Sony a6000 Astrophotography Review

Sony a6000 Astrophotography Review

Let’s take a look at Sony’s best selling interchangeable lens cameras ever made: the Sony a6000. In this review we test the a6000’s low light performance and try it out for Milky Way and aurora photography in California, Nevada and Alaska.

Introduction

A lot of people ask me which camera to buy for their first mirrorless camera. The Sony a6000 is almost always one of my first recommendations. It’s simply a very good camera at a very good price.

I’ve often kept a Sony a6000 as a backup camera for much of my time using cameras in the Sony E mount system. I’ve had the opportunity to shoot astrophotography with the a6000 on numerous occasions over the last two years, particularly in my time traveling to visit family between California and Nevada.

Sony a6000 with the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens

Sony a6000 with the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens

While Sony has recently released a successor (the Sony a6300), the older a6000 is still very much a relevant consideration for photographers looking for an affordable interchangeable lens camera. The newer a6300 is slightly improved for video but at $1000, it’s also significantly more expensive than the bestselling a6000.

At the time of this writing, I still think the a6000 is probably one of the best deals in photography gear. An a6000 body can often be found for less than $500 new. At that price, most of my expectations for performance and features in any other camera are pretty low but the a6000 is one hell of an exception.

Sony a6000 with the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens

Sony a6000 with the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens

The a6000’s feature set is comparable to DSLRs that are more than twice as expensive (e.g. the Nikon D7200). The a6000 has an APS-C sensor with 24.3 Megapixels, 11 frame per second continuous burst, ISO up to 25600, 1080p video up to 60 frames per second and Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for sharing photos. Even Canon’s latest DSLR, the $1200 EOS 80D, falls short of the a6000 in terms of a few performance specs like continuous burst speed. The a6000 meets or exceeds most of the capability of these much more expensive cameras, and in a significantly more compact package.

First Impressions

It’s got the specs but you don’t get everything: the a6000 is an ugly camera in my honest opinion. It’s basically a box with a grip. Unlike the comparably priced rangefinder-like Fujifilm XE-1 (Full Review), the Sony a6000 looks more like a tool than a style-piece. Its muted design doesn’t really attract any attention and perhaps that’s a desirable trait for some but I think it looks a little weird. Unlike the recent designs of many cameras from other manufacturers, there is nothing about the a6000 that’s trying to be retro. It’s a modern camera design through and through and it follow a very flat form-follows-function aesthetic.

Handling

The a6000 is a small and lightweight camera. Its grip is deep enough and comfortable enough to handhold the camera all day. Paired with a nice compact lens (I highly recommend the Rokinon 12mm f/2 (Full Review) with the a6000 if you’re looking to shoot astrophotography), the a6000 feels just right in the hand. It’s a small enough package to work well on a compact travel tripod and it really feels like a small camera. Pair it with a pancake lens like the Sony E 20mm f/2.8 and it’s nearly pocketable (fits in a jacket pocket).

Sony a6000 with the Sony E 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens

Sony a6000 with the Sony E 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens

Handling completely changes if you mount a big lens to the a6000. The camera feels a bit imbalanced when, for example, mounted with the fairly large Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 (Full Review). Furthermore, the mount of the a6000 uses the older, half plastic version of the E mount. With heavier lenses, the mount doesn’t feel super stiff, giving the mount a little bit of wobble.

Sony a6000 with the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 Lens

Sony a6000 with the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 Lens

Absolutely not a requirement, but for a stiffer mount, I recommend the Fotodiox Tough E-Mount LT, an all-metal mount that replaces the stock mount on Sony bodies like the a6000, a7, a7R and NEX cameras. Newer Sony designs like the a7S, a7II and a6300 have an all-metal mount so the Fotodiox Tough Mount is not needed on the newer cameras.

Sony a6000 with the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens

Sony a6000 with the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens

Screen

The tilt screen of the a6000 is standard by most measures but allows for low-slung landscape shots, a must-have feature in my opinion for astrophotography. I think composing on a tilting screen is far superior to the fixed screens we still see on many large (often professional level) DSLRs (e.g. the Canon 5D Mark III). It should be noted that the a6000’s screen only tilts up or down and does not swivel so it’s only useful in the landscape orientation.

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Sony a6000 Tilt Screen

Viewfinder

The a6000 has an electronic viewfinder that proves useful for daytime shooting where more careful composition is needed. It’s a relatively low resolution (800px x 600px) viewfinder by the most modern standards (the 1024px x 768px viewfinders on the X-T1 or a7s, for example, are much better) but it has a relatively high refresh rate and serves its purpose.

