Sony A6300 Review
|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|
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The Sony A6300 serves as the follow-up to one of the most popular cameras in recent years, the A6000. Given the predecessor's top marks, it's a tough act to follow. Sony's pulled it off, though, packing in so many new features and performance improvements. Featuring better build quality, a new high-speed sensor, vastly improved AF and burst performance, better image quality and advanced video features, the Sony A6300 is a significant upgrade. Is it finally time to downsize from that DSLR? Read our in-depth Sony A6300 review to find out!Pros
Excellent image quality; Improved high-ISO performance; Better JPEG quality; Fast autofocus; Very good subject tracking with real-time live view feature; All-magnesium body construction; 4K video.Cons
Slow buffer clearing (no UHS-II support); No touchscreen, Clunky menus; Wi-Fi can be a bit frustrating to use.Price and availability
The Sony A6300 began shipping in the US market from March 2016. As of February 2017, the list price is around US$900 body-only, or US$1,050 when bundled with Sony's 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, a retractable optic with power zoom and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. Both prices are around US$100 below those announced at launch.Imaging Resource rating
5.0 out of 5.0
Sony A6300 Review
by Mike Tomkins, Jeremy Gray, Zig Weidelich, and William Brawley
Preview originally posted: 02/03/2016
03/01/2016: Gallery Images added
03/04/2016: 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
05/25/2016: Review Conclusion added
Last edited: 02/09/2017
Want some added confidence that you're onto a winner? The A6300 earned itself a Camera of Distinction award in the Enthusiast Mirrorless category of our 2016 Camera of the Year awards!
Need more buffer depth? Consider the Sony A6500 instead, which is largely similar to this camera but with a much deeper buffer, a touch-screen display, and some tweaks in other areas.
Videographers: Want to see what's possible with the A6300? Watch this cool video which was predominantly shot with the A6300 and a 20mm f/2.8 lens!
We've updated our pricing info for the A6300, which had grown rather out of date.
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 A6300, a camera which has one very tough act to follow -- but it looks to be more than up to the task.
The 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 A6300 looks to be a very promising product indeed.
The A6300's body is very familiar, but with a couple of control tweaks
If you've shot with its predecessor, the 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.
The A6300 is rugged, but a question mark on weather-sealing
The new body of the 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 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 A6300 gets a new high-performance sensor; same high resolution
At the heart of the 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 the camera also shows 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 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. And our reviewer found this new function really did 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 A6300's features are similar to the A6000
All of this represents a lot of improvement in areas which will really benefit 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 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 Field Test
Faster, more powerful but still light on its feet
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.
Similar body to its predecessor, but the A6300's new EVF is top-notch
There are a lot of similarities between the 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 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.
Sony A6300 Image Quality Comparison
Putting it up against the competition
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
The 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 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.
Sony A6300 Conclusion
A tough act to follow, but Sony packs in the power!
The Sony A6000, predecessor to the A6300, has been a runaway success for Sony, taking the top-selling spot for not only all mirrorless cameras, but also all interchangeable lens cameras priced over $600 put together. And for good reason. The A6000 is a fantastic camera in many ways: a compact, comfortable design with built-in EVF; superb, high-resolution image quality at both low and higher ISOs; blazing-fast hybrid autofocus and burst mode performance; and all at a substantial value (especially once the price dropped a bit). Needless to say, the Sony A6000 was looking to be a hard camera for the folks at Sony to top, but the new A6300 is much more than just a minor refresh some two years later.
Familiar exterior, but the A6300 has better build quality
We say, "more than a minor refresh," but at first glance, the A6300's external design is exactly that. It maintains a nearly identical body design and control layout, though we do find a few small changes to its buttons and dials. Like the A6000, this updated camera is very light and comfortable to hold with a contoured handgrip and a nice array of physical controls. There's not much to complain about with the A6300's physical design and controls, although an additional front-facing control dial like on the A7-series cameras would have been nice.
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
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