I’ve spent the past few weeks researching cameras, and finally bought a Sony a6000 – and am completely in love with it. Here are some resources for your own research, if you’re considering the same type of purchase.

With a big summer of trips coming up, I knew that I wanted to get a better camera than the point-and-shoot which I had bought in 2012. After carrying Galina’s Nikon D7000 on the Kalalau Trail, I knew that I needed something lighter so that I would actually bring it along (with Galina’s 18-200mm lens, the D7000 weighs 3lbs) and carry it ready-to-shoot rather than hidden inside a pack.

For me, a huge motivator was the desire for a wide-angle lens: on the Kalalau trail I found myself constantly wishing that I could capture a wider perspective and more of the surroundings. While I’d love the light weight of a high-quality pocket camera that offered a wide lens, it seemed that any fixed-lens camera wouldn’t be an improvement over my existing point-and-shoot (or phone).

With that constraint, I was looking at DSLR and mirrorless cameras, a big step up in both cost and quality. In my classic approach to a new purchase, I compiled a spreadsheet with all the competing cameras and their specs, with an emphasis on weight, shooting speed (frames per second), resolution, and highest ISO (a higher usable ISO would let me capture better star and nighttime photos). The spreadsheet is skewed towards the Nikon line, in the hope that I would find a DSLR that would allow me to swap lenses with Galina.

While the Nikon D5500 was an impressive contender with its 15-ounce body and full feature set, I couldn’t find a way to get around the incredible weight of DSLR zoom lenses- 20oz for a typical zoom lens, compared with 4-8oz for a comparable mirrorless lens. The combined weight savings meant that I could carry a mirrorless camera, extra batteries, and three lenses– all for less than the weight of a “lightweight” DSLR with a single zoom lens (2lbs).

In the mirrorless world, research quickly led me to gravitate towards Sony, a pioneer in mirrorless cameras and the firm which seemed to be taking the space most seriously. While Canon and Nikon pour all their efforts into developing expensive DSLRs which weigh as much as a brick, Sony’s top-of-line cameras were mirrorless… and were converting professional photographers and hobbyists alike.

While there are generally fewer mirrorless lenses available than traditional lenses, Sony’s relatively long tenure in the field meant that there were more options for its mirrorless lineup than for its competitors (Olympus, Panasonic, and Fujifilm). And while some photographers tout the ability to use lens adapters to put traditional lenses on a mirrorless body, that would wipe out all the weight savings that drew me to the field.

I ultimately settled on the Sony a6000, a small (12oz) mirrorless camera which got attention for its ridiculously fast autofocus, good sensor, and low price. Learning that Sony supplied sensors to Nikon closed the deal for me- the a6000 seemed perfect.

I picked up an a6000 on Craigslist for $400 with extra batteries and accessories, bought the 10-18mm lens for another $550, and picked up an old 16-55mm kit lens for a mere $40. I haven’t looked back. I’m slowly working on learning how to use Lightroom for post-processing, and embracing shooting in RAW files.

Shot with my new a6000.  Brown Bear Lake, Bear Lakes Basin. 10mm, f4.5, 2s
Shot with my new a6000. Brown Bear Lake, Bear Lakes Basin. 10mm, f4.5, 2s

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