Upwardly mobile: Sony a6300 Review
11 Conclusion and Samples
- Excellent stills image quality in both JPEG and Raw
- One of the best APS-C cameras at high ISO
- Flexible Raw files with plenty of dynamic range
- Class-leading autofocus performance and frame coverage
- Superb video quality
- Extensive video support features
- Solid construction
- Good degree of customization
- USB charging is convenient
- 14-bit Raw in most shooting modes
- 3rd party lens support for phase-detect AF
- Lack of touchscreen is limiting, given camera's capability
- Menus are over-long, lack organization or sufficient location cues
- Extensive customization and use of Fn menu absolutely essential
- Both dials operated by same digit, rear dial use means switching from shooting grip
- 24p 4K shooting shows significant rolling shutter
- Focus options and behavior change dramatically in movie mode
- Lock-on AF can be erratic (failing to distinguish chosen target)
- 'Live View' in 8 fps mode shows only static image between captures
- No in-camera Raw conversion option
- EVF eye sensor is rather over-sensitive
- Lack of headphone socket for audio monitoring
- Drops to 12-bit mode in various modes inc. continuous shooting and silent shutter
- Risk of overheating limits use for extended recording periods
- Lack of included charger makes it hard to keep a spare battery charged
- Lossy compression of Raw risks occasional artifacts
The a6300 represents a step back upmarket, after the more cost-conscious a6000. This higher price tag puts it up against some very capable competition, which makes it harder for the camera to dominate its class in the same way the a6000 has.
However, just about every aspect of the camera, from build quality to viewfinder refresh, video capability to autofocus has been improved, along with a small fishing vessel's worth of little feature additions that quickly add up to make it a much better camera.
As a stills camera, the Sony faces the likes of Nikon's D7200, which offers better battery life, a pair of at-your-fingers dials and a more conventional shooting experience. However, with Samsung's NX1 seemingly stepping out of the way, the a6300's video capabilities are only really challenged by Panasonic's GX and GH models. If you're looking for a camera with great image quality, excellent autofocus and top-notch video, it's the strongest all-rounder.
Body and handling
The a6300 is the latest iteration of a design that stems from the original Sony NEX-5. With each generation they have become a little more conventional and, with that, a little more pleasant to shoot with. The a6300 has a comfortable grip and some well-placed buttons, along with an easily accessible dial on its right shoulder. Having to shift your hand position to reach a second dial feels unusual at this price point, but the camera can be set up to make shooting pretty quick and easy.
|Sigma 30mm F1.4 DN C, ISO100, F1.4, 1/60 sec
Photo by: Richard Butler
The key phrase there is 'can be.' Perhaps because it's equally adept as a video or stills camera, the a6300 absolutely requires some time spent configuring it to your needs. If you find yourself wanting to shoot both stills and video it's easy to run out of conveniently placed custom buttons, forcing you to lean heavily on the Fn menu. This is a frustration even for the Sony shooters in the office: the a7 series offers more sophisticated button/dial configuration that makes it possible to access more of the camera's functions.
It's a common complaint from us here at DPReview that many cameras' menus are being overwhelmed by the number of available options, but it's acutely noticeable with the a6300. The menus are long and the logic behind the grouping of options isn't always clear. But we think the biggest problem is that it's sometimes hard to recognize (and, hence, remember) where an option lives in the confusingly organized menu structure. Without color-coding or other obvious signposts, the first 17 pages of the menus (the Camera and Settings tabs) can run together, making it difficult to find the setting you want to change.
Sadly there's also a significant shift in camera behavior when you switch to video shooting: turning the focus ring doesn't engage magnified live view any more, most of the camera's tracking options vanish and the camera won't stay in AF point selection mode, even if you want it to. This is especially disappointing because, if you assign focus magnification to a Fn button, the a6300 is one of the few cameras to let you magnify live view to check or change focus while you're recording.
|Sony E 24mm F1.8 ZA, ISO6400, F2.0, 1/160sec
Photo by: Dan Bracaglia
Customizing the Fn menu and button behavior to give access to the settings you change most often is key to tailoring the a6300's broad canvas of capabilities into a shape that suits your requirements. Once you've done this and become familiar with your setup, you do, for the most part, gain proper control over an immensely powerful camera. Though one that would be greatly improved by the addition of a touchscreen.
When we reviewed Samsung's NX1 (RIP...) we said that it was a camera about which we didn't care whether it was mirrorless or not, because it just got on with doing whatever we asked of it. The a6300 offers similar capabilities yet the experience isn't quite so unobtrusive. Instead, you do get the occasional reminder that you're using a complex electronic device. Not because of its lack of mirror, but from the Sony user interface and user experience. And no matter how hard we try, the warning messages if you try to enter playback or check focus as the camera is writing to the card, never gets more palatable.
The a6300's autofocus is very impressive, when used with native lenses. It can follow subjects in depth and around the frame with apparent ease, and the huge AF region of its sensor makes it supremely flexible (though this behavior can become erratic if the subject isn't well isolated from its surroundings). We were also pretty impressed by the camera's ability to refocus on an approaching subject at 11 fps, and you can get a good hit rate if you can keep your AF point on the subject.
Eye AF in AF-C can also be very good. You'll need to configure a function button to access the feature but its ability to find and follow a subject's eye is very impressive and helps you get perfectly placed focus even when using large aperture lenses with shallow depth-of-field. You can even quickly select the person you want the camera to target if you have more than one person in a scene.
