Sony a6000 vs Alpha 7 (a7) vs NEX-6 and NEX-7 – Comparison

April 26, 2014

Sony A6000, Alpha 7, NEX-7 and NEX-6 cameras side by side

In this article I will compare the Sony a6000, which is a #1 Amazon best seller in the mirrorless category as of the time of writing, versus the Alpha NEX-6, NEX-7 and the Alpha 7 full frame mirrorless camera. The Sony a6000 is a best seller for a good reason, many reasons in fact. It features a large arsenal of advanced features, backed up with excellent performance, image quality and tempting price tag.. It’s seems like the perfect DSLR-alternative for the enthusiast crowd.

Having said that, every camera has its competition and an alternative model that consumers are comparing it to.  In this article we’ll take a closer look at the Sony Alpha a6000 and see how it compared versus three other Alpha mirrorless cameras, on of them is the Alpha 7, which is a full frame camera, the others are APS-C sensor size cameras.

Let’s start with a short introduction to the a6000 and a7, and later on we’ll see how the two compare vs other older Alpha NEX models, the NEX-6 and NEX-7. The NEX-7 was announced on August 24, 2011, and the NEX-6 was announced on September 12, 2012.  The Alpha a6000 was announced on February 2014, the A7 was announced on October 16, 2013.

A bit of info about prices

No doubt that the price plays a significant role here and for many people, a camera like the Alpha 7 can be eliminated from the beginning due to its higher price tag. Let’s take a look at the current (as for 4/24/2014) prices from Amazon.com (approx. prices, rounded up).

  • Sony Alpha 7 (a7):
    $1700 (body only)
    $2000 (body + 28-70mm lens)
  •  Sony Alpha NEX-7:
    $815 (body only)
    $980 (body + 18-55mm lens)
  • Sony Alpha NEX-6:
    $600 (body only) 
    $670 (body + 16-50mm lens SELP1650)
  • Sony Alpha a6000
    $650  (body only)
    $800 (body + 16-50mm lens SELP1650)

The weird thing is that the difference between the NEX-6 with and without lens is approx. $70 and with the a6000 is $150. So unless I’m missing something here, I don’t know what the price of the lens with the a6000 costs more. The prices can change so I recommend visiting amazon.com for updated prices.

We can see that the Sony Alpha 7 is the most expensive one, obviously considering its a full frame camera. It costs around twice the NEX-7 APS-C flagship model, followed by the a6000 and the NEX-6 which is the cheapest among the four cameras.

I didn’t know that, but according to many online resource (e.g. gizmodo, sonyalpharumors.com), the a6000 not only replacing the NEX-6, but also the NEX-7. I think that’s reasonable considering that it’s been almost three years since the NEX-7 announcement. That doesn’t quite explains why there is such a significant difference in price. After all, if it was the NEX-7 successor, why a camera that was released almost 3 years ago costs more than its new replacement. IF you have an answer, please drop me a line in the comment section below.

It’s good that we are comparing the specs here, because for me at least, the prices only get me a bit confused.

Sony a6000

Sony a6000

Sony a6000

The Sony Alpha a6000 is a marvelous camera that packs advanced features, high performance, super fast Hybrid AF performance, wireless capabilities, built-in viewfidner — all in a relatively very compact body, about half the size of a mid-range DSLR.

At the heart of the a6000 is a 24.3MP ASP-C sensor and a new BIONZ X image processor.  This is one reason why so many people favor Sony Alpha NEX camera, because it features a sensor that is much larger than Micro Four Thirds and Nikon CX sensor, which is even smaller.  A large sensor, especially that from Sony, promises superb low-light / high ISO performance, allowing photographers to take cleaner images in low-light, especially if you cannot afford buying one of Sony’s super fast lenses.

On of the a6000 main highlights is its built-in 1.4M dot Tru-Finder OLED electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage and excellent visibility attributes and a Hybrid auto focus system. The new Hybrid autofocus system combines the advantages of both contrast detection (25 AF points ) and phase detection AF (170 AF points)with advanced and improved algorithms, to provide photographers with blazing-fast and accurate AF for both stills and videos. In fact, these are probably two features that are super important for the enthusiast consumer’s segment.

The a6000 can shoot videos at 60p/24p/60i Full HD and also capture uncompressed clean full HD videos to an external recorded device via HDMI. You also get to enjoy 11 fps burst speed with AF tracking, wireless capabilities for remote shooting and image sharing (via Wi-Fi + NFC), the ability to install PlayMemories apps, built-in flash, tiltable LCD (no touchscreen though and not fully articulated), in-camera lens aberration corrections,  Panorama shooting and much more.

