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Sony A6300 review: The A6300's best-in-class images marred by annoying operation

Yes, it's a great camera, but watch for speed bumps.

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice

I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.

Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
6 min read

The Sony A6300 experience, as with many of its A series interchangeable-lens camera (ILC) models, feels like soaring through the sky one minute only to smack into a window the next. It flies with a beefed-up autofocus system, excellent 4K video (with supporting features) and improved low-light photo quality over the A6000's already great images. Combined with the usual advantages of an ILC -- smaller body and lenses, better photo preview and more streamlined video shooting -- there's a lot to appeal to enthusiasts who might otherwise buy a fast general-purpose dSLR.

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8.3

Sony A6300

The Good

The Sony A6300 delivers class-leading photo and video quality, plus good performance and features for shooting action.

The Bad

Myriad small annoyances mar the experience and it has the trademark poor battery life of Sony's A series. Plus it really could use in-body image stabilization.

The Bottom Line

A respectable update to its very popular A6000 mirrorless interchangeable-camera model, the Sony A6300 remains great but also retains some of the drawbacks of its predecessor.

It's priced at $1,000 (£1,000, AU$1,700) for the body, and $1,150 (£1,100) for a kit with the 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 power-zoom lens. There doesn't seem to be any official kit pricing in Australia, but I've seen it for AU$1,800.

That kit lens is one of my least favorites, though -- it feels cheap, slows camera startup a lot, and the inexpensive power zooms generally have worse quality than their manual counterparts. It seems a waste for this camera.

Sony A6300 full-resolution photo samples

See all photos

Best quality, for the moment

It really is a moving target, but for now the A6300 seems to have the best photo quality in its price class: most accurate automatic white balance, with nicely rendered detail, decent tonal range and above average noise profile even with the default Creative Style setting. It pushes the contrast a little, but doesn't mess with the actual hues.

It's not a huge lead, though. For example, you won't see much difference from the much-cheaper A6000 in the JPEGs until you hit about ISO 6400; below that, they're practically identical. The A6300's JPEGs are only really clean through ISO 800; you can push that through ISO 3200 by shooting raw to avoid the aggressive noise reduction and to expand the shadow areas that get clipped.

As you'd expect from Sony, the 4K video is quite good; sharp, with an excellent noise profile and well preserved tonal range in low light. Highlights will blow out with the default settings, though, as with many cameras.

Analysis samples

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JPEGs are clean through ISO 800; by ISO 1600, in-focus areas look good but you can see noise-suppression artifacts in even slightly out-of-focus regions.

Lori Grunin/CNET
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By ISO 3200, even in good light you can see a lot of detail loss in JPEGs.

Lori Grunin/CNET
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The A6300 delivers excellent color, saturated but neutral with no hue shifts.

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You can see why the A6300's photos appear much better than the A6000's at high ISO sensitivities: it looks like there's better signal processing, resulting in raw files with a much better noise profile. (ISO 12800, raw with no software processing)

Lori Grunin/CNET
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At high ISO sensitivities, you can improve the perceived detail by processing the raw rather than shooting JPEG. (ISO 6400)

Lori Grunin/CNET

Fast -- not fastest

For the most part, the A6300 performs almost identically to the A6000; that shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. (I retested the A6000 with our current setup for the purposes of comparison.) That's both good and bad.

At most operations it's fast, at least as fast as good performers in its class at single- and two-sequential-shot focusing and shooting under most conditions. Though my tests indicate it's reasonably speedy in dim light, I frequently experienced slow focus or complete inability to focus in low light situations that usually aren't a problem for dSLRs I shoot with. And that's with a better-than-kit lens, in this case the Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS.

Its continuous shooting speed varies widely. Under our test conditions, the A6300 hit its rated spec of 11fps for 54 shots when it's configured like it's the A6000; the A6300 has a higher-quality JPEG option, Extra Fine, and we perform our tests with the highest-available JPEG quality, even if it's not the default.

With all the useful settings -- JPEG Extra Fine, 1/500 second shutter speed, High-speed burst, focus-priority (rather than the default release priority) selected, and Sony's version of continuous-autofocus tracking and autoexposure -- the camera's continuous-shooting performance ranges from 6.5fps to 8.3fps, for about 46 shots. (I used the average of the most frequently occurring range of values for my chart.) In raw, shooting slows at about 24 shots, and performance ranges from 8.5fps in high-speed burst to 9.5fps for Hi+.

Autofocus accuracy during continuous shooting is better than before, but ultimately just brings it into parity with cameras like the Nikon D7200 and Canon EOS 80D. You'll find that many of the not-quite-in-focus ones are perfectly suitable for posting at less-than full size.

And, as with all the Sony Alpha models, you really need to carry a spare battery.

Shooting speed

Sony A6000 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.2 2.1Sony A6300 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.2 2.4Canon EOS 80D 0.2 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.4Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.7Olympus OM-D E-M5 II 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.7
  • Shutter lag (typical)
  • Shutter lag (dim light)
  • Typical shot-to-shot time
  • Raw shot-to-shot time
  • Time to first shot
Note: Seconds (smaller bars are better)

Continuous-shooting speed

Sony A6000 11.1Olympus OM-D E-M5 II 10.3Sony A6300 8.3Canon EOS 80D 7.1Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 6.5
Note: Frames per second (longer bars are better)

Speed bumps

Overall, the camera is straightforward to operate and customizable enough for power users. It offers some great features, including high frame-rate video for slow-motion playback; 4K video with customizable curve and color profiles, time code options, AF drive speed and tracking sensitivity and more pro-friendly tools; and a ton of autofocus-area options.

