Sony A6300 Review
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|Full model name:||Sony Alpha ILCE-A6300|
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 51,200|
|Shutter:||1/4000 - 30 seconds|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
4.7 x 2.6 x 1.9 in.
(120 x 67 x 49 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Sony A6300 specifications|
Sony A6300 Review -- Now Shooting!
03/01/2016: Gallery Images added
03/04/2016: Sony A6300 First Impressions, by Jeremy Gray
03/22/2016: First Shots added
04/01/2016: Performance test results added
04/11/2016: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality added
04/26/2016: Field Test added
We now have our Sony A6300 Field Test in from Jeremy Gray, after he spent quality time with the new high-performance APS-C mirrorless camera in sunny Miami and chilly Maine. For anyone wanting to jump straight to our Sony A6300 overview, click here!
Sony A6300 Field Test
Faster, more powerful but still light on its feet
by Jeremy Gray | Posted 04/26/2016
24mm eq. (16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens at 16mm), f/9.0, 1.6s, ISO 100
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.
The Sony A6300 has big shoes to fill after the wildly popular A6000
2014's Sony A6000 was a wildly popular camera. In fact, it's been the best-selling mirrorless camera overall and also the best-selling interchangeable lens camera priced over $600, according to Sony's data from NPD Group. It is no easy task to follow up on something so popular, but the A6300 looks up to the challenge by delivering excellent performance and important improvements.
- New 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
- Relatively compact camera body
- 425 phase-detect autofocus points and 169 contrast-detect autofocus points
- 11.1 frames per second continuous shooting
- Native ISO range of 100-25,600 (expandable to ISO 51,200)
- 4K video at up to 30fps (downsampled from 6K with no pixel binning)
- Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
Similar body to its predecessor, but the A6300's new EVF is top-notch
There are a lot of similarities between the Sony A6300 and A6000 on the outside. The A6300 is slightly deeper and also slightly heavier, but the controls are mostly unchanged. There is a second memory recall option on the mode dial and the rear of the camera has a new switch surrounding the AE-L button to quickly toggle between automatic and manual focus. While the two cameras look similar, the Sony A6300 comes with a more rugged construction. Also, dust and moisture-resistance has been improved according to Sony, although the body is still not splash-proof.
Despite being compact, there are still lots of controls and features on the Sony A6300's body. In general, the control layout is nice, although the dedicated movie record button can be difficult to press until you get used to it. I'd have preferred it to be located on the top deck of the camera, personally. I also found many of the camera's buttons to be slightly too small. Regarding the camera's control dials, the one on the top deck doesn't provide much tactile feedback and the rotating dial surrounding the navigation buttons on the rear of the camera doesn't offer a lot of precision.
A key area of improvement over the A6000 is with regard to the electronic viewfinder. The OLED EVF is still 0.39 inches with 1.07x magnification (35mm equivalent 0.7x magnification), but it now has 2,359,296 dots compared to the 1,440,000 dots found in the A6000's EVF, a ~63% improvement. Further, the viewfinder can now refresh at 120fps rather than 60fps. Both of these changes are very nice and the Sony A6300's electronic viewfinder is superb. There is also a new EVF feature for an improved high-speed shooting experience, but more on that later.
While not vastly changed, the body has definitely seen improvements and it continues to be a comfortable, compact mirrorless body that generally works well and feels good to use.
33mm eq. (16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens at 22mm), f/8.0, 3.2s, ISO 100, +0.3EV
The Sony A6300's kit lens is capable, but nothing to write home about
The A6300 can be purchased with a Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS kit lens. This lens is interesting in that you can zoom the lens using the zoom ring or by flicking a switch on the barrel, like you might use on an all-in-one camera.
While soft in the corners when shooting at 16mm (24mm equivalent), its performance is decent for what is an inexpensive and compact kit lens. It tries to be a jack-of-all-trades and ends up being a master of none; its performance is sub-par at the wide end, mediocre in the middle, and mediocre at 50mm. The biggest issue I had with the lens is severe distortion at 16mm in uncorrected RAW files, though that's pretty common in compact wide-angle lenses for mirrorless cameras. In JPEGs, distortion is well-corrected. If you can spring for better glass though, I'd recommend it, because the Sony A6300 deserves to be paired with excellent lenses.
39mm eq. (16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens at 26mm), f/8, 1.6s, ISO 100
The Sony A6300's sensor is brand new, but still 24MP
You would be forgiven for thinking that the Sony A6300 is packing the same APS-C sensor as its predecessor. After all, they're both 24-megapixel sensors, right? While the two cameras have the same resolution, the A6300's sensor is new and offers up improved performance in multiple ways. The sensor in the A6300 uses copper wiring to provide both better readout performance and also an improved signal-to-noise ratio. With this improved signal-to-noise ratio, the Sony A6300 can now extend its ISO range to 51,200. Besides this increased range, noise performance is improved across the entire ISO range.
