Mirrorless action: Sony NEX-6 delivers

Mirrorless action: Sony NEX-6 delivers

As part of my long term “road test” of the new , I took it with me on a walk through New York’s Central Park over Memorial Day weekend. As before, it fit perfectly in my , along with a ens in addition to the 16-50mm “kit” lens, my tablet, and a few other accessories. But the real question would be whether this lightweight rig would measure up to the task of capturing the action…

I’m happy to report that the camera worked well, even capturing fast motion under the large shade trees that dominate the park. I put the camera in continuous mode and snapped a series of these street performers at the peak of action. You can see that the gymnastic flip is captured sharply at the ideal moment. 

Street Performers captured with , Sony 18-200mm lens @ 18mm
1/160s @ f/4, ISO 100, Program Mode

I’m sure you’re also thinking, “but it is hard to see the performers’ faces.” Unfortunately the combination of deep shade, bright sun, and dark skin color doesn’t have a good solution. If I’d had a large flash (like a DSLR speedlight) I could have used it aimed at the performers, but the small flashes for mirrorless cameras would not have been up to the challenge. Dialing in + exposure compensation would have helped with the faces, but the lit areas would have become really ugly. Here too, a high-end, full-frame, DSLR would have provided more dynamic range and given me more post-processing room to brighten the shadows, but it still wouldn’t have been possible to get a perfect image.

As far as capturing the action, this tumbling run, although fast-paced, was at a predictable distance from me. That meant it was easy to pre-focus, removing the need to stress the hybrid AF system on the NEX-6. AF is definitely a remaining Achilles heel for mirrorless cameras when compared to DSLRs. Each generation improves its performance, and the NEX-6 is pretty amazing for a mirrorless – especially with a fixed-focal-length f/2.8 lens – but no match for a similarly priced DSLR + lens combo. I’ll be writing more on that soon, as it has a large impact on using a mirrorless camera for sports or wildlife, but it is good to know that once you can get focused, the does a great job of capturing the action.

To capture the full-flavor of the action, I also took some quick videos. The quality of the 1080p video was quite good. The audio was surprisingly good, which is fortunate, as the does not have an option for external audio. I’ve placed a sample clip below, although with some trepidation as the street performers are a little bawdy in their patter, so be forewarned: