Sony has been cocking a snook at DSLR users for a while now, pushing its mirrorless Alpha NEX range as a more convenient alternative. Without delving into jargon, what makes these cameras special is the fact that they come with a lot of the DSLR features (great sensors, removable lenses, multiple shooting modes and the like), but minus the bulk. Most of Sony’s NEX series can slip into a routine bag, and even into pockets of relatively spacious overcoats. The result, in ideal conditions, is a very portable camera that can take great pictures, and give you the option to change lenses if you are the type.
And the latest imaging gauntlet chucked by Sony at the DSLR crowd is the Alpha NEX-6. It comes packed with a lot of muscle (a 16.1-megapixel APS-C sensor, 10 fps shooting and Wi-Fi), while remaining as compact as its predecessors — it is barely 12 cm long and tips the scales at 345 gms, light enough to lug around, even if you add the 16-50mm lens that comes with the package to it. Sony has also decided to step away from touchscreen displays at the back — the 3.0-inch one here is accompanied by a bevvy of buttons next to it and a dial, which will be welcomed by those who prefer the solid feel of a button to touching the screen — some of the earlier NEX cameras came with touchscreens. A noticeable move up from the NEX-5 series is also the presence of a viewfinder, albeit an electronic OLED one, as well as a proper mode dial, letting you switch different shooting options (manual, auto, aperture priority, panorama, etc).
All this in a frame that is reassuringly solid, and praise be, has a comfortable grip on the side of the lens, allowing you to comfortably use it one-handed, should the need arise. We honestly feel the NEX-6 feels more like a very compact DSLR than its predecessors did (those buttons and the mode dial sure help).
And it takes brilliant shots too. Following the advice of one of our professional photographer friends, we messed around with all the modes on board before finally working out that good old ‘auto’ worked best. Images were clear and in best Sony tradition, the colours were brilliant. We have seldom seen evening skies look so spectacular and flowers and leaves so colourful.
The fact that you can tilt the inbuilt flash does make a massive difference in those tricky low light conditions. Yes, we did feel that the viewfinder ended up showing us slightly more saturated colours than what actually appeared in the shots, but by and large, we just loved the convenience of whipping out the camera and knocking off a few shots in no time at all — something that is not quite possible on the more bulky DSLRs.
Which is not to say the NEX-6 is perfect. It has its headaches. The menu system is messy (the one time we really missed a touchscreen) and getting used to the button layout takes some time — the compact frame means that everything is clustered together closely, and two buttons change functions depending on the LCD displays. We were also unable to transfer images over Wi-Fi and while there are apps available for download, evidently they are not available for Indian users. But then, battery life is decent (about 300 shots easily) and well, you do get very good images and videos.
Verdict: Does it do enough to make you leave your DSLR at home? Well, speaking for ourselves, we are not too sure — the OLED viewfinder does not really give you the same feel as a real one, and we feel the camera will get a touch unwieldy the moment you slap a bigger lens on it. Also at its price tag, you can easily get a DSLR which might be bigger but will match the image quality the NEX-6 offers and offer more in terms of lens options. But if you are looking for the lens swapping flexibility of a DSLR with the chuck-it-in-any-bag convenience of a ‘normal’ digital camera without compromising on image quality, well, it would be difficult to do better than this one. Ah, if only it were a third less expensive...
Getting touchy with Windows
It looks and feels like a slab of black marble but is actually Logitech’s rather nifty T650 Touchpad. Designed for those who want to be able to use gestures without having to touch the displays of their computers or are just fed up of the trackpads on their own notebooks (we know a lot of people who are), the Touchpad comes with a set of gestures that lets you navigate your computer with minimum fuss. And it works with both Windows 7 and Windows 8, although you would need to brush up on the gestures to use with each before you get started. Yes, it is a tad expensive, but it is stylish, easy to set up, very portable and in our humble book, tapping and swiping on its smooth surface beats lugging a mouse around.
For: Rs 4,995
Gadgets galore? Chaaaaarge!
With great gadgetry comes...lower battery life. We might as well face it, while devices seem to be getting better, battery lives seem to be constantly heading south and fortunate are they who can spend a day without warily checking out a room for a power outlet. Which is why the portable charger market is booming and if ye are one plagued with more than one gadget to charge, then Sony’s CP-F2LSA is definitely something you should be looking at. It packs in 7000 mAh of battery juice — enough to power up not just a smartphone but also a tablet — and what’s more, you can even charge two gadgets at the same time. All this in a sleek, easy to carry package. Worth the price? Definitely, if you are among the (gadget) power hungry.
For: Rs 5,500
The write path for notebooks
So you want to experience the “touch” of Windows 8 but are in no mood to shell out the bucks for a new notebook? Well, Hi-Tech Solutions’ eTouch Pen will let you touch, tap, drag and slide your way across Windows 8 even on a non-touchscreen display. Sounds magical? Well, it is, and it actually works. All you need to do is attach a receiver unit to your monitor, and after a spot of calibration, you are all set to write and draw on it and even play games, if they are touch-oriented, using the stylus-like eTouch Pen. Not a bad deal at all for the price, we think. Just be patient at the calibration stage.
For: Rs 3,999