Sony A6300 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Lower-than-average saturation levels, with average hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
100
200
400
800
12800
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to compare ISOs and click on links for larger images.

Saturation. The Sony A6300's mean default color saturation is only oversaturated by 5.2% at base ISO, which is a lower than average these days. Mean saturation is stable as sensitivity rises up to ISO 6400, then falls off as sensitivity is increased further to a minimum of only 92.1% (undersaturated by 7.9%) at ISO 51,200. Reds and dark blues are boosted moderately, but not as much as we often see. Most other colors are pushed just a bit or pretty close to ideal, though yellow and light greens are undersaturated at base ISO, and become quite muted at ISO 12,800 and above. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Sony A6300 does fairly well with Caucasian skin tones when using either Auto or Manual white balance in simulated daylight. Brighter flesh tones have a healthy pinkish tint but are not overly pink, though darker areas are nudged toward orange. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Sony A6300 shifts cyan toward blue and red toward orange moderately, but shifts in orange toward yellow and yellow to toward green are more pronounced than most cameras. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) The yellow to green shift is unfortunate, as it is also desaturated, which leads to dingy-looking yellows. With an average "delta-C" color error of 5.97 after correction for saturation at base ISO, overall hue accuracy is about average, with minor to moderate fluctuations across the ISO range. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm, reddish cast with Auto, but good color with Incandescent and Manual white balance. No exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
0 EV
Incandescent White Balance
0 EV
Manual White Balance
0 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was too warm and reddish with the Auto white balance setting. Results with the Incandescent setting were better, though a bit yellow. The Manual setting was quite accurate, just slightly on the cool side. The Sony A6300 required no exposure compensation here, while +0.3 EV is about average for this shot. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Excellent results under harsh lighting, with good handling of contrast, color, along with above average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Sony A6300 performed very well. +0.3 EV exposure compensation was required to keep the mannequin's face bright in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, which is better than average among the cameras we've tested. (Most cameras require about +0.7 EV here.) Contrast is a little high as you might expect under such harsh lighting, but despite the bright appearance, very few highlights were blown, even without the help of Dynamic Range Optimization DRO -- see below. Both Auto and Manual white balance produced decent skin tones under simulated daylight, however some of the yellow flowers look a bit green. Default exposure for our Far-field shot (above right) looks a touch underexposed, but as a result almost no highlights were blown (just a few specular highlights) and no shadows were lost, again with DRO disabled. The Far-field shot with Auto white balance has good color balance, just a touch on the cool side, but colors aren't as pumped as most cameras. Still, excellent overall performance in harsh lighting, especially considering DRO was off for these shots.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
~2,750 to ~2,850 lines of strong detail from both JPEGs and RAW files.

Strong detail to
~2,850 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,750 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,850 lines horizontal
ACR converted RAW
Strong detail to
~2,750 lines vertical
ACR converted RAW

In-camera JPEGs of our laboratory resolution chart reveal sharp, distinct line patterns up to about 2,850 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,750 lines in the vertical direction. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines begin to merge at these resolutions, and aliasing artifacts actually start to appear as low as about 2,400 lines. Complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur until about 3,700 to 3,800 lines. Some color moiré is evident in JPEGs, though that's not uncommon. Adobe Camera Raw wasn't really able to extract more lines of resolution here from a matching RAW file, but it generated much stronger color moiré (different colors as well). Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Excellent default sharpness, with minimal sharpening artifacts. Mild to moderate noise suppression visible in the shadows and areas of low contrast.

Excellent definition of high-
contrast elements with low
sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The Sony A6300 captures sharp, crisp images at lower ISOs, with few visible edge enhancement artifacts. We often see some fairly bright or thick sharpening halos around high-contrast elements such as the lettering and lines in our bottle labels (above left), but the A6300's sharpening algorithm is adept at making details pop without introducing strong sharpening artifacts. Excellent results here, at least at low ISOs. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows mild to moderate noise suppression in the darker areas of the mannequin's hair. A number of low-contrast strands are smudged together, though higher contrast strands are still distinct. Overall, though, very good results here for a 24-megapixel APS-C camera. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Sony A6300 produces sharp in-camera JPEGs with very good detail and few sharpening artifacts, at least at low ISOs. Additional detail can often be obtained from carefully processing RAW files with a good converter, though. Let's see how base ISO compares here:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.5 using default noise reduction with some moderate but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (250%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see that ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf swatch where the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine. Fine detail in the mosaic is also a bit better and more refined looking, but as is often the case, more luminance noise can be seen, though the in-camera JPEG shows more chroma noise in the shadows. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. Also notice that the ACR conversion does not show the yellow-to-green shift in the olive oil bottle that the in-camera JPEG does, and colors are generally more pleasing.

