I was hired by Sony to shoot behind the scenes photographs of their sponsorship of World MasterCard Fashion week in Toronto. I was given a NEX-6 with the 16-50 f3.5-5.6 zoom kit lens and the Sony 50 f1.8. The shortest way to say this is I fell in love with the camera as it was a perfect for the job and a wonderfully designed tool. To me this is a professional tool in an almost point-and-shoot body. It’s small and lightweight without compromising performance. Unlike so many smaller cameras it focused very fast and shot when I actually pressed the button without any noticeable lag. At one point I was on the side of the runway shooting into bright lights and trying to track models as they quickly walked down the runway. The facial tracking feature quickly locked onto to the model’s face and held it as the model moved through the frame or as I panned along. Many other cameras, including my Canon Mark II would have had trouble with this but as the focus system was so good I ended up with much more usable shots than I would have otherwise. The same applied with the video function, the auto focus quickly found the model and the very good built in image stabilization helped get solid footage while being crouched down on a staircase and hand holding.
The size of it. The camera fit well in my hand, heavy enough to feel substantial but not too heavy to be a burden over 6 hours and not too light that I couldn’t hold it steady. The viewfinder is a lovely piece of kit, I find I compose better with it up to my eye, then I can really see what’s in the frame without being distracted. But if I wanted a quiet shot or video, I could simply flip up the LCD screen on the back and shoot away. I love that I can chose which way I want to shoot. I also feel I was able to get more spontaneous expressions and keep people relaxed as the camera was less intimidating than a full size dslr with a large flash on top. For this I shot mostly in aperture priority, wide open where possible, and always in RAW format.
I am often asked what camera I’d recommend, either for someone starting out or for someone that wants a well priced dslr. I have started telling people to look at the NEX-6. I came away feeling that this camera had a sweet spot that would suit so many people. It is well designed and easy to use, so if you simply want a camera that works well out of the box and still give you images that can be printed 8x10 and larger this fits the bill. I simply watched a few of the video tutorials that Sony has on youtube to get a fast overview of how the camera worked. I was quickly able to find out the major features of the NEX-6 and how to work my way through the menus to find what I needed. Camera manuals are never a fun read and this made learning how to operate the camera that much easier.
A secret: professional photographers don’t like to carry a camera around when not working or one’s vacation quickly feels like work ( or maybe that is just me and the people I know). My girlfriend and I went to Thailand for 3 weeks and my DSLR sat in the room and this came everywhere with us. It was always over my shoulder, on in my hand, or easy accessible in her bag. Without it I would not have taken half as many pictures and had an unhappy partner on my hands ; ). The quality of the images was fantastic, RAW gives me huge latitude in post and the sensor was great for everything from skin to landscapes. The kit lens proved good enough to shoot the family of Langurs and their babies that came traipsing through the trees one day when we were in Krabi. The auto focus caught them as they leaped from tree to tree and the zoom got me part way there. Would I have like a longer tele? Yes, but again if the camera wasn’t this small and light I would have been stuck with my iPhone and wouldn’t have gotten anything usable. I love what I do and in the 14 years I been shooting it’s taken me all over the world, but sometimes shooting comes with different parameters. The only way I can say it is that this camera made it real pleasure to simply shoot whatever was in front of me, and that was very freeing.
This is a great starter camera that has pro-level features and quality. With this camera you can learn everything you need to know about professional photography. If you want to go fully manual you can. The dynamic range on the camera and the ISO capabilities are very impressive, so all that you need is in here. For example, I was shooting a fashion editorial for L’Officiel Thailand in an very dirty old dark warehouse in Bangkok. I was using my 5d Mark II and the Canon 85mm F 1.2 L series lens, that’s about $2k ( I paid 3K when it came out) for the body and $2000 US for the lens, I had the camera on a mono pod with a ball head. I’ll use this set up when I’m working in low light, I keep the ball head loose so my camera moves freely and the monopod gains me a stop or so by steadying the camera. My assistant Michaela (Miki) Giles was taking BTS shots on the NEX-6 with the 50mm f1.8 and was hand holding. I shot at 1/80th at f1.4, ISO 800 which is pushing it for this camera, I tend to find images don’t hold up as well at 800 and higher but I knew that my approach would be looser on this. I didn’t want to light the space but use it exactly as my eye saw it, so I knew I’d have to compromise on grain and noise at some point. Miki shot at 1/60 at f2 ISO 3200, again hand held. She shot over my shoulder as I was curious to compare the images after liking what I had achieved with it at Fashion Week in Toronto. In my opinion the NEX-6’’s image is superior, it resolved both the colour and details of the dress and jewelry better my camera. OK, my camera is 4 years old, the mark III would be better, but that’s $3500 for the body alone. It was the end of a long shoot in 36C heat, I might not have been as steady as I’d like. The fact is though that a camera and lens that cost $1050 and was hand held produced a image as good or better than mine. And it’s auto focus worked better in the low light conditions, though the Mark III has fixed that problem on the 5ds. That’s why I feel this is a pro level tool in sheep’s clothing.
On the flight home as the sunset over the clouds below I filmed out the window with f1.8 lens on the NEX-6. Again the built in IS came to my help, steadying out my footage and taking away the too obtrusive moves, making what was there still free and loose but so much better.
If you’re looking for a great camera, that you’ll actually carry with you, one that will suit whatever level of the craft you are at, the NEX-6 might be the one for you.