Sony Alpha 6300: The Balancing Act

 
Sony Alpha 6300

Sony Alpha 6300

The Sony Alpha 6300 promises to be a strong contender. Conchita Fernandes puts it to the test and finds out if it lives up to it.

Since its launch in 2014, the Sony Alpha 6000 has been a favourite in the company’s APS-C lineup. It provided great specs allround, that too, at an affordable price point. However, earlier this year, the company launched its much-awaited successor, the Sony Alpha 6300, which promised to be as spectacular as its older sibling. Let’s find out what’s different in the camera.

Features
The a6300 features a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor and has a continuous shooting rate of 11fps, which was also present in its predecessor. However, where it significantly differs is in its whopping 425 Phase Detection AF points, an increase from the 179 points in the a6000. In addition to this, it also has 169 contrast-detect points, from the mere 25 points in the a6000. The increase in the number of points gives a wider coverage for the camera to track subjects moving across the sensor’s range. The camera’s viewfinder has also been improved from a 1.44M-dot OLED to a 2.36M-dot OLED, giving a 1024 x 768 pixel resolution, and features an ISO range of 100-51,200—an increase from the 25,600 limit on the a6000. However, the a6300 sports the same 3-inch 921k dot tilting LCD, and continues to miss a touchscreen.

In the video recording arena, the a6300 can now shoot 4K video at 30p. Moreover, to help with manual focus in the video mode, the camera provides focus peaking, and users can also employ Auto ISO and exposure compensation in the manual exposure mode. These features make the a6300 a very flexible and dynamic camera to record videos and movies. Sony has also added an external mic input, which was previously absent in the a6000. Additionally, Continuous AF is available in the video mode, and the ISO limit is set at 25,600. There’s also a built-in microphone socket. Additionally, the camera features WiFi with NFC, and comes with a 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

The camera’s tilting LCD allowed me to be discreet while photographing this scene from a lower height. Exposure: 1/1000sec at f/11 (ISO 800). Photograph/Conchita Fernandes

The camera’s tilting LCD allowed me to be discreet while photographing this scene from a lower height. Exposure: 1/1000sec at f/11 (ISO 800). Photograph/Conchita Fernandes

Handling
The a6300 features a dust and moisture resistant magnesium alloy body. The overall design and layout of the camera’s controls are very similar to the a6000. The top of the camera features two dials—the mode dial and the primary command dial, which can be customised to control either aperture or shutterspeed. There are also cutomisable buttons located on the rear and the top portion of the camera.

There is also a dial (customisable too) located on the back of the camera which lets you change the shooting mode, the ISO and Exposure. Considering that the a6300’s features a similar exhaustive settings and control menu as its predecessor, it’s great that there are quite a few options that can be customised and tailored to your preferences. The a6300 features quite a sensitive EVF, and even a slight movement in front of it would result in the blanking out of the LCD monitor. The EVF comes with a rubber padding around it, which kept most of the light out, especially when shooting during bright sunny days. However, for the most part, I resorted to using the EVF instead of the camera screen, the latter being a little cumbersome to view on bright days. The camera’s screen tilts upwards and downwards. However, the downward tilt extends beyond the bottom of the camera. This can be a little problematic when the camera is mounted on certain tripods.

Moreover, the size of the camera and its kit lens made it the least intimidating device. In the past, whenever I would set out with a DLSR or a camera with a zoom lens, I realised that people would be quite vary of my presence. But apart from the few occasional looks and glances, the a6300 allowed me to merge quite comfortably in a crowd.

The camera’s customisable buttons can be programmed for easy access to the frequently used settings of your choice. In my case, it was Exposure Compensation. Exposure: 1/3200sec at f/9 (ISO 1000). Photograph/Conchita Fernandes

The camera’s customisable buttons can be programmed for easy access to the frequently used settings of your choice. In my case, it was Exposure Compensation. Exposure: 1/3200sec at f/9 (ISO 1000). Photograph/Conchita Fernandes

Performance
Although it is too minor of a difference to be noticed, Sony claims that the a6300 is faster by 0.05 seconds than the a6000. Regardless, the camera’s AF system continues with the tradition of being very fast. The camera gives you a variety of AF control options to choose from. The one that I reached out for the most was the Flexible Spot AF option, for added precision. Then again, even if you leave it up to the camera to choose the AF point for you, it will not disappoint. However, its speediness diminishes slightly in low light conditions. The camera appears to take a second longer to lock on the subject. But overall, it wasn’t problematic.

The a6300 also did a good job in maintaining the noise levels. Although there is visible noise after ISO 3200, the images are still usable. Moreover, the colours rendered by the camera are rich and vibrant. But the real star is the a6300’s video recording option. You can make use of the camera’s several phase detection AF points, which ensures that it very rarely has to hunt for subjects in the frame, thus making for smooth video recording. Also, you can use the continuous AF option in this mode.

It was a little hard to get an image in focus, especially in low light. The camera’s AF struggled a little here, more so since there was so much of activity taking place. Exposure: 1/250sec at f/3.5 (ISO 6400). Photograph/Conchita Fernandes

It was a little hard to get an image in focus, especially in low light. The camera’s AF struggled a little here, more so since there was so much of activity taking place. Exposure: 1/250sec at f/3.5 (ISO 6400). Photograph/Conchita Fernandes

Conclusion
There is no doubt that the a6300 is at the front of its class with its fast AF speed, superior image and video recording capabilities. However, I have a few things to nitpick with the camera. There is a difference of over Rs. 20,000 between the a6000 and a6300. At Rs. 74,990, I would have expected the a6300 to feature a touchscreen (Sony has added it in the a6500). It would have been nice to adjust my focus points via the screen, than using the dial pad to move the points around. Moreover, a touchscreen would have made it so much easier, I think, to toggle through the camera’s extensive menu option. At the same time, browsing through the camera’s menu can be tiresome, and a compression of its menu options would be a welcome change. Moreover, the lens options available for the a6300 is still quite limited. But if you’re okay with using just the kit lens, then this is as good as it gets.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Inbuilt WiFi, NFC, manual video control, high res EVF, 425 phase detection points, 4k video
27/30
Performance
Stunning video, average battery life, excellent AF performance and image quality
27/30
Build Quality
Compact and sturdy
17/20
Ergonomics
High res EVF, over sensitive eye sensor, good grip, exhaustive menu options
13/15
Warranty & Support
Two year warranty, widespread service network
3/5
MRP Rs. 74,990
OVERALL 87%
VALUE FOR MONEY 3.5/5
Who should buy it? Anyone who is keen on getting the best of both worlds, stills and videos… And anyone interested in shooting action with a high performance camera.
Why? It provides excellent image quality at lower and higher
ISOs, along with 4k recording without an external recorder.
Tags: APS-C, Camera, Conchita Fernandes, Gear Review, January 2017, Review, Sony, Sony A6300, The Balancing Act

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