October 18, 2017

Why I Bought a Sony Alpha 6000 in 2017

Some time ago I bought a Samyang 12mm ƒ2.0 for my Sony Alpha 5100. For those who do not know what the 5100 is: it essentially is a more compact Sony Alpha 6000 without an electronic viewfinder. Buying the 12mm was a huge mistake as it put me into a huge dilemma. I started to like the lens so much that I actually wanted to use it all the time. It is sharp, it renders colors in a nice warm manner and ƒ2.0 is great for not well illuminated areas such as churches, or at night. Despite the lack of an image stabilization system, I never got a shaky image. And I never got one shot which was out of focus, which is surprising, as this is a manual focus lens. In my eyes that lens is superbe (minus some glare when the sun gets in the way).

However, having such a wide lens also limits your options. You, for instance, cannot do object photography in a nice manner. As a result I was constantly swapping the 12mm with the Sony 16-50 pancake zoom or the Sony 55-210 tele. This again wrecked my nerves and caused tons of dust on my sensor, which wrecked my nerves in image post-processing even more. Furthermore, the pancake is not the best piece of gear. In my opinion it lacks sharpness, I do not like how it renders colors, the zoom range is not so great, I missed shots as it takes a while to “unfold” itself when the camera is powered on, and it does look puny.

So the plan was: Replace the pancake with something better and solve the lens swapping issue. This, however, is like trying to square the circle. There simply is no lens available that starts at 12mm and zooms to maybe 70mm. So I got the (let’s call it) interesting idea to buy a second camera body plus a proper standard zoom lens.

The answer to the question which camera body to buy was at least as surprising as the initial idea. Of cause I wanted something that is compatible to my other stuff. So, first of all, I checked if there is an updated version of the 5100. No. Then I investigated on the new Sony cameras Alpha 6300 and Alpha 6500. In my opinion the major improvements are the auto focus system, new movie features, and the in-body anti-shake system of the 6500. As I am not into videography and I cannot complain about the AF of the “old” 5100, these improvements did not sound too impressive to me. OK, the in-body OSS of the 6500 is nice, but I either have fast or stabilized lenses. So I do not really need this as well. What I would have needed is a considerably better low light (noise) performance. I started to look into sample images and watched dozens of reviews on YouTube. Not a single reviewer stated that the low light performance got significantly improved over the 5100 or 6000. The only thing I found to be significantly “improved” was the price tag - especially on the 6500. So my initial plan was to get a second 5100 body (maybe even used) as it is small, dirt cheap, and performs considerably well.

That plan changed a bit after I searched for the pancake replacement. In essence you have three choices for a standard zoom lens when you have an Sony E-mount camera: the puny pancake, the Zeiss 16-70 ƒ4.0, or the Sony G 18-105, which is also a ƒ4.0 lens. After weighing all options I decided to get the G-lens as it has a bigger zoom range and as it is a good bit cheaper than the Zeiss. However, I was not so fond about the fact that it starts at 18mm and that it is a drive-by-wire (motor zoom) lens. Furthermore, the G-lens comes with one quite big drawback: it is a quite manly lens, or to put it differently: it is big. Compared to the pancake it is maybe six times as long. Hence I figured it would look hideous on a minuscule Alpha 5100 body and worse: it would be difficult to handle that thing, as the 5100 is not the “grippiest” of all cameras.

And that’s why I got an Alpha 6000 plus the G 18-105.

After traveling for two weeks I got used to the two-camera-body-combo. The G 18-105 is a great always on lens. The motor zoom at first appears to be slow but it is not that bad. As I hoped when buying the lens, I more or less never needed more focal length than 105mm. However, as I feared, I missed the initial focal length of 16mm of the pancake. 18mm is a tad close in cities. Hence I started to carry both camera bodies on me all the time. My plan was actually to have the 5100 with the 12mm in the backpack and to use this only occasionally. However, carrying both cameras simultaneously sounds worse than it is if you found a good way of mounting both cameras on you.

With that solution, my photo nerdy self is quite happy. Unfortunately, there is one new problem: you end up with a ton of photos. The G 18-105 is quite flexible and can nicely do landscape, street and object photography. So you start taking pictures not only of the nice city square you are standing on but also of individual objects, people, cats, dogs, etc… And, as the 12mm provides such great overview shots, you of cause need some of these as well…

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