I rarely ever (if at all) use a viewfinder for night photography. That said, I like to have one for daytime landscape, portrait and street shooting so it’s still a nice-to-have feature. If you don’t see yourself needing an eye-level viewfinder, consider the even cheaper Sony a5100. The a5100 has almost all the specs of the a6000 without the viewfinder and comes in an even more compact body.

Buttons

Like other Sony Alpha cameras, the a6000 can have most of its buttons assigned to a custom function. It also features the same useful and customizable “Fn” function menu. You can place any of your most used functions into one of the 12 slots of the function menu for quick access. While the overall button layout is not identical to other Sony cameras, it’s familiar enough to jump from one camera to another, especially if you customize the controls similarly between camera bodies.

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Sony a6000 Viewfinder, Display and Rear Buttons

The rear control wheel and directional pad that are common to modern Sony Alpha cameras is there. Most of the functions can be customized as well, even though each direction pad button is already labeled with a default function. In practice, I’ve kept all the default functions for the rear directional pad buttons.

Menu

I’ve ranted before about the long and unorganized Sony menu system on my other reviews of Sony cameras and there’s not much more to say about the a6000. It’s the same overly long Sony Alpha menu. Set your most used custom functions to your favorite positions on the camera’s customizable buttons and in the Fn menu and you can usually avoid needing to search through the long, unorganized menu.

Photographing the Milky Way with the Sony a6000

The a6000 proves to be relatively easy to use for astrophotography. The tilt screen makes composition easy and focusing tends to be easy. Even easier when using my SharpStar2 focusing filter. The live-view feed off the sensor tends to stay relatively bright and clean and bright in most clear dark sky shooting conditions. In my experience the a6000’s low-light live-view is better than most comparable Fujifilm cameras and better than most of its Nikon DSLR competitors, despite the use of similar sensors. It’s no a7S (Full Review) but it’s good, especially for such an affordable a camera.

Sony a6000, Antares and a Meteor, 6s, f/1.4, ISO 10000

Sony a6000, Antares and a Meteor, 6s, f/1.4, ISO 10000

For manual focusing with native Sony lenses, the camera can be set up to automatically assist the operation by magnifying the view on the screen temporarily while focusing to ensure the sharpest details (MF Assist: ON in the menu). For fully manual focus, non-electronic lenses, like the Rokinon 12mm f/2 (full review), I have the C1 button (near the shutter button) set to the “Focus Settings” function which allows for a similar magnification to assist with manual focusing.

Sony a6000, Milky Way over Lake Tahoe, 10s, f/2.8, ISO 6400

Sony a6000, Milky Way over Lake Tahoe, 10s, f/2.8, ISO 6400

There are a couple third party lenses that I tend to recommend for the a6000 for astrophotography:

Rokinon 12mm f/2
Rokinon 21mm f/1.4

Both of these lenses feature a relatively fast f/2 or lower aperture ratio which allows the camera to collect more light in dark conditions and that makes them particularly suitable for wide-field astrophotography and nightscape photography. Both of these lenses are also fairly compact and well matched to the a6000 body.

Sony a6000, Joshua Tree National Park, 20s, f/2.8, ISO 3200

Sony a6000, Joshua Tree National Park, 20s, f/2.8, ISO 3200

The a6000 is a fine low-light performer, even on modest equipment. I do think that it falls a little bit short of the low-light capabilities of the latest Fujifilm cameras like the X-T1 (Full Review). Photos from the a6000 will start to show some grain when using slower lenses but I’ve usually found the results to be acceptable.

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Sony a6000, Lassen National Park, 25s, f/2.8, ISO 3200

In post processing, pushing the exposure of dark files from the a6000 does reveal some pink amplifier glow (the same can be said of Fujifilm cameras) on the bottom edge of the frame. As expected, I always found my best results (in terms of noise levels and foreground detail) when using lower f/number lenses. Shooting astrophotography at f/2.8, I felt like I was just pushing the limits of what I wanted from the camera. Results were good but not groundbreaking or revolutionary.

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Sony a6000, Lassen National Park, 30s, f/2.8, ISO 6400

As it would apply to any camera, pairing the a6000 with one of the faster prime lenses really makes an improvement. If you want to use the a6000 for astrophotography, get an f/2 or lower f/number lens like the ones that I listed above.

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Sony a6000, Setting Galactic Center, 15s, f/1.4, ISO 3200

So while its low-light performance is not quite as good as some of the other APS-C cameras out there (like the Fujifilm cameras), I still feel like the a6000 offers a ton of value, especially when mounted with a low f/number lens.

