Sony Alpha 6500 Review

An incredible amount of class-leading tech in a small APS-C mirrorless camera

Sony Alpha 6500 Review

Plus

  • Best-in-class detail retention and noise reduction
  • Large buffer for continuous shooting
  • Fantastic 4K video quality
  • Outstanding autofocus performance
  • Lots of customization options allow you to make the camera work for you

Minus

  • Relatively short battery life
  • Touchpad mode could be more responsive

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Introduction

Sony’s top-tier Alpha 6500 is a mirrorless APS-C that supports 24-megapixel stills and video capture. It has built-in image stabilization and a touchscreen.

In this Sony A6500 review, we’ll look at what makes it one of the best cameras ever manufactured for action shooting.

Physical Features

Physical controls of the A6500 are similar to the A6300 but the C1 button has been moved to the top plate and there’s a new C2 button accompanying it. Nine of the camera’s buttons are now customizable and you can set them to do different things when you’re in shooting or playback mode.

Sony Alpha 6500 - Design

The A6400 has a viewfinder with a 2.36M-dot OLED panel. It has a sensor to the right for automatically switching between the rear screen and the finder. The deep rubber hood can shield most light and the viewfinder can be set to run at 120 frames per second.

The biggest physical change is the inclusion of a touchscreen for autofocus point placement. You can use it to select an autofocus point by clicking anywhere on the screen and when you’re using the viewfinder the system works as a touchpad to move the autofocus point relatively. It takes a little bit of getting used to, and the touchscreen isn’t as responsive as some competitor models.

The grip on the A6500 has been improved; it’s now deeper and thicker. This is great if you use big telephoto lenses.

Performance

The A6500 has 425 on-sensor phase detection elements and shoots at a maximum of 11 frames per second. It has an improved buffer thanks to the new front-end LSI chip so you can shoot up to 300 standard JPEGs in a single burst. This is 27 seconds of continuous burst shooting.

Sony Alpha 6500 - Performance

Fast and efficient, the A6500 makes shooting sports and action a breeze.

It’s clear, therefore, that the A6500 is best suited for action photography. It’s great to be able to bump the electronic viewfinder to 120 frames per second to follow the action, and doing so causes no perceivable lag. What you see is what you shoot.

Image stabilization is a welcome addition. You can expect around 2.5 stops of stabilization for additional hand-hold-ability.

Autofocus

The autofocus system in the A6500 is advanced and pleasing to use. There are seven AF area modes, and each of these has a separate lock-on mode.

Sony Alpha 6500 - Autofocus

Face Detection and Eye-AF work well to track subjects automatically through the frame wherever they go.

On top of these, AF functions like Eye-AF, Face Detection, and Center Lock-on take precedence over your chosen AF area mode. These more advanced autofocus functions use AI to detect and track your chosen subject through the frame.

If that wasn’t enough, you can override the chosen AF area with a tap of the touchscreen. The exact effect of doing so depends on the AF area mode selected and whether Center Lock-on is engaged.

With these systems, Sony has enabled the photographer to choose the exact AF setup that they prefer. It takes some time to go through all of the various options and find the setup that best suits you, but it’s worth it when it makes split-second shooting decisions all the faster.

Video

The Sony Alpha 6300 can record up to 4K 3840 x 2160 video resolution. At 30 fps the frame is taken from a slightly cropped region of the sensor, at 24 fps, the whole frame is used.

4K footage and high fps recording are taken from a slightly cropped area of the sensor.

Drop down to HD 1920 x 1080 and you can record up to 120 fps. Again, this is taken from a cropped region of the sensor. Choosing 60 fps or less will use the entire frame.

You can set the camera to record a second, smaller, more easily shareable MP4 movie in parallel with your main clip.

Like the A6300, the Sony A6500 shoots excellent 4K footage. The details are strong and there’s minimal rolling shutter.

Image Quality

Image quality is excellent, with fine detail and low noise in Ram images. Dynamic range is great, with the sensor introducing just the tiniest amount of noise in dark exposures. It’s about as good as it gets with an APS-C camera.

The A6500 has the industry-leading JPEG engine for detail retention, adding a lot of emphasis to fine detail.

Sony A6300 vs. A6500

The Sony A6500 largely shares the form factor of the A6300 but includes a number of upgrades focused on getting better action shots.

The Sony A6300 is itself an excellent camera, but the Sony Alpha A6500 has it trumped in a number of regards. The biggest differences are the image stabilization, Front End LSI processing chip for faster and more complex processing, and the touchscreen. There are a few other small differences such as the inclusion of a highlight spot metering mode.

Sony Alpha A6300 vs A6500

Those who have used the A6300 will find the A6500 has fixed one of the more frustrating problems with the A6300 – there’s now a quick way to set the autofocus point thanks to the touchscreen.

The faster processing chip can make reviewing burst-mode photos more user-friendly, and the menu system is now color-coded so you can find what you need all the more easily.

The addition of the touchscreen and new processing unit does mean the battery life is shorter despite using the same NP-FW50 battery. You should be able to get 350 shots per battery change.

Conclusion

The Sony A6500 is the most useable Sony APS-C camera available and it’s a significant leap up from the A6300. It’s fantastic at capturing action and sports and the 4K video is one of the best you’ll get from an APS-C DSLR.

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