Sony A6500 Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Sony A6500's image quality to that of its predecessor's, the A6500, as well as against several enthusiast or premium ILC models at similar price points and/or resolutions: the Canon M5, Fuji X-T2, Nikon D7200 and Olympus PEN-F.

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. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Sony A6500, Sony A6300, Canon M5, Fuji X-T2, Nikon D7200, and Olympus PEN-F -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Sony A6500 to any camera we've ever tested!

Sony A6500 vs Sony A6300 at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A6500 at ISO 100
Sony A6300 at ISO 100

Here we compare the Sony A6500 to its most recent sibling, the A6300. They use the same sensor, however Sony stated processing has been improved, especially at higher ISOs. As you see, virtually identical results here at base ISO with sharp, crisp detail, few visible sharpening artifacts, and pleasing contrast. You can see some moiré patterns in the red-leaf fabric, however that's pretty common these days among cameras with a weak or no anti-aliasing filter. Fine detail in the fabrics does look at little better from the A6500, but otherwise image quality here at ISO 100 is very similar, which is to say excellent. Our only real complaint is that color could be better, as both models tend to push yellow to green, orange to yellow and pink to red, and aren't quite as saturated as most cameras (except in reds which are heavily boosted).

Sony A6500 vs Canon EOS M5 at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A6500 at ISO 100
Canon EOS M5 at ISO 100

In this comparison, we pit the A6500 against Canon's enthusiast 24-megapixel APS-C mirrorless, the EOS M5. The Sony has a very weak or no AA filter which helps maximize per-pixel sharpness and detail, and with Sony's excellent default processing the combination produces a sharper, crisper image without the obvious and unsightly sharpening halos produced by the Canon's default processing. We do see stronger aliasing artifacts from the A6300, though, especially in the red-leaf fabric, however the Canon blurs a lot of fine detail away in the fabric already here at base ISO. Color is however noticeably more pleasing and accurate from the Canon, with far fewer hue shifts than the Sony.

Sony A6500 vs Fujifilm X-T2 at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 200
Sony A6500 at ISO 100
Fujifilm X-T2 at ISO 200

Here we compare the A6500 to the 24-megapixel APS-C Fuji X-T2 with the main difference being X-Trans vs Bayer color filtering, and of course in-camera processing. The Sony produces a slightly crisper, sharper image yet its sharpening algorithm produces less noticeable halos around high-contrast edges. Contrast is also higher from the Sony, especially in the red-leaf swatch, however it does contain visible moiré patterns while the Fuji image does not. Luma noise is a bit higher from the Fuji (but keep in mind its higher base ISO), however chroma noise in the shadows is much lower, a trait Fujis are known for. Color is more pleasing and accurate from the Fuji as well, with less orange to yellow, yellow to green and pink to red shifts, but the Sony preserves more of and perhaps even exaggerates the subtle coloration caused by offset printing in the mosaic label.

Sony A6500 vs Nikon D7200 at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 100
Sony A6500 at ISO 100
Nikon D7200 at ISO 100

The Sony A6500 closely matches the 24-megapixel APS-C Nikon D7200 in terms of resolution, though there are plenty of differences otherwise. The D7200 image has lower chroma noise which is perhaps why the red-leaf swatch isn't as detailed, while the A6500 image has lower luma noise. Both produce sharp images, however the Nikon image contains much more obvious sharpening halos as seen in the olive oil bottle crop at the top, but the Sony exaggerates the offset printing coloration in the mosaic label which the Nikon attenuates, perhaps also treating it as chroma noise. Overall, colors are more pleasing and vibrant from the Nikon.

Sony A6500 vs Olympus PEN-F at Base ISO

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 200
Sony A6500 at ISO 100
Olympus PEN-F at ISO 200

Here we compare the 24-megapixel APS-C A6500 to the 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds Olympus PEN-F which has a list price and form factor much closer to the A6500 than Olympus' latest ILC, the E-M1 Mark II. At base ISO, the Sony A6500 produces a crisper, more detailed image with fewer sharpening halos. Fine detail and contrast are much better in our tricky red-leaf swatch from the Sony, however moiré patterns are much more visible. The A6500 also exaggerates the offset printing coloration in the mosaic label which the PEN-F attenuates, perhaps treating it as chroma noise. Colors are again more pleasing and accurate from the Olympus.

