Monday, February 2, 2015

REVIEW: Sony Alpha a6000 with 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens (Part II of II)–A Fujifilm X-E2 Killer?

Sony Alpha a6000 with 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens

In the first part of this review it was hard for me to contain my excitement about this camera. After all, it is offered at a very reasonable price yet impressed me as much as the NEX-7, yet it is even more capable. It also helps that it is a fraction of the price so I started to wonder if this should be a replacement for my Fujifilm X-E2. Yes, it is that good!

What follows here are my final testing, some additional images and my final conclusion.

Bookshelf Test

My bookshelf tests are simple tests done on a tripod with in-camera steady shot turned off and all camera settings set to their defaults (except I do keep the raws).

f/4 @ 16 mm, 5s, ISO 100, No Flash

When I first looked at the bookshelf shots from this camera my jaw dropped! I had to go back to B&H and remind myself again about the price. It boggles my mind that a camera so cheap can produce such amazing results! I can definitely say this is the best image quality I’ve ever seen for below $1000 and realistically it ranks high on the list of overall amazing image quality.*

Yeah, notice that little asterisk? Despite testing many other cameras which had optical low pass filter removed, this is the only camera I’ve tested to really show a what appears to be a moiré pattern as you can see below:

That boys and girls is what a moiré pattern looks like
and it’s pretty intense in my bookshelf testing with the

Sadly I had to go all the way to 18px in Photoshop’s Filter | Noise | Medium filter to eliminate that moiré, but only after selecting just the blue part (which isn’t an easy selection to make). I only saw this problem in the bookshelf test, so generally speaking it wasn’t a problem but it is something to keep in mind.

UPDATE: I haven’t been able to confirm if this camera has a optical low pass filter or not, but either way this pattern that showed up during my testing is troublesome. I’ve reached out to Sony to discuss this problem and will report back when I learn more.

While that was bad, when I look at the adjacent image books image quality (as shown below) then all is forgiven. This is one seriously high resolution combo! Pay attention to that last part too, because it is also clear that the 16-70mm (not to be confused with the cheap 16-50 kit lens) is one awesome piece of glass!

Outstanding image quality is adjacent to the moiré pattern so if you are lucky enough to shoot subjects that don’t exhibit this problem then you’ll be rewarded with phenomenally good images

Generally speaking I found f/5.6 under the 50mm range to be the sweet spot of this lens, but things do get soft when zoomed out to 70mm. This photo shows how things definitely get much softer:

f/5.6 @ 70 mm, 13s, ISO 100, No Flash

I loved having the range of 16-70mm because with this sensor size the 1.5x crop factor meant 24-105mm (in 35mm terms) which just so happens to be my favorite range on my Canon cameras. I’m happy to trade off some sharpness for that excellent range.

High ISO

This camera performed admirably, but not phenomenally at higher ISO’s. Here’s a shot at ISO 1600:

f/5.6 @ 16 mm, 0.8s, ISO 1600, No Flash

If you zoom in and compare 1600 to 3200 then you see that the detail loss becomes unacceptable at 3200, but it’s still clean enough to be usable:

ISO 1600 has pretty decent detail still, but it starts to vanish rapidly at ISO 3200 and above

This all reflects my real world results where I felt uncomfortable going above ISO 1600 unless it was simply a documentary shot. This was a little disappointing as it does limit it from becoming a true DSLR replacement, but it is consistent with this class of camera.

In a pinch, ISO 25600 exists for what I call documentary shots (i.e., those that capture something you want to remember), but not photographic art (unless perhaps you are a grain B&W shooter):

f/22 @ 16 mm, 1/15, ISO 25600, No Flash

As you can see from this shot, the detail and dynamic range suffer drastically. Yes, It captures an image which is good, but it’s not something that I’d want to use. Of course it is better than a cell phone image, so perhaps some will find great value in that reality.

More Real World Photos

I had such a good time with this camera that I ended up with a bunch more in the gallery. I decided to go ahead and share a few more real world shots. As is always the case, these are in-camera JPEG’s with no modifications. All camera settings are the default except the white balance which may be adjusted for creative intent.

NOTE: My apologies for the sensor spot on some of the photos, but I didn’t remove them since these are in-camera originals. Sadly I didn’t notice the dust spot until after my shooting all of my review photos.

f/8 @ 70 mm, 1/320, ISO 100, No Flash

Beautiful gradients with a little in-camera flare made for nice shot

f/11 @ 38 mm, 1/15, ISO 100, No Flash, -1EV

I exposed for the sky rather than the ground to capture the beauty of the clouds at sunset

f/8 @ 33 mm, 1/25, ISO 100, No Flash

There’s a little edge distortion at the 16mm range but I was pleased that at 33mm it is gone

f/13 @ 23 mm, 1/320, ISO 100, No Flash, 8192 x 1856 px, Pano Mode

It tripped up on the pano exposure on a couple attempts, but eventually got it right. If you’ve ever done a pano at sunset like this then you can appreciate how difficult it is to get this image. In this case it was ALL in-camera, so I was impressed (even if it was a little crooked – my bad)

f/5.6 @ 59 mm, 1/200, ISO 100, No Flash

Want a sharp shot with this camera?
Go for  f/5.6 at as close to 16mm as possible for best results

f/5.6 @ 16 mm, 1/320, ISO 100, No Flash

The detail in this shot really made me love this lens

f/5.6 @ 70 mm, 1/160, ISO 100, No Flash, -1EV

AWB was yellow so I chose fluorescent 0 to get this blue tone

f/22 @ 23 mm, 1/40, ISO 100, No Flash

Sunset was a flare beast, but f/22 made it a fun flare

f/22 @ 70 mm, 1/800, ISO 100, No Flash, -2EV

I went super dark intentionally and loved the results

f/4 @ 44 mm, 1/10, ISO 800, No Flash, Handheld

Since this was handheld (using this technique) I had to use f/4 when I’d rather used a much larger f-stop number. However, I still was happy with the results all things considered
Watermarks added via
Zenfolio to minimize Super Bowl abuse

f/4 @ 20 mm, 1/6, ISO 800, No Flash, Handheld

Same comment as above, except this one has already had clients purchasing prints!
Watermarks added via
Zenfolio to minimize Super Bowl abuse

