Sony may have spent the last few years reshaping the full-frame market with a string of popular compact system cameras, but it’s also managed to simultaneously keep its APS-C alternatives relevant and exciting.
[Update: The Alpha A6300 (sometimes referred to as ILCE6300LB) has since been replaced by the Alpha The a6500, but it remains in the Sony mirrorless lineup. The newer A6500 features a number of performance improvements, as well as touchscreen control. But don’t discount the A6300 as it’s still an excellent mirrorless camera, and is now more affordable than ever.]
|1||Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera with E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Power Zoom Lens (Black)||Check Price|
Its previous A6000 was very much testament to this, with the well-rounded spec sheet and excellent performance helping it to become a successful model for the company. Thankfully, the new A6300 retains what made that design so popular, but the areas in which Sony has sought to improve it should give it many added layers of appeal to enthusiast users, whether they tend to shoot sports, video or something else.
As an upper-level APS-C model, the camera goes up against the likes of the Fujifilm X-T2, as well as the newer and pricier X-Pro2, together with Micro Four Thirds offerings such as the Olympus Pen-F and more affordable Panasonic Lumix GX8. Interestingly, at its current price, it also occupies something of a middle ground against Sony’s full-frame options, being a little cheaper than the Alpha A7 II but pricier compared to the still-available A7 and A7R.
The Exmor CMOS APS-C sensor maintains the same 24.2MP pixel count as the one inside the A6000, although the sensor itself is newly developed, and features copper wiring in its construction to boost readout speed and light-gathering efficiency.
Sony has also said that refinements to the camera’s BIONZ X processing engine mean it can squeeze all the goodness out of the new sensor, with particular focus on low-noise, high-resolution results in the upper range of the camera’s ISO100-51,200 sensitivity span.
Sony in addition has equipped the camera with its 4D Focus system, with 425 phase-detect AF pixels that reach almost to the peripheries of the frame. This is the highest number of phase-detect points we’ve seen on an interchangeable-lens digital camera to date, and this density, together with 169 additional contrast-detect factors, is said to enable the camera to focus on moving subjects in as little as 0.05 seconds.
Furthermore, the camera’s phase-detect points continue to function when using A-mount lenses via an adapter, which will no doubt please those moving up from the older system.
Those intending to use the camera for moving subjects will also be pleased to learn that not only has the 11fps burst-shooting option of the A6000 been maintained – with focus tracking and exposure adjusted throughout the burst – but that a slightly slower 8fps alternative option is also on hand, with a blackout between each frame to provide a similar experience to using an optical viewfinder.
Video recording has also received plenty of attention. In contrast to the Full HD standard on the A6000 and most other cameras at this level, the A6300 ramps up to 4K shooting in the Super 35mm format – a first for a non-full-frame Sony model.
Instead of using pixel binning, this captures 6K footage – i.e. oversampling the scene – before downsampling it to a 4K resolution, a process that Sony claims to produce ‘exceptional’ depth and detail.
Other changes include a new XAVC S codec used for the above and the S-Log Gamma function. Thanks to the changes made to the focusing program, focus speeds are also said to be twice as fast because the system in the A6000, while a 3.5mm mic port, in addition, has been included.
The 3-inch display on the rear, using its 921k-dot resolution and ability to be tilted, has been carbon copied from the A6000, which means it’s shaped in the video-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio, although sadly it’s not a touch-sensitive screen.
The 0.39-inch electronic viewfinder above this, however – or ‘Tru-Finder’ inside Sony parlance – has now been equipped with a 2.359 million-dot XGA OLED panel, against the 1.44 million dots seen previously.
If this viewfinder sounds familiar, it’s probably because many other Sony models higher up have also sported one with similar specs, from the Cyber-shot RX1R II compact to the A7 family of mirrorless versions. Magnification is once again set at 1.07x, which is roughly equivalent to 0.70x in 35mm terms, and Sony also statements that setting it to its maximum display rate of 120fps results in very few afterimages.
Other changes include improved dust and moisture resistance, although not quite to exactly the same splash-proof level as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II and Fujifilm X-Pro2, as well as a gauge for keeping shots level, and a new silent shooting mode that should see the digital camera more suited to sensitive environments.
Battery life has also been boosted, with 350 frames quoted when using the viewfinder and 400 frames with all the LCD screen, although the number actually achieved will be subject to display settings and image-reviewing habits, among other things.
In terms of connectivity, the camera is furnished with the standard USB and HDMI micro connections, with Wi-Fi and NFC on the inside to keep things cable-free where necessary. As with the majority of such models, it records all images and videos onto SD, SDHC and SDXC media (with support for up to UHS-I), as well as the less-common, Sony-specific Memory Stick PRO Duo format.
Although the A6000’s viewfinder was a capable performer it’s still welcome to see this component upgraded on the Sony A6300, given how key a part of the camera it is. As someone who doesn’t wear glasses, I found its eye-point to be in just the right spot for me when held at a comfortable distance away. The panel’s resolution provides very good clarity and contrast is high, and although noise and lagging increased in darker conditions I nevertheless found it perfectly usable.
