In today’s post, we will compare the similarities and differences between two entry-level interchangeable lens camera from Sony, the Sony a5000 and a6000. And, ultimately, assess which of these cameras are best for your specific desires. Both cameras aim to be appealing options for photographers looking to step-up their photography to their first mirrorless camera. Considering their price, both remain competitive, yet capable platforms that deliver performance without that massive hit to the bank account.
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Size & Dimensions
Physically, the cameras significantly differ between one another. The 5-series proves to be both smaller in form factor and the lighter option of the two, weighing in at only 269g compared to 344g. In hand, this difference in weight is easily recognizable. Its measurements show that it is also slightly smaller, though not significantly so, 110 x 63 x 36 mm vs. 120 x 67 x 45 mm. For those looking for the absolute smallest form factor, the 5-series takes the cake in that regard.
Physical Controls & Ergonomics
Continuing on their physical differences, their build quality and overall construction are vastly different. In this case, the 6-series features a magnesium alloy chassis, creating a far more robust and premium feeling camera. The 5-series, however, feels incredibly cheap and is composed primarily out of polycarbonate plastic.
In physical controls, both cameras are wildly different as well, and this is an area where potential deal-breakers exist. In short, the 5-series offers significantly less manual control and customization than the larger 6-series. It lacks a dedicated Mode selection wheel on the top of the camera. Instead, changing scenes or modes occurs solely through the camera’s main menu. It’s missing a rear adjustment dial, used to adjust exposure, custom buttons, and the FN menu button.
The 6-series, however, has all of these features. It has two custom buttons, C1 and C2, the FN menu, and the rear adjustment dial. These features combine to provide significantly more manual control and versatility in its customization. If customization and manual control are crucial to you long-term, it makes for the better camera in this regard.
Outside of controls, the cameras have differences in the placement of their SD card slots and batteries. Unfortunately, the 6-series houses both the battery and SD card in the same compartment underneath the camera. This makes quick changes to either infuriating when the cameras mounted on a tripod. The 5-series, on the other hand, separates both and houses the SD in its side compartment. Nice. Not a deal-break, but a definite annoyance.
In handling, the 5-series offers surprisingly little grip in comparison to the 6-series due to its smaller size. But, both cameras are reasonably uncomfortable for those with larger hands with their compact form factors.
Another area of potential deal-breakers is their displays. While both cameras feature 3-inch TFT LCDs, their differences come in the form of their articulation, resolution, and viewing. The 5-series provides more versatility in articulation, offering a 180° rotation for front-facing selfies or vlogging applications. The 6-series, however, tilts up 45° and down 90°, respectively, which makes the 5-series the better choice in versatility here. Unfortunately, in the resolution and overall viewing capabilities, is where things fall apart. The 5-series only features a display resolution of 460K dots, which is dominated by the 6-series 921K dots. The reality is that 460K, both during the camera’s initial release and even today, remains fall below industry-standard expected. In all, this means several things. Firstly it lacks the detail needed to resolve fine details when reviewing images for focus in playback, making this process quite challenging. Secondly, it just doesn’t have sufficient brightness and viewing angles when composing outdoors in bright sunlight, where its easily washed out. Overall, the 6-series offers better viewing, more resiliency to daylight conditions, and the superior display. While the 5-series is incredibly capable of delivering sharp images, it’s rear LCD doesn’t do it justice.
The 5-series is also missing an electronic viewfinder, forcing users to compose solely via the rear display. As mentioned before, this could be challenging in several ways. The 6-series offers a viewfinder with 100% coverage of the image area with a 1.44M dot resolution and decent magnification of 0.7x.
In image quality, the 6-series series features an improved CMOS sensor with a resolution 24.3-megapixel compared to 20.1. Both cameras feature a Bionz X image processor, Sony’s standard naming convention for this component. But, the 6-series has a new implementation that allows it to produce a higher native ISO range, moving from 16,000 of the 5-series to 25,600. In all, this means that the camera has greater flexibility during low light, high ISO shooting. But, both cameras deliver sharp images with vibrant and accurate colors on their default settings. Their differences are only apparent in low light and large format printing, both of which are areas the 6-series exceeds.
