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Having used one of my pair of NEX 6 bodies in Vanvouver, both for video and stills, as well as to make a self portrait of the front of my pants when I experienced a true ‘wardrobe failure’ (see HERE, bottom of the post), where the extendable screen made  that image possible, I am able to update my earlier NEX 6 POST with a few comments and observations. As an aside, none of my former pro. Nikon DSLRs, D3 and D3s, would have been able to make that shot, with accurate framing, because they lack any swivel screens).

I can attest that the NEX 6 is capable of making clean images at 12,800 ISO; this is a remarkable performance—I will write a short piece on the Air New Zealand Space Seat’ soon; I mention this because I took a few non-stabilised hand-held images of this seating before the cabin lights came on, and I needed 12,800 just to get an exposure. More on this in a later post.

I must mention a failure here, too: while shooting a video of my Canadian host, Linda Winterton, I had Auto focussed (AF) on her face while setting up, but in getting herself in a comfortable position, she must have moved just enough for the camera’s AF to lock on to the background momentarily (this form of AF refocusses continuously, but subtly, but the position she sat in must have resulted in the Flexible spot being just off her face; what I would not give for an assistant, occasionally!); and hence she is out of focus. However, her voice has been very accurately recorded via the on-camera mics, so when I cut this video, I will use her voice over footage I shot earlier in a voice over; I think I can recover the shoot.

My error was one of method: I should simply have set up using AF, then reset the camera to MF (manual focus) where it would have stayed—I plead pressure (we had very little time to shoot, on the morning I was leaving). But lesson learned, for sure. My biggest surprise was listening back to the audio recorded from the camera: excellent and as I had forgotten to push the Record button for the second-system sound recorder (the excellent Roland R-05); again (clearly!) I must not have been concentrating completely on the process). I have to say, though, that this is a continuing problem for director/performers: it is difficult to keep one’s mind on the many necessary technical details as well as the substance of an interview or performance—technical excellence means bugger all if what you record is simply not interesting.

(Note to non-Australian readers: the work “bugger” has many meanings, and is used here as a term of emphasis—e.g., “hot as buggery” and “cold as buggery” are used often in Australian English and, no doubt, very confusing to non-English speakers.)

General

There are many aspects I like about the NEX 6 interface. As I mentioned in the earlier post (but worth re-mentioning) is that once you set it up, no menu-diving is necessary. Only the Format card command lives there (and the camera can be configured to rerurn to the last-used Menu setting, so is always there). So, to be specific, the following is how I have both of mine NEX bodies set up (and I note that there is no separate video setup, apart from choosing recording format and frame rate; I shoot 1080p/24 at 24Mbps; extremely clean video that future proofs anything I shoot AND the resulting files are only about twice the size of the 720p files I used to use.

Lenses and Picture Style

I use one of the “Sigma twins” Art series lenses (the excellent 30/2.8, or the 19/2.8, with effective fields of view of 45mm and 28mm, respectively). Internally, I am set up to shoot Raw and jpeg, with Picture style set to -1 Contrast, 0 Saturation, and -1 Sharpening (this affects both video and the jpegs).

Function (‘Fn’) button

The front Fn button is set in the menu, and there are many options  that can be set for this button. My setup chooses between WB (and I note that any of the presets can be adjusted on a two-axis colour array, Green–Magenta on the vertical; Blue–Amber on the horizontal; and I usually have a +1 on the warmer axis for nice skin tones); AF area (I use Flexible Spot), Focus (I use DMF, Direct Manual Focus, which together with Manual Focus aids set in-camera, magnification and peaking; works brilliantly—I can check exactly what the AF has locked on to and alter immediately if necessary, in a magnified view), and  Flash (I chose Fill Flash, which means it always fires if the Flash is manually deployed, its own button on the back of the top plate, and the Fill amount is set to -1.3EV), and Exposure (Multi, like Nikon’s ‘Matrix”).

Soft Keys

‘A’ brings up the Menu; Soft Key ‘B’ brings up the Flexible Spot which, in an undocumented feature, stays active while you are shooting, so (for example) if I am shooting portraits, I can move the spot anywhere directly without pushing any bottoms; and it stays this way until you push the OK centre button. This is an immensely practical implementation that is simply better than any other camera I have ever used. I note that while this mode is active, none others can be set, so to return to standard operation, one needs to press the OK button.

Video button

And video mode is available on its own button and will simply follow any setting you have for jpegs re. colour, sharpening, etc., and whatever you have selected on the top Mode dial (I always shoot Manual (M) for video: shutter speed is critical, especially for movement and especially for avoiding strobing under fluorescent light, and you can see this clearly on the LCD or the ikan field monitor—how useful is this?

AEL button

is just what the name says, in my setup: exposure lock, and it toggles (set, off). Very helpful in bright light, or backlit situations.

That’s it, really, the other critical controls (ISO, Display Options, Drive Mode, and Exposure compensation) are on their own points on the rear dial (RHS, Top, LHS, and bottom, respectively).

I will follow this up with the Air New Zealand seat review in the next week or so, with the high ISO examples I mentioned above.