This is a very versatile camera, with good build quality (magnesium alloy with composite exterior, feels better than the NEX-6 but less rigid than the NEX-7) and lots of features to experiment with. You get full manual control over the exposure, more prominent grip and good button layout and functionality that gives fast access to frequently used camera settings with options for customization.

Sony Alpha 7 (a7)

The Sony A7 marks an important milestone for Sony in the digital photography market. The A7 lives side by side with the 7R and 7S, two other full frame cameras. It’s being a long time since Konica Minolta was sold to Sony back in 2006. Since then there were a lot of expectations from Sony to become a leader in this market, and also appeal to the semi-professional and professional crows, as Konica Minolta did. Yet, it took quite a long time for Sony to do so, and at times where the DSLR sales are falling fast due to the popularity of mobile phone cameras.

Having said that, a person who buy the Sony A7, which is a full frame camera, does that with a very clear understanding of the advantages that such camera brings with. This includes superior image quality and high ISO performance, the ability to use interchangeable lenses and have control of the field of view, being able to throw the background completely out of focus (aka shallow depth of field, using the right lens), faster AF performance and subject tracking performance, higher video quality for production,  fast access to frequently used camera settings, full manual control, RAW shooting option and much more.

So there it’s not fair to even think about comparing a full frame camera to a smartphone camera, what’s important is to understand the benefits that you get to enjoy when you pay a premium price for such camera. Worth mentioning that the price of full frame cameras dropped significantly in the past couple of years and more lower-end models are introduced, which closes the gap between full frame ans APS-C.  Allowing more photographers to join and taste the full frame world, even if you are an hobbyist photographer.

The Sony Alpha A7 is incredibly small, very slim and lightweight for a full-frame camera.

Sony A7 vs Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D800E size comparison

Sony A7 vs Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D800E size comparison (via camerasize.com, click to view on camerasize.com)

You can click the image to see it on camerasize.com from other sides. You will be amazed how small this cameras is, it’s really a compact full frame camera. The Alpha 7 is an Interchangeable lens camera, not a DSLR. The absent of an internal reflex mirror allowed Sony to make this camera and its lenses, relatively very small.

With the introduction of the A7 and A7R, Sony also introduced a new range of Full-Frame E-mount lenses, three Zeiss lenses, on 28-70mm lens and a 70-200mm telephoto zoom G lens. Sony started only with professional-grade quality lenses, but also released the FE 28-70mm which a cheaper entry line for people on a tight budget.

You can mount APS-C E-mount lenses, but you’ll get vignetting in the image. The A7 has a mode called “APS-C size capture” that can be turned on and the camera will output a smaller resolution images that matches the image circle of a an APS-C-compatible lens. So you don’t need a special adapter, as both use the same E-mount adapter. In order to enjoy the full resolution, you’ll need to buy a “FE” lens, which are designed for Sony’s full frame mirrorless cameras and the image projected circle covers the whole area of the sensor.

If you want to use A-mount lenses on the A7, you’ll have to use a special adapter (check out the new LA-EA4 adapter). The A7 is also compatible with the VG-C1EM vertical grip, costs around $300 the last time I checked.

Other features include: fast Hybrid AF, optimized AF algorithms for the full frame sensor, lots of buttons for fast access to frequently used functions, Wi-Fi + NFC, 14-bit RAW shooting, Eye AF(eye priority), 2.4M dot OLED True-Finder EVF, 1229K-dot tilting display, 1080p60/i60/24p full HD video recording and uncompressed clean-HDMI full HD video recording.

The Sony Alpha A7 is built with magnesium alloy body with small amount of polycarbonate (compared to the A7R which is all magnesium-alloy), it’s environmentally sealed against dust and moisture. You can charge the camera via HSB, comes with a mic input and headphone port.

This is an excellent camera that just asks for you to use a prime lens with it.  If you are searching for a relatively affordable full-frame interchangeable lens camera, the A7 should certainly be on your list. This is the camera to buy if you already shot with Sony APS-C NEX alphas and want to move to a full frame body.  The good thing is that you can still use your E-lenses, although you won’t enjoy all the great benefits of the full frame sensor, for this you’ll have to buy one of Sony’s FE lenses.

Now that we’ve got familiar with the Sony a6000 and A7 key features, let’s take a look at the differences between those four cameras to better comprehend the pros and cons of each one.

