Sony A6500 Review

February 7, 2017 | Mark Goldstein | |
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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 24.2 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 7Mb.

The Sony A6500 delivers some seriously impressive image quality. The A6500 generates impressively clean results with minimal grain and detail loss. At ISO 6400 there’s only a slight increase in noise and reduction in detail, making this sensitivity completely usable. Only at ISO 12800 does grain and detail smoothing become more severe, although it’s by no means unsightly. ISO 25600 is really the ceiling for acceptable image quality, such is the high level of grain, loss of detail and reduced dynamic range. ISO 51200 is best avoided due to the intrusive grain and colour speckling.

But dial things down to more sensible sensitivities and the A6500 records excellent dynamic range, especially when assisted by Sony’s Dynamic Range Optimisation. Good colour vibrancy adds extra visual appeal while maintaining accurate colour reproduction, though this of course can be adjusted to your own preference in the camera settings. Detail capture will depend quite a bit on your choice of lens, but our Vario-Tessar 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS test glass certainly helped maximise the A6500’s potential to resolve a superb amount of detail.

Noise

The Sony A6500 has a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25600, expandable to ISO 51200. Auto ISO operates within an ISO 100-6400 range and has selectable upper and lower limits. Two levels of high ISO noise reduction can be selected – Normal, or Low – or the processing can be disabled.

JPEG RAW  

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

 
iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg  
     

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

 
iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg  

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

 
iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg  

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

 
iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg  

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

 
iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg  

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg  
     

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg  
     

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

 
iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg  
     

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

 
iso25600.jpg iso25600raw.jpg  
     

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

 
iso51200.jpg iso51200raw.jpg  

File Quality

Five quality settings are available: RAW, RAW+JPEG (Extra fine, Fine and Standard JPEG compression options), JPEG Extra fine, JPEG Fine and JPEG Standard. RAW files average around 24MB each, Extra Fine JPEGs roughly 15MB, Fine JPEGs are in the region of 7.5MB, and Standard quality JPEGs weigh in at approximately 4.5MB each.

24M Extra Fine (14.8Mb) (100% Crop) 24M Fine (7.5Mb) (100% Crop)
quality_fine.jpg quality_fine.jpg
   
24M Standard (4.78Mb) (100% Crop) 24M RAW (23.8Mb) (100% Crop)
quality_standard.jpg quality_raw.jpg

Flash

Five flash settings are available: Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow Sync and Rear Sync, Wireless, and High speed synchronization (although this mode can only be used when an external flashgun is fitted).

With our 16-70mm lens fitted, the pop-up flash produced noticeable vignetting with the lens set to maximum wide angle when shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5m. The flash is also too short when extended to prevent it casting an obvious lens shadow, making an external flashgun essential when shooting with wide or ultrawide lenses.

Flash Off - Wide Angle

Flash On - Wide Angle

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto

Flash On - Telephoto

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. A separate menu option controls whether or not red-eye reduction is active, but even without this enabled, the camera successfully avoided red-eye in our testing.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg
   

Red-eye reduction

Red-eye reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg

Night

This night-time scene was captured hand held at f/4, ISO 6400, with a 1/6-second exposure. The result is perfectly exposed with good detail and little image noise, although the stabilised test lens should also be credited for the lack of visible camera shake.

Night

Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Picture Effects

The A6500 contains 13 Picture Effects, some with additional sub options: Toy camera (normal, cool, warm, green, magenta), Pop color, Posterization (mono, colour), Retro photo, Soft high-key, Partial color (red, green, blue, yellow), High-contrast mono, Soft focus (low, mid, high), HDR painting (low, mid, high), Rich-tone mono, Miniature (top, middle horizontal, bottom, left, middle vertical, right), Watercolor, and Illustration (low, mid, high).

Off

Toy Camera

Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect00-normal.JPG Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect01-Toy_Camera.JPG
   

Pop Color

Posterization

Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect02-Pop_Color.JPG Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect03b-Posterization_Color.JPG
   

Retro

Soft High-key

Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect04-Retro_photo.JPG Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect05-Soft_High-key.JPG
   

Partial Color (Red)

High Contrast Mono

Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect06-Partial_Color.JPG Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect07-High_Contrast_Mono.JPG
   

Soft Focus

HDR Painting

Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect08-Soft_Focus.JPG Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect09-HDR_Painting.JPG
   

Rich-tone Mono

Miniature

Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect10-Rich-tone_Mono.JPG Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect11-Miniature.JPG
   

Watercolor

Illustration

Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect12-Watercolor.JPG Sony_Alpha_a6500-Picture_Effect13-Illustration.JPG