Sony A6300 Conclusion

Sony A6300 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
24mm eq. (16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens at 16mm), f/8.0, 1/60s, ISO 320
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

The Sony A6000, predecessor to the A6300, has been a runaway success for Sony, taking the top-selling spot for not only all mirrorless cameras, but also all interchangeable lens cameras priced over $600 put together. And for good reason. The A6000 is a fantastic camera in many ways: a compact, comfortable design with built-in EVF; superb, high-resolution image quality at both low and higher ISOs; blazing-fast hybrid autofocus and burst mode performance; and all at a substantial value (especially once the price dropped a bit). Needless to say, the Sony A6000 was looking to be a hard camera for the folks at Sony to top, but the new Sony A6300 is much more than just a minor refresh some two years later.

Familiar exterior, but the Sony A6300 has better build quality

We say, "more than a minor refresh," but at first glance, the A6300's external design is exactly that. It maintains a nearly identical body design and control layout, though we do find a few small changes to its buttons and dials. Like the A6000, this updated camera is very light and comfortable to hold with a contoured handgrip and a nice array of physical controls. There's not much to complain about with the Sony A6300's physical design and controls, although an additional front-facing control dial like on the A7-series cameras would have been nice.

Sony A6300 Review: Field Test -- Product Image Front

While the exterior might be very similar, beneath the surface, the A6300's body construction is much beefier than the A6000, with an all-magnesium alloy chassis and supposedly better dust- and moisture-resistance. We're not truly certain about the extent of the weather sealing, as Sony doesn't mention "splashproof" protection, so we're hesitant to recommend using the A6300 in any weather conditions heavier than a light mist or sprinkle of rain.

Clunky menus, no touchscreen highlight quirks of A6300's usability

As we've seen with other recent Sony cameras, the menu system on the A6300 feels rather clunky and at times confusing. After using the camera for a while, you start to get the hang of it, but the organization doesn't feel very intuitive. One feature that's still unfortunately missing is a touchscreen. More and more cameras these days are sporting touchscreen functionality in one form or another, yet oddly enough Sony seems to get avoiding this rather handy feature on the A6300 and other mirrorless models, which if for nothing else could allow for very handy tap-to-focus adjustments.

Sony A6300 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
36mm eq. (Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens at 24mm), f/9.0, 1/125s, ISO 100
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

The Sony A6300 offers impressive image quality performance

Though it keeps the same 24-megapixel resolution, the Sony A6300's APS-C sensor is completely new, with a similar copper wiring-based design that we saw on the Sony A7R II. Not only does this help the camera's performance with faster sensor readout, it also improves the signal-to-noise ratio, which results in better noise performance. Based on our testing both in and out of the lab, we found that the Sony A6300 produces excellent, highly detailed images at lower ISOs, as well as shows improved high ISO performance compared to its already well-regarded A6000 predecessor. In terms of dynamic range, the A6300 is improved over its predecessor especially at higher ISOs, which already offered very good performance for its class.

In the past, Sony's JPEGs have been pretty good, but could look a bit over-processed, especially with regards to heavy-handed noise reduction at higher ISOs. We're happy to see that Sony has tweaked their in-camera JPEG processing with the A6300 for a crisper, cleaner look with less sharpening artifacts and a lighter touch on noise reduction. Looking at RAW performance, we also see image quality improvements compared to the A6000, and we like that Sony has upped the RAW bit depth from 12 to 14 bits in single-shot mode, although the A6300 still uses lossy compression (and you still get 12-bit compressed RAWs in continuous modes, Silent Shooting, Bulb mode, or when Long Exposure NR is applied).

While Sony doesn't explicitly state one way or the other as to the presence of an optical low-pass filter on the sensor, the A6300 must either have a very weak filter or none at all. Images are very crisp with lots of fine detail, but caution should be taken when photographing certain subjects, such as fabrics and various architectural subjects with fine repeating patterns, as moiré and other aliasing artifacts can be difficult to remove in editing software.

Sony A6300 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
300mm eq. (Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS lens at 200mm), f/4.0, 1/1250s, ISO 100.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

The name of the game for the Sony A6300 is speed. Plain & simple.

Though the compact A6300 looks quite a bit different than your typical high-performance DSLR, don't underestimate this little mirrorless camera. The Sony A6300 is built for speed, especially in terms of autofocus as well as burst shooting capabilities.

