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December 16, 2012

Customizing Settings for the NEX-6 … Make it Work the Way You Do!


I’ve had my Sony NEX-6 for just a few weeks, but love it a little bit more every time I pick it up. And now that I’ve had a chance to customize the settings, I like it even better!!

The menu systems on these NEX cameras are long, complex, and sometimes just don’t make much sense. So, the best thing I found to do is to just stay out of the menus as much as possible.

I’ve found that by carefully setting the three buttons that are customizable, I rarely have to use the Menu Button. Plus, there is one more critical setting for NEX-6 users and that is the one that controls the screens that are visible as you push the DISPlay Button.

Function (Fn) Button

Let’s start with the Function (Fn) button:Mode Dial

To set this up, you’ll go to Menu > Setup > Function  Menu Settings >, where you’ll see a list of Custom 1 through Custom 6. There are 16 different settings to choose from and they can be assigned to any of the 6 Custom settings in any order you choose.

Here’s how I have mine setup:

  • Custom 1 > Autofocus Mode
  • Custom 2 > Autofocus Area
  • Custom 3 > Quality
  • Custom 4 > DRO/Auto HDR
  • Custom 5 > Picture Effect
  • Custom 6 > White Balance

AEL Button

The next setting to cover is that of the AEL button. There are even more functions to choose from, here … 25 in all. For me, I have it set for AF/MF Select. I rarely need anything other than the shutter button to lock the exposure, so the default isn’t for me. Instead, I find that I frequently like to change from AF, to MF, to DMF, with DMF being my normal mode. Why? It blends the best of both worlds. It allows the camera to autofocus and then instantly switch to manual focus so you can tweak the focus if it’s not exactly where you want it.

Note: I love the Focus Peaking feature on these cameras and set mine to Mid (level) and Yellow (color). Also, I use the MF Assist feature so that when I do manual focus, the camera digitally zooms in to give me a magnified area to get perfect focus!


Soft Key B

The Soft Key B is the only other button you can customize on this camera and I use it as sort of a “wild card”. In other words, it’s the one I change most frequently to fit the current situation. My default setting would be  Metering Mode so I can quickly switch from Center (my normal) to Spot to Multi depending on the situational requirements. Plus, this button sort of has a mind of its own. If you’re in Flexible Spot autofocus area, then this soft key becomes a flexible spot selection button. Change your shooting mode to iAuto and it becomes a Wi-Fi button. So you see it won’t always reflect what you set it for.

DISP Button MonitorNow, the most critical setting on the NEX-6, the one that gives you the quickest access to the most functions is the DISP Button(Monitor) setting in the Camera Menu. As I’m sure you know, pressing the DISP Button (Up button) on the Control Wheel switches you between various informational screens on the LCD (and EVF). For me, the most important of these is the “For Viewfinder” display. It gives you a screen full of various camera settings. More importantly, it changes the action of the Fn Button. Now, when you press the Fn Button, it gives you immediate access to 16 of those settings. You just use the control wheel buttons to cycle through, pick what you need to change and do it! 6 For Viewfinder ScreenVery easy and a great feature! So get into the Menus one more time: Menu > Camera > DISP Button(Monitor) > and make sure there is a check mark next to For Viewfinder. Oh, and be sure to press Soft Key A when you’re done to save the settings.

These settings aren’t even really recommendations, they’re just the way I work. Hopefully, they will give you some ideas about how to optimize your camera so it will work the way you do.


Here are some NEX-6 photos with Various Lenses:


A Colorado dawn with the 16-50mm kit lens at 16mm,  f/4.5, ISO 100. I did need to adjust the colors in Lightroom 4 because the camera’s auto white balance made this much more orange than it really was.


This was also the 16-50mm lens at 16mm, ISO 800, f/3.5, 30 seconds. It does a really nice job on the stars!


I love the Sony 30mm macro. This was shot at f/5.6, ISO 250. These are the little LEDs on a LED light panel. There are about 4 per inch. This is the Fotodiox Pro LED 312 AS, a very nice, small light panel with adjustable color and output.


I caught this windmill silhouetted against the evening sky with a jet contrail in the background. Sony 50mm f/1.8 at f/2.5, ISO 100. What a great lens – fast, sharp, and stabilized! :-)


This is our little Maltese, Bella. She’s a tiny 6 pounds but all heart. Sony 50mm at f/1.8, ISO 800.

Thanks for stopping by and please take time to let me know how you setup your Sony Nex-6 camera, too. Most likely I’ll learn something new! :-)

Mike Hendren – Google + | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Photo Sales | Flickr Photos


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About the Author

Mike Hendren
I've had a camera of one kind or another for about 50 years. Of course, I used film for most of that time, but went pure digital almost 12 years ago. After using Canon and Nikon for a number of years, I jumped to Sony over a year ago and have never looked back.


