Thoughts on the New Sony Alpha A6300
Yesterday Sony released the spiritual successor to the A6000, the A6300. I say spiritual, because the A6000 is still being sold. As many of my log term readers know, I've been using the A6000 for over a year now, and I recently wrote a 3 part real world review of the camera. The successor has been rumoured for quite some time, and now it's here. I'm very impressed with what I'm reading about it, at least with the specs on paper. At first glance the A6300 may seem like a minor evolution over the A6000, but in my opinion, it's a massive improvement over the older camera, especially in the area of video. In fact, for video, I think that it's revolutionary to have these features at the price point and size.
I'm getting ahead of myself though. First lets look at what's changed. From the outside, it looks almost identical to the A6000, but the structure of the body's been given an upgrade to a magnesium alloy. The lens mount has been reinforced too, and is now partially weather sealed. Well, weather resistant might be a better word.
The camera has a newly designed sensor too. The new sensor uses copper wiring to improve sensitivity. This also speeds up readout, and works in conjunction with the new processor (BIONZ X) to improve the iso sensitivity. The camera now shoots up to ISO51200. This is all well and good on paper, but it will be interesting to see how it looks in real world. The A6000 sensor was already pretty good, so I'm interested to see if there's been much of a visible improvement.
The viewfinder has also been given a much needed upgrade. This was one of my biggest gripes with the A6000, and the new viewfinder in the A6300 has the same resolution of the A7 series, as well as an improved optical design. More impressively though, is that the EVF can display images at up to 120fps. This is a pretty impressive technical feat, and I'm not really sure how they've achieved that. I'm not even sure the human eye can perceive that kind of frame rate. The idea is to make it as accurate as possible for shooting action, and I'm keen to see it in real life.
These are all just the little things though! The big headline features are the improved auto focus system and the impressive video functions.
I generally don't shoot that much action or fast moving scenes, so the high speed auto focus doesn't really interest me that much, but I have to admit, the technology seems really impressive. They've added a crazy number of autofocus points. Here's what the Press Release says:
Sony’s new α6300 camera builds upon the acclaimed 4D FOCUS performance of the α6000 model, utilising a Fast Hybrid AF system that combines high-speed phase detection AF with extremely accurate contrast AF and allows it to capture and lock on to moving subjects in as little as 0.05 seconds1. The camera’s High-density Tracking AF technology positions 425 phase detection AF points over nearly the entire field of view, allowing it to accurately focus throughout a wide area – even on small, fast objects that other cameras would fail to recognise.
In addition to the extensive AF coverage, the α6300 debuts a new High-density tracking AF technology that significantly improves subject detection and tracking performance. This new technology can quickly activate a large number of AF points surrounding a subject – approximately 7.5 times more density than the α6000 – and intelligently adjust them in accordance with the subject’s motion. This is a particularly powerful feature when used with high-speed 11 fps continuous shooting or the new 8 fps continuous live-view mode, which provides 100% accurate framing for fast moving subjects on the LCD screen or viewfinder.
Of note is the fact that the camera’s 425 phase detection AF points, enhanced tracking and focus accuracy are all available on the α6300 when using A-mount lenses4 with a mount adaptor like the Sony LA-EA3. This is a first for Sony E-mount interchangeable lens cameras with an APS-C sized sensor, as the only other cameras to feature this capability are the full-frame α7R II and α7 II models.
Other enhancements to the α6300 include silent shooting functionality the ability to use AF in focus magnifier mode, expanded flexible spot AF, Eye AF in AF-C mode and more.
The video improvements are what really impress me about the Sony A6300. I bought my A6000 primarily for video, and the video is ok, but not great. The video functions in the A6300 should make the ultimate pocket camera for digital cinematography.
First of all there's the fact that it shoots 4K. That's good enough, but it does it with a full sensor read out. This means that the 4k video is down-sampled from a 6K source, and therefore anti-aliased. This should lead to a much more filmic, smooth and aliasing free image than the normal pixel binning method. It also means, that unlike the recently announced Nikon's D500 and D5, the video isn't taken from a crop either, so you don't have to adjust your focal length. Downsampling should also reduce noise in video.
There are very few cameras that do this. In fact, apart from the A7SII and the Samsung NX1, it seems to be the only stills/video hybrid camera full stop that produces a 4K image from a down-sampled full sensor readout.* If you're not into video, this probably doesn't seem like much, but this is a huge deal. Consider how your images look when zoomed to 1:1 and how they look when you view them zoomed out, or scaled down for screen size. That's the kind of difference we're talking about.
(*UPDATED to include information about Samsung NX1 provided by a reader)
On top of that, it features both S-log2 and S-log3, Sony's log formats. Sony claims that this gives the camera a 14 stop dynamic range when shooting video. For a camera of this price point this is also impressive. Notably, it also includes a display LUT for when shooting in S-log (or what Sony calls "Gamma assist"). This means that you can tell the camera to simulate a graded picture. Because it's so flat, shooting in s-log can actually be quite difficult. A display LUT simulates the effect of a post shoot grade so you ave a better idea of how the picture will look, while still recording the flat version on to the card.
The camera also now (finally) features a microphone input, and can use Sony's XLR audio adaptors too. The camera also features improved Zebra functionality to help with exposure control, and the auto focus improvements and tracking work in video too. The only thing I can't confirm is whether or not the camera outputs 4k uncompressed over HDMI as it doesn't seem to be in the specs (unless it's looking at me) , bur according to nofilmschool.com, it does. If that wasn't good enough, it will also shoot full HD at up to 120fps, for slow motion effects.
These are crazy high end video features in a camera that costs $1000. I have to hand it to sony for not being afraid to compete with itself. When you consider how Canon has arbitrarily crippled it's new $5000 1DX Mark II by not including log or 4K HDMI out, for no real reason other than to not compete with its Cinema Eos line, you have to had it to Sony. The image quality on this should be amazing for the price, at least based on the specs. The only thing that's really missing is a headphone out port (I'm not sure if there's one on the XLR adaptor or not.)
Of course, it's not going to be a perfect camera. It still has the 16:9 screen, which I really don't like. It also looks like it has the same crappy battery as the A6000. Overall though, it looks like a great upgrade. It's worth it for the viewfinder and autofocus alone, but if you shoot video, it's a no-brainer. This should make an amazing video camera.
What is also worth considering is that If you're shooting video on an A7 series camera, this will make a great B camera. But even if you're not, it looks like it will make a great A camera too. And the small size means it has lots of useful applications where you wouldn't normally put a camera.
One of the big complaints against Sony (including from myself) has been the lack of high quality lenses. Sony has taken steps to address that yesterday too with the launch of it's new "G-Master" lens line. There are 3 lenses in this new line initially, and they are FE lenses, meaning that they are full frame, but they do full a badly needed hole in Sony's lens line up. They include a 24-70 f/2.8, a 70-200 f/2.8 and an 85mm f/1.4. I'll talk about these lenses more in another post, but I just wanted to mention it, because any talk of Sony cameras usually leads to a discussion about the lack of lenses.
Will I buy?
As an A6000 user, would I upgrade? Absolutely. I primarily bought my camera for shooting video, so for me it's a definite buy. I also think that the new improved viewfinder should address on of my big criticisms of the A6000. I can't wait to get my hands on one, so If anyone from Sony is reading and you want a review...... ;-)
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