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Since its introduction, Sony’s flagship a6000 has proven to be one of the most popular APS-C format cameras on the market, and deservedly so. Fast-forward two years and Sony has released the a6300, a camera that is markedly better in a number of ways than the camera it replaces.
Aside from a few tweaks to the layout of the control dials and buttons on the top and rear panels, and a modest (2.2oz) increase in weight, the a6000 and a6300 are nearly identical—the big changes are internal.
According to the numbers, the a6300’s all-new 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor actually contains slightly fewer pixels when compared to the 24.3MP sensor used in the a6000. Nevertheless, thanks to improved wiring technologies resulting in better signal-to-noise ratios, larger photodiodes, and an updated BIONZ X image processor, the new a6300 captures image files that are cleaner and perceptually sharper, with less image noise.
The biggest shakeup is in the autofocus department. The a6000 featured 198 phase detection points and 25 contrast detection points. The a6300 features a new High-Density AF Tracking system, 4D FOCUS, that sports 425 phase detection points and 169 contrast detection points, which in practice makes a huge difference.
The camera’s new High-Density Tracking AF system surrounds the subject with about 7.5-times as many active AF focus points as the a6000, resulting in higher levels of AF speed and accuracy. The a6300 focuses fast and without a hint of hesitation.
During my time with the camera I didn’t detect any focus searching—even when shooting after dark. The AF system in the a6300 is that good. The a6000 wasn’t a slouch by any measure, and the a6300 is better yet.
The a6300’s AF system isn’t the only feature on the fast-lane; you can now capture up to 11 fps in continuous capture mode or a choice of up to 8 fps when shooting in Live View. At 11 fps, image capture becomes near-cinematic—think high-definition movie stills. Equally important: I was able to hold focus throughout each of the sequences I captured with the camera.
Cyclist maneuvering through a construction zone at 8 frames per second; f/7.1; 1/125; ISO 250
For shooting in theaters and other sound-sensitive locations, the Sony a6300 has a Silent Shooting mode, which allows you to capture up to 3 fps with full AF and AE Tracking.
If you tend to photograph people, you might want to try the camera’s Eye AF feature, which tracks focus of your subject’s eyes when shooting in continuous mode. The camera also has an Expandable Flexible Spot feature that automatically redirects select focus points if you should momentarily lose focus tracking on your subject.
For composing stills and video, Sony’s a6300 features a 2.4-million dot XGA OLED electronic viewfinder. Alternately, you can use the camera’s 3.0” 921,600-dot LCD, which can be tilted 90° up and about 45° down. I found myself going back and forth between the two, depending on the situation.
For critical focusing when shooting at wide apertures and close subject-to-lens distances, the a6300 features a focus magnifier that can be engaged in manual as well as in AF mode. I find this feature particularly handy for checking focus when shooting with wide-angle and longer focal length lenses set to their maximum apertures. The resolving power of modern EVFs and LCDs is remarkable, but nonetheless, when shooting with mirrorless cameras, I like having the option of focusing tight on the details.
The native ISO sensitivity of the new camera remains ISO100, but it now tops out at ISO51200, which is a stop faster than the a6000. Like the a6000, the a6300 provides 16-bit image processing and compressed 14-bit raw output. A new and noteworthy feature found on the a6300 is the option to set a minimum shutter speed when shooting in Auto ISO mode. If you plan on shooting fast-moving subjects—especially under low light conditions, this is a feature you’ll want to engage.
For stills, Sony’s a6300 offers a choice of JPEG compressions, along with the option to shoot raw and RAW+JPEG.
If you’re into video, don’t feel ignored. Sony’s a6300 captures 4K video in the Super 35mm format with full pixel readout and no pixel binning, which allows for about 2.4-times as much data as required for 4K capture (QFHD: 3840 x 2160).
You also have the ability to capture Full HD 1080p recording in frame rates up to 120 fps, with AF tracking at a bit rate of 100 Mbps, or 4x/5x slow-motion video internally with a frame rate of 30 or 24 fps.
The a6300 also offers the flexibility of S-Gamut/S-Log shooting for post-production color grading. To minimize whiteout and blackout, the S-Log3 and S-Log2 gamma curves feature a dynamic range of up to 1300%, with a 14-stop latitude in S-Log3. The camera also has a Gamma Display Assist feature, which allows you to display scenes with natural contrast levels while recording with S-Log settings.
Other noteworthy video features found on the new a6300 include an Enhanced Zebra function, and Clean HDMI output that supports 4K and Full HD for uncompressed video that can be output to external recorders and monitors.
In addition to a built-in mic jack, the a6300 offers support for an optional XLR adapter kit for use with higher-fidelity microphone systems, which is atypical for cameras in this class.
No doubt, a percentage of Sony fans will be disappointed to learn there’s no touch screen on the a6300. Personally speaking, I can live without a touch screen, but I do wish the LCD had a swivel mount, which would enable high and low-angle viewing when shooting in landscape and portrait mode.
Out in the field, the Sony a6300 handles quite well. If you’re familiar with Sony’s menu system, the camera will feel quite familiar to you. If you’re new to Sony, fear not—the menus are pretty straightforward and shouldn’t be a challenge to learn.
If you can’t wait to get home before you start sharing your pictures with the world, the a6300 has a One-Touch picture sharing function, enabling you to wirelessly transfer pictures to your tablet or smartphone. All you need to do is upload Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app to any Android-based device, tap it against your camera, and it’s done.
You can also use your smartphone or tablet as a remote viewfinder and shutter release.
Our test camera came with a Carl Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar ZA OSS zoom lens, which has the same field-of-view range as a 24-105mm zoom on a full-frame camera. The lens performed well, although I wish it focused closer on more than a few occasions. I would also be curious to see how the new sensor performs with some of Sony’s premium fixed focal length lenses.
Paint peeling off of fire hydrants and old brick walls along 12th Avenue, in Manhattan
The Sony a6300 is a solid-feeling camera, and is reportedly built to tougher standards than its predecessors. Sealed against dust and moisture, the a6300’s chassis is made of magnesium alloy, as are the rear and top plates of the camera body. The camera’s lens mount is made of stainless steel, and the camera’s grip is large enough to fill a mid-size hand.
Something I had a hard time with personally is the location of the video button on the upper right corner of the camera back. It’s in the right spot, but proved hard to turn on and off on more than a few occasions. Again, speaking for myself, I wish the video button was a tad larger and better defined from its surroundings.
The only other issue I encountered with the test camera had to do with exposure. Although my exposures were consistent, they ran 0.3 to 0.7-stops brighter than I prefer. A simple adjustment of the exposure compensation dial solved the problem.
The Sony a6300 accepts Memory Stick Duo and SD-series memory cards and is compatible with more than two dozen Sony full-frame and APS-C format E-mount lenses. And being a mirrorless camera, you can adapt just about any lens made in the past century onto this camera.
The Sony a6000 was and remains responsible for winning over a lot of Sony converts. Was the new a6300 worth the wait? My answer is “Yes.”