24mm eq. (16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens at 16mm), f/11, 13s, ISO 100
I found the Sony A6300 produces very good JPEGs files with lots of crisp detail straight from the camera. It's unclear if the sensor has a different AA filter (or maybe no AA filter at all), but the camera is capable of capturing lots of detail when viewing files at full resolution. Ultimately, the Sony A6300's sensor delivers really good image quality across a wide range of conditions. While still not offering uncompressed RAW files like its A7-series bigger brothers, the new A6300 now records 14-bit RAW files instead of 12-bit RAW like the A6000. The A6300 does drop down to 12-bit RAWs when shooting in continuous mode, however in my shooting experience, I did not observe any noticeable degradation in image quality between 14-bit and 12-bit RAW files.
59mm eq. (16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens at 39mm), f/4.0, 1/2000s, ISO 100
Click for full-size image.
The A6300 offers solid user experience with a few shortcomings
There are numerous key improvements to the Sony A6300 that help make it an excellent camera to use out in the field. However, there are also a handful of downsides to the A6300's user experience.
First, this camera is in desperate need of a touchscreen display. Changing autofocus points using the buttons is slow, especially considering just how dense the autofocus points are and how much of the frame is covered. The menu system is not intuitive and is a bit cluttered; navigating it using the buttons on the rear of the camera takes too long. This may sound nit picky, but I found it odd that the menu system is stretched to fit the A6300's relatively wide display. If you've used other Sony cameras, it looks strange and may take some getting used to. The LCD screen itself handled well in bright, outdoor settings, and I didn't have any issues with glare. The added "Sunny LCD" brightness setting helped even further to avoid readability issues in glaring, sunny conditions.
The electronic viewfinder, which I touched on above, is very good and is one of the best EVFs I've used (despite a frustratingly sensitive eye sensor). One issue that I've had with EVFs is that they don't work very well for high-speed shooting (something the Sony A6300 is well-equipped to do) because you're constantly seeing previously captured images rather than a real-time view of the scene which makes framing fast-moving subjects really difficult in burst mode.
The Sony A6300 addresses this weak area by utilizing its improved technology to deliver a viewfinder experience very similar to that found with an optical viewfinder. When shooting in 'High' mode, you can capture images at up to 8fps and get a real-time view of the scene through the viewfinder with a brief blackout after each capture, such as you would get when using an SLR camera. Honestly, this feature works so well that I found myself very rarely opting for the faster 11fps Hi+ shooting mode that offers typical EVF behavior.
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.
Speed and performance
When shooting at high speeds, the A6300 offers solid buffer depths at around 44-46 frames for best quality JPEGs or 21-24 shots for RAW+ JPEG, which great considering the camera's fast burst rate and image resolution. However, its buffer clearing performance is weak. While single-shot cycling times are very good and continuous shooting speeds are excellent as well, buffer clearing is slow and the camera doesn't allow you to do anything while the camera is clearing the buffer. Clearing an 11.1fps burst of 21 RAW+JPEG files takes 22 seconds, which is quite slow. It is also worth noting that you can't capture 'Extra Fine' quality JPEG images when also recording RAW files, as has been the case on a number of other Sony cameras.
In Continuous High mode (the one with the excellent viewfinder experience), speeds drop down to 8.3fps but buffer depths and clearing times remain essentially the same. If you don't want to record RAW files, 'Extra Fine' JPEG files can be recorded at the same speeds for just over twice as many frames with a buffer clearing of 36 seconds. And as mentioned previously, RAW files drop from 14-bit to 12-bit when shooting continuously.
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.
Buffer clearing is the main disappointment here; a disappointment that might have been avoided if Sony had equipped the A6300 with UHS-II support in addition to the UHS-I support it has. The buffer depth is fine, but it takes too long to clear a full buffer and not being able to playback images or access the menu while the camera is processing the data is frustrating. Twenty-two seconds feels like an eternity when you don't know if you need to change settings for the next burst and while action is taking place in front of you.
Overall, the Sony A6300 is a very fast camera as cycle times and max speeds are very impressive. But ultimately, its high-speed capabilities are offset somewhat by the buffer bottleneck and the lack of control the camera provides to the user while it's clearing the buffer.
I was impressed with the Sony A6300's metering ability. I found it to deliver expected results in most situations, and it allows for easy exposure compensation in the instances when you need some adjustment. The A6300 includes a 1200-zone evaluative metering mode as well as center-weighted and spot metering. Spot metering unfortunately does not follow the active AF area, but is instead locked to the center of the frame. White balance metering is good as well, although I found that images captured in the shade often came out just a bit on the cooler side.
