Mirrorless in Rome

Sistine-Chapel-ceiling--Vatican-Michelangelo-Twitter.jpg (1 of 1)

Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo, Vatican City. Click for more photos.

During the lull between New York City Ballet and ABT seasons, our family took a trip to Rome and I posted photos on my photography website notmydayjobphotography. There’s a lot to love about Rome with all of its history, great architecture, and beautiful scenery. Trying to take in all of the sights in just eight days is an exhausting experience and we treasured our journey.

Unlike previous vacations, I left my Canon T2i DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) at home (in addition to the bulky 17-55 f2.8 lens) in favor of a Sony A6000 mirrorless camera. A big difference between DSLR and mirrorless cameras is size; the A6000 weighs only 16.5 ounces compared with the Canon 2ti with 17-55mm lens at 2.6 pounds (about 42 ounces). Walking over 10 miles a day with a large camera and a tripod bag gets tiring; I’m not getting any younger, so I gave the Sony a try.

The Sony A6000 looks like a toy compared with a DSLR. Looks can be deceiving as it packs in great features such as a 24.3 MP sensor, a hybrid autofocus system with 179 focus points that cover over 90% of the frame, a burst rate of 11 frames per second, great image quality, and WiFi capabilities. Now that Sony introduced the latest version of the line (A6300), the A6000 is a great bargain at $650 with the standard 17-50 mm kit lens.

St-Peters-Basilica-Vatican-Rome (1 of 1)

Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Click for more photos.

The small size makes it great for travel photography. At times, I forgot I had a camera around my neck, a feeling I never have with a DSLR. The camera fits well in my hands with a solid build with well laid out controls. I didn’t consult the manual much and was able to figure out the basic features quickly. Press the Fn button on the back and a number of options appear such as ISO, burst rate, white balance, focus mode. Customizable back button controls are available.

I used the 16-50mm kit lens, which is a small pancake lens that expands when the camera is turned on. In RAW format, the lens produces substantial barrel distortion, particularly around 16-20mm. However, the distortion is controllable through post processing adjustments in Lightroom. I thought the center sharpness was fine with reasonable edge sharpness. The lens has some negative reviews on various photography blogs; my limited experience with the lens is positive, particularly considering its size and price.

I didn’t use a tripod on this trip. Given that many of the sites were churches with dim lighting, I needed a camera with high ISO capabilities. The A6000 came through, with reasonable and controllable noise at 4000 ISO with post-processing in Lightroom. In churches, my shutter speeds ranged from 1/50 to 1/250.

Overall, the A6000 is a great camera, very portable and easy to use with well laid out controls. The lens lineup for the camera is not as extensive as Canon, which offers a wide range of lenses including specialty lenses such as fisheye and tilt/shift. One downside of the A6000 is the battery life, which is much shorter than a DSLR. This is a minor issue as third-party batteries with a charger are available for around $25 for two batteries. With the A6000, is necessary to carry several extra batteries, which are easy to swap.

As good as the A6000 is, I’m not going to ditch my Canon 7d m2 that I use for dance photography. The added size of 5.6 pounds including a Canon 70-200 lens is worth it considering the 7d’s great autofocusing capabilities in low light with a great burst rate at 10 frames per second.

For more detailed A6000 reviews, see Ken Rockwell, Digital Photography Review, and Imaging Resource. YouTube also has many videos on the A6000, along with other substantial photography resources.


Piazza Venzia, Rome. Click for more photos.