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Sony a6300 Review – 4K UHD Alpha Mirrorless Digital Camera

by on May 8, 2016
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Overview

After an anticipation-laden time spent waiting for it, we finally got to see the arrival of Sony’s successor to the bestselling a6000 interchangeable lens mirrorless HD camera from 2014. This is of course the new Sony a6300 and while it shares a number of superb traits in common with its older cousin, the new model comes with a number of often powerful and useful new specs, not the least of which is the inevitable addition of 4K UHD video recording in the Super 35mm format Sony (no ignorant when it comes to digital video recording know-how) claims is the best there is for overall UHD video quality in any of its consumer compact shooters.

Most importantly in the a6300, Sony has increased autofocus speed, video resolution (obviously), overall build quality, viewfinder resolution and, naturally enough, price from what we found in the Full HD-recording 2014 a6000 camera. In many other regards however, both shooters are very similar, with the same 24.2 megapixel maximum photo resolution, and the tradition of offering one truly spectacular autofocus, which in the a6300 has been massively augmented, as we’ll see in just a bit. Overall, the a6300 has also retaken the move towards consistently increasing build quality which was lost slightly between Sony’s NEX-6 and the a6000. How with the a6300, we’re once again seeing specs like magnesium alloy construction and superior viewfinder resolution which indicate that this new and affordable 4K mirrorless camera will not only also be a bestseller but also one of the better high quality 4K mirrorless models for this year .

The Good

First of all, while the same 24.2 megapixel photo sensor that existed in the a6000 still comes in the a6300, this new shooter has augmented the autofocus to truly impressive levels, with a whopping 425 phase detection points scattered across the viewfinder and a 4D focus system which is capable of locking in on a subject in a ridiculously fast 0.05 seconds, allowing for some truly stunningly on-the-ball fast action photo shooting. Sony claims this to be the fastest AF system in the world so far and this is easy to believe from what we’ve seen.

Next up, the a6300 has really moved up its image processing technology from what was found in the a6300’s predecessor camera, with a new Bionz X image engine which is the same as that found in the absolutely top-shelf Sony A7R II mirrorless professional camera. Along with this, there is also a powerful new ISO level at work in the a6300, which sits at 51,200. While in practical terms, ISO is nearly useless at anywhere near these maximum levels, the fact that the maximum has been expanded allows for useful lower ISO settings to manage far better performance in low light with minimal grain. In the case of the a6300, practical ISO performance during even high shutter speed shooting in low lighting is quite impressive, offering sharp shots of even fast motion under weak lighting but with minimal to nearly nonexistent granulation/graininess.

Moving along, the a6300 also offers some superb 4K UHD video recording capacity and of course also delivers video shooting in Full HD at varying frame rates. Thus for different needs you can select among 4K 3840 x 2160 at 25p (full sensor) and 30p (cropped) or 1920 x 1080 at 120p and 60p, meaning that slow motion video is also possible in Full HD. Whichever resolution is used in the a6300, the video quality is superb in terms of both color and compression, with excellent brightness in low light (though not quite of the caliber we’ve seen in some of Sony’s a7 mirrorless camera models) and superb sharpness. In the a6300, Sony’s rekindled emphasis on video quality in the a6 camera line is clearly visible and other cool extras like refocusing a video during shooting and focus peaking allow for plenty of excellent video recording.

Finally, we love the physical build of the a6300. The a6000 was an excellent and tough camera but this new version comes with an even better, hardier magnesium-alloy body that has been sealed for great resistance to bad weather, moisture and dust or grit. Furthermore, the a6300 is physically compact in a very easy to handle way that lets you grip the camera firmly even while moving quickly to capture those perfect shots in telephoto, macro or conventional landscape photography. After prolonged use, this writer dropped his model only twice through sheer dumb clumsiness and it should be noted that the camera handled both falls to a hard floor with no notable damage or performance failures afterwards.

Check the Price of the Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Lens on Amazon:

4.0 - 56 Reviews

The Bad

While the Son y a6300 is by almost any definition a camera it’s easy to quickly fall in love with, it’s not without its annoying flaws.

