Fstoppers Reviews the Sony a6300, a Small $999 Camera that Commands Big Respect

Fstoppers Reviews the Sony a6300, a Small $999 Camera that Commands Big Respect

In early February, Sony unveiled the a6300, a follow-up to one of the best selling interchangeable-lens cameras of all time, the a6000. The updated a6300 features an APS-C 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, 4D Focus system with 425 on-chip phase-detection points and 169 contrast-detection areas, 11 frames-per-second burst shooting, and 4K video recording without pixel binning. Along with many other similar features that are available on Sony’s flagship a7II-series cameras, but with a price tag of only $999 (body only), this is one of the most feature-rich prosumer cameras ever released.

The Sony a6300 is an interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera design with a small footprint. At only 1.92-inches thick, 4.72-inches wide, and 2.63-inches tall, it is nearly identical in size to the a6000. While it shares many features from the a7II-series Sony cameras, it does lack in-body image stabilization as well as uses a APS-C sensor rather than being full-frame. In the a6300’s own benefit, the physical form of the body is able to be made even smaller than the already relatively small a7 series.

The magnesium alloy body is dust and moisture resistant, however it is not waterproof. The body’s texture and appearance has undergone the same style revision as the a7-series cameras did when moving into the Mark II versions. The smooth shininess of the a6000 is now lightly texturized and less glossy, making it appear less cheap in my eyes. The a6300 has an upgraded reinforced lens mount structure and a new shutter release button and mode dial. The viewfinder is now 2.36 megapixels and can be set to display at a smooth 120 frames-per-second which looks excellent, especially when framing up action shots.

The button layout of the a6300 has not changed much from the a6000 other than adding a switch toggle to the AEL button, allowing it to flip between AF/MF and AEL controls now. Many of the physical buttons on the camera can be customized through the menu system to get the controls you care about at your fingertips, however you may find yourself wishing there were more buttons in general on the camera. At first I thought the same thing, but after a short adjustment period of working with less it really wasn’t bad. There are nine customizable buttons on the camera, which is where all my critical controls were set to. Then under the function button (Fn), which holds 12 secondary control options, I set up my other important but not ultra time-sensitive controls.

One of the biggest headline features of the Sony a6300 is the autofocus system. Designed with a remarkable 425 phase-detection autofocus points spread over the entire image area, it achieves a good amount of freedom to capture subjects wherever they may be within the frame. The autofocus system is also responds very fast — 0.05 seconds fast. This is an attractive piece of information for sports and action photography up-and-comers who are looking for the best camera for the best deal. Combining the widespread AF points with extremely fast focusing and Sony’s well-programmed Eye AF and face detection, the a6300 can be a treat to work with when photographing people.

Sony a6300 and FE 24-70 f/2.8 GM - 1/200s at f/9, ISO 100

The autofocus coverage density also opens up some interesting abilities to motion track moving objects going from one side of the frame to the other. Combined with the top speed of 11 frames-per-second shooting bursts, it’s almost silly how easy it is to come through with a successful shot from the burst group. When shooting at its full resolution 24.2 megapixels, the a6300 can shoot 11 frames-per-second for up to 21 frames in raw or 44 frames in JPEG. Keep in mind, however, that if you choose to go with 8 fps instead, the a6300 will allow you to see live view action between minimal blackout much like a DSLR.

Sony a6300 and FE 24-70mm GM - 1/4000 at f/3.2, ISO 400 - 11fps burst

Sony a6300 and FE 70-200mm f/4 - 1/2500s at f/4, ISO 250

Sony a6300 and FE 70-200 f/4 - 1/2500s at f/4, ISO 320

One issue that I experienced while photographing action with the first batch of the a6300s is that while being very fast to obtain focus and lock into an object, it wouldn’t always focus on the correct thing in the frame. At its worst, the one object I wanted to get focus on was the only object in my frame in motion — something I hope would be a red flag to the camera that that is the object I want — and yet it would lock on to a stationary object. For me it was always something in the frame much brighter than the object, such as hot white wake boarding ramps in midday sun or specular highlights from water. Luckily, this just seems to be something that can be reexamined by Sony engineers and improved with a future firmware update, and I do know that Sony is already aware of this issue.