  1. Noovuss

    What a wonderful article.
    Thank you for making the set-up as simple as can be, brilliant.
    It’s all crystal clear now.

  2. I am more or less consistent with how you describe your setup. It should have been obvious, but I did not realize the AEL function can also be accomplished through a 1/2 press of the shutter button. That frees up the AEL button for another function. I am going to try as you, including to leave it set to DMF most the time. As you point out, it is like having both AF and MF wrapped into one. :-)

    The other thing I am thinking to do is to perhaps acquire a 2nd body to avoid lens swapping. Do you think that is overkill? 16-50mm pancake takes care of perhaps 80-90% of shooting occasions. I have 16mm f2.8 with 0.75x magnification adapter for 12mm f2.8 as a 2nd lens. I also acquired SLR magic’s 35mm f1.8 MF E-mount lens as well

    • Glad to know I could help, Jerry. I should point out that there is one downside to the DMF function – if you just accidentally rotate the focus ring after you achieve AF, it can move your focus point. But the upside is so big, I just try to be careful.

      NO! I don’t think a 2nd body is overkill! That’s the perfect setup that we dream of. I’m always paranoid about swapping lenses frequently for fear of introducing dust onto the sensor, so a 2nd camera is ideal. I’m jealous! :-)

      • Ha-ha! Nothing at all to be jealous about. Just go out and buy a 2nd one! :-) Besides, if you get through B&H, I think they are currently throwing in Adobe Lightroom 4 as a free bonus on a NEX-6 order.

        The 2nd body is not only for the point you raise, but also just sheer convenience. it’s a royal pain juggling act of holding the camera, removing the lens, preparing the new lens, the front and rear lens caps for each, all the while you pray you don’t drop any of them, lose or misplace lens caps, etc. The whole process is irritating. An alternative to that (and cheaper), I’ve considered to just get the Sony RX-1. Not only is it a cheaper solution then a second body, it would be the camera that would function for low light conditions, the purpose I currently have SLR Magic’s 35mm 1.7mm. The RX-1 is a fairly bright f1.8 Zeiss quality lens. It’s compact, and the sensor, although not an APS-C, is still better by a factor of 4x over mom-and-pop P&S cameras.

      • Ha! Okay – that sounds like a plan (me getting a 2nd body). :-)

        I think you were talking about the RX100 and if so it is a very nice little camera – fits right in your pocket and has most of the functionality of the NEX-6. If you go that route and need a great comprehensive book about the camera, check out

  3. Jay

    Fantastic Article Mike!! I just tweaked my settings all around and I have a much more efficient camera now working for me better ;) You the man!!

    Also, Really looking forward to the new Book you guys are working on!!!

    Some awesome photography you go here as well Mike.

    Thanks again for sharing your work and expertise,

  4. I’m amazed!
    I upgraded from 5n to 6 and was just daydreaming that one could finally tweak settings in “for viewfinder” screen… until came across with this article and understood that it actually IS possible! (I guess reading a bit manual wouldn’t hurt, but…that’s not what we do, is it now..)
    Thanks for very nice tips Mike!

    • :-) I know – who wants to read the manual? LOL
      Thank you for the kind comment. I appreciate it and am glad I could help. The Nex-6 is a great camera, so I hope you enjoy yours as much as I’m enjoying mine.

  5. Max

    Hey Mike,
    I followed your setup recommendations but then I read more about the sRGB and AdobeRGB thing and a lot of famous photographers recommend sRGB because AdobeRGB, even though can give in theory more green colors, reduces smooth gradation and require a carefully calibrated workflow of hardware and software…. So I went back to the default sRGB.

    • Thanks Max and I agree with you. I’ve been using sRGB for a couple of years and have had no perceivable problems at all. It’s supposed to be better for the internet and I think it’s fine for print applications, too. If you were preparing an image for publication in a magazine, then they might have some other specific requirements, but until that happens, I’d just stick with sRGB.
      I appreciate the comment – have a Happy New Year!

  6. Diego

    Great article… helped a lot!
    Greeting from Mexico

  7. Jayjay

    Mike can i ask if there is also a custom softkey C button. I have the f3 and i used the the custom C act like the FN button. Thanks!

    • Hi and thanks for the question. Unfortunately the answer is no. The only customizable keys on the NEX-6 are the Fn Button, Soft Key B, and the AEL Button. But don’t forget the “For Viewfinder” screen on the LCD works in conjunction with the Fn Button, giving you 16 camera settings that you can change from there – I love that ability!