Its autofocus system, for starters, gets a major upgrade with a whopping 425 phase-detect AF points and 169 contrast-detect AF points. AF speed is excellent for both still subjects and fast-moving ones under most conditions. Low-light AF is very good, but the speed can drop somewhat and there's a potential for more hunting. Continuous AF is very good and the sheer coverage area of AF points makes it much easier to keep a moving subject in focus as it moves across the frame. Subject tracking isn't perfect, but no camera's is. With good lighting and good subject contrast, the Sony A6300 does a good job at keeping fast-moving subjects in focus.

Unlike a number of mirrorless cameras, the A6300's continuous AF works even at the fastest 11 fps burst rate -- in other words, you don't have to compromise with a slower burst rate in order to have continuous AF between each frame. Therefore, the Sony A6300 is quite a good option for action sports and other fast-moving subjects. While the Sony A6300 is capable of a very healthy 11fps burst rate, a new 8fps mode with a real-time display in both the EVF and LCD makes it much easier to track moving subjects, which has typically been problematic for EVFs and mirrorless cameras in the past.

To coincide with the A6300's blazing burst speeds, the camera, thankfully, sports a healthy buffer capacity similar to its predecessor. Buffer depths with best quality JPEGs averaged a little over 40 frames or so, but dropped quite a bit to a still-respectable 21-24 frames for RAW+JPEG. Buffer clearing, on the other hand, was a bit disappointing and rather slow. The Sony A6300 would have really benefited from faster UHS-II memory card support.

Sony A6300 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
171mm eq. (Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS lens at 114mm), f/4.0, 1/1000s, ISO 100.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

Advanced video features makes A6300 appealing to videographers

The A6300 also gets numerous improvements in the video arena, including high quality, internally-recorded XAVC S 4K video. Video quality is very good, as we'd expected, given Sony's long expertise with video. The Sony A6300 also gets improvements to Full HD, with up to 120fps capture for excellent slow-motion effects. Experienced videographers will also appreciate a number of advanced features such as adjustable focus and tracking sensitivity, the addition of a standard 3.5mm external microphone jack and S-Log picture profile support.

Tons of improvements make Sony A6300 a worthy A6000 successor

All in all, the Sony A6300 features a number of significant improvements across the board, while maintaining most of the qualities that made its predecessor so popular, including its lightweight and compact design. It was a tall order to improve upon the A6000, but Sony managed to pull it off. Build quality is better, image quality is better, video quality is better, and performance is better. Sure, there are some downsides, such as a still-limited selection of native crop-sensor E-mount lenses, no touchscreen and clunky menus, but the positives far outweigh the negatives in our eyes. At just under US$1,000 body-only, the Sony A6300 represents an exceptional value for a camera which offers so much in such a compact package. It packs one heck of a punch in both features and performance, and undoubtedly gets two thumbs up as a Dave's Pick.

 

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent image quality
  • Crisp, detailed JPEG images with few sharpening artifacts at low ISOs
  • Improved high-ISO performance and dynamic range compared to its predecessor
  • Above average exposure accuracy
  • Useful multi-shot modes
  • Fast autofocus with an impressive number of AF points; excellent AF coverage across frame
  • Very low prefocused shutter lag
  • Fast burst modes, up to 11.1 fps in Hi+ mode
  • Good buffer depths
  • Easier subject tracking due to live view updates between frames in continuous modes up to 8 fps
  • Very good, crisp EVF with new 120fps refresh rate
  • Tilting LCD handles sun, glare quite well
  • RAW files in single-shot mode now 14 bits (but still lossy compressed)
  • Relatively compact with comfortable ergonomics
  • All-magnesium alloy construction is lightweight yet solid
  • High quality XAVC S 4K video
  • Full HD up to 120fps
  • 3.5mm external mic jack
  • Clean HDMI output
  • Good battery life for a mirrorless camera
  • Below average mean saturation which falls off dramatically at the highest ISOs
  • Only average hue accuracy with a noticeable yellow to green shift
  • Susceptible to aliasing artifacts due to weak or non-existing AA filter
  • Slow buffer clearing (no UHS-II support)
  • Fairly weak internal flash with narrow coverage
  • Slow X-Sync speed (1/160s)
  • Limited selection of native crop-sensor lenses
  • No battery charger or USB power adapter included (just a USB cable for in-camera charging)
  • No touchscreen
  • Clunky menus
  • Frustratingly sensitive EVF eye sensor
  • No headphone jack
  • Decent wireless features, but setup and usability need some work


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