Sony A6300 Review

April 26, 2016 | Jack Baker | |

Introduction

The Sony A6300 replaces the two year old A6000 as Sony’s premium APS-C Alpha offering. The A6300 retains a similar outward appearance to its predecessor, although the new camera does feature full weather sealing against dust and moisture ingress. But it’s under the toughened exterior where the biggest changes can be found. The A6300 can now capture Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 video at 30fps, along with Full HD 1080p content at 120fps. The 24.2MP sensor features cutting edge design that improves light sensitivity and enables the A6300 to record at ISO 51200. Autofocus performance is also extensively revised, and the camera features no fewer than 425 phase detection AF points that cover almost the entire image frame. This helps ensure accurate subject tracking, and with the aid of Sony’s powerful Bionz X image processor, gives the A6300 a claimed focussing speed of just 0.05 seconds. Factor the Sony A6300’s extensive control customisation, built-in Wi-Fi, improved 2.36-million dot viewfinder, and tiltable 922k-dot LCD screen, and the body-only price of £999/$998 seems well justified.

Ease of Use

Externally the Sony A6300 closely resembles the outgoing A6000, but this is no bad thing as the design and control layout are just as intuitive and ergonomic. Although not particularly deep, the sculpted hand grip is relatively wide and comfortable to hold on to. Combine it with the sizable rear thumb rest and the A6300 feels totally secure when shooting one-handed. Useful, as at 404g with battery and memory card, the new camera is 60g heavier than its predecessor. The A6300 is also 3.7mm thicker at 48.8mm, though length and width remain the same at 120 x 66.9mm. That extra weight increase is the result of a new, tougher magnesium alloy body shell that incorporates full weather sealing. It’s the finishing touch on a design that oozes quality and helps justify the premium price tag.

While little has changed on the outside, that’s not to say Sony has left all the camera’s external elements untouched. The A6300 gets the 2.36 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder from the RX10 II, providing a useful resolution increase from the 1.33m-dot EVF in the A6000. The new viewfinder also features a 120fps high frame rate setting to help track moving subjects more smoothly with virtually no lag. It all adds up to an exceptionally natural viewing experience with outstanding colour accuracy, detail and contrast. The same is true of the 3-inch widescreen LCD monitor, though this retains the same 922k resolution as the A6000. It also uses an identical tilting bracket, giving 90 degrees of upward rotation and 45 degrees downward tilt. It’s a real help when shooting from a high or low angle, but a flip-out screen would be even more versatile. It’s also a pity Sony hasn’t added touch sensitivity to the screen, as this would have made functions like focus point selection easier and more intuitive, whilst putting additional pressure on the A6300’s rivals.

Sony A6300
Front of the Sony A6300

The Sony A6300’s controls are almost identical to those on the A6000 and include the same dual wheel layout with a primary control dial on the top panel and a secondary rear-panel wheel that doubles as the 4-way navigation buttons. It’s a reasonably ergonomic setup, though we’d still prefer an additional control dial positioned near to the shutter release, enabling simultaneous thumb and forefinger settings adjustment. One control that has been tweaked is the auto exposure lock button, located directly alongside the thumb rest. This is now cited within a lever switch that gives the button two functions. Set the switch to AEL and you can meter light and lock exposure independently of the shutter release. But with the switch set to AF/MF, the exposure lock button instead activates manual focus during autofocussing, or switches the focus mode to auto when in manual mode. Another useful focussing feature is Eye-Start AF. By activating this via the main menu, the A6300 uses the viewfinder’s eye detection sensor to not only activate the EVF when it senses your eye, but also autofocus the camera.

But it’s Sony’s enhanced phase-detection AF system that really steals the limelight. Where the A6000 featured 179 phase-detection AF points, the A6300 gets a whopping 425 points, and they’re spread over almost the entirety of the sensor area. Sony claims that this is more PDAF points than any other CSC, and it helps the camera achieve a quoted focussing time of just 0.05 seconds. However, it’s worth remember that the A6000 wasn’t exactly sluggish, as it boasted a 0.06-second lock-on speed. We couldn’t quite match Sony’s figures during our testing with a 16-70mm ZA OSS lens fitted, but we did record a nonetheless impressive 0.15-second lock-on speed, which when combined with instantaneous shutter response makes for extremely quick shooting speed.

The other advantage of having 425 PDAF points is AF tracking accuracy. Rather than utilise every AF point during subject tracking, the camera uses a low density array of AF points over the entire frame and only throws the maximum focus point density at the area covering your subject. This way you get precise focus tracking while also conserving processing and battery power.

