Next week Sony will announced its successor to the NEX-6 camera. I’ve owned an NEX-6 since the camera was launched in the UK and it’s been a mixed relationship. As many have discovered with Sony in the realm of console hardware the company is excellent at physical devices, but terrible at firmware. There are so many features that could be easily added to the NEX-6 by a software update yet Sony has failed to do so during the life of the camera. So next week’s announcement of a replacement is likely to be the deciding factor on whether I wave goodbye to the E-mount system and instead jump into the arms of Fujifilm.
I’m in the market to upgrade. I ditched my Canon DSLR gear for NEX-6 in 2012 and have certainly been happy with the result in terms of lighter, smaller gear and image quality. I have no complaints at all about the detail and dynamic range in the pictures coming from my NEX-6 – certainly much better than the Canon EOS 40D and EOS 50D I used to own.
But where I am disappointed is in terms of usability. There are so many little niggles I’ve discovered over the last year or so with the NEX-6. While the image quality is excellent the firmware is just too simplistic and lacking in options that could have been easily offered in firmware updates. For example no options on minimum shutter speed with auto ISO, no ability to turn off pre-focus, no decouple of auto-focus from the shutter button. As someone who used “back button” focussing on my DSLRs that’s a feature I do miss. I’ve also been disappointed with the lenses on offer – yes there are some very good ones – but these are very expensive, there’s little middle ground. F1.8 is as fast as it gets even if you’re will to hand over £800 for a Sony made Zeiss.
But what has this got to do with Fujifilm? The Fujifilm X-E2 and X-T1 have been making eyes at me and I can’t help but say I’m smitten. The X-system appeals to me both in terms of camera design aesthetics, image quality, ergonomics, firmware options (and updates) and the range of lenses.
I’ve come close to ordering the X-E2 a couple of times over the last week or two. But I am now waiting to see what Sony has to offer in the A6000. Despite the NEX-6 being fine hardware and most of its issues being fixable with a software update – I’m willing to give Sony a chance. So I want to see what it can offer in the new model – but it’s also going to have to impress me with some indication of where the lenses are going. I’d like to see a faster standard zoom than the 16-50mm kit even if that is larger and something like the Fuji 23mm f1.4 that isn’t a ridiculously expensive Zeiss offering.
To be honest I’m not expecting Sony to appease me. It’s a shame as I really like the NEX as a piece of hardware. And unlike my switch from Canon I think I’ll likely hold onto my NEX and lenses rather than sell them at a big loss. Certainly it’s worth having a range of focal lengths until I can afford to expand the glass I can afford after an X-system purchase.
So the A6000 is going to have to be pretty special rather than a minor upgrade to dissuade me buying a Fujifilm camera in the near future. The X-E2 with 18-55mm lens seems a very obvious sideways move for me. Though my head is being somewhat overruled by my heart and its lust for the exciting X-T1. Either way I’ll be buying a camera and kit lens and won’t be able to afford any new glass for a while.
What could Sony do to keep me? Nothing in terms of hardware, I believe the hardware is excellent. What Sony needs to do next week – and I think it’s very unlikely it will happen – is convince me that the company listens to users, is interesting in expanding functionality via firmware updates and has a lens roadmap made up of more than cheap lenses and very expensive lenses with little in between.
I’d rather not buy another camera for a very long time. But what I want is the right camera, one that doesn’t hinder what I want to do and one that treats me like a grown up. I’m not sure Sony is interested in selling me a camera like that.