For new astrophotographers, I often recommend the a6000 and either the Rokinon 12mm f/2 or 21mm f/1.4 to make for a truly excellent (and budget friendly) nightscape camera.

ISO-Invariance Test

In order to more fully characterize the a6000’s low-light sensor noise performance at different ISO settings, I decided to run an ISO-invariance test. An ISO-invariance test allows us to see which ISO setting will generally be the best for shooting in low-light conditions. It’s a way to compare one ISO from another. Many cameras tend to have a “sweet spot” ISO setting above which photos tend to show the best noise characteristics. If a camera sensor has similar noise characteristics at many different ISO settings, (all other settings being equal) the sensor is often regarded as “ISO-invariant” or “ISO-less”.

The way we test ISO-Invariance is by capturing the same image at each ISO setting while maintaining the same shutter time and f/number between images. Then, in post-processing, we re-adjust each image in Adobe Lightroom to be equal brightness and then compare the levels of relative noise (grain) in the images.

a6000-iso-invariance-test-area

ISO Test Image (Unedited) Sony a6000, 4s, f/4, ISO 100-25600. Box indicates test area.

Pardon my crappy test image for the ISO-invariance test, I made exposures of this scene at Simi Valley, California near Los Angeles. Light pollution levels were terrible and the galactic center was not visible during the test. Because of the bright light pollution, I needed to keep exposures relatively short (4 seconds) to prevent overexposure at the highest ISOs so the results are fairly noisy overall due to the conditions. Even so, it should give us a good gauge of the a6000’s ISO characteristics, especially from one setting to another.

All the exposures used 4 seconds at f/4 with a 5000K white balance. I made the photos at each whole stop ISO setting from ISO 100 to ISO 25600. All the test images were recorded in RAW with all forms of noise reduction disabled for this test.

Sony a6000 ISO Invariance Test

ISO-Invariance Test, Sony a6000, 4s, f/4, ISO 100-25600

Immediately, the a6000 does not appear to be totally ISO-invariant. It shows poorer shadow noise performance at the lowest of the ISO settings. ISO 100 and 200 show the heaviest amount of grain and a fairly strong color shift towards the green. ISO 400 to 800 show some small improvements but there is still a crunchier, coarser level of grain. From ISO 1600 to ISO 6400, most of the strong hot pixels are gone and it looks like the grain profile looks finer and more uniform. Finally, if you look closely at ISO 12800 and ISO 25600, the noise looks softer, smoothed and lacking the finer detail seen from 1600 to 6400. Characteristic of most modern Sony cameras, these highest ISO settings seem to be applying a noise reduction algorithm, even though the photos were shot in RAW with all noise reduction disabled.

I think that ISO 1600 to ISO 6400 looks the best so I’ve usually kept the ISO at around those settings for most of my low-light photos with the a6000. ISO 1600 is the a6000’s “sweet spot” for low light shooting. It’s is high enough to avoid some of the heavy grain visible at the lower ISOs but low enough that we’re not sacrificing too much dynamic range on the bright portions of the image.

Photographing the Aurora with the Sony a6000

I didn’t plan on using the a6000 for night photography when I visited Alaska. Most of my trip was spent photographing wildlife for a review on the Photon Collective but we got lucky one night when the conditions just happened to be right for aurora photography.

We originally packed the a6000 as a (daytime) landscape camera. I fitted it with one of my favorite landscape lenses for the Sony E mount: the Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS. Its wide field of view makes it a great lens for capturing dramatic landscapes but its f/4 aperture is a little bit darker than I would typically desire for night photography. I was planning on falling back on my full frame a7II for any night photography but the a6000 ended up being what I used. I can’t think of a better way to challenge a camera at night than to mount it with a slow-ish lens like the 10-18mm f/4.

On the night of the aurora, we initially set out in our rental car along the Turnagain Arm and into Portage Valley, just south of Anchorage, Alaska. Aurora activity seemed pretty low when I started shooting photos but I really wanted to capture something. I started with a quick shot of the Milky Way, long after the brightest parts of the galaxy had set below the horizon.

Sony a6000, Milky Way from Portage Alaska, 15s, f/4, ISO 6400

Sony a6000, Milky Way from Portage Alaska, 15s, f/4, ISO 6400

The f/4 aperture of the 10-18mm lens really gave me a challenge at first. I felt like I was pushing the a6000 to its limit in the dark. With a 15 second exposure, the result was OK, but a little too grainy for my liking. I was trying to prevent star-trailing by using the shorter 15 second shutter time, but I realized that I was pushing the camera a little too much, especially with the f/4 aperture lens. From that point on, to compensate for the high f/number, I started dialing in longer shutter time.