Sony A6500 vs Sony A6300 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A6500 at ISO 1600
Sony A6300 at ISO 1600

Very similar results here at ISO 1600 from these two siblings, however it appears default processing has indeed been tweaked. The A6300 image appears just a touch noisier with some green or turquoise tinted pixels in shadows and midtone areas that aren't present in the A6500 image, but detail is slightly better in the red-leaf swatch. (Noise in their respective RAW files looks identical, so the differences seen here are due to modified processing.)

Sony A6500 vs Canon EOS M5 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A6500 at ISO 1600
Canon EOS M5 at ISO 1600

Like we saw at base ISO, the A6500 delivers a much sharper image with better detail at ISO 1600 than the M5, though aliasing artifacts are more visible. Noise levels are comparable, however the noise "grain" from the Canon is more consistent and film-like, while the Sony's noise reduction processing produces some darker pixels and some rectilinear artifacts which give flatter areas a sightly less natural look when examined closely. Colors continue to be better from the Canon.

Sony A6500 vs Fujifilm X-T2 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A6500 at ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-T2 at ISO 1600

The Sony A6500 continues to produce a slightly sharper, crisper, more contrasty image at ISO 1600, and the offset printing coloration in the mosaic crop is no longer present in the A6500 image, suppressed by the Sony's high ISO noise reduction. The Sony also appears to do better in the red-leaf swatch, however much of the fine detail is distorted and false while the Fuji manages to be much more faithful to the subtle leaf pattern but with much lower contrast. The A6500 definitely does better with detail in the pink fabric, though, however the X-T2 continues to deliver much better overall color.

Sony A6500 vs Nikon D7200 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A6500 at ISO 1600
Nikon D7200 at ISO 1600

The D7200's fairly strong blurring of the red-leaf fabric jumps out in this comparison, and its rendering in the mosaic crop appears softer as well. Noise levels are a little higher from the D7200 but its noise "grain" is more natural and film-like than the A6500's. Colors from the Nikon continue to be warmer and more pleasing than from the Sony.

Sony A6500 vs Olympus PEN-F at ISO 1600

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 1600100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 1600
Sony A6500 at ISO 1600
Olympus PEN-F at ISO 1600

Here at ISO 1600 we can see the Olympus was working hard to produce a cleaner image than the Sony, however fine detail suffers as a result, with much more noticeable blurring and smearing in the mosaic and fabric crops, leading to a slightly water-colored painting effect. Almost all subtle detail is already lost by the PEN-F in our troublesome red-leaf fabric. It goes without saying that the Olympus continues to do better in terms of color, though.

Sony A6500 vs Sony A6300 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A6500 at ISO 3200
Sony A6300 at ISO 3200

The differences in default processing between the two siblings is more apparent here at ISO 3200, with the A6500 leaving behind a bit more luminance noise in flatter areas while preserving slightly better and more natural-looking detail and edges in the bottle crops. However, the A6300 appears to retain a bit more detail in our troublesome red-leaf swatch, though again much of it is heavily distorted and false.

Sony A6500 vs Canon EOS M5 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A6500 at ISO 3200
Canon EOS M5 at ISO 3200

Here at ISO 3200, the Sony A6500 continues to produce a much crisper, more detailed image than the Canon M5, however its area-specific noise reduction can produce more noticeable artifacts in flatter areas and along edges than Canon's more traditional approach to noise reduction. The M5 blurs our tricky red-leaf fabric a lot more here at ISO 3200, but much of the A6500's apparent detail in that fabric is false. The Sony does better in the pink fabric, but colors are again more accurate from the Canon.

Sony A6500 vs Fujifilm X-T2 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A6500 at ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-T2 at ISO 3200

The Sony A6500 still produces a slightly crisper, contrastier image with more punch here at ISO 3200, however noise levels are higher. Again, the red-leaf pattern may look more detailed from the Sony, but much of that detail is false, while the Fuji still renders at least some accurate detail though with lower contrast, and of course still produces more pleasing colors.

Sony A6500 vs Nikon D7200 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A6500 at ISO 3200
Nikon D7200 at ISO 3200

Once again, the A6500 and D7200 retain similar levels of detail in most areas, however the Sony produces a crisper image overall. The Nikon's noise pattern is more natural and film-like, though, and its colors are warmer and more accurate. And while the A6500 seems to do a bit better in the red-leaf fabric, much of the apparent detail is heavily distorted at this ISO, as mentioned previously.