Comparison

OK, you are probably eager to see how those four cameras compare to each other. So without further ado, let’s dive straight to our comparison and see what makes each camera unique compared to the other cameras.

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We can clearly see that the Sony alpha 7 wins in the image quality / high ISO department, no one will argue on this, and that’s expected considering it’s much larger full frame sensor. More than that, it features Sony’s latest image processor, has a very good build quality and it’s weather-sealed (the other cameras are not WS). The Alpha 7 also enjoys a fast Hybrid AF system, highest resolution EVF (shared among the NEX-6 and NEX-7), has a 1/8000 sec max shutter speed (only in the group), lacks pop up flash, but offers faster external flash X sync speed, has the slowest burst speed but wins in the video section while offering both headphone and mic input. Battery life is disappointing compared to DSLR cameras, and the size of the A7 will really amaze you when you first hold it in your hand, it’s really small for a full frame camera.

Conclusion

The A7 will appeal for people who want to dive into the full frame world and enjoy the world of ultra-wide angle photography, expand their reach to low-light photography and enjoy the weather-sealing for outdoor shooting. It’s not the recommended camera for sports photography as it lacks the burst speed, but it will give you a very good AF performance for general use for both stills and videos with its fast Hybrid AF.

The new Sony a6000 doesn’t disappoint. It comes second in the low-light performance (compared via imaging resource comparometer too, you can do the same and observe the results yourself), offers a very useful multi-frame NR at 512000 ISO, uses the latest BIONZ X image processor, has good build quality (behind the NEX-7) but lacks weather sealing capability. It enjoys the highest number of phase-detection AF points, makes it very fast and accurate for tracking subjects. That goes pretty hand in hand with its fast continuous shooting speed, and with the right lens, you get a very good camera for fast-action photography.

You also get to enjoy Wi-Fi and NFC for easy photo sharing. You don’t have a mic input, but you can use the optional external microphones that Sony recently announced, that will vastly improve the audio quality of your videos. Battery life is good, the size of the camera is small and lightweight. Certainly a well worthy replacement for the NEX-6 and NEX-7 I say.

Both the NEX-6 and NEX-7 are the oldest in our group. They use a previous generation processor, and their image quality is behind the latest generation. The NEX-7 did came on top of the NEX-6 in the high ISO test in my observation. The NEX-7 does have the best build quality among the four cameras with its all-metal build.

The NEX-7 is also the only camera that doesn’t take advantage of the hybrid AF, which means that AF subject tracking performance will not be on par with the other cameras.  The NEX-7 doe offer a mic input which is absent on the NEX-6, it offers higher resolution, faster statup time, longer battery life and better image quality overall.  Whether this worth the extra ~$215, I’m not sure, especially that you can buy the a6000 for extra $50 over the NEX-6.

I think that the NEX-7 served its time, and it’s time for a replacement (if the a6000 isn’t the NEX-7 replacement as some sites suggest).

If you want my opinion, I would get the a6000 over the NEX-7 and NEX-6, and it sells for a very good price considering its improvements over the older generation models. The Sony Alpha 7 is certainly an excellent camera the blows away the other cameras when it comes to image quality. That being said, the a6000 wasn’t that far behind. You get to enjoy an advanced mirrorless camera that is small and lightweight, but packs lots of super useful features for both stills and video shooting.  Sony packed most of its knowledge that it collected in all this years in the digital photography business (for stills photography) and packed it in a very small full frame package.

The A7 is not cheap, and some of you might also consider taking a look at what Canon and Nikon has to offer (yes, the Nikon D610 and Canon EOS 6D), which are slightly more expensive, but offers some advantages over Sony’s full frame offering.

If you came here to find out how good the a6000 is compared to the other cameras, I highly recommend that you put the a6000 in the top of your list and I would chose it over the NEX-7 and NEX-6, but keep in mind that Sony might released a new model that will replace the NEX-7 pretty soon (follow Sony rumors for more information). The Alpha 7 is an expensive camera, but might be the perfect camera for people who want a relatively portable full frame camera, and want to enjoy all the advantages that ILC cameras brings with it with Sony’s hardware and software latest technologies.

What’s your opinion, which camera you prefer? — share your opinion in the comment section below. Thanks for reading.

Buy the Sony a6000 from B&H Photo

Buy the Sony A7 from B&H Photo 

Buy the Sony Alpha NEX-6 from B&H Photo 

 Buy the Sony Alpha NEX-7 from B&H Photo

 

 



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