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Sony A6000 versus Olympus PEN-F

The Sony Alpha A6000 and the Olympus PEN-F are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2014 and January 2016. Both the A6000 and the PEN-F are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on an APS-C (A6000) and a Four Thirds (PEN-F) sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 20.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony A6000 vs Olympus PEN-F

The physical size and weight of the Sony A6000 and the Olympus PEN-F are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. 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. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the A6000 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Sony A6000 vs Olympus PEN-F
Compare A6000 versus PEN-F top
Compare A6000 and PEN-F rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus PEN-F is notably larger (12 percent) than the Sony A6000. Moreover, the PEN-F is markedly heavier (24 percent) than the A6000. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the A6000 nor the PEN-F are weather-sealed.

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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (A6000) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (PEN-F). Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the A6000 gets 360 shots out of its NP-FW50 battery, while the PEN-F can take 330 images on a single charge of its BLN-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A6000» 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.8 in 12.1 oz 360 n Feb 2014 599- i Sony A6000
Olympus PEN-F« 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 n Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Olympus E-M1 II« » 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M10 II« » 4.7 in 3.3 in 1.9 in 13.8 oz 320 n Aug 2015 799- i Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-M5 II« » 4.9 in 3.3 in 1.8 in 16.5 oz 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« » 4.7 in 3.2 in 1.8 in 14.0 oz 320 n Jan 2014 699- i Olympus E-M10
Sony A6300« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 14.3 oz 400 Y Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony RX100 IV« » 4.0 in 2.3 in 1.6 in 10.5 oz 280 n Jun 2015 999- i Sony RX100 IV
Sony A5100« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 10.0 oz 400 n Aug 2014 549 i i Sony A5100
Sony A5000« » 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 9.5 oz 420 n Jan 2014 449- i Sony A5000
Sony A3000« » 5.0 in 3.6 in 3.3 in 14.5 oz 470 n Aug 2013 329- i Sony A3000
Sony NEX-3N« » 4.3 in 2.4 in 1.4 in 9.5 oz 480 n Feb 2013 499- i Sony NEX-3N
Sony NEX-5T« » 4.4 in 2.3 in 1.5 in 97.9 oz 330 n Aug 2013 699- i Sony NEX-5T
Sony NEX-6« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 12.2 oz 360 n Sep 2012 999- i Sony NEX-6
Sony NEX-F3« » 4.6 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 11.1 oz 470 n May 2012 599- i Sony NEX-F3
Sony NEX-7« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.7 in 14.1 oz 430 n Aug 2011 1,349- i Sony NEX-7
Sony NEX-3« » 4.6 in 2.4 in 1.3 in 10.5 oz 330 n May 2010 599- i Sony NEX-3

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A6000 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 50 percent) than the PEN-F, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A6000 vs Olympus PEN-F

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony A6000 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus PEN-F a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the PEN-F is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the A6000 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the PEN-F offers a 4:3 aspect.

Sony A6000 and Olympus PEN-F sensor measures

With 24MP, the A6000 offers a higher resolution than the PEN-F (20.2MP), but the A6000 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 3.34μm for the PEN-F) due to its larger sensor. However, the PEN-F is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 11 months) than the A6000, 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 PEN-F has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

Unlike the A6000, the PEN-F has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

A6000 versus PEN-F MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under review, the A6000 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the PEN-F (overall score 8 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 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.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Sony A6000» APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.113.1134782Sony A6000
Olympus PEN-F« Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474Olympus PEN-F
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M10 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.112.584273Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-M5 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.388472Olympus E-M10
Sony A6300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.413.7143785Sony A6300
Sony RX100 IV« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36484K/30p22.812.659170Sony RX100 IV
Sony A5100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780Sony A5100
Sony A5000« » APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.813.0108979Sony A5000
Sony A3000« » APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.712.8106878Sony A3000
Sony NEX-3N« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774Sony NEX-3N
Sony NEX-5T« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60p23.613.0101578Sony NEX-5T
Sony NEX-6« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i23.713.1101878Sony NEX-6
Sony NEX-F3« » APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.712.3111473Sony NEX-F3
Sony NEX-7« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60i24.113.4101681Sony NEX-7
Sony NEX-3« » APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068Sony NEX-3

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60p).

 

Feature comparison: Sony A6000 vs Olympus PEN-F

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The two cameras under review are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the PEN-F offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the A6000 (2360k vs 1440k dots). The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A6000 and Olympus PEN-F in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Sony A6000»1440 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n Sony A6000
Olympus PEN-F«2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus PEN-F
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M10 II« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« »1440 n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y Olympus E-M10
Sony A6300« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n Sony A6300
Sony RX100 IV« »2359 n 3.0 1228 tilting n 2000 16.0 Y Y Sony RX100 IV
Sony A5100« »- n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 6.0 Y n Sony A5100
Sony A5000« »- n 3.0 461 tilting n 4000 3.5 Y n Sony A5000
Sony A3000« »202 n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n Sony A3000
Sony NEX-3N« »- n 3.0 460 tilting n 4000 4.0 Y n Sony NEX-3N
Sony NEX-5T« »- n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 10.0 n n Sony NEX-5T
Sony NEX-6« »2359 n 3.0 921 tilting n 4000 10.0 Y n Sony NEX-6
Sony NEX-F3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 4000 5.5 Y n Sony NEX-F3
Sony NEX-7« »2359 n 3.0 921 tilting n 4000 10.0 Y n Sony NEX-7
Sony NEX-3« »- n 3.0 920 tilting n 4000 7.0 n n Sony NEX-3

The PEN-F is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the A6000 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the A6000 was succeeded by the Sony A6300.

Review summary: Sony A6000 vs Olympus PEN-F

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Sony A6000 or the Olympus PEN-F – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A6000:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 20.2MP) with a 11% higher linear resolution.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 125x72mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 83g or 19 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (50 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2014).

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Advantages of the Olympus PEN-F:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (2360k vs 1440k dots).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 922k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 11 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A6000 comes out slightly ahead of the PEN-F (10 : 9 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.

A6000 10:09 PEN-F

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the A6000 or the PEN-F. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A6000»Rec80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2014 599- i Sony A6000
Olympus PEN-F«-82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus E-M10 II« »HiRec80/1005/55/55/5 Aug 2015 799- i Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-M5 II« »HiRec81/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099 i i Olympus E-M5 II
Olympus E-M10« »-80/1005/54.5/55/5 Jan 2014 699- i Olympus E-M10
Sony A6300« »Rec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony RX100 IV« »HiRec85/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2015 999- i Sony RX100 IV
Sony A5100« »Rec-4.5/54.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i i Sony A5100
Sony A5000« »Rec-4.5/5rev4.5/5 Jan 2014 449- i Sony A5000
Sony A3000« »Rec-4/54.5/54/5 Aug 2013 329- i Sony A3000
Sony NEX-3N« »--4.5/54/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499- i Sony NEX-3N
Sony NEX-5T« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Aug 2013 699- i Sony NEX-5T
Sony NEX-6« »HiRec78/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2012 999- i Sony NEX-6
Sony NEX-F3« »-74/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 May 2012 599- i Sony NEX-F3
Sony NEX-7« »HiRec81/1004.5/55/55/5 Aug 2011 1,349- i Sony NEX-7
Sony NEX-3« »-70/1004.5/55/54/5 May 2010 599- i Sony NEX-3

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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