The 6-series offers slightly greater flexibility in video capabilities. It can now shoot at 1080p up 60 frames per second, instead of the 24 frame maximum on the 5-series. With the latest firmware update, the camera even supports Sony’s most recent XAVCS video codec. This newer codec supplies smoother footage than standard MP4 or AVCHD formats, providing added versatility in post-production. In terms of actual quality, however, both camera delivers more than acceptable detail for consumer-grade cameras.
In autofocusing performance and capabilities, this is another area the 6-series pulls ahead with its superior 179-point phase-detect AF system, 25 of which are contrast points. This system provides a 92% coverage of the imaging area, which delivers fast subject tracking and facial detection across the frame. The 5-series, moreover, has only a 25-point contrast only system, which is somewhat primitive in comparison. The hybrid AF system of the 6-series is a notable improvement over other iterations in the Alpha series at the time, and single-handled its key selling feature. While the 5-series is good under normal conditions, it just doesn’t supply the same level of tracking capabilities.
Both cameras feature the identical Sony NP-FW50 battery. Yet, surprisingly, their battery performance and longevities differ. The 5-series delivers the better battery performance of the two with a 420 shots per charge lifespan compared to just 360 in the 6-series. This increase is the result of its missing viewfinder and lower-resolution display.
User Interface & Menus
Both cameras feature adequate controls and dials, though the 5-series lacks the same level of immediacy the 6-series offers. Nonetheless, the core functionality between both cameras is mostly identical. In short, the 6-series offers more customization, which makes it a better option for those more serious about long term development or prefers manual operation. The 5-series is more menu-driven and requires a bit more finesse to achieve the same versatility, but it is possible. In terms of their menus and interface, both cameras are virtually identical and offer the same capabilities there. As mentioned previously, the 5-series is missing a Mode dial, so changing modes occur through its menu. It’s also missing the configurable Fn menu. Overall, these are minor differences and not deal-breakers by any means.
In continuous shooting speeds, the 6-series offers an impressive 11 fps burst rate, overshadowing the 5-series 3.4 fps.
Both cameras have Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, which allows for wireless image transfer and remote operation.
Both cameras have built-in pop-up flashes.
Both cameras offer zebras for highlight warning or exposure clipping.
Both cameras have focus magnification and peaking, which combine to help obtain critical focus with ease during manual focus.
Both cameras lack headphone inputs.
Both cameras lack microphone inputs. For improved audio, you will have to use an external record and use the 5-series internal microphone as a guide track for post-production synching.
The 5-series is missing a hot shoe adapter, which means users cannot use a hot shoe adapted microphone or external accessories. Thankfully, you can use Sony’s hot shoe microphone on the 6-series.
The 5-series is missing an electronic viewfinder.
The 5-series lacks PC remote functionality for remote control when connected to a computer.
So which is best?
As you can see from the article, the a6000 is considerably more capable than the lower-priced a5000 in almost every facet. However, while specifications are great on paper, the decision ultimately comes down to your shooting requirements. The 180° flip-up screen can be a worthy tradeoff for an electronic viewfinder for those looking for a capable vlogging or self-filming camera. And that addition alone can justify purchasing the camera. But, if you’re not planning on those applications, then the remaining drawbacks of the camera may not justify its purchase. It is an excellent option for those moving up from a smartphone that isn’t looking for anything complicated or on a tighter budget. But, it surely has its limitations. If you want a camera with better autofocus and tracking, the 6-series the better choice, it’s also the better choice if you plan on shooting both stills and videos. If you plan on shooting outdoors often, the addition of the viewfinder will be invaluable. And, overall, the a6000 delivers better performance, added customization, and a stronger feature set, making it the better choice that provides more value.