One of the handful of changes to the Sony A6300's body is the removal of an automatic shooting mode from the mode dial, instead consolidating the SR and SR+ modes to one spot. This opens up a second memory recall mode on the dial, which is a move that should please many enthusiasts. So how do the automatic shooting modes work? They work well, thanks in large part to the camera's good metering performance.
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.
With that said, the other shooting modes will be far more exciting for enthusiasts. All of the standard modes are here, including program auto, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, and manual. These modes all work as expected, but since the Sony A6300 doesn't offer dual command dials in the same way that an A7-series camera does, you have to use the rotating control dial that encompasses the navigation buttons on the rear of the camera to make shutter speed changes when shooting in manual mode. This works okay, but the dial is not as precise as the camera's dedicated command dial.
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 A6300 is aimed at serious photographers so you won't find the same level of special effects and filters that you might find on more consumer-oriented cameras, but you will find a panorama mode on the mode dial. This function works well enough, but it is better to stitch your own panoramas if you want a massive file resolution as the A6300's panoramas are only about 2,000 pixels tall. The camera offers both a Standard- and Wide-format panorama mode, captured with a simple continuous sweeping motion. Standard panoramas are 8,192 x 1,856 pixels and Wide panoramas are 12,416 x 1,856 for horizontal panoramas. You can also shoot vertical-orientation panoramas in either Standard or Wide modes at 3,872 x 2,160 or 5,536 x 2,160, respectively.
Vertical Panorama, Standard mode
76mm eq. (16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens at 51mm), f/5.0, 1/100s, ISO 100
Click for full-size image.
Overall, the user experience of the Sony A6300 is very good. However, there are a few weak spots, including the camera's clunky menus, the lack of a touchscreen display, and the frustrating buffer clearing performance. An additional weak area that I haven't mentioned is the camera's battery life, which at 400 shots is okay when using the monitor. However, when using the electronic viewfinder, battery life drops down to 300 shots. It is worth noting that the battery life is markedly improved over the A6000's despite the A6300 using the same battery. In my opinion, these few negatives are outweighed by the excellent viewfinder, dependable metering performance, and enthusiast-oriented controls and features.
291mm eq. (Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS lens at 194mm), f/4.0, 1/640s, ISO 100.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.
The Sony A6300 is an AF breakthrough, with 425 PDAF & 169 CDAF points
If you thought that the A6000 had a lot of autofocus points with 179 PDAF and 25 CDAF points, you'll be pleased to hear that the A6300 has a whopping 425 PDAF and 169 CDAF points. While that number of points may be overkill when shooting stationary subjects, it helps the camera immensely when shooting a moving subject. Subject tracking performance with the A6300 is highly impressive. Not only is the continuous autofocus performance really good, but it works well even when shooting at 11fps. Even if your subject gets near the edge of the frame, the number and density of the autofocus points helps keep your subject in focus.
I've yet to use a camera that perfectly tracks subjects, but the Sony A6300 worked as well as any other mirrorless camera I've used. When your subject contrasts your scene well and there aren't any high-contrast or bright elements in the background, the camera does a great job staying with the subject, even when the subject is moving at high speeds.
AF-S autofocus performance is good. There are numerous autofocus modes to select from, including wide, zone, center, flexible spot (small, medium, and large), expand flexible spot (S/M/L), and lock-on AF: expand flexible spot. My go-to autofocus mode is flexible spot. Without a touchscreen display, moving this autofocus point can be slightly tedious. The Sony A6300 gives you the option to press the center button on the back of the camera to activate the AF point (or zone depending on the mode), and you then either use the directional buttons, or a combination of the rear dial and top-deck control wheel, to move the focusing area around the frame.
105mm eq. (Sony FE 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens at 70mm), f/4.0, 1/800s, ISO 5000
Click for full-size image.
The fully-automatic "wide" area autofocus also works well, provided that your subject is relatively large and contrasts its surroundings well. If you have a general sense of where your subject will be in your frame, then the zone option works very well, too.
You may recall that at the time of its release, the A6000 boasted a very fast autofocus system capable of locking focus in 0.06s. Not that you'd notice it when using the camera, but Sony claims the A6300 is even faster, capable of locking focus in 0.05s. According to Sony, this makes the A6300 the world's fastest autofocusing camera. In addition to being a fraction of a second faster, the A6300 also includes Eye AF when shooting with continuous autofocus. You can now also use the focus magnifier when using autofocus, which is greater for precisely focusing still life images.
128mm eq. (Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM), f/1.4, 1/160s, ISO 800
Click for full-size image.