Sony A6300
Rear of the Sony A6300

It’s not just continuous focussing that gets a boost though, as continuous shooting is also enhanced. On paper the A6300 is no faster than the A6000, with both cameras capable of shooting at 11fps. However, most CSCs can’t shoot this fast without the LCD or EVF display lagging behind or even blacking out until the burst is over. Sony hasn’t been able to completely combat the issue with the A6300, but it has come up with a compromise. In Continuous Hi+ mode the camera shoots at the maximum 11fps with the usual screen lag, but switch to Continuous Hi mode and you’ll get a 8fps with almost no perceptible lag.

Back to the A6300’s controls and we find Sony has continued the A6000’s extensive amount of customisable controls. The rear Fn function button displays a quick-access menu of frequently used shooting settings, and you can choose which items appear on this menu. But if that’s too much trouble, there are always the two Custom buttons which can each be assigned a frequently used function for direct access. What’s more, even the AF/MF/AEL button can be customised, along with the left, right, down and centre rear panel navigation buttons, as well as the Fn function button’s role in playback mode.

By default, the Fn button activates the Sony A6300’s Send to Smartphone Wi-Fi function when in playback mode. This works in conjunction with Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app and lets you transfer a full resolution JPEG image in a nippy three seconds. Of course, you’ll have to connect your smart device first, but NFC pairing makes this a painless process. Even if you don’t have an NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet, Sony lets you scan a QR code displayed on the A6300’s monitor and this automatically enters the SSID password so you don’t need to type it manually. The camera can also be remotely controlled by your smart device, although you’ll need to first enter the A6300’s Application tab on the main menu to activate the Smart Remote Embedded feature. Fortunately this isn’t too inconvenient as Sony’s standard black and white with orange highlights menu design is clear and easy to navigate.

Sony A6300
Top of the Sony A6300

Move to the top panel and the A6300’s customisable control extends to the mode dial, where there are two Memory modes. These allow you to store two frequently used shooting set-ups for quick access, and within each Memory mode is a further four customisable sub-mode pre-sets which can be saved to your memory card. Aside from these modes, the A6300’s mode dial is fairly standard, containing the usual auto, semi auto and manual modes, plus a Scene Selection position, Sweep Panorama mode, and finally a Movie mode that works in conjunction with the video record button located on the right edge of the thumb grip.

Sony has gone to great lengths to enhance the A6300’s video abilities, as not only can it record at Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution at 30fps, but the power of the Bionz X processor can also be harnessed to record slow motion, high frame rate Full HD 1920 x 1080 sequences at 120fps. The movie-making potential is further enhanced by 100Mb/s high-bit-rate XAVC S data encoding, as well as clean video output over HDMI. Finally, the A6300 features Sony’s S-Log 2 and 3 gamma curves which enable it to record greater dynamic range, providing you’re prepared to colour grade the recording in post-production.

Sony A6300
The Sony A6300 In-hand

When it comes to simply snapping a still, the Sony A6300 will capture an image within two seconds of power-up. It’ll keep on shooting for a rated 400 shots per charge, which is a healthy increase from the A6000’s 360-shot battery life. This drops to 350 shots when using the EVF, but again it’s a better performance than the A6000’s comparable 310-shot rating. However, even with these efficiency improvements, the increased power demands of a mirrorless design means the A6300 still trails similarly priced DSLRs in terms of battery life, with cameras like the Canon EOS 80D and Nikon D7200 managing 960 and 1110 shots-per-charge respectively. At least the A6300 can be powered and charged via a USB connection, which is useful if you’re without your charger but can access a computer.

Finally there’s the battery compartment which, like the A6000, also incorporates the memory card slot. It’s not a major bugbear, as opening the compartment to access the card won’t cause the battery to drop out, and the tripod mount is far enough away to avoid a mounting plate blocking the door. It’s just a pity the card slot’s location nestles right next to the door’s hinge, making it fiddly to insert and eject a memory card.

Entry Tags

hd video, hd, 3 inch LCD, 1080p, compact system camera, mirrorless, hdmi, csc, wi-fi, sony, wireless, tilting, nfc, 4k, 24 megapixel, wi fi, evf, flash, android, OLED, iphone, 11fps, apps, playmemories, alpha 6300, Sony A6300, a6300, a 6300, Sony A6300 Review

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