Well Sony has finally opened the curtain to reveal the new Sony Alpha A6300 (MSRP $999 body-only). While it's similar in design to the A6000, it sports an improved sensor, blazing-fast autofocus speeds, 11 frames per second burst shooting, and the ability to record 4K video. While Sony has billed it as the successor to the A6000, we think it's more like a big brother–largely due to the improved performance and, subsequently, the inflated price.
Even with the price increase, the A6300 doesn't shortchange users on performance, as it's simply one of the best mirrorless cameras we've tested to date. But as a result it's competing with much more expensive cameras than the A6000 ever did, such as the Fujifilm X-Pro2, Panasonic GH4, and even its full-frame cousins in the A7 Series. While it might not replicate exactly what made the A6000 great, it's so good it'll likely pave its own road to success.
When we reviewed the Sony Alpha A6000 back in 2014, we were impressed by Sony's ability to combine power and size so efficiently. However, in the years since the A6000 released, it's become more commonplace for petite cameras to pack a punch. Sony's competitors–such as Fujifilm and Olympus–have turned mirrorless cameras into a medium for showing off more elegant, retro style and premium build quality, as well as high performance.
In contrast, the A6300 comes across rather simple and minimalistic. It's control layout is almost identical to the A6000, but with the addition of a switch that functions as an AF/MF toggle and AE lock. The top plates is home to just a mode dial and a single command dial as well as the shutter release, power switch, and custom button canted forward atop the grip. And the rear layout is a standard array with a command dial and a few dedicated buttons for trash, playback, and menus.
I suppose my real complaint about the A6300 design is it simply lacks character–something I see across most of Sony's cameras. They're incredible cameras from a tech standpoint, but it simply lacks an aesthetic that makes me excited to use it. Cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II or the Fujifilm X-Pro2 are not only more aesthetically pleasing, but they offer more utility in the form of additional dials. To be frank, cameras are so competitive with each other these days, that just performing well isn’t going to cut it—it needs to look good as well. Maybe it's because Sony doesn't have a classic '70s SLR design to borrow from, but the result is a camera lineup that doesn't feel as distinctive as the competition.
Sony did a great job leveraging its ability to make impressive displays by giving the A6300 a 2.4 million-dot OLED EVF. You also now have the option to up the refresh rate to a whopping 120 fps–ensuring you won't miss any of the action. That higher refresh rate is thanks to a faster imaging readout from the sensor, something I'll discuss more in the performance section. The contrast boost can sometimes make images look a little punchier on-camera than when they make it to your computer, but it's still an absolute pleasure to shoot with.
The A6300 is a little more rugged than the A6000 since Sony ditched the glossy finish and went with the matte look from the Sony A7 Mark II. The body is also made entirely out of magnesium, unlike the A6000, which had more plastic in the frame. These changes make it feel sturdier, though Sony was clear that they don't consider the body weather-sealed or anything.
Video shooters will be glad to hear that the A6300 finally includes a mic jack, the first Sony APS-C mirrorless camera since the Sony Alpha NEX-7 to include one. There is however a slight hack to get a headphone jack, but it requires purchasing Sony's UWPD11/42 Lavalier Wireless Microphone System for a cool $600. The receiver simply pops into the proprietary hotshoe of the A6300. That's a steep price to pay for monitoring your audio. If you're that serious about it, I say pick up a Panasonic GH4 and be done with it.
Historically Sony cameras have been a little aggressive with color–usually landing on the oversaturated side of the spectrum–and the A6300 isn't too much better. However, the most accurate mode "Deep" is quite accurate with a ∆C00 (saturation corrected) of just 2.28 and saturation of 102.3%. The saturation is still a little more than ideal, but not something most users will fret over. Most other modes, including the default mode, were pushing colors a bit too far for our liking.
White balance carried over the same struggles as the A6000 in incandescent light (what most homes are lite by), but to a slightly lesser degree. While shooting auto white balance in incandescent lighting we observed an average error of around 2022 kelvins. This isn't a rare thing for cameras to struggle with due to being tuned for outdoor lighting conditions, but it's a slightly higher error than usual. Shooting in daylight or custom white balance, scores were normal. If you can, shooting RAW is typically the best way to combat white balance issues, as you can fix it in post production.