Low light autofocus performance is good, although not great. During my time with the camera, I experienced a bit more hunting in low light than I expected, and I would say that it felt a bit slower in dim conditions than some other mirrorless cameras I've used.
To sum up the autofocus performance of the Sony A6300 : it's great. The number of PDAF and CDAF points is impressive, but it is the speed and consistency of the autofocus system that impressed me the most. Subject tracking works well overall, provided that you have enough light.
Shooting low-light? The Sony A6300 delivers!
The new sensor design pays dividends when shooting at high ISOs. For an APS-C camera, the results are very good and definitely better than its predecessor's -- although not by a huge margin because the A6000 was an already an impressive performer at high ISOs.
When looking at RAW files, they are quite good up through ISO 1600. Even at ISO 3200, noise levels are entirely manageable. Noise becomes pretty heavy at ISO 6400, and I personally wouldn't use anything past this setting.
JPEG files are really impressive even at ISO 6400. In-camera noise reduction is really well balanced between reducing noise and preserving detail. ISO 6400 images contain a lot of fine detail that I typically expect to be lost. And yet, the images aren't terribly noisy either. Beyond ISO 6400, the noise reduction has to kick it up a notch and images take on a soft appearance.
93mm eq. (Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens at 62mm), f/7.1, 1/30s, ISO 51,200
Click for full-size image.
The built-in flash isn't powerful, but it has a nice mechanical flip-up design and numerous options. The flash guide number (ISO 100) is 19.7 feet (6.0 meters) although of course its range depends on the lens in use. The max flash sync is 1/160s, and you have access to up to 3 EV of flash compensation. When you need more power, you can utilize the camera's built in multi interface shoe with an optional external flash.
75mm eq. (Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS at 50mm), f/5,.6 0.8s, ISO 100, flash fired
Click for full-size image.
A very capable video camera with lots of features
I'm primarily a stills photographer, but even I can appreciate the sheer number of video features and modes that the A6300 offers, including full PASM exposure controls for video, high-bitrate internal 4K recording, High Frame Rate video, Dual Recording (which is like RAW+JPEG for video, in a sense), and S-Log Picture Profiles for enhanced controls for color grading and editing for advanced videographers. Its features list is extensive, and its performance delivers on all fronts.
Sony A6300 4K Video Sample
3840 x 2160, 24 frames-per-second, XAVC S, Super 35
Download Original (260.3 MB .MP4 File)
The A6300 has the ability to record 4K video in Super 35mm format -- a first for a Sony APS-C camera -- though it depends on the frame rate selected. The A6300 can record full-width Super 35mm-format video for 4K/24p as well as Full HD in 60p, 30p and 24p (and for for PAL-format 4K/25p and 1080/50p/25p). For other framerates, the video crop factor varies slightly with a narrower field of view for 4K/30p and 1080/120p (and PAL-region 100p), as well as in High Frame Rate movie modes.
The A6300's 4K video is actually downsampled from 6K data recorded from the camera's sensor, with no pixel binning. To my eyes, 4K video from the A6300 looks really good. 4K video, even at higher ISOs, looks great, with lots of fine detail and good dynamic range. When you're looking for something at a higher frame rate, you can use one of Sony's HFR modes for in-camera slow-motion videos, which captures Full HD at 120p or 100p, but plays back at a selectable 30, 25 or 24fps for up to a 5x slowdown effect, without sound. Or just record 1080p video at up to 120fps and tweak later in post-production. You can also record 1080/60p video if that's more your speed.
Sony A6300 4K ISO 25,600 Video Sample
3840 x 2160, 30fps, ISO 25,600, XAVC S
Download Original (108.9 MB .MP4 File)
For videographers who use different picture profiles, such as an S-Log profile (the A6300 offers the new S-Log3 profile with 14-stops of dynamic range), the A6300 now includes a gamma display assist function, making it easier to see what you're recording while using these flat profiles. The Sony A6300 also includes an external mic jack as well, something that was missing on the A6000. For more advanced functionality, the A6300 offers clean HDMI output, even up to 4K resolution while still having the option of simultaneously recording 4K internally to the SD card. You can also record directly out from the HDMI connection to an external recorder, up to 4K resolution, without recording to the SD card.
The Sony A6300 uses XAVC S-format video for both 4K recording as well as Full HD video. 4K video is recorded in either 30p or 24p (or PAL-specific 25p) with a choice of bitrates: 100Mbps or 60Mbps. Full HD is offered in 60p, 30p, 24p and 120p. Bitrates for Full HD XAVC S video are 50Mbps for 24-60p (25/50p PAL) or 100Mbps for 120p. The A6300 also offers AVCHD (.MTS format) and MP4 video formats in a handful of lower bitrate settings, for a variety of Full HD options (and 720p for MP4 mode). 4K is only offered in XAVC S format, however.
