Upwardly mobile: Sony a6300 Review
Along with autofocus, the a6300's movie capabilities are its area of greatest improvement. The most visible change is the addition of 4K video capability, but that's far from the only change. That 4K footage is of the UHD flavor, meaning it's the same 16:9 aspect ratio that's used for 1080 and 720 video. The a6300 can shoot at 25 or 24p using the full width of its sensor or 30p using a slightly smaller crop. The camera can be rebooted so that it operates in PAL or NTSC modes, depending on whether you need to capture multiples of 25 Hz or 29.97 Hz.
As with recent Sony cameras, you need to use an SDXC-type SD card, not just a fast one, to access all the camera's modes. For high bitrate 4K shooting it needs to be fast, too, so make sure you find yourself a U3-rated SDXC card (it can be UHS-I or II - that doesn't matter in this instance).
|The a6300 can capture a 1080 video in MP4 at the same time as capturing a 4K clip.|
However, it's not just the resolution of the video that's changed. The 1080 mode now allows you to shoot at up to 120 frames per second, with the option to play that back as 1/4 or 1/5th speed slow motion. The a6300 also gains a mic input socket, which is a huge step forward in terms of being able to capture video (and its all-important audio) in-camera. In addition, the a6300 gains the ability to record timecode to simplify the workflow if you're shooting with multiple cameras or recording audio separately.
The other big changes are the addition of a very flat S-Log3 gamma curve to its Picture Profile options, for squeezing a really wide range of tones into the camera's 8-bit files, to maximize dynamic range capture for subsequent color grading. The camera also adds an option to give a corrected preview while shooting with one of the camera's flat gamma curves, so that you can get an idea how the graded footage will look.
The following are the options while the camera is in NTSC mode. Switching to PAL replaces 120/60/30 options with 100/50/25 respectively (24p is not available in PAL mode).
The camera also offers a Dual Video REC option that captures a lower-quality, more sharable MP4 movie in parallel with your main clip, if you're shooting at 30p lower frame rate.
|Format||Resolution||Frame Rate||Bitrate (mbps)|
* Taken from a cropped region of the sensor (4K/25p is not)
** MP4 videos can be transferred from the camera via Wi-Fi but are limited to 4GB in size
|• 1080p/120/100||• 4Kp/30|
The camera offers focus peaking to aid manual focus, zebra warnings to help set exposure and can use Auto ISO and exposure compensation in manual exposure mode, making it a very powerful and flexible camera to shoot movies with. It's also able to use its phase detection autofocus in video mode, which provides the camera with an understanding of the distance between objects in the scene, meaning it rarely has to hunt, which would disrupt the footage it captures.
AF-C is the only autofocus mode available. You can either position the focus point manually or you can use Center Lock-on AF to specify the target that the camera will try to follow. There's no option to use AF Lock but the camera tends to err on the side of holding focus, rather than jumping around and there are menu options to define the speed of refocusing and how tenaciously the AF tracking will stick to its subject.
See the Autofocus page for more details.
The a6300's 4K detail level is pretty impressive. It's rather over-sharpened in comparison with the Panasonic GH4 and appears to show a little more aliasing at the center of the Siemens Stars, but certainly very detailed (you can adjust the sharpening in the 'Detail' section of Picture Profiles). You don't lose much in the way of detail if you use the slightly smaller, and, other than a , there doesn't appear to be a big difference.
The quality is such that some people have tested whether it reaches the professional standard of broadcast quality. And, although it doesn't quite do so, that testing makes clear it's exceedingly capable for non-professional applications. However, it's worth noting that the camera exhibits considerably higher levels of rolling shutter in its 24p and 25p modes, so the 30p mode is a better bet for shooting anything with movement that would emphasize rolling shutter.
1080 footage is really disappointing, by comparison. We weren't necessarily expecting it to match the, which appears to filter capture from a 4K region of its sensor, then intelligently downscale to produce 1080 footage with no aliasing, but since its 4K is so good, we weren't expecting this rather low-detail result that appears to be sampling a lower vertical resolution than it's capturing horizontally. It feels odd to get such 1080 from a device with such good 4K, suggesting it's either sampling the sensor differently or is downscaling in a really simplistic manner.
We'd suggest sticking to 4K mode and using your own software to downsample: it'll look so much better.
Samples for download:
- S-Log2 sample 4K/24p ISO 100
- 4K/24p ISO 100 (PP3)
- 4K/24p ISO 1600 (PP3)
- 4K/24p ISO 6400 (PP3)
- 1080/120p ISO 100 sample
120p and High Frame Rate video
The a6300 can shoot 1080/120p or 100p video at either 100 mbps or 60 mbps. This uses a slightly smaller crop from the sensor than the lower frame rate options, though not quite as tight a crop as the 4K/30p mode. There are some restrictions imposed by 120p shooting, including a loss of Center Lock-on AF and the loss of the Black Gamma option. In most respects it can be shot like any other footage.
The camera's slow motion 'HFR' mode is distinct from 120/100p shooting. In an inexplicable piece of interface design, the setting to actually engage HFR mode is several pages further into the menu than the 'HFR Settings' option that defines the playback speed of the footage. Even more oddly, HFR isn't simply a on/off toggle, it's an addition set of PASM exposure modes, so you have to select HFR Manual exposure, rather than just using manual exposure and engaging HFR.
Unlike normal 120/100p shooting, engaging one of the HFR modes drops the capture bitrate to 60 mbps (which ends up as 16 mbps or 12 mbps, once it's been slowed down to 1/4 or 1/5th speed). If your editing software offers any option to speed up or slow down clips, it makes much more sense to capture 100 mbps 120p or 100p footage and slow it down yourself rather than restricting yourself to the lower quality setting by letting the camera do it.
The Picture Profile system includes a range of settings that adjust the tone curve and color response of the camera, with options to tweak the shape of the available tone curves' highlight and shadow responses and a choice of industry-standard color responses. These are likely to be pretty overwhelming to anyone coming from a stills background but, thankfully, Sony includes a series of presets that provide a good place to start.
|PP3:||Natural color tone using the [ITU709] gamma|
|PP4:||Color tone faithful to the ITU709 standard|
|PP8:||[S-Log3] gamma and [S-Gamut3.Cine] color mode.|
|PP9:||[S-Log3] gamma and [S-Gamut3] color mode.|
We'd highly recommend shooting some test footage and attempting to grade it before you just jump to the flattest profile and embark on a big project.
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