way….. the running tour was pretty good too!