Sony A6300 HFR Video Sample
1920 x 1080, 120fps played back at 30fps, XAVC S
Download Original (98 MB .MP4 File)
Like a number of other Sony cameras, the A6300 requires a certain caliber of memory card in order to record video in certain formats and bitrates. SDXC-category cards at 64GB and larger, are perhaps the most widely compatible for all formats and bitrates offered on the A6300, including 4K and High Frame Rate options, but for both SDHC and SDXC cards, a UHS Speed Class U3 designation is required for video bitrates of 100Mbps or more. MemoryStick PRO-HG Duo memory cards are also compatible for certain videos, but cannot be used for 100Mbps video or higher.
Similar to a number of recent A7-series cameras, the Sony A6300 has a neat Dual Record video function that allows you to record a higher quality video and a small, lower-quality one simultaneously. For instance, you can have a high quality video ready for editing, as well as a smaller, easier-to-handle video for transferring and social sharing. You can dual-record XAVC S + MP4 together or choose AVCHD + MP4. There are some limitations though. You can't use Dual Record with 1080/60p or 120p XAVC S, 60p AVCHD, or when the File Format is set to MP4. You can use Dual Record with 4K video, however, which is great, though you are provided with a 720p MP4 sidecar video rather than a 1080p one.
Given sufficient space on your memory card, the Sony A6300 can record video continuously for approximately 29 minutes, after which you'll need to manually restart recording. There are some additional limitations, depending on specific video modes. HFR videos are limited to seven minutes of continuous shooting at 30/25p @ 16Mbps or approximately 5min, 30sec at 24p @ 12Mbps. Also, when using MP4 video format, the 28Mbps option is limited to approximately 20 minutes due to the 4GB file size limitation.
On a concerning note, we have come across comments about overheating with the A6300 when recording video for an extended period of time, however I have not experienced this phenomenon personally. While attending the Sony A6300 press trip in Miami, a few of my colleagues experienced overheating issues, but I did not. And during my main Field Test shooting here in Maine, the temperatures here were quite chilly, which probably helped avoid overheating problems. The instruction manual does warn of the risk of overheating while recording for extending lengths of time, which can be affected by the camera's temperature prior to video recording or the ambient temperature itself.
Sony's wireless connectivity setup in the A6300 needs some work
The Sony A6300 features built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, and part of the wireless functionality comes from apps installed on the camera itself as well as the companion PlayMemories Mobile smartphone app. The camera itself ships with a very basic remote app installed: mainly just remote shutter release and exposure compensation adjustment. Thankfully, Sony's updated the pre-packaged "Smart Remote Embedded" in-camera app to a more full-functioned "Smart Remote Control" app. If you want a better remote with more functionality, you'll need to install this updated app through the camera itself (via its own built-in "app store" interface), or by connecting the A6300 to your computer with Sony software installed. For whatever reason, no matter how many times I delete and reinstall the Sony software, it always crashes on my Mac.
Sony PlayMemories application screenshots
This means that I have to connect to a Wi-Fi network on the camera, enter my password, and connect to Sony's store in the camera. Despite the app you need to download being free (though there are additional paid apps which offer more functionality and features), you still have to sign into a Sony Entertainment Network account to install apps (once installed, you don't need to sign-in to actually use the app thankfully). I don't know why it's set up this way, but having to enter your email and password information using the navigation buttons on the camera makes this entire process quite tedious. Another strange issue I had is that the A6300 wasn't picking up my Wi-Fi signal as well as my other devices. Even with a strong signal, the in-camera store loads very slowly. Ultimately, going through these steps is not that big of a deal, but it is something I've never had to deal with on any other kinds of cameras.
Once you've got everything set up, you can connect to the camera via the PlayMemories Mobile app on your smartphone or tablet. The new, updated Smart Remote Control app works well enough and now offers additional, much-needed functionality, such as tap-to-focus, touch shutter and full exposure adjustments.
Sony A6300 Field Test Summary
An excellent successor to an already very good camera
What I like:
- Relatively compact camera body that feels comfortable to use
- Sensor delivers great results
- Fantastic electronic viewfinder & helpful live viewfinder burst mode
- Impressive number of PDAF and CDAF points
- Good subject tracking autofocus performance
- Very good low light image quality
- Extensive video features, including high quality 4K video
What I dislike:
- Clunky menus
- No touchscreen display
- Changing AF points on the fly isn't fast enough
- Slow buffer clearing
- Despite improvements, battery life still isn't great
24mm eq. (Sony FE 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens at 16mm), f/8.0, 1/10s, ISO 100
This image has been modified. Click for original image.