As the long-awaited successor of the widely-loved A6000, the A6300 has a huge shadow cast over it. That said Sony didn't wait two years to release a slightly better version of the A6000, it made sure the A6300 had all the tools to surpass its predecessor in almost every category.
The same tag team of Sony's 24-megapixel CMOS image sensor and BIONZ X image processor return in A6300, but with some key improvements. The sensor now has faster readout performance and a better signal-to-noise ratio thanks to a switch to copper wiring. This didn't change the base ISO range (100-25,600), but users can now access ISO 51,200 without having to tap into the Multi-frame Noise Reduction. I will say that images are still a bit noisy if you're not using any noise reduction settings, so I recommend keeping it set to "low" if you plan on shooting above ISO 1,600.
Believe it or not Sony claims that it has once again set the bar for autofocusing speed–something the A6000 did two years ago with a 0.06 second focusing time. It claims that the new A6300 has shaved another hundredth of a second off for 0.05 seconds to focus. Obviously that's going to be unnoticeable in a real life situation, but credit should be given where it's due. Sony is really pushing focus speeds to the upper limits and that's something that is necessary for camera companies to stay hungry for better performance.
That fast focusing speed pairs well with the improved burst rate. It still tops out at 11 fps (even with both continuous autofocus and exposure tracking), but the mid-range burst setting has been raised from 6 to 8 fps. Additionally, thanks to the improved EVF refresh rate that I spoke about in the design section, shooting in the "Hi" burst mode feels more like using an optical view finder than ever before. With most mirrorless cameras the shutter can go to black or freeze when you take a photo, so you can lose site of what you're shooting. With the A6300 you get an experience similar to an optical finder, letting you track subjects more efficiently.
Another area that the A6300 really shines is video. The 4K video produced by this camera is absolutely stellar, sharper than most 4K footage I've tested to date–with a kit lens no less. It downsamples a 20-megapixel image into an 8-megapixel image instead of binning pixels like some mirrorless cameras, better preserving resolution. While it tops out at 4K/30p, you can also capture HD footage at 120 fps, making it great for turning action sequences into slow-mo.
Needless to say, there are a plethora of options for capturing footage in both 4K and HD. But if you really want to step it up, use Sony's S-LOG 3 feature, which claims to offer 14 stops of dynamic range, and S-Gamut 3 for a wider color space. Granted these will require you to edit the footage for it to look good, but they offer a much wider range of footage for editors to work with.
The one thing I disliked most was the kit lens. I'm not a fan of power lenses for a number or reasons, but mainly it just isn't that sharp. It will absolutely get the job done (as you can see in the samples above), but Sony has plenty of better lenses–especially primes–that will give you better results. And if you really want to go all out on the A6300, you can now use the 425 phase-detect autofocus points with the adapted Sony Alpha-mount lenses. Just pick up the LA-EA4 35 mm Full-Frame A-Mount Adapter and you nearly double the amount of lenses available to you.
Back in 2014, Sony bragged that the A6000 achieved the world's fastest autofocus speed with 0.6 seconds. Well this time around Sony has claimed to have pushed even further by shaving a hundredth of a second off, for a focus speed of 0.5 seconds. While we don't test focusing speeds specifically, the A6300 does focus exceptionally fast.
Being able to notice the 0.1 second increase that Sony claims isn't possible in a real world setting, but coupling the fast autofocusing with it's blazing continuous shooting makes for an action photographers dream. The A6300 can fire at a rate of 11 frames per second–on par with many pro cameras. Although capacity will vary based on what kind of SD card you are using, we were able to capture 46 JPEG images on a class 10 card before the camera slowed down. That dropped to 21 shots when we were shooting JPEG + RAW and RAW.
The best part of the A6300 is that the mirror doesn't lock if you're shooting continuously at 8 fps. This will help greatly when trying to capture subjects on the more. Unfortunately the 11 fps mode does lock your focus which can result in shots that (if the subject is moving) are out of focus, but you should get a few shots that are in focus and useable.