Some of the first shots that showed noticeable aurora were facing the exact opposite direction, towards the north. A faint green glow lit up the horizon in the distance. It wasn’t the spectacular show that I wanted, but it was worth a shot of our rental car at least.

sony-a6000-review-1

Sony a6000, Faint Aurora from Portage Alaska, 30s, f/4, ISO 2000

After freezing my butt off in the cold and nearly falling down as I slipped around on the icy ground, I managed to convince Diana to pose with me for a portrait against the subtle glow of the aurora. The portrait was made super easy with the a6000 infrared remote capability. I used the little Vello IR remote to trigger the camera, no need to set a self-timer and run into place.

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Sony a6000, Faint Aurora from Portage Alaska, 30s, f/4, ISO 1600

After our brief romp in the cold, I started packing up for the night, thinking that we had captured all we would be able to see but Diana convinced me otherwise. She wanted to try one more stop along the road as we started to return towards Anchorage. Good thing she suggested that last stop.

Just as we started pulling up to our next photo spot, the sky quickly changed in intensity and brightness. At first, I just watched, slack-jawed as the sky lit up a brilliant green color and a band of aurora started dancing and moving above the mountains. I had no idea the aurora would be as brights and colorful as it was that night. I probably yelled “wow!” 20 times, at the top of my lungs, within the 5 minute period before realizing that I should probably try making a photo.

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Sony a6000, Aurora from Portage Alaska, 30s, f/4, ISO 1600

As I continued to shoot photos, the aurora just became even more spectacular, moving from just along the northern horizon to nearly everywhere in the sky, illuminating the landscape with its green glow.

Sony a6000, Aurora and Yaris, 15s, f/4, ISO 1600

Sony a6000, Aurora and Yaris, 15s, f/4, ISO 1600

We also witnessed a variety of other colors from reddish to magenta. I had experienced another colorful auroral display once before (in Wyoming) but the colors were so muted they were impossible to see with the naked eye. On this night, the colors were brighter and actually visible to my own eyes.

Sony a6000, Timelapse of the Aurora from Portage Alaska

Sony a6000, Time Lapse of the Aurora from Portage Alaska

I was so mesmerized by the display that I never bothered to switch to the Sony a7II that I had originally intended to use. Knowing I didn’t want to take a moment to stop making photos, I kept the a6000 on the tripod and continued shooting as long as I could stand the cold.

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Sony a6000, Aurora and Yaris, 30s, f/4, ISO 1600

Before packing up for the night, Diana and I made one last portrait of us with the colorful Alaskan sky. The aurora display was so bright  at this point that I managed to shoot our final portrait with a much shorter 10 second exposure.

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Sony a6000, Ian and Diana Under the Aurora, 10s, f/4, ISO 1600

It took a little bit of trial and error to find the best settings, but overall, the a6000 served its purpose well that night and I’m very happy with its performance, even with the f/4 lens. More than just the photo results that I captured that night, I think that the a6000 performed seamlessly. I had no issues checking focus on a bright star (this was before I had even designed the SharpStar) and everything about its operation made shooting at night quite easy.

Conclusions

Excellent for the price. If its low-light performance was just a little bit better, the a6000 would be perfect. But even though the a6000’s low-light performance is not class-leading, it’s still very good and makes some excellent night photos. It’s compact, it offers a lot of customizability, has a good selection of low f/number lenses available and at its price point, is within reach of most photographers on a budget. Whether being used as a primary camera or a backup, the a6000 delivers great image quality at a great price. It’s still my first recommendation for photographers looking for their first affordable interchangeable lens camera.

Sony a6000 Pros:

  • Compact
  • Affordable
  • Good (but not class-leading) low-light performance
  • Lots of button customization possible
  • Good lens selection

Sony a6000 Cons:

  • Spartan body design
  • Sony menu system
  • Old less-stiff Sony E mount (fixable with the Fotodiox Tough E-Mount LT)
  • Pink noise (electronic glow) if dark exposures are pushed a lot in post processing
  • Lower resolution viewfinder

Sony a6000 Verdict: RECOMMENDED! (4/5)

Where to Buy

This review would not be possible without the help of B&H. They temporarily lent us an a6000 to evaluate for this review. They’re easily the best camera store in the world and one of the most reputable online retailers. B&H has an excellent return policy and is guaranteed to have the lowest prices anywhere online. If you are considering buying a Sony a6000, or any equipment for that matter, consider buying through the affiliate links on this page. You won’t pay anything extra, but Lonely Speck will receive a small commission (usually 2-4%) to help run the website. Here are the links that help us run Lonely Speck:

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-Ian

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Ian Norman

Creator at Lonely Speck
Ian Norman, co-founder and creator of The Photon Collective and Lonely Speck. Ian is a full time traveler, photographer and entrepreneur. In February 2013, he called it quits on his 9-to-5 to pursue a lifestyle of photography. Follow Ian's photography adventures on Instagram.