The on-screen (shooting) display of the LCD is large and clear, and the fact that images captured in the standard 3:2 aspect ratio do not occupy the entirety of the display helps, as the black borders on either side allow for most of the secondary shooting information to stand out (the rest is superimposed on the image).
The screen itself appears somewhat underpowered when used outside, however, even under overcast conditions. Switching the camera to the Sunny Weather option, or brightening the screen manually, is a great help, although this obviously comes at the expense of battery life.
Even though the camera doesn’t quite offer the near-instant start-up time of a similar DSLR, it’s not so far behind that it makes any difference in all but critical situations.
Sony states that the A6300 can shoot 21 consecutive raw frames or the same number of Raw+JPEG frames, and 44 JPEG frames at the highest quality setting. In practice, the camera easily met all of these targets, even exceeding them by the odd frame, although slower memory cards may throttle this.
Helpfully, the camera also remained operational while writing images to the card, not fully functional but often allowing a few subsequent frames to be captured as these were being dealt with.
The revamped focusing system is one of the A6300’s main highlights, so does it deliver on the high expectations? Largely, yes. In good light it brings subjects to focus with very little delay, refocusing whenever the lens is zoomed to an approximate point so that focusing takes as little time as possible when initiated by the user.
The camera also willingly deploys the AF assist light wherever it feels it needs to, which helps to keep focusing speed swift in poorer gentle.
The high number of phase-detect AF points, and in turn their density, also plays a significant part in ensuring that moving subjects are tracked successfully – and performance here is strong. As soon as the focus is acquired, the relevant number of points dance around the subject and continue to adhere as the subject or camera moves.
I found this appeared to work very well whether the subject was moving towards or away from the camera, roughly along the optical axis, or even if it was moving across the frame. In the latter case, the digital camera would, more often than not, continue steadily to track the subject as it approached the very edge of the focusing array (it doesn’t stretch right up to the peripheries, but close enough), and it managed to do this with subjects shifting at a variety of speeds.
Although I could appreciate how well the A6300 did from monitoring the focus points’ movement at the time of capture, examining my images afterwards showed that while it did occasionally leave the topic, and sometimes move instead to a flat, featureless area that you wouldn’t ordinarily expect would present any kind of distraction, on many occasions it successfully managed to make its way back to the subject. On other occasions, it did not, although the overall hit rate showed the system to be highly capable in such scenarios. Overall, when it works well – also it usually does – it works very well indeed.
The 8fps burst shooting mode will be a popular option for those coming from DSLRs, given how it’s not possible to appreciate exactly when images have been captured using the faster 11fps mode. Of course, the sound from the shutter gives you some idea, but the lack of a visible cue does result in the disconnect that Sony has attempted to remedy with the slower option.
There is an even slower ‘Lo’ option, which fires at three frames per second, although whichever mode you use the constant presence of the focusing points and their movement keeps you updated on how accurately the camera is keeping up on the subject. It’s a shame, however, that only the Lo choice can be used in conjunction with silent shooting, as you may want to use the faster options when capturing live subjects.
The Sony A6300’s metering system is largely reliable, with just an occasional bias towards underexposure. Often this would only be around half a stop or so away from what was expected, so could easily become rectified either with exposure compensation or in post-capture raw processing.
The camera’s auto white balance system also did very well to faithfully reproduce colours in a range of conditions, even impressing under typically problematic artificial sources. The quality of JPEGs straight out of the camera is very good. Images show good sharpness, contrast and colour next to raw files, although the raw files are generally well coloured, to begin with, so the difference here is not as significant as usual.
JPEGs also show that the DRO system does well to slightly bring up shadow areas, to make images more suitable for immediate use.
Noise is generally well-controlled across the range, and images are perfectly usable even at higher settings such as ISO6400. My only reservation is the camera’s Normal noise reduction setting, which appears somewhat heavy-handed in its approach to high-ISO images; thankfully, a Low setting and the option to disable the feature completely are on offer.
With the Sony E 16-70mm f/4 Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* ZA OSS mounted the level of detail in natural files is very good, with a pleasing consistency over the frame when the lens is stopped down to a mid-range aperture. Many users, nevertheless, are likely to be utilizing the camera in conjunction with the Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS kit option, which I didn’t have access to for this review.
Overall video quality from the A6300 is excellent. Footage shows plenty of detail and motion is nice and smooth, and there are no obvious artefacts present in footage captured under balanced conditions. Even in lower light, where noise patterning starts to take hold, the footage shows just a slight texture rather than being swamped with unsightly coloured noise. If you’re viewing results on a display with a resolution lower than 4K, you’re also likely to see such imperfections to a lesser degree.
Audio quality in videos is also decent, with a clean sound and good balance between bass and treble. As with many other cameras, it is somewhat susceptible to the battering sounds of wind sound, although using an external microphone with a dead cat or a similar windshield is possible.
Sadly, it isn’t possible to use the Sunny Weather setting when recording in 4K, which means the aforementioned screen brightness issues rear their head.
Check Out: Best Sony Alpha a6300 Lenses
The A6300 is a well-rounded camera with a good specification and delivers great performance in a range of situations. Its autofocus system is excellent, and its viewfinder should convince traditionalists of the merits of electronic units.