The AF system could be easier to operate, though. The a6300 would probably benefit from a rethink of the AF options, so that there were fewer choices to make and, perhaps, a better way of positioning the AF point.
|Sony FE 70-200mm F4, ISO 320, F5.6, 1/1250sec
Photo by: Dan Bracaglia
Another promised benefit of the a6300 was live view being offered between shots while shooting 8fps bursts, making it easier to keep the camera pointing at moving subjects. We found this helpful but discovered it was only showing a single updated frame between each capture so, while it's a step forward, it's not quite a pro DSLR experience.
We wouldn't expect the a6300 to challenge pro-grade cameras in sports settings, where similar uniforms and complex movements of players make things more challenging for AF tracking systems, and where a top-end DSLR will give a clearer impression of subject movement between captures. Overall, though, it's a very good result for any consumer camera, and in some cases even challenges cameras well above its class.
Click here to read more about the a6300's autofocus performance
The a6300's image quality is excellent - as good as any we've seen from an APS-C camera of any type, from any manufacturer. The Raw files are still subject to Sony's lossy compression system and the camera will still drop to 12-bit mode (which slightly lowers dynamic range) if you enter certain modes or engage full electronic shutter, but the dynamic range and noise performance of the sensor are as good as things get in an APS-C camera.
|Sigma 30mm F1.4 DN C, ISO100, F2.5, 1/100 sec
Photo by: Richard Butler
The camera's JPEG color is pleasant (though not remarkable), and the default sharpening is very well judged, with no haloing artifacts or signs of over-sharpening. The noise reduction in particular is clever and well handled, leaving behind more detail than DSLR competitors and its predecessor, while largely avoiding unpleasing artifacts. Add in the D-Range Optimizer feature that does a good job of using the sensor's dynamic range to automatically balance the tones in the image and the camera's JPEG are very usable. For extremely contrasty scenes, you can even use S-Log2 to dramatically brighten shadows and fit nearly the entire Raw dynamic range of the sensor into a tone-mapped JPEG.
The obvious missing feature, then, is in-camera Raw conversion. It's rare, especially at this price-point, to find a modern camera that doesn't let you tweak and finesse your JPEGs before you transmit them by Wi-Fi and share them with the world (or your circle of friends via social networks). The option to apply more or less DRO, noise reduction, or to adjust white balance, picture style or aspect ratio looks like a stranger omission with every generation of Sony camera.
Click here to read more about the a6300's image quality
It's interesting to note how different Sony's approach is to that taken by Canon with the EOS 80D. Where the Canon has a stripped-down, simplified touchscreen video mode, Sony has borrowed extensively from its professional range of video cameras, giving a potentially bewildering, but exceptionally powerful set of video capture tools. Panasonic is the only other major player delivering this level of sophistication for video shooting, but the a6300's larger 'Super 35' format sensor allows it to keep shooting in a wider range of lighting conditions. The fact that the footage is oversampled from a 6K region to output 4K video means the video is staggeringly detailed and low in noise, even at high ISOs.
With the latest firmware, the camera appears able to shoot 4K for longer without overheating. It can capture 4K video for up to 29:59, but this number can drop in warm ambient conditions. Whether you notice this will depend on your shooting style.
The support features extend beyond focus peaking and zebra exposure warnings to include a series of pro-level Picture Profile options that let you adjust the camera's response in incredible detail. There's even a Gamma Display Assist function to give a useful preview if you're using one of the camera's very flat gamma curves to squeeze a broad range of tones into an 8-bit file.
The only disappointments I encountered in the a6300's video mode are partly a reflection of its excellence. The camera's unexceptional 1080p footage is no worse than you'll get from most of its DSLR or mirrorless rivals, but it feels like a big step down from the impressive quality and detail that the camera can capture in 4K mode. Secondly, being impressed by the video autofocus's lack of hunting just makes the lack of touchscreen control seem all the more egregious.
Overall, though, the a6300 inspired me to be more ambitious about video and produced footage that makes me just want to go and shoot more.
The Final Word
The a6300 an exceptionally strong all-round camera. Its still images are a match for the best in its class, its autofocus is similarly strong and its video features and quality are unsurpassed at this price point. I've previously found myself admiring Sony cameras more than I enjoyed them, but that video capability and features such as Eye-AF have meant I enjoyed the a6300 in spite of the slightly clumsy user interface.
There are only two other things that risk taking the gloss off the a6300's all-around excellence: a relatively small and often expensive selection of lenses, and the continued availability of the less expensive and very capable a6000. While the a6300 is a better camera in every possible respect, the a6000 is still a tempting option just because it's so keenly priced. However, the a6300 outperforms its similarly-priced peers and I think I'd miss the myriad improvements that the a6300 offers if I went for the cheaper sister model.
Overall, then, the a6300 is a camera where you benefit from putting in the work required to get the best out of it. It's worth it, though, since it's probably the most capable stills/video camera I've ever used. If the lenses you want are available, unless you really need a specific feature of one of its rivals, it should be at or very near the top of your list.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The a6300 is a tremendously capable camera, whether you're looking to shoot stills or video. Getting the best out of the camera requires a bit of work on the user's part but its sheer capability makes this worthwhile. Its image quality is at least match for anything in its class, its autofocus is very impressive and its 4K video is peerless.
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Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.
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