53 Responses

  1. Edward De bruyn October 27, 2016 / 12:21 pm

    A6000 the good old beast.
    Was with Fuji for quit a while and thinking about selling the most of my Fuji stuff. Was very happy with the XT1( EX2, AX1) and the nice little but very good and amazingly sharp lenses (even the cheaper zooms). Luckily didn’t invest in the new very expensive lenses the XT2 because my Sony path was already engaged .
    I’m much more in a landscape mode now and the Sony A7R’s are just offering nice DR and higher resolution when I want (just a thing I like).
    On the other hand I’ve to confess: when I photograph people I still grap back to the Fuji’s, like very much the very nice skin color tones, the so nice little very user-friendly body’s.
    Are the best around for this purpose I should say (in my opinion).
    Even thinking about holding back one body and lens. More than enough resolution for the better family photography. If I was in travel or journalism I would definitely stay with Fuji.
    So Sony, yes going for the a6000, could get one for just 400€. Nice can use my full frame lenses on it and can travel light if I want and still have quality in close reach.

  2. Louis Barnes October 19, 2016 / 6:20 am

    Hi Ian, wondering if you’ve had the chance to play with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DN on the Sony a6000? I just got this camera for my own personal use and would love to know how it fares for dark sky photography and pano-stitchings. Thanks for you time and for this great website!

  3. Mary September 23, 2016 / 11:43 pm

    Great review! Great site! I’m going to buy my first camera and i cant decide what to choose. A6000(with kit lenses) or rx100 m3. Of course i plan to buy some better lenses in the future but for now i can only afford kit. What would You choose? This camera should also be good for typical vacation photography.

  4. Sammy September 21, 2016 / 7:51 pm

    Great review Ian! And beautiful photos! I’m thinking of getting my first mirrorless camera (an affordable one) but I’m torn between this a6000 and Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II . Can you give me a little guidance to which is better for a beginner? I love shooting portraits, landscapes and hopefully someday the Milky Way :)

  5. Arissa July 14, 2016 / 6:31 pm

    Thank you Ian. Amazing tips and review. I lost the opportunity to capture the Milkyway while in the Oz outback because I didn’t know how. Wish I found your blog earlier.

  6. Leo June 14, 2016 / 7:02 pm

    Hey Ian, So i currently have Cannon eos m and was thinking of eventually upgrading to the Sony a7r II. I read your review on the a6000 and was wondering if this would be a good starting point on my switch over to sony and if you would consider this to be an upgrade from my eos m? Or is there another camera you would recommend?

  7. Ethan J Sample May 8, 2016 / 11:36 am

    So in-depth! Thank you Ian.. I love your YouTube channel, very helpful.

  8. J April 30, 2016 / 5:01 am

    Hello!
    I was wondering if the Sony a5000 with the Rokinon 12mm would still give me good results. I am looking to use the camera for Milky Way photography, Orion photography, and some astroimaging through my telescope. What would be the difference between an a6000 and a5000 image? Also, is the a5000 even a good astrophotographers camera?
    Thanks!

    • MikeBabsYYC May 19, 2016 / 5:27 pm

      Hello, I’m also in the same boat and hoping for a response.

    • Ian Norman May 19, 2016 / 10:55 pm

      Personally, I think the a5000 isn’t worth getting. The general sentiment is that the a5100 is much improved. The a5100 shares the same sensor as the a6000 so performance will be very similar to this review.

  9. Javier Martínez Morán April 24, 2016 / 8:30 am

    Awesome review Ian!
    I wanted to share with you some of the photos i´ve been doing for the last year with the Sony a6000.
    Link
    What do you think? 😉
    I think it´s an amazing camera at a very affordable price ( even more now that the a6300 is out ).
    I use it mainly for astrophotography with the Samyang 12 mm f2.0 and I think it´s a great combo, you cant find anything better for the money.