It is never easy to follow up a camera as popular and as beloved as the A6000, but Sony has really hit it out of the park with the A6300. The A6300 is small and light, but it doesn't skimp on controls. Its new APS-C sensor delivers excellent image quality across a wide range of ISO sensitivities. The improved electronic viewfinder is fantastic and offers the best high-speed shooting experience of any EVF I've used. Video shooters should be pleased with the wide array of features and the great performance that the A6300 offers. Overall, the Sony A6300 is a very good APS-C mirrorless camera and with the continued expansion of Sony E-mount lenses, it's hard to find many reasons to not be excited by this camera.
Sony A6300 Review -- Overview
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted: 02/03/2016
In mid-2014, Sony launched a product with spectacular appeal. The Alpha A6000, says its maker, is not only the best-selling mirrorless camera to date, but also the best-selling interchangeable-lens camera with a pricetag at or above US$600. Now, it follows up with the Sony A6300, a camera which has one very tough act to follow -- but it looks to be more than up to the task.
The Sony A6300 keeps most everything which made its predecessor so popular, but makes some very worthwhile changes. Key among these are a new image sensor and updated image processing algorithms which, together, bring lower noise levels and much-improved autofocus. There's also a brand-new, higher-resolution electronic viewfinder, and its made all the more useful by the ability to shoot with a live-view feed at rates of up to an impressively-swift eight frames per second. Add in some great refinements to the camera's video capture capabilities, and the Sony A6300 looks to be a very promising product indeed.
The Sony A6300's body is very familiar, but with a couple of control tweaks
If you've shot with its predecessor, the Sony A6300's magnesium-alloy body will look very familiar indeed. Its height and width are identical to those of the earlier camera, while its depth has increased by a scant 0.14 inches (3.6mm), a change that comes accompanied by a slight 2.12 ounce (60g) increase in weight. Almost all of the external controls and design elements remain right where they were in the previous model. In fact, there are only a couple of control changes with which you'll need to familiarize yourself.
The first of these can be found on the top deck, where the mode dial no longer has separate iAuto and Superior Auto (iAuto+) positions. Both modes are still there, but they're now grouped beneath a single Auto position on the dial, a change which frees up space for a second Memory Recall mode instead.
That tweak will surely please more experienced photographers, as will the other significant control change: a new switch with central button on the rear deck, replacing the earlier camera's autoexposure lock button. With the switch at the bottom of its throw, the button will still provide AE lock capability, but if the switch is flicked upwards, you'll instead be able to toggle focus between automatic and manual control.
Sony also notes that it has improved the shutter release button, although it doesn't detail precisely what has changed in this area. Once we get hands-on with a final production-spec camera, we'll be sure to check that out for ourselves, but in the meantime we're guessing it's likely an improvement to button feel, given that the control itself looks to be near-identical to that in the A6000.
The A6300 is rugged, but a question mark on weather-sealing
The new body of the Sony A6300 should also prove more rugged than that of its predecessor, according to Sony. Look beneath the surface -- which, we noted in our hands-on with the camera, has a more matte finish than in the past -- and you'll find a newly reinforced lens mount structure.
Sony also notes that it has improved the A6300's dust and moisture-resistance compared to the earlier camera, although there's something of a question mark in this area. In its press materials, Sony notes that while the A6300 "is designed for optimal dust and moisture resistance," it is "not waterproof or splashproof". What precisely merits consideration as a splash versus just moisture isn't really clear, but we wouldn't recommend using the Sony A6300 in more than a light sprinkle of rain.
Still, that's more than enough for many photographers, even if we'd like to see clearer guidance from the company as to just what level of moisture the A6300 should be able to handle.
The Sony A6300 gets a new high-performance sensor; same high resolution
At the heart of the Sony A6300, you'll find the same pairing of a 24-megapixel CMOS image sensor and BIONZ X image processor that formed the foundation of the A6000. It's not the same sensor as before, though. The newly-designed chip has the exact same output resolution of 6,000 x 4,000 pixels, but it now uses copper wiring for improved readout performance and a better signal-to-noise ratio. It also sports almost 2.4 times as many on-chip phase-detect autofocus pixels as in the earlier camera, a change we'll be discussing in more depth momentarily.
Although the standard sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25,600-equivalents remains unchanged from the A6000, there's now an ISO expansion function which will raise the upper limit to ISO 51,200-equivalent without resorting to Multi-frame Noise Reduction (though MFNR is still supported), and Sony is also claiming lower noise levels from the new imaging pipeline in the A6300.
Although performance has clearly been a design goal for Sony during development of the A6300, its maximum burst capture rate remains unchanged at 11 frames per second. Burst depth at this maximum speed is also as near as makes no difference unchanged, with a predicted 44 large / extra fine JPEG frames or 21 RAW / RAW+JPEG frames in a burst (which we confirmed in our performance lab tests). However, you now have a choice of more burst capture frame rates -- 11, eight, six or three fps -- and that second-from-top option is much more usable than ever before.