Sony a6300 and E 16-70mm f/4 - 1/800s at f/4, ISO 6400 - Exposure plus 1.0 in Lightroom

Sony a6300 and E 16-70mm f/4 - 1/1250s at f/4, ISO 6400 - Exposure plus 1.0 in Lightroom

The second issue with action photography using these Sony cameras is the slow buffer speeds. You can fire away in the lengthy bursts mentioned above, but you are going to have to wait to review any of your images. How long do you have to wait? Who knows, as the camera will give you no indication of how many images are left in the buffer. This becomes even more frustrating if you are shooting an event in bursts every 30 seconds or so, because the buffer might not be cleared before you have to fire off again leading you down a blind path of never being able to double-check things until an extended lull in the action.

Again, much like the latest Sony a7 Mark II offerings, the a6300 has taken to using copper wiring in a thinner layer with a larger photo-diode in its sensor to improve efficiency. This translates into an expanded ISO range in the a6300 over the a6000 as well as less noise and more fine details in low light. In my time with the camera, I found ISO 6,400 was about the highest I was comfortable going to in order to retain enough good image quality where I could still push and pull the files in post-processing. If you so choose, the a6300 will allow you to go up to ISO 51,200.

Sony a6300 and FE 24-70mm GM - 1/500s at f/2.8, ISO 6400 - Exposure plus 1.0 in Lightroom

Sony a6300 and FE 85mm f/1.4 GM - 1/500s at f/2, ISO 2000 - Exposure plus 0.66 in Lightroom

For video, the a6300 has been set up with 4K recording and high-frame-rate capabilities. Using 20 megapixels of image data off its sensor, or a 6K video equivalent, it is then condensed down into a 4K video with no pixel binning. The downsampling from 6K to 4K is claimed to improve resolution within the video, much like how taking a 36-megapixel photo and sizing it to 12 megapixels can typically show more clarity comparing it to a photo shot right at 12 megapixels. Shooting 120 fps at 100 Mbps XAVC S is possible in Full HD 1080p resolution, but the camera’s best video quality is going to be from shooting standard speed 4K at 24p. The a6300 has a base video ISO of 800 and capable of S-Log3, customizable zebra function, time code and user bit functions, uncompressed HDMI output, and has a microphone jack for audio. Unfortunately there is no headphone jack which may make some avid filmmakers weary.

The Sony a6300 includes Wi-Fi and NFC for easy access to your images on the go. Through Sony’s PlayMemories app (iOSAndroid), you can save JPEG photos to your mobile device as original full resolution, 2 MB (1920 x 1080px), or VGA (800 x 600px). This works great for those that want to share to their social media accounts what they are up to at the moment without having to transfer over their entire memory cards to a computer long after you’ve already wrapped up.

Sony a6300 and FE 70-200 f/4 - 30s at f/8, ISO 100

Priced at a reasonable $999, Sony is taking aim at a very large number of camera consumers who are hobbyists, up-and-comers, or professionals looking into second or third camera options for say their main a7RII which costs more than triple the price of a a6300. It’s obvious that Sony is looking to recapture the fire behind the very successful a6000, and with heavy improvements made all around in the a6300 it’s refreshing to see the company continue to make big leaps instead of small footsteps when they refresh a product. The lack of in-body 5-axis image stabilization is one of the biggest differences when comparing the camera to the a7II series. If we look at the a6300 as an action shooter however, which seems to be the way it's been marketed, it can be understood that high shutter speeds aren’t benefitting from image stabilization anyways, and instead there can be improvements made to high ISO image quality and also maintain the sub-$1,000 price point.

The Sony a6300 is available now to order from B&H Photo for $998. There is also a kit option available which comes with the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS retractable zoom lens for $1,148.

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21 Comments

Adam T's picture

No headphone jack?
Did they forget to put it on the board, that strange thing not to have.

Pat Black's picture

I belive they left it off to help preserve the a7sii spot in the video line up

Still can't get past how ugly it is no mater how well it performs. Keep in mind that I'm looking for this type of compact do-it-all system. Lack of fast Sony zooms, and just no curb appeal... I sent it packing.

Ryan Mense's picture

The Sony 24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 are shipping soon, or are you wishing for something else?

That would translate to a 36-105, so not really the 24-70 range that I'd want. And the lens is huge, which defeats the purpose of a compact carry camera.

totally agree - who wants to use FF monsters on a 6300? Plus the focal lenghts are really rubbish on a APS-C Camera...