    • Ian Norman April 24, 2016 / 11:28 am

      Brilliant! I think your photographs are awesome! An outstanding example of not just what can be done with this camera, but of some truly great astrophotography.

    • Javier Martínez Morán April 24, 2016 / 1:10 pm

      Thank you Ian!
      You were one of my inspirations to start doing astrophoto two years ago..so it means a lot to me.
      If you ever come to madrid, let me know 😉

    • Marcio Mello June 23, 2016 / 11:01 am

      Wow! Amazing. I am new to photography and I wish I could do that. I’ll be buying the A6300 as my first camera with the Rokinon 12mm f/2 but as everybody likes to say, ” pictures can only be as good as the photographer”.

  10. Andraz April 23, 2016 / 7:59 am

    Hello !
    I’m not an astrophotographer..not yet.
    but now, I ‘ve decided to test.
    I’m using a Sony Zeiss 24 f1.8 mm which is a great lens.
    Thanks to you, I’ve got the Rokinon.

    Thank you

  11. Zayyan April 16, 2016 / 9:48 am

    Would I be able to capture considerable photos with the A6000 kit lens?

    • Mario May 2, 2016 / 8:00 pm

      With this reply I want to thank Ian for the great portal he’s made up, the knowledge and inspiration that his work is for me.
      I made this one with the kit lens and hope to save enough to get the rokinon one day:
      http://almadebajasur.com/estrellas.html
      Greetings from BCS, Mexico

  12. mike berger April 12, 2016 / 7:45 pm

    Hi Ian, love the site and recommend it to people every chance I get. Curious what your thoughts and experiences are about how the a6000 compares to nex6 for astrophotography and low-light performance? I have the nex6, though am considering an eventual upgrade to the a6000. Thanks!

    • Ian Norman April 13, 2016 / 9:19 pm

      I personally have not used the Nex 6 but most comparisons put them at about the same low-light noise performance. The a6000 has more resolution, of course.

  13. Jan Inge Larsen April 9, 2016 / 10:46 am

    Excellent review. I also love the a6000 and it have become my nr 1 camera instead of the the bacup camera. I agree that the Rokinon/Samyang 12mm is a great lens for this camera. I can see at your test its best at night that Iso 1600 is maybe optimal for nightshot, but at daylight the best respons is at 100-200 Iso. Why do you mean that it should use so iso with Auroras? I use often lower iso if the aurora is strong.
    .My nigthshot of Aurora/Northern lights with this camera can be seen in my timelapse “The Land of the Arctic Circle”

    the Aurora clip is after about 2minand 28 sec.
    Thanks for your great tips and review.

    • Ian Norman April 9, 2016 / 11:56 am

      I use ISO 1600 and higher for shooting in dark conditions because the sensor shows better shadow noise performance from 1600 and higher, based on my ISO-invariance test. ISO 400 and 800 are pretty close but from my experience, 1600 and higher seems best. Your time lapse is amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Jon April 8, 2016 / 3:29 pm

    Great review! I love your website!

    Question: What do you think of the Batis 25 f/2 as an astrophotography lens?

  15. Miguel Lopes April 7, 2016 / 2:59 pm

    didn’t like your reviewing a6000 and still haven’t tested Oly E-M5mkII or E-M1 :(
    or did i missed it (ups :))?

  16. Adim April 7, 2016 / 10:52 am

    Hi Ian,

    Finally, a post after almost two months. I just sold my A6000 + 10-18mm F4 in exchange of RX100iv for its compact size. I’m agree with you that A6000 is a superb cheap APS-C with a lot of features (in video also).

    Recently, I read another an Astrophotography blog that using Micro four thirds camera (Olympus/Panasonic). Will you review at least one of them? it will be interesting (at least for me).

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge to us, keep it up!

  17. remi ferrieri April 7, 2016 / 1:23 am

    Ian, Thanks for this review.
    One question:
    How does the A6000 compare to the A7? just talking about the sensor performance.
    I know one is APS-C and the other FF, so it is difficult to compare, but would you rather have the A6000 with a Samyang 16mm f/2 or 21mm f/1.4 or the A7 with the Samyang 24mm f/1.4 ?

    I currently use a Nex 3N with a Samyang 12mm f/2, and am prety happy with it but I am considering an upgrade, especialy with a viewfinder for day pictures.

    • Jonas April 7, 2016 / 4:53 am

      @Remi I’m not Ian but I’ll give you my take. Light gathering wise the 24/1.4 and the 12/2 you already have are pretty much evenly matched. The A7r will have a good 1 stop advantage due to the larger sensor. With that said the 24/1.4 is MUCH bigger and heavier than the 12/2.