Apart from some issues with color, the Sony A6300's in-camera JPEG processing (at least at low ISOs) is very good with generally excellent detail and very few sharpening artifacts.

ISO & Noise Performance
Very good high ISO performance for an APS-C camera.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600
ISO 51,200

Image quality is excellent at ISOs 100 through 800, with a nice, gradual drop in image quality as sensitivity rises. ISO 1600 is noticeably noisier, but fine detail is still very good for this sensitivity and sensor size. At ISO 3200, image quality takes a larger hit due to stronger noise reduction, but a surprising amount of fine detail is still intact, however flatter areas start to take on a slightly hammered look. Fine detail is still pretty good at ISO 6400, but image quality rapidly deteriorates at higher ISOs, with progressively stronger noise "grain", more conspicuous noise reduction artifacts, and some blotchy yellow or purple chroma noise at the highest ISOs.

Overall, though, high ISO performance in JPEGs is noticeably improved over its predecessor, with a much less heavy-handed approach at higher ISOs, and high ISO RAW files also look improved. As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO, as printed performance often doesn't correlate well to what's seen on-screen at 100%, and check out our Comparometer to see how the Sony A6300's JPEGs compare to other cameras we've tested.

Note that we now shoot this series at f/8 instead of f/4, for increased depth of field (at f/4, it was very difficult to focus for maximum sharpness in the crop area while maintaining consistent focus between models).

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Excellent highlight and shadow detail. Very good low-light performance, capable of focusing and capturing bright images in near darkness.

0 EV +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight. The Sony A6300 handled the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above very well. We preferred the +0.3 EV exposure here as the mannequin's face is bright while very few highlights were clipped in the white shirt. The default (0 EV) exposure is just a tad dim in the face, while the +0.7 EV exposure is definitely too bright. As mentioned previously, contrast is a little high, but both highlight and shadow detail is very good at +0.3 EV. Overall, very good results here.

For best results, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible. See below for results with Dynamic Range Optimization and High Dynamic Range features enabled.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Outdoor Portrait DRO Comparison (0 EV)
DRO
Setting:


Auto
(Default)


Off

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

Dynamic Range Optimization is Sony's name for their dynamic range enhancement technology. DRO divides the image into small areas, analyzes the range of brightness of each area, and adjusts the camera's tone curve and other processing parameters accordingly to make the best use of the available dynamic range. DRO does not boost ISO for the entire image like some systems, so increased noise is less of an issue, though existing noise may be more visible in raised shadows. Auto DRO is enabled by default on the Sony A6300. You can also set the level manually, from 1 ("weak") to 5 ("strong"), or turn it off. As one would expect, DRO is only applied to JPEG files however RAW files are tagged for similar processing by compatible software.

The above thumbnails and histograms show the effects of the available levels of DRO on our "Sunlit" Portrait shot with no exposure compensation. Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to visit the full resolution image. As you can see from the thumbnails and histograms, DRO worked as expected, boosting shadows and mid-tones without blowing additional highlights, yielding more balance exposures. The Auto DRO setting did a good job here, and the five manual levels give quite a bit of control over the effect.

Far-field DRO Comparison (0 EV)
Off

Above, you can see the effects of DRO settings on our Far-field shot. The default Auto setting produced a nicely balanced exposure, despite the harsh lighting. A useful feature. (Apologies for the change in framing for the Off setting.)


Outdoor Portrait HDR Comparison (0 EV)
HDR
Setting:


Off
(Default)


Auto

1 EV

2 EV

3 EV

4 EV

5 EV

6 EV

High Dynamic Range. The Sony A6300's HDR mode takes three images in rapid succession, one nominally exposed , one underexposed, and one overexposed, then combines them into one high dynamic range JPEG automatically (RAW images are not supported). Lighter areas from the underexposed image are combined with darker areas from the overexposed image to produce an image with compressed tonal range. The camera then saves a single composite image, as well as the nominally exposed image. The overlaid images are micro-aligned by the camera, but it can only correct for so much movement. If it can't micro-align successfully, an icon indicating HDR capture failed will appear. For best results, the subject should not move or blink, so it's not really intended for portraits. There is also a manual mode where you can select 1 EV ("weak") to 6 EV ("strong") difference in exposures.

Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to visit the full resolution image. As you can see, the Auto setting did a decent job boosting shadows and mid-tones while reigning back highlights, however we prefer the lower manual settings for this subject. The higher the manual setting, the more highlights are toned-down and shadows opened up, but higher settings can produce flat and unnatural results with this scene. Still, it's nice that Sony provides six manual levels, giving quite a bit of control over the effect.

Far-field HDR Comparison (0 EV)

Above, you can see the effects of HDR settings on our Far-field shot. Watch out for ghost and double images caused by movement within the scene during the capture sequence, though, as can be seen in the flag and leaves of some of the shots above.