Sony A6500 vs Olympus PEN-F at ISO 3200

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 3200
Sony A6500 at ISO 3200
Olympus PEN-F at ISO 3200

Similar to what we saw at ISO 1600, the Olympus PEN-F managed to produce a cleaner image here at ISO 3200 with default noise reduction, but subtle and low-contrast detail really suffers leading to a very soft, smeared image compared to the Sony's which still retains a lot of fine detail in most areas. Color is still better from the Olympus, though.

Sony A6500 vs. Sony A6300, Canon EOS M5, Fujifilm X-T2, Nikon D7200, Olympus PEN-F

100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 200100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 100100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 3200100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Sony A6500 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Sony A6300 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Canon EOS M5 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Fujifilm X-T2 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Nikon D7200 test image taken at ISO 6400100% crop from Olympus PEN-F test image taken at ISO 6400
Sony
A6500
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A6300
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
EOS M5
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fujifilm
X-T2
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D7200
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus
PEN-F
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it separately here. As expected, the Sony A6500 performs very similarly in this regard to its predecessor, with only slight differences likely due to minor exposure variations. The Canon M5 does well at base ISO, though the image isn't as crisp as the Sony's despite visible sharpening halos. The Canon's image quality does however drop off more quickly as ISO climbs while the Sonys' show very little degradation. The Fuji X-T2 also does well at base ISO, however contrast is a little lower in part because of a tone curve that makes the white background darker than the others. Detail and contrast remain quite good as ISO climbs, however sharpness drops. The Nikon D7200 also does very well at base ISO, though with the most obvious sharpening halos of the group, however it doesn't do quite as well as the A6500 at higher ISOs. The Olympus PEN-F is at a slight resolution disadvantage with its 20-megapixel Four Thirds sensor, though it performed quite well at base ISO, however it too shows more obvious sharpening halos compared to the Sonys. The PEN-F only degraded a bit at ISO 3200 with a slight loss in detail, but at ISO 6400, fine detail suffers the most in this group.
 

Sony A6500 Print Quality Analysis

Terrific 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 100/200 prints look terrific at 30 x 40 inches and higher. There is sharp detail in the finely detailed areas of our Still Life target such as the fabric swatches, and the colors are rich throughout. Feel free to print as large as you'd like at these ISOs until you run out of resolution at your intended viewing distance.

ISO 400 images are also quite good at 30 x 40 inches, with virtually no signs at this large print size that the ISO gain has been increased. A good level of fine detail and rich colors still abound at this lofty size, and artifacts are kept to a minimum.

ISO 800 delivers a very good 20 x 30 inch print, with excellent fine detail and nice colors throughout the image. Only minor traces of visible noise and noise reduction artifacts are visible in some flatter areas of our test target, along with a mild hint of softness encroaching in the red channel, but otherwise a good print here at a fairly large size for this ISO.

ISO 1600 yields a 16 x 20 inch print that certainly passes our "good" seal of approval for a print. There is a bit more noise apparent in flatter areas of our test target, as well as some contrast detail now lost in our tricky red-leaf swatch, which is fairly typical by this ISO for most enthusiast camera models. For ultra-critical printing purposes at this ISO we recommend 13 x 19 inches and smaller to be safe.

ISO 3200 shots are just passable at 13 x 19 inches. Noise levels in the shadowy areas behind the bottles in our test target are now approaching the tolerance overload, and most all contrast detail is now lost in our target red swatch of fabric, but we can still call the print "good" at this size. For your most critical prints we suggest a reduction in size to 11 x 14 inches.

ISO 6400 prints from the A6500 begin to display noticeable signs of ISO strain, and a reduction to 8 x 10 inches is warranted here for passing our good seal. Full colors are still present, although there is beginning to be a mildly scorched look to the print overall. For your most important work we therefore suggest remaining at ISO 3200 and lower when possible with this camera.

ISO 12,800 delivers a 5 x 7 inch print similar to the 8 x 10 at ISO 6400. The image is certainly passable for casual printing purposes but is a bit on the muted side overall.

ISO 25,600 yields a 4 x 6 that passes our good seal, so if that's all you need for print size then that lofty ISO can deliver for general purpose printing.

ISO 51,200 images are a bit too muted and scorched-looking to pass our good seal, and this ISO is best avoided.

The Sony A6500 turns in a solid print quality performance as we'd expect from this line. As the imaging pipeline has only been tweaked compared to the one found in the predecessor A6300, with most advancements coming in the performance arena, we didn't expect a noticeable increase in overall print sizes. Similar to most modern APS-C cameras, our recommendation is to shoot at ISO 3200 and below with this camera for your most critical printing purposes.

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.)

 



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