      So if having something light and portable matters get an APS-C sized body. The fullframe lenses essentially take away the size advantage of having a small mirrorless camera. It’s essentially like carrying a DSLR. With that said they do offer superior image quality.

    • remi ferrieri April 7, 2016 / 9:17 am

      Thanks Jonas for the answer, in fact I would use mainly the old Canon FD lens I already have (35mm, 50mm,135mm,300mm) that are all FF and pretty compact (except the 300) compared to modern lenths so I am not too worried about size, except the 24mm that is indeed pretty big (as I would need this one for MW pics), but this is not really a concern.
      But I was asking about the basic A7 the cheapest one, which is now priced between an A6000 and an A6300.

    • Jonas April 7, 2016 / 10:34 am

      Given that you are using manual focus lenses which work on FF I assume you don’t care about having a fast auto focus or very high frame rate which would in my opinion be the remaining benefits of the a6000 over the a7 (other than size) so I’d clearly recommend the a7.

      You will get noticeably higher image quality and you get to use your old glass at it’s intended focal length.

    • Tony Barnhill April 16, 2016 / 8:40 am

      Hi, I’ve had the A6000 for awhile, and I want to pick up a lens for it now. I also plan on picking up an A7Sii this summer. Is the 24/1.4 going to be my best bet for getting something I can use with both cameras? Cost, size, and brand aside.
      Thanks for your help, this will be my largest camera purchase ever between the camera and lens and want to make sure I’m not wasting my money. So happy I found your site.

  18. Lani April 6, 2016 / 12:19 pm

    Wonderful article Ian. The a6000 and 12mm f/2 are my current set up. It’s nice to see some of the possibilities. Thank you for sharing!

  19. Thomas Feldman April 6, 2016 / 12:15 pm

    Excellent review!

    I was going to wait to buy myself an a6000 until you posted your review, but impatience got the better of me and I got one a few months ago, and I love it!

    I purchased the Rokinon 12mm for landscape/astro shots and the Sony 35mm f/1.8 for everyday shots (to take advantage of the fast auto focus etc…)

    I am just getting into photography and this camera has been outstanding so far!

    • Ian Norman April 6, 2016 / 3:40 pm

      Ha! Sorry we didn’t get the review out earlier! (It’s been a long time in the making, mostly on the backburner). Sounds like a good kit!

  20. Jonas April 5, 2016 / 3:50 pm

    @ralph the truth is that it doesn’t matter all that much as long as it’s in the ballpark. Whether you increase the gain via bumping the iso or later bump the exposure in raw is really not that important (on most cameras anyways). Also for a lot of lenses it does make sense to stop down a bit to get rid of some of the aberrations even at the cost of noise. The rokinon/samyang performs decently at f2 so I would usually not stop it down (for the sky exposure).

    Photo Link this has been my favorite shot with the a6000 so far, definitely a capable and small camera when paired with a decent lens.

    • Ian Norman April 5, 2016 / 4:08 pm

      All super good points Jonas. Definitely only need to be roughly close to get a decent exposure. I often find myself stopping a lens down just for that little extra bit of sharpness at the expense of some noise.

      Awesome shot! It looks like that 24mm f/1.8 is a great lens… I’ll have to try one out.

    • Jonas April 7, 2016 / 4:59 am

      @Ian re the 24/1.8 it’s a nice lens but pricey for what it is. The sammy 12/2 costs 1/3 and gathers twice as much light (1/6 the price per photon!) at comparable quality.

      For the same price I got a Tamron 15-30. Haven’t been able to do some Astrophotography with it yet but judging form the performance in other scenarios (and photos that others have taken with it) I expect it to do really well – but it is a giant hunk of glass to carry around.

  21. mariano April 5, 2016 / 2:05 pm

    Great review, it would be nice if you could do a review of the new a6300, it seems to be just a bit better in low light conditions, but at twice of the price.

    • Ian Norman April 5, 2016 / 4:05 pm

      I have heard that the a6300 is also a little bit better. I’ll try to test it out some time this summer and do a quick comparison to the a6000.

  22. Bayden April 5, 2016 / 12:18 pm

    Just picked up an A6300 and 10-18mm F4 and will be using it for multi day backpacking trips this year. What are your thoughts on this setup for astro?