Sony has one of the more flexible in-camera HDR implementations we've seen making it a useful feature for those that don't want to bracket and combine images in post.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Sony A6300's dynamic range to its predecessor, the A6000, and also to one of the best performing APS-C cameras to date, the Nikon D7200. You can always compare other models on DxOMark.com.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Sony A6300's dynamic range (shown in orange) is significantly improved over the A6000 (yellow) at most ISOs, with a peak of about 13.7 versus 13.1 EV at base ISO. Dynamic range has improved even more at ISO 1600 and above, with up to almost a full stop advantage, however at the ISO 400 setting it's only marginally improved.

The Sony A6300's dynamic range still lags behind the class-leading Nikon D7200 (red) at lower ISOs, with the D7200 managing an impressive 14.6 EV at base ISO. But the A6300 catches up between ISO 800 and 1600 and actually bests the D7200 significantly at ISO 25,600, with a score 7.7 vs 6.5 EV.

Overall, very good dynamic range with a nice improvement over the A6000 especially at higher ISOs. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Sony A6300 for more of their test results and additional comparisons.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
100
Click to see A6300LL001003.JPG
2s, f2.8
Click to see A6300LL001007.JPG
30s, f2.8
Click to see A6300LL001007XNR.JPG
30s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see A6300LL032003.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see A6300LL032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see A6300LL032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
51200
Click to see A6300LL512003.JPG
1/250s, f2.8
Click to see A6300LL512007.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see A6300LL512007XNR.JPG
1/15s, f2.8

Low Light. The Sony A6300 was able to capture bright images down to the lowest light level we test at (1/16 foot-candle) even at base ISO. Noise is very low at base ISO and well-controlled at ISO 3200, though as expected noise and noise reduction artifacts are quite high and objectional at the highest ISO setting of 51,200.

Auto white balance did a very good job here, producing a fairly neutral, just slightly cool color balance across tested ISOs and light levels.

We didn't detect any significant banding (pattern noise) or heat blooming, though we did spot a few hot pixels at base ISO where noise reduction didn't blur them out. That's nothing to be overly concerned about, though.

The Sony A6300's autofocus system was able to focus on our low-contrast AF target down to between 1/8 and 1/16 foot-candles (-1.4 EV) unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is pretty good. And the A6300 was able to focus in complete darkness with its focus assist lamp enabled.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to their larger pixels and in the case of the A6300, its Hybrid AF system, compact system cameras like the Sony A6300 tend to do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100/200/400; a nice 16 x 20 at ISO 1600; a good 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 100 and 200 prints are excellent at 30 x 40 inches and higher, until you run out of resolution and begin to see individual pixels. Images are both rich and superb in depth and fine detail, with good color overall.

ISO 400 images also hold up quite well at 30 x 40 inches here, with crisp detail, good color and no signs of any unwanted artifacts. Most APS-C cameras have historically required a print size reduction at this ISO, so this is a welcome sign indeed.

ISO 800 yields 20 x 30 inch prints with very nice fine detail, full colors, and only mild apparent noise in flatter areas of our test target. There is a typical slight loss in contrast detail in our tricky red-leaf swatch as well, but virtually all cameras we test begin to succumb to this issue by about ISO 800 or even sooner.

ISO 1600 shots are quite good at 16 x 20 inches, which is a fairly nice-sized print for this sensitivity. 20 x 30's may be usable here for less critical applications depending on your subject matter, but display a bit too much noise in the flatter areas of our test target to merit our good seal.

ISO 3200 prints are worthwhile at 13 x 19 inches, with only mild issues similar to the 16 x 20 inch prints described at ISO 1600. We're still in fairly large territory for this print size, so unless you're moving to really large prints, this is an ISO you can safely depend on for most displaying situations.

ISO 6400 tends to be the southward turn for many a crop-sensor camera, and the Sony A6300 is no exception. 11 x 14 inch prints here aren't bad, and will likely be fine for less critical applications, but the 8 x 10's tighten up quite nicely here and receive our full seal of approval.

ISO 12,800 produces quite a nice 5 x 7 given how high this ISO sensitivity is. Nice detail and good color are still present, with little in the way of apparent noise at this print size.

ISO 25,600 delivers a good 4 x 6 inch print. As with the A6000, this is a nice feat for an APS-C camera to be able to yield, and is not "scorched" looking like so many APS-C cameras by this setting.

ISO 51,200 yields 4 x 6 inch prints that almost pass our good seal. You can get away with it for lesser applications, but for anything important you're best to avoid this gain setting.

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 with one available print size larger. 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. It's too bad it can't produce a quality print at the new high ISO of 51,200, but that's not a big deal since the A6000 didn't even offer it. 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.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Alpha ILCE-A6300 Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Alpha ILCE-A6300 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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