The A6300 delivers a much more satisfying burst capture experience
The reason for the improvement is that Sony has worked to resolve one of the main bugbears of the electronic viewfinder. Traditionally, EVFs are frowned on by sports shooters because what you're seeing between frames captured in a high-speed burst isn't a live view of your subject, but rather the image that was just captured. That means there's a lag between the action in the real world and what you see through the viewfinder. That remains true for the Sony A6300 at its maximum burst capture rate, but not when you drop the rate to eight fps.
At this somewhat-reduced rate, the camera shows a real live view feed, punctuated by a series of brief blackouts as each frame is captured. This is akin to what you'd see with a traditional DSLR, which must also have a viewfinder blackout every time the mirror is raised to allow light to reach the image sensor, and so it makes shooting with the A6300 much more DSLR-like. Of course, we've yet to properly test a production-level camera, but from our hands-on time with a pre-production model this new function did seem to make it much easier to track moving subjects.
The Sony 6300 viewfinder is much sharper and (optionally) faster, too
This improved method of burst shooting with a live view feed comes predominantly thanks to the new, faster readout of the image sensor. The overall experience is also aided by improvements to the viewfinder itself, though.
Although the electronic finder in the Sony A6300 has the same 0.39-inch OLED panel size as before, along with the same manufacturer-rated 100% coverage, 1.07x magnification (35mm equivalent: 0.7x), 23mm eyepoint and -4 to +3m-1 diopter adjustment, it now bests that in the earlier camera in two key ways.
Firstly, total resolution has increased by 63%, with a dot count of 2,359,296 dots instead of the 1,440,000 dots in the earlier camera. Secondly, you can now adjust the viewfinder frame rate for smoother motion. As well as the standard rate of 60 frames per second, the viewfinder refresh can now be boosted to a swift 120 fps.
Record-setting autofocus (in more ways than one!)
Another major area of improvement in the Sony A6300 can be found in its autofocus system. We already touched on this very briefly in our discussion of the new image sensor, but there's a whole lot more to this particular story.
Still branded as "4D Focus", the AF system in the Sony A6300 now has vastly more focus points to choose from than before, and helpfully, these cover almost the entire field of view. Sony tells us that with a total of 425 phase-detect autofocus points on offer, the A6300 has the most PDAF points of any mirrorless camera to date. Add in a further 169 contrast-detect points, and there truly is spectacular AF point density. (Compare those numbers to "just" 179 PDAF and 25 CDAF points in the earlier camera.)
This high point density pays dividends when it comes to autofocus tracking, as the camera has much more information to work with than ever before. As your subject moves, the Sony A6300 can now follow it around the frame much more accurately. And as an added bonus, you'll also be able to use the PDAF points with adapted Sony Alpha-mount lenses, just as you can in recent Sony A7-series full-frame cameras. That's a first for one of the company's APS-C sensor-shod cameras.
And nor is that all. Sony is also claiming that the autofocus system in the A6300 is just fractionally faster than the record-setting system in the A6000, taking just 0.05 seconds to determine a focus lock. (Of course, you'd be hard-pressed to notice a difference in the real world, as the earlier camera could lock focus in 0.06 seconds, but we'd imagine shaving off yet another hundredth of a second was no small task.) And yes, that AF performance merits yet another world's first, according to Sony.
Other AF improvements include the availability of Eye AF when shooting with continuous autofocus, just as seen in recent A7-series cameras, along with the ability to combine the focus magnifier function with autofocus, and an expanded flexible spot AF function. There are also some improvements for movie capture specifically, as we'll see in a moment.
Silent shooting and better bracketing
In most respects, the Sony A6300's exposure capabilities mirror those of the earlier camera. A couple of points stood out to us on inspecting the new model's specifications, however. For one thing, there's now a silent shooting mode, which should make this a much better option for nature photography, weddings, or anything else where shutter noise might startle or distract your subjects. There's also a more generous exposure bracketing function. Previously, the A6000 limited you to just five frames in a bracketed set, or three frames if your step size was 1EV or greater. Now, the Sony A6300 will shoot as many as five frames with a 3EV step size, or nine frames with a step size up to 1EV.
The A6300 is a much more capable video shooter
Sony has made quite a few improvements to the video feature set of the A6300. We already hinted at one of these a moment ago in our discussion of autofocus: The company claims that the new camera can focus twice as fast during movie capture, when compared to the earlier model. Of course, swift autofocus isn't always a good thing for movies, so you can also now adjust autofocus speed and tracking sensitivity, if you want to dial things back for less jarring transitions.