    I do have the rokinon 12mm however it is for my Samsung nx500 which would mean adding up to 1.5# extra to the backpack to take that camera and lens combo with accessories along just for doing Astro shots which does add up over a number of days/weeks out

    • Ian Norman April 5, 2016 / 4:04 pm

      I think it should be a really good setup. Just be generous with your shutter time. I think the 10-18mm/4 at 10mm is short enough a focal length to push the exposure all the way to 30 seconds without star trailing and that should help compensate for the slightly higher f/number. (Also, remember to turn off Steady Shot while doing astro shots.) I’ve heard that the a6300 might have slightly improved noise performance over the a6000 but I haven’t gotten to use one yet. I’d say to stick with the one camera/one lens mantra for your trip. You’ll enjoy the weight off your back and I think it will be fine for some astro shots.

    • Bayden April 8, 2016 / 10:06 am

      Thanks for the reply. Decided to hedge my bets a bit and was able to find a fairly cheap rokinon 8mm 2.8 fisheye so picked it up and will bring it along as well

  23. hyeon yong April 5, 2016 / 7:24 am

    NICE POST IAN! i’m good to see your review! recently, i’m considering buying dslr or mirrorless after several months. i think a6000( XD), d7200, 6d and d610 in mind. but i don’t know what to choose. can you recommend camera and lens? my budget is about 1000~1600$(of course the cheaper the better)
    ps. rokinon is the business of my country and i like it very much, i appreciate you praise it!
    i’m looking forward to your next post(i wait almost a month to see this post) thank you

    • Ian Norman April 5, 2016 / 4:00 pm

      Thanks Hyeon! That’s a long list of cameras. Of those, my personal opinion is the a6000 or Canon EOS 6D. I think the a6000 with the Samyang/Rokinon 12mm/2 is a good place to start. Samyang/Rokinon really do make some great lenses. They offer many things that other lens companies have not, and at a very good price.

  24. Johannes April 5, 2016 / 4:31 am

    the a6000 really is a great affordable camera to capture night skies, especially with the 2/12mm Rokinon/Samyang lens!

    Last month, when shooting some aurora with my A7R2 (which was more capable for that purpose than in my wildest dreams!), i borrowed the a6000 to my girlfriend’s father, who owns a Nikon D60… what a difference 5 years can make, both regarding the ease of focussing and the noise!

    • Ian Norman April 5, 2016 / 3:58 pm

      Cameras sure have become amazing in the last 5 years, couldn’t agree more.

  25. aleixandrus April 5, 2016 / 4:29 am

    Just a few comments of the mentioned Sony a5100… I bought one a few months ago and it has the same characteristics/sensor of the a6000 for a fraction of the cost (~$350 in my case, with 16-50 kit lens). However, note:

    – no viewfinder (not a problem for me)
    – touch screen, perfect for fast focus or activate magnification (NOT for menus)
    – cannot disable noise reduction, so caution with timelapses (trick: using simple bracketing it surprisingly turns off automatically)
    – although configurable, few buttons. I miss A LOT the function button (Fn), there is not configurable menu as the a6000 has, so you have to navigate through a LOT of options. At the end you memorizes the menus, but Sony should ease things a little bit

    I also bought the Samyang/Rokinon 12mm f2.0 and this couple is just GREAT, its very easy to shot, I greatly recommend it.

    • aleixandrus April 5, 2016 / 4:32 am

      An additional note: Sony a5100/a6000 are MUCH better than a5000, it compensates the economical effort

    • Ian Norman April 5, 2016 / 3:57 pm

      Aleixandrus, thanks for sharing your experiences with the a5100. Very good to know about the noise reduction/bracketing trick. Yes, it’s too bad there is no Fn menu.

  26. Sebastien April 5, 2016 / 3:35 am

    Excellent report thanks and the photos are amazing!
    I have the rx100m3 Iwould know have You test a rx1r and Fuji xpro2 ?

    • Ian Norman April 5, 2016 / 3:55 pm

      I would love to test both the X-Pro2 and RX-1R II. In time.

  27. Ralph April 5, 2016 / 2:38 am

    I see that you’re taking pictures of the night sky at all different exposure times and F stops. How do you determain that? I have the a6000 and the Rokinon 12mm F2.0. And when i get the chance to shoot the galactic centre, I always go with your exposure calulator, (should be iso 1600/3200 F2.0 around 28 seconds)

    • Ian Norman April 5, 2016 / 3:54 pm

      Hey Ralph, That’s a good question. Honestly it’s just because I was playing around. Perhaps testing a lens at a lower f/number, seeing what ISO 6400 looked like on the camera, etc. The exposure calculator is a good place to start and that’s still what I usually use too.

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