The Sony A6500 offers what the A6300 should have

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When Sony debuted the A6300 prosumer mirrorless camera in March, it delivered a much-needed boost to autofocus performance with the company's Fast Hybrid AF system. But the lack of built-in image stabilization -- which most other mirrorless cameras have -- earned the company a big, fat demerit. And despite its excellent video cred with 4K and support for professional profiles, it didn't have the now-essential touchscreen for smooth and easy autofocus.

The A6500 rectifies those mistakes, plus incorporates a new processor, which Sony says provides a much more responsive shooting and playback experience, and a bigger memory buffer to increase the number of shots during continuous shooting.

But the awful battery life? That's gotten worse, dropping to a rated 310 shots via viewfinder shooting and 350 with the LCD. In the A6300 those are 350 and 400, respectively. Sigh.

You'll be able to get it in the US starting in November for $1,400 (body) or in Europe in December for 1,700 euros, or 2,800 euros for a kit with the 16-70mm power zoom lens. (The price in euros directly converts to about £1,500 and £2,470. I don't have information about Australian price or availability -- it is on Sony Australia's site, though. The US price converts directly to about AU$1,850.)

The autofocus system itself hasn't changed, nor has the sensor or image processor or many of the specifications: 11 frame per second burst with autofocus and autoexposure, same sensitivity ranges and same 4K video capabilities. The body is almost unchanged, with the exception of a third programmable function button, and you can now configure a wireless connection via QR code.

But Sony boosts the existing components with more memory and a secondary processor to increase the speed with which the image data moves through the camera and between the memory card and the camera. That provides faster image review -- yay! -- and the ability to shoot 233 best-quality JPEGs or 107 raw images. (Though the A6300's 44 and 21 shots, respectively, are just fine.) Attracting action photographers seems to be the big trend in these prosumer mirrorless models, such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II announced at Photokina.

As for the image stabilization, the A6500 incorporates five-axis sensor shift, which will work intelligently with optically stabilized lenses for optimal compensation. At its best (which depends on the lens), the system is rated for 5 stops of compensation -- just like many other mirrorless five-axis systems.

The touchscreen capability seems to be limited solely to autofocus, and Sony adds the touchpad capability first offered by Olympus -- when looking through the viewfinder, you can use the LCD to control the focus point. The touchscreen seems intended primarily for rack focusing (sliding focus from one point to another in video), and the camera now includes the ability to set the autofocus drive speed and sensitivity.

My take

While the battery life still gives one pause, and it's not fully weather-sealed like some competitors, the A6500 otherwise has all the right updates.

The Fujifilm X-T2 is more expensive, especially since it requires an extra-cost battery grip to achive the same 11 frames per second burst, but it seems better for complex flash photography (a much higher sync speed at 1/250 sec compared with the A6500's 1/160 sec), has a sensor without a blurring antialiasing filter, weather resistance and possibly a comparable autofocus system. The E-M1 M2 doesn't have a price or availability date, but it sounds like it has a comparable autofocus system and an 18 fps continuous shooting speed and weather sealing as well. But it uses a smaller Four Thirds sensor.

 

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Features AF illuminator
    flash +/- compensation
    high-speed synchronization (HSS)
    wireless off-camera control
  • Guide Number (m / ISO 100) 6
  • Weight 15.98 oz
  • Red Eye Reduction Yes
  • Sensor Resolution 24.2 Megapixel
  • Digital Zoom 4 x
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.6 x 23.5mm
  • Optical Sensor Type Exmor CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 24.2 pixels