      • Jayjay

        Alright. I’m about to buy the nex 6 this coming weekend. I have done some research and i found out that at certain settings (aperture/shutter speed priority etc) the rear dial is useless. Do you think sony will come up with a firmware date so the rear dial can be customize like being able to change the iso or exposure compensation? It beats the point of having 2 dials or should i say proper 2 dials. Thanks!

      • I know – that bugs me, too. On the other hand, you’re just one click away from both of those capabilities … Right Button to change ISO and Down Button for exp. comp. Still, it’s all software driven so it sure would be nice if a firmware update would address that.
        As far as timing for an update and what may actually be included, you’re guess is as good as mine – Sony keeps those things very tightly guarded secrets until finally released. But if enough of us complain (I mean request new features), it can help. The NEX-7 was updated with a several things that users wanted. I suggest going to the Sony website and reviewing the NEX-6. That’s the only official place I know of to make your voice heard.
        I don’t know what you’re looking for or what your experience is, but I think you’ll really enjoy the NEX-6 after you get it set up the way you want and get used to it. I love the camera despite the things I wish would be changed. I guess they haven’t made the “Perfect” camera, yet. :-)

  8. Thomas F

    Great Article… I’m getting a NEX-6 s a backup/ alternate lens for my NEX-7 and one of the things i was apprehensive about was the level of key customization…and reading about the “for Viewfinder” option has me excited to work with both these cameras side by side… my NEX-6 should be here tomorrow hopefully!

    • Hi Thomas and thank you. I think you’ll find the combination to be a very nice working arrangement. I have both and there are things I like better about each camera. The NEX-6 has a mode dial, better high ISO performance, the “For Viewfinder” option, and some more things. The NEX-7 has 24MP which makes it difficult for me to part with it, plus the TriNavi controls are more convenient sometimes.
      The controls are different, but similar enough that after you use them for a bit, that should pose no problem. My biggest problem has been looking close enough to realize which camera I’m picking up! :-)

  9. fred

    i will be trying these out. i’m used to cameras with custom settings so anything to get quicker access is welcome!

    intrigued to try the “for viewfinder” settings more. any indication if this gives a longer battery life?

    • Hi Fred, and thanks. Conventional wisdom says that the EVF uses battery more than the LCD, but when I use “For Viewfinder” on the LCD, I prefer to use the EVF(actually, I always prefer the EVF) rather than switch screens all the time. About the best advice for extending battery life on these NEX cameras is to just turn it off when not actively shooting. The On/Off switch is right there where your index finger naturally lays and the camera powers up very quickly. Let me know how you like the “For Viewfinder” approach.

  10. Hi,
    Just came across your article while reading at work and as a new NEX 6 owner, I picked up a lot of useful tips, I only wish I had my camera here with me to try them :( One thing I wanted to ask though, is there any way to set the AEL button to be a focus lock? I’m sure I read something in the manual or saw it in one of the menu’s(?)

    I’m basically looking for a way to set the focus once on a certain point and then lock it in place and skip having to half press the shutter release to refocus each time. Any ideas?

    Thanks for the really useful tips!


    • Hi Andrew,

      That’s a great question, but unfortunately, the answer is no. Sony made it possible on the Nex-7, but then took it away on the Nex-6 … can’t imagine why since it’s a popular feature.

      About the closest you can get is to set the “AF/MF Select” function to either the Fn Button or the AEL Button. Then you could AF on a point, and then switch to MF. But this would take about 3 button pushes every time you focused, so definitely not ideal. Certainly an option for occasional use but not optimum by any means.

      If you have other questions feel free to ask, plus you might be interested in a comprehensive ebook I coauthored with Gary Friedman, available at:

      Thanks again,


      • Jay

        Thank you Mike for the continued information and support on this killer article ;) I also highly recommend the Gary Friedman books!


  11. Richard Collins

    Great write-up, thanks for sharing it. It definitely helped jump-start me on the NEX-6 and get moving faster!

  12. Brenda

    I cannot figure out how to set my shutter speed. Help!

  13. El

    Thanks for your sharing… I’m just curious about how you set the focus on the pictures with the stars… Did you use MF or AF? If you use the manual one how you did it? I mean which are the steps or your suggestions to focus in the right way the stars… It’s going to make me madness
    Thanks if you will reply.

  14. Charlie Pace

    Great article and I hope you can help me solve a problem. I take a lot of short video of airplanes taking off and landing. With my new NEX 6, it has a problem staying in focus while zooming in or out , can you suggest a set up for this type of video? I don’t have this problem with my other cameras: LX 7 and S100.


    Charlie Pace

  15. Max

    This is fantastic….thank you so much!

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