Nikon D800E vs Sony NEX-6
The Nikon D800E and the Sony Alpha NEX-6 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2012 and September 2012. The D800E is a DSLR, while the NEX-6 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (D800E) and an APS-C (NEX-6) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 36.2 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 16 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D800E and the Sony Alpha NEX-6? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D800E and the Sony NEX-6. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-6 is considerably smaller (55 percent) than the Nikon D800E. Moreover, the NEX-6 is substantially lighter (66 percent) than the D800E. It is worth mentioning in this context that the D800E is splash and dust resistant, while the NEX-6 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D800E) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-6). Mirrorless cameras, such as the NEX-6, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|Nikon D800E||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||35.3 oz||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299|
|Sony NEX-6||4.7 in||2.6 in||1.7 in||12.2 oz||360||n||Sep 2012||999|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||5.9 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||31.4 oz||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Canon 5D Mark III||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||33.5 oz||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499|
|Nikon D850||5.7 in||4.9 in||3.1 in||35.5 oz||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Nikon D810||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||34.6 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299|
|Nikon Df||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.6 in||26.8 oz||1400||Y||Nov 2013||2,749|
|Nikon D610||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon D4||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D600||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Nikon D800||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||35.3 oz||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999|
|Nikon D700||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Sony A6000||4.7 in||2.6 in||1.8 in||12.1 oz||360||n||Feb 2014||599|
|Sony NEX-3N||4.3 in||2.4 in||1.4 in||9.5 oz||480||n||Feb 2013||499|
|Sony NEX-5N||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||9.5 oz||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|Sony NEX-3||4.6 in||2.4 in||1.3 in||10.5 oz||330||n||May 2010||599|
|Sony NEX-5||4.4 in||2.3 in||1.5 in||10.1 oz||330||n||May 2010||699|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The NEX-6 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 70 percent) than the D800E, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D800E features a full frame sensor and the Sony NEX-6 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-6 is 58 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
With 36.2MP, the D800E offers a higher resolution than the NEX-6 (16MP), but the D800E nevertheless has marginally larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 4.78μm for the NEX-6) due to its larger sensor. However, the NEX-6 is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 months) than the D800E, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D800E has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D800E implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D800E for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony NEX-6 are 24.6 x 16.3 inches or 62.4 x 41.5 cm for good quality, 19.6 x 13.1 inches or 49.9 x 33.2 cm for very good quality, and 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.6 x 27.6 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D800E has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 50-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-6 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the D800E provides substantially higher image quality than the NEX-6, with an overall score that is 18 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.9 bits higher color depth, 1.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81|
|Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|Nikon Df||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||none||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D600||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the NEX-6 provides a faster frame rate than the D800E. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the NEX-6 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k dots), while the D800E has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the NEX-6 has a higher magnification than the one of the D800E (0.73x vs 0.70x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D800E, the Sony NEX-6, and comparable cameras.
|Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||n|
One feature that is present on the D800E, but is missing on the NEX-6 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The Nikon D800E has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The D800E writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDXC cards, while the NEX-6 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The D800E features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the NEX-6 only has one slot. Both cameras can use UHS-I cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D800E and Sony Alpha NEX-6 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|Canon 5D Mark III||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the D800E has a microphone port, which is missing on the NEX-6. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D800E (unlike the NEX-6) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D800E and the NEX-6 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D800E was replaced by the Nikon D810, while the NEX-6 was followed by the Sony A6000. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Sony websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D800E and the Sony NEX-6? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D800E:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (36.2 vs 16MP) with a 50% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (18 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.5 stops ISO advantage).
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (900 versus 360) on a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2012).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-6:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/30p).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.70x).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 146x123mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 655g or 65 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (70 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (7 months) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D800E is the clear winner of the match-up (19 : 12 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D800E and the Sony NEX-6 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D800E or the NEX-6. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Nikon D800E||..||84/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299|
|Sony NEX-6||+ +||78/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||999|
|Canon 5D Mark IV||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499|
|Canon 5D Mark III||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2012||3,499|
|Nikon D850||+ +||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Nikon D810||..||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299|
|Nikon Df||..||81/100||4/5||4/5||4/5||Nov 2013||2,749|
|Nikon D610||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon D4||..||..||4.5/5||..||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|Nikon D600||+ +||87/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Nikon D800||+ +||82/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999|
|Nikon D700||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|Sony A6000||+||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2014||599|
|Sony NEX-3N||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499|
|Sony NEX-5N||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|Sony NEX-3||..||70/100||4.5/5||5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|Sony NEX-5||+ +||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||May 2010||699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
- Canon 5D Mark II vs Sony NEX-6
- Canon 6D Mark II vs Nikon D800E
- Canon D30 vs Nikon D800E
- Canon G7 X vs Nikon D800E
- Canon SX610 vs Sony NEX-6
- Canon T7 vs Sony NEX-6
- Fujifilm X10 vs Sony NEX-6
- Nikon D7200 vs Nikon D800E
- Nikon D800E vs Panasonic TZ95
- Nikon D800E vs Sony A7R
- Nikon Z7 vs Sony NEX-6
- Samsung NX30 vs Sony NEX-6
Specifications: Nikon D800E vs Sony NEX-6
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D800E||Sony NEX-6|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2012||September 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 3,299||USD 999|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D800E||Sony NEX-6|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 24.0 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||861.6 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.2 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||36.2 Megapixels||16 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||7360 x 4912 pixels||4912 x 3264 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.88 μm||4.78 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.20 MP/cm2||4.39 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 6,400 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 25,600 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 3||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||96||78|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||25.6||23.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||14.3||13.1|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||2979||1018|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D800E||Sony NEX-6|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2359k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||921k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D800E||Sony NEX-6|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||4 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||200 000 actuations||150 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D800E||Sony NEX-6|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||no Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D800E||Sony NEX-6|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||not weather sealed|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||900 shots per charge||360 shots per charge|
146 x 123 x 82 mm
(5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 in)
120 x 67 x 43 mm
(4.7 x 2.6 x 1.7 in)
|Camera Weight||1000 g (35.3 oz)||345 g (12.2 oz)|
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