But occasionally I just want to swing it around by the strap and fling. The A6000 was groundbreaking for its time, and remains a great camera for the price, now almost half that of the A6300. But the company didn't take the opportunity to fix the problems of its predecessor, which at the time -- or at its currently low price -- are easier to stomach.

The file system it uses is outmoded, forcing delays on you when inserting a new card and burying video files in subdirectories. Because of the latter, I've lost videos more than once because I forgot they had to be retrieved separately from the rest of the card's contents.

While it's easy to connect to a mobile device and scroll through and copy images via the Wi-Fi app, Sony still charges extra for capabilities like time lapse via its PlayMemories camera app store. It also forces you to download an app to the phone for full remote-shooting capabilities beyond one-button shutter, unnecessarily adding a level of confusion and inconvenience, as well as creating compatiblity issues.

Finally, I hate that the camera doesn't have in-body image stabilization. This might be a case where Sony's a victim of its own success. I (sort of) give Canon and Nikon a pass because they're institutionally embrangled with optical stabilization. But Sony has been through several generations of sensor-shift stabilization technology, and to exclude it from this enthusiast-targeted model seems like a shortsighted move that impacts the camera's futureproofness.

Conclusion

I said of the A6000 that it "almost has it all." But in the two years since it launched, the definition of "all" has changed, and for its higher price the A6300 isn't quite the amazeballs its predecessor was. The oustanding design and features of the A6000 are now pretty typical. For all the changes in the autofocus system, it's gained some accuracy for tracking but not much speed otherwise. A competitor like the Panasonic Lumix G7 offers close performance and similar capabilities (except for some of the more pro-oriented video features) for a lot less money, though it can't match the photo quality.

On the other hand, you get capabilities with the A6300 that you don't with similarly priced dSLRs like the Canon EOS 80D or D7200 -- 4K video, most notably -- with similar performance and photo quality.

Comparative specifications


Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark IISony Alpha A6000Sony A6300
Sensor effective resolution16.1MP Live MOS24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
14-bit
24.2MP Exmor CMOS
14 bit
Sensor size17.3 x 13mm23.5 x 15.6mm 23.5 x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier2.0x1.5x 1.5x
OLPFYesYesYes
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600ISO 100 - ISO 25600ISO 100 - ISO 25600/ISO 51200 (exp)
Burst shooting5fps
unlimited JPEG and raw
(10fps with fixed focus and IS off)
11fps
49 JPEG/49 raw
11fps
44 JPEG/21 raw
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
EVF
n/a
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.3x - 1.48x/ 0.65x- 0.74x
OLED EVF
0.4 in/10 mm
1.44 million dots
100% coverage
1.07x/0.7x
OLED EVF
0.4 in/10 mm
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.07x/0.7x
Hot ShoeYesYesYes
Autofocus81-area
Contrast AF
179-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF425-point phase detection, 169-area contrast AF
AF sensitivityn/a0- 20 EV-1 - 20 EV
Shutter speed60 - 1/8000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes; 1/250 sec x-sync (Super FP to 1/8,000)30-1/4000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 x-sync30-1/4000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering324 area1,200 zone1,200 zone
Metering sensitivity-2 - 20 EV0 - 20 EV-2 - 20 EV
Best videoH.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p, 50p (52 Mbps); 30p, 25p, 24p (77 Mbps)
AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28MbpsXAVC S @ 100Mbps; UHD 4K 2160/30p, 25p, 24p; 1080/120p
AudioStereo; mic input; headphone jack on HLD-8G gripStereo; mic (via accessory shoe)Stereo, mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in videoYesYesYes
Maximum best-quality recording time per clip4GB29 minutes29 minutes
Clean HDMI outYesNoYes
ISSensor shift
(5 axis)
OpticalOptical
Display3 in/7.5cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3-inch/7.5cm
Tilting touchscreen
921,600 dots
3-inch/7.5cm
Tilting touchscreen
921,600 dots
Memory slots1 x SDXC1 x SDXC1 x SDXC
Wireless connectionWi-FiWi-Fi, NFCWi-Fi, NFC
FlashIncluded add-onYesYes
Wireless flashYesNoYes
Battery life (CIPA rating)310 shots
(1,220 mAh)
420 shots
(1,020 mAh)
350 (VF), 400 (LCD)
(1,020 mAh)
Size (WHD)4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8 in
124 x 85 x 45 mm
4.8 x 2.9 x 1.8 in
120 x 66.9 x 45.1 mm
4.7 x 2.6 x 1.9 in
119 x 66 x 48mm
Body operating weight15.7 oz
446 g
11.6 oz
330 g
14.3 oz (est.)
405 g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only)$1,000
£900
AU$1,250 (est.)
$550
£430
AU$900
$1,000
£1,000
AU$1,700
Release dateFebruary 2015April 2014March 2016
13-sony-a6300.jpg
8.3

Sony A6300

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Image quality 9
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