First of all and possibly most annoying because we’ve noted it in other Sony shooters, there’s the whole issue of selecting a focus point for the AF system. It’s simply cumbersome and Sony has never fixed this in any mirrorless model we’ve seen so far, including the a6000 from 2014 and now even the a6300! Changing the AF point can’t be done by touch screen adjustment, can’t be done through any sort of joystick control and thus the only way to handle AF adjustment is by pressing the center button on the back button/dial combo and then toggling the selection for AF around to what you’d like. This is not at all efficient or easy to do during rapid-fire photography sessions and if it weren’t for the fortunate fact that the a6300 has an excellent and mostly intelligent lock-on AF tracking system, this whole AF selection issue would be a serious detriment to this camera.

Next, we don’t entirely like that the a6300 comes with only one dial for controls that can be accessed without changing grip during shooting. This is the main rear dial and accessing it for photo or video adjustments is difficult to do without lowering the camera from your face and playing with the dial. You can also move the controls by touch and see what you’re adjusting through the OLED viewfinder but this can be clumsy while also causing some eyestrain (from looking at the different ISO, shutter speed etc options in the viewfinder superimposed over your scene in the viewfinder display.

Finally, we’d argue that the standard issue 16-50mm power zoom lens which comes included with most sales models of the a6300 could use some improvement. It’s convenient for a wide range of shooting options but definitely leaves open the near necessity of getting your hands on at least one more powerful zoom and possibly one Macro lens for the a6300. Both of these additional E-mount-compatible lenses are going to be pricey (with a 18-105mm FR Zeiss model costing almost as much as the a6300 camera body itself) but if you want to do some serious photography or video recording, you’ll need at least one or possibly both since the a6300’s 16-50mm standard power zoom model is weak at shooting more distant action and offers surprisingly poor macro functionality.

Final Thoughts

We love the Sony a6300 4K mirrorless compact camera. Yes, there are more professional 4K mirrorless models on the market (from both Sony and other quality brands like Panasonic) but this tightly designed and robust little shooter offers some truly competitive video and especially photo shooting capacities which take its quality well beyond what you'd expect for the a6300’s retail price. It’s almost a perfect all-around prosumer field photographers’ camera.

Specs

• Lens Mount: Sony E-mount
• Camera Format: compact changeable lens mirrorless
• Max Photo resolution: 24.2 megapixels (7952 x 5304 pixels)
• Sensor Type/size: CMOS APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm)
• File formats:
• Photo: JPEG, RAW
• Audio: AAC LC, AC3, Dolby Digital 2ch, Linear PCM (Stereo)
• Movies: AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MP4, XAVC S
• Supported memory cards:
SD
SDHC
SDXC
Memory Stick PRO Duo (High Speed)
Memory Stick PRO HG-Duo
• Image Stabilization: Sensor-Shift, 5-Way
• Photo Resolution: 6000 x 4000 (24.2 megapixels)
• Video Resolution:
3840 x 2160: 30 fps, 24 fps, 25 fps
1920 x 1080: 60 fps, 30 fps, 24 fps, 50 fps, 25 fps
1280 x 720: 120 fps, 100 fps
• Focus Type: Auto and Manual focus
• Autofocus points: 399 phase detection and 25 contrast detection points
• Viewfinder: OLED 2.36M-dot w/120 fps refresh option
• ISO: Auto, 100-25600 (Extended Mode: 100-51200)
• AF System: Hybrid AF (with 425 PDAF points)
• Continuous shooting: Up to 11 fps at 24.2 MP for up to 21 frames in raw format
Up to 11 fps at 24.2 MP for up to 44 frames in JPEG format
Up to 8 fps
Up to 6 fps
Up to 3 fps
• Shutter: Speed: 1/4000 - 30 seconds, electronic and manual
• Flash: extendable flash, accessed by button
• Connectivity: WiFi, NFC, also includes 1/8" Headphone, 1/8" Microphone, AV / USB Multi, HDMI D (Micro)
• Weight with battery and memory card: 404 g (14.3 oz)
• Dimensions: 4.7 x 2.6 x 1.9" (main body, excluding protrusions)