The Sony A6300 is also the company's first APS-C camera with Super 35mm-format, 4K video capture capability. Recorded using XAVC S compression -- itself a new addition -- the A6300's 4K video is downsampled from a full 6K of data read off the image sensor, with no pixel binning taking place. And if you'd prefer to favor frame rate over resolution, another first for Sony's APS-C lineup is the ability to capture Full HD video at 120 frames per second with a 100 Mbps bitrate.
There's also a new 3.5mm external microphone jack on the Sony A6300, which allows you to use an external mic without any proprietary accessories. (Previously, you'd have needed one of Sony's Multi Interface Shoe mics or adapters.) And the maximum sensitivity in movie mode has now been raised from ISO 12,800 to 25,600-equivalent.
Sony has added a Gamma Display Assist function which makes it easier to keep tabs on focus and framing when shooting S-Log movies. S-Gamut is also available, and the A6300's zebra striping function has been improved too. You can now use picture profiles and capture time code / user bit data as well.
Significantly better battery life, too
One last change which really stood out to us is the impressive improvement Sony has made in the A6300's battery life. The earlier A6000 was limited to 360 shots on a charge with the LCD monitor, or just 310 frames when shooting using the electronic viewfinder. The Sony A6300 boosts this to an impressive 400 frames on the LCD, which represents an 11% improvement -- and that's when using the exact same NP-FW50 battery packs as in the earlier camera. When using the EVF, there's an even greater 13% gain, with a total of 350 shots now possible on a charge. That's almost as many frames with the A6300's finder as the A6000 was able to manage on the LCD panel!
In other respects, the Sony A6300's features are similar to the A6000
All of this represents a lot of improvement in areas which will really benefit Sony A6300 owners. On paper at least, the new model is otherwise quite similar to its predecessor. The A6300 still natively-accepts Sony E-mount lenses as well as a wide range of first- and third-party glass using adapters, and relies on the attached lens for image stabilization.
The rear-panel display is still a 3.0-inch LCD with 921,600-dot resolution, and shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds plus bulb are still possible. X-sync remains at 1/160 second, and there are still both a popup flash and Sony's proprietary Multi Interface Shoe for external strobes.
Connectivity still includes both USB data and HDMI video outputs, and there's still Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity plus an NFC radio for easy pairing with Android devices. And as you'd expect in a modern Sony camera, you can supplement the basic features with the company's PlayMemories Camera Apps -- some free, some available for a small cost -- to enable features like remote camera control, time lapse photography and a whole lot more besides.
Pricing and availability
The Sony A6300 began shipping in the US market from March 2016. List price is around US$1,000 body-only, or US$1,150 when bundled with Sony's SELP1650 kit lens, a retractable 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 optic with power zoom and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization.
Sony A6300 Image Quality Comparison
Putting it up against the competition
Here we present crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Sony A6300 image quality to its predecessor, the A6000, as well as against several enthusiast ILC models at similar price points or in similar categories: the Fuji X-T1, Nikon D7200, Panasonic GX8 and Sony A7. We realize the Sony A7 isn't in the same league as the A6300 in terms of performance (and frankly, very few cameras are), but it's available for about the same body-only price at the time of writing so we thought including a full-frame model would be an interesting comparison to some of our readers.
NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera.
Sony A6300 Print Quality
Examining "real-world" image quality performance
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher ISOs?"
The Sony A6300 excels in the print quality department for an APS-C camera. Not only does it deliver exceptional prints at base ISO and ISO 200, but it bests its predecessor the A6000 at ISO 400 and 800. For the remaining ISO's the A6300 scored a similar print size, but tended to look to our eyes just a bit sharper at each of these settings. We can say without hesitation that the Sony A6300 does indeed best the A6000 in the print quality department, though certainly not in a radical way as the A6000 was already quite good.
In the Box
The Sony A6300 retail kit package (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Sony Alpha ILCE-6300 camera body
- SELP-1650 16-50mm E-mount Power Zoom lens
- NP-FW50 rechargeable Li-ion battery
- Shoulder strap
- Micro USB cable
- Accessory Shoe cap
- Body cap
- Lens cap
- Eyepiece cup
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. 32GB Class 10 should be a minimum; UHS Speed Class U3 designation is required for recording video bitrates of 100Mbps or more.
- Spare NP-FW50 battery pack (~US$50)
- BC-TRW Dedicated Battery Charger (~US$35)
- HVL-F60M External Flash/Video Light (~US$450)
- Additional lenses
$1124.48 (9% more)
20.3 MP (19% less)
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$1699.00 (40% more)
16.3 MP (48% less)
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$599.00 (70% less)
16.3 MP (48% less)
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$1629.00 (37% more)
16.3 MP (48% less)