For more images check out the gallery at You can also find more at:

My apologies for the watermark on the Seattle shots but if you click for the original you can see it without it. Watermarks were added to smaller sizes just to limit image theft prior to the Super Bowl.

All images are copyright ® Ron Martinsen – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may view them for your personal education, but you must delete them when done. You may not edit, print, share or otherwise use these images without my signed (on physical paper) consent.

DigitalRev TV Video

I enjoy watching DigitalRev TV videos as Kai usually has a funny perspective, even if I don't always agree with him. Here's his video for the a6000:


Simply put, I highly recommend this camera for someone who is looking for a lot of bang for the buck. Of course, the lens I used is twice the price of the camera so that may take away some of the value prop, but I’ve used the 18-55mm for NEX cameras and it was good so I’d suspect that the 16-50mm kit lens is quite usable. If you can afford it though, definitely get the 16-70mm!

Yes, the camera build quality could be a little better and I do wish the high ISO performance was better, but this camera has performed better than many DSLR’s I’ve tested a few years back. In fact, some have even suggested it is as good as the Nikon D7100, but I wouldn’t go that far. It’s good, but not that good.

With a great focusing system that is far superior than the Fujifilm it had me thinking about replacing my X-E2. However, the moiré issue is enough to keep me from buying one to replace my X-E2. I will be eager to see what replaces this model at some point in the future as it could be a real game changer for me.

Where to order

Click here to learn more or order the a6000 on the B&H web site. For the Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, click here.

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fabrizio giudici said...

Dear Ron,

thanks for the review. I've experienced a different story with the SEL1670Z and the sun, and I'm thinking I could have a defected copy. Let's forget for a moment coloured flare, the most annoying thing I see is a diagonal streak such as in this example:

Did you see anything like that? Thanks.

Ron Martinsen said...


You do not have a defective lens - that is normal flare. You can have fun experimenting with flare when you see scenarios like that by adjusting your aperture to increase or decrease that starburst effect.

The way to avoid or minimize flare is to change the angle of the camera relative to the sun.

Adrian GPC said...

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the review.

I would like to get your opinion regarding this matter.

I would like to have a travel camera that I can bring along anywhere when I am not bringing my Sony A77.

I am choosing between a6000 or Fuji x30.

I like the Fuji because of its price compared with the a6000, retro looks, good build and optics. The main concern for me would be the 2/3 inch sensor.

For the a6000, I like it because of the sensor and I can use my Sony lenses via adaptor. The problem would be the lens selection which would be expensive if I plan to upgrade in the future. Also, I am thinking that having 2 systems can be redundant.

As a user who have tried both cameras, can you help me with my dilemma?

Thanks and more power!


Ron Martinsen said...


My deepest apology for missing your comment due to all of the spam comments I get. I realize it's probably way too late now, but I'll answer for those who might have the same question as you.

Given your scenario I'd strongly encourage you to go for the a6000 as you'll appreciate having a camera that operates in a manner that is familiar to you.

The x30 is a great camera, but it's no match for the a6000 - not even close. There's also the reality that while I'm not a fan of the lens adapter, you could use that to leverage some of your lenses from the a77 as well. This isn't ideal, but it's doable, so it makes sense for you.

I hope you elected to go for the a6000! While I know you'd love the x30 because it's a good camera, the a6000 is definitely a big step up.

Adrian GPC said...

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the reply.

I haven't bought it yet so it is ok.

I plan to buy at the end of the month.

If I may ask, for portability wise, is it the same for the two? I plan on sticking with the kit lens but the kit is bulkier than the x30's lens.

Thanks for the feedback.


Ron Martinsen said...

Hi Adrian,

Well I'm glad I'm not too late.

Yes, size-wise the a6000's interchangeable lenses make it much bulkier. If your goal is to have a pocket-able camera, the x30 comes closer to that vision (although it's still pretty big for a pocket).

However the a6000 is small enough to not be obnoxious if you take it out for a dinner date or family travel activities. This is what I like about this form factor is because you get something that can take DSLR quality images without being so big and bulky.

FWIW, B&H takes returns. ;-)

I still think if I were in your shoes I'd go with the a6000. If you went with one of the 16 or 20mm pancake lenses you could keep the size down quite a bit. Doing the 35mm would make it smaller than the zoom and closer to a x100t which is wildly popular.

Jojo Bering said...

Im confused what to buy, a sony A6000 or a fuji X-T10... im reading a lot of review of these camera... but still confused...

Ron Martinsen said...

Hi Jojo,

Well now that the a6300 is out I'd say neither. ;-)

I'm reviewing the a6300 now, but if you were looking for a choice between those two models I'd choose the Sony a6000 as it offers a better value and comparable quality.