Accessories

The basic Sony a6300 retail kit comes with the included 16 - 50mm f/3.5 - 5.6 power zoom lens which you’ll need to take a wide range of photos and videos with decent but not superb zoom settings for macro, landscape, scenery and action shooting. Along with this, you’ll also get a viewfinder eyepiece, a power charge, one USB cable, a camera lens cap and a basic shoulder strap. There is also a body-only model being sold for a discounted price but we’d strongly recommend just going for the a6300 kit with 16-50mm lens so you can start shooting and recording video pretty much right out of the box.

Additionally, you’ll need to get your hands on a memory card such as one of SanDisk’s or Kingston’s models and for this we’d also recommend at least 64GB and a class 10 version if possible. Finally, because of the somewhat limited telephoto and macro capacities of the 16-50mm standard power zoom lens which comes with the a6300, we strongly recommend buying either a 16-70mm or 18-105mm F4 Zeiss lens model or one of Sony’s own Nex 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 Sony E-mount lenses, none of which are cheap but any one of which will go a long way towards a much more versatile photo shooting experience in the field. Or, on the other hand if you’re more interested in wide angle and macro photography, great and reasonably priced options include the Alpha E-mount E 30mm F/3.5 Macro Lens and a Sigma 19 mm f/2.8 Prime lens for a range of photography options.

Highlights

24MP Exmor CMOS sensor with Bionz X: The Alpha 6300’s Exmor CMOS sensor comes paired with the excellent BIONZ X image processor that Sony has also included in other mirrorless cameras like their their top-shelf A7S II 4K mirrorless professional shooter and the combination is downright superb. Images easily come out stable and sharpness is excellent, with minimal noise even at higher ISO ratings. The Bionz X sensor is particularly well designed to manage excellent light gathering even for low light shooting of fast movement at very high shutter speeds. On top of this, the large sensor is boosted by the truly powerful processor to deliver even continuous shooting at 11 fps, allowing for as many as 21 raw frames in even a single burst with AF activated, with a wide tone and color scale. In basic terms, the sensor and Bionz X processor work together for truly superb and flexible photography options.

4K (UHD) video - 25/24p to 30p from smaller crop: The internal 4K UHD video recording chops of the a6300 are something that also impresses, with the camera having the ability to shoot in multiple frame rates of either 30p for cropped video and 24/25p in full sensor mode. Additionally, the Super35mm recording area and effective 20 megapixel total resolution available for video allows for 2.4x oversampling that means greater detail, full pixel readout and some very high quality video with little moire and aliasing. Full HD video recording is also supported in the a6300 at 100Mbps in the XAVC S format at 120fps, which also means that you can grab some excellent 4x to 5x slow motion video if needed, with the frame rate set to 30p or 24p.

425 phase detection points to give '4D Focus' Hybrid AF: This is the feature Sony is most hyping about the new a6300 and the company claims this camera to have the world’s fastest AF tracking system in any mirrorless camera model on sale today. We’re hard-pressed to doubt this given that the 4D Focus system allows for a whopping 425 on-ship phase detection points with 169 contrast-detection areas. Through these, the precise focus speed itself in AF is downright stunning at 0.05 seconds. We should also note that the sheer density of focus points in this hybrid AF system allows for some seriously high-density tracking AF functionality, which is especially useful for moving objects and action sequences even in low or variable light situations, and the 4D Focus system in the a6300 is excellent at using lock-on AF for maintaining specific focus on moving subjects under some very variable and difficult conditions.

ISO 51200: While the a6300 comes with a native ISO of 25600 just like its predecessor the a6000, this can be expanded to 51200 for some even further enhanced low-light power. Now, while nobody is going to pull anything resembling decent video from the camera at an ISO anywhere near the a6300’s maximum range, the enhanced setting does mean that solid, low noise photography is possible even with ISO ratings as high as 10,000 and maybe even 12,800 at a slight stretch of your definition of tolerably noise. In particularly dark conditions, the a6300 can get away with decently clean high speed still shots at ISO levels of up to 6400.

Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC: Finally, the Sony a6300 also comes with built-in WiFi for instantly sharing photos to mobile devices or direct upload to social media sites and email attachment files. Or you can do uploads directly to a cloud storage site. On the other hand, the sheer size of the 24 megapixel still photos you grab with this camera will mean a fairly slow upload speed for transfer to any device or page through WiFi. Furthermore, NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported in the a6300, which means one-touch connection between camera and a compatible mobile phone or tablet for live view display on your larger device screen and the benefit of remote shutter control.

Check the Price of the Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Lens on Amazon:

4.0 - 56 Reviews

Overall Performance

Overall, the a6300 is one absolutely solid performer almost across the board. Photo shooting options are varied and flexible enough for a wide range of low light, action, landscape, sports, dance and even fashion photography needs while the video recording versatility of this compact mirrorless camera is definitely up to the usual high quality standards we’ve come to expect from Sony. The sheer number of AF points and the insanely fast focus speed of 0.05 seconds combine to deliver particularly excellent action photography in a camera with such a reasonable price tag.

What we also love about the a6300 is how well it handles under rugged and fast-paced conditions. With its small size, this camera is very easy to handle and can be firmly gripped or repositioned on the fly as needed without too much worry about dropping it or messing up a shot. Furthermore, its tough magnesium-alloy body and weather sealed design combine for good endurance of moist, rainy or dusty conditions, and, as this writer can testify, the camera is surprisingly resistant to rough treatment, even if it gets dropped to a hard surface or bumped against hard objects regularly. Tossing the a6300 into a backpack and hitting the road is not something which should provoke too much worry about unexpected damage or easily broken components.

Image Quality and Resolution

As we’ve already covered to some extent and as the following test images I took testify, the a6300 delivers robust and versatile photographic quality at a superbly high 24.2 megapixel resolution that’s large enough to capture an extraordinary amount of fine detail without also being too cumbersome for file storage and transfer needs. Furthermore, a number of different presets and other adjustments allow for numerous changes in color temperature and vibrancy or for switching to high quality black & white photography quickly as needed. In basic terms, the a6300 is versatile enough for almost any prosumer photography needs that might come your way, whether they involve fashion photography, action photos, nature shooting or landscape imagery.

Pricing

The Sony a6300 comes priced at $1,148.00 for the camera body with 16-50mm standard power zoom lens included. You can also buy a body-only model for $998.00 but we seriously recommend paying the extra and being able to shoot right out of the box – after you’ve charged the camera that is.

Check the Price of the Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Lens on Amazon:

4.0 - 56 Reviews

The Not So Great

To summarize briefly, the a6300’s very few main defects consist of a terrible focus point selection mechanism, a standard lens with somewhat weak macro and telephoto shooting capabilities and a main control dial at the back which is difficult to use for adjusting settings as you work at recording video or photos.

Positives

• Excellent high resolution photos
• Amazingly fast Auto Focus at 0.05 seconds
• 425 phase detection points
• 4K video with no pixel binning
• Tough, rugged build
• Great price

Negatives

• Difficult to manually set a focus point
• clumsy main control button/dial layout

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A-

 
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A-

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A

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Bottom Line
 

Our bottom line for the Sony a6300 4K mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is that this is one superb, well priced shooter for almost any consumer or even prosumer needs. If you want high performance and especially high low light performance on a budget, we strongly recommend the a6300. The a6000 was a best seller that received rave reviews, and Sony has only improved upon that popular older design.

Check the Price of the Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Lens on Amazon:

4.0 - 56 Reviews

 
1 comments
 
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  • Dan
    July 30, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Hi there,
    I just read the review and I discover this typo: “While the Son y a6300”, which should be “While the Sony a6300”.

    Reply

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