It's easy to say that technically the A6300 has surpassed the A6000 on almost every front. But is that really a fair comparison? With a body only price of $1,000 (compared to only $650 for the A6000 at launch), it's simply in another league, and likely appealing to a different buyer.
But for those who are in this part of the market, this is one of the most technically proficient mirrorless cameras on the market right now, and it's quite a bit cheaper than similar cameras like the Fujifilm X-Pro2 or Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. It is a little more expensive than the new Panasonic GX85, but you do get a larger APS-C sensor and superior autofocus with moving subjects.
Video users might be tempted to pick up the A6300 for the stellar 4K video, 1080/120p, and blazing fast focus speeds. However, the lack of a headphone jack and other quality of life features that are optimized for video could be a turn off. It's getting a little long in the tooth, but the Panasonic GH4 still reigns supreme there. It has way more video-centric features and can even output 10-bit 4:2:2 uncompress 4K footage from the HDMI port.
Just about the only people who are likely to be disappointed with the A6300 are people hoping that these kinds of upgrades would've been possible closer to the A6000's original launch price. If you've already got an A6000 and want a better camera, you now have to spend quite a bit more to get there. It does raise the question of how long the A6000 will remain on the market, as if it gets discontinued there will be a massive hole in Sony's lineup between the entry-level and the new A6300.
All that aside, Sony has produced an extremely good camera that can compete with the best APS-C models on the market. It may not be a direct successor to the A6000, but it takes everything that camera did well and does it much better. It's more expensive, but for anyone who needs this kind of performance I doubt you'll have many regrets.
The A6300 has an APS-C sensor with an ISO range of 100-51,200 and three noise reduction levels: Off, Low, and Normal. We always test cameras with all the noise reduction settings to see how the modes compare and if the trade off of quality for less noise is useful on that particular camera.
The A6300, like the A6000, has a real off settings. I say this because some cameras will have an "off" setting, but they still apply noise reduction to cut back on the grain, leaving us with less of an idea of what the camera is truly capable of. That's not the case for the A6300.
With noise reduction off, the A6300 turned in a 0.98% noise level at ISO 100. That percentage slowly rose to 1.85% at ISO 1,600, but then things turn ugly. Immediately jumping from 1.85% to 2.53% at ISO 2,400 and not stopping until it was at 5,98% at ISO 51,200. We consider 2% our cutoff for images to still look good when printed. That means with no noise reduction, we can safely use ISO 100-1,600. Unfortunately that's less than half of the total ISO range.
Bumping up to the "Low" NR level is an option if you're shooting in low-light situations. That will keep the noise below 2% all the way up to ISO 12,800 before hitting 2.07% at ISO 25,600 and 2.79% at ISO 51,200. That will give you nearly the entire ISO range to work with, but it will come with a hit to fine details that you'd usually enjoy with NR off. Switching to "Normal" should be used in the most dire situations. While it allows you to shoot with the entire ISO range more comfortable, your images will look more abstract than detailed.
Video captured by the A6300 is absolutely gorgeous and incredibly sharp when shooting in 4K as our tests showed. In our video resolution test we observed up to 1550 line pairs per image height horizontally and vertically while shooting in 4K/30p XAVC S 4K. Low light, dropped that number slightly–down to 1250 lpph vertically and horizontally–but still produced very sharp images.
In motion test the A6300 produced smooth images with very little trailing or artifacting. Despite its poor low-light performance for still images, it produced a usably (50 IRE) image with just 1 lux of available light. That's basically complete darkness. Keep in mind the image in that low of light isn't going to be something that will retain a great amount of detail, but it's useable in an emergency.
While the A6300 did add a microphone jack, it still has a long way to go before we'd consider it a great choice for filmmakers that care about audio. It still doesn't have a headphone jack, though there is a $600 way to hack around that (mentioned in the full review). But it does offer a large range of recording options from 4K/30p to 1080/120p. Being able to shoot 1080/120p will certainly be a feature that sport shooters will love, given the slow motion possibilities.
Meet the tester
Photographer / Producer@JacksonRuckar
As a photojournalist, Jackson has had stints working with bands, the military, and professional baseball teams before landing with Reviewed.com's camera team. Outside of Reviewed.com, he can be found looking for the next game to relieve his "Gamer ADD" or growing his beard.
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