I shoot with Nikons as my business cameras. For a personal camera I want something that looks more retro (Pen F is a beautiful camera but lacks the video chops) and do video well. I'm currently using a LX100 which I like very much, and a Sony RX10. Photo is from the Panasonic.

Ryan Mense's picture

I can understand not wanting to use a camera I genuinely thought was ugly. Sure it's a tool, but it can feel like an extension of yourself when in your hand and if it just doesn't reflect what you think a camera should look like I would be less enthusiastic to use it.

An ugly camera is a turn off, and I'd not want to pick it up to go shoot. I can kiss an ugly girl too but would I want to? :) And I believe I did answer the first time, I said I like the looks of the retro style cameras. Cameras are not only tools to some of us.

There in lies my problem, I want it all! The Pen is beautiful but lacks the focusing prowess and 4K video. It's also slightly behind in sensor technology. But micro 4/3 does have the lens..

The Sony 6300 has the focusing down (supposedly, I didn't spend much time with it), 4K video is excellent (I did run video tests) and has the latest sensor technology. But I find it too homely. And again lacks fast zooms. So I'll pass on both.

99% of people using this camera for 4K video are all experiencing over heating issues. You might as well just call this camera Canon 7D Mrk II, with 4K. cause thats all it is.

Yes I know its Mirrorless, Welcome to the new. People must understand that DSLR's are going to go extinct soon.... no moving parts.. If you don't think this or think DSLR's are going to be around forever, I want you to go find the same person who said film cameras will be around for ever too when we made the jump to digital. lol, Tech just gets better and better and older things will end, but it doesn't mean we have not learned from our stepping stones. We are just a lot quicker at advancing our technologies that things will move faster and faster, who knows in 10 more years camera systems will be lytro field with the seed of a DSLR mirroless, or maybe all cameras just become video and the camera senses the best frame for the photo, who knows all you can know is its coming.....

I'm not sure what brought on this latest in an uncountable number of lectures about the inevitable future of mirrorless cameras.

Who is your phantom opponent who asserts that "DSLRs are going to be around forever"? And why does everyone who feels the need to discuss the inevitability of wide-scale mirrorless adoption seem to think that he/she is the first person to make any such assertion?

Just asking.

Oliver Kmia's picture

Thanks for the review Ryan. Many users and reviewers mentioned severe instance of over heating issue in 4K video mode (as well as poor battery life) that make the camera useless for long period of time after shooting shorts clips. What's your experience on that ? Regards.

Ryan Mense's picture

Hey Oliver, I haven't experienced overheating but then again I'm not much of a video shooter. I shot some video casually for just a basic look at the quality and filming experience, but that's about it — certainly not enough to get to an overheating breaking point. Sorry I won't be able to chime in on that aspect.

Oliver Kmia's picture

Thanks Ryan.

Sony wants you to switch to FF. That's the whole story. I have a6000, and it's the great camera for me - cheap, good sensor, two great lenses that I use almost all the time - Sigma 30/2.8 and Sony 50/1.8. This suits my needs perfectly. However, I'd love to see a good 16-50/f4 zoom along with a good 55-135/f4 and a decent 100-300 with optical stabilization.

Sony wants you to switch to FF. That's the whole story. I have a6000, and it's the great camera for me - cheap, good sensor, two great lenses that I use almost all the time - Sigma 30/2.8 and Sony 50/1.8. This suits my needs perfectly. However, I'd love to see a good 16-50/f4 zoom along with a good 55-135/f4 and a decent 100-300 with optical stabilization.

Have an a6000 and nearly got caught up in the marketing hype for the a6300.
I own an a7Rii and it totally "blows away" my a6000 in nearly every respect.
I nearly got caught up in this madness.
Seen Youtube videos of a6300's sporting nearly double the price 24-70 F2.8 GM lenses DUH!!
Seen a Sony Artisan on a "Wedding shoot" with an a6300 using his FE lenses when he owns a7 series cameras. If the bridesmaid is reading this "Do not pay him" as the photos he has taken of your precious day are only sporting half the resolution they could have had if he had used the right camera!
Total nonsense, personally I am saving my hard earned money for the a7Riii or whatever they will be calling it sporting the 80+ megapixel sensor and a whole heap of advanced processing technology.
The Sony marketing department have really "over-cooked" this one, and think all this hype and nonsense is starting to backfire. Especially in respect of one of their USP-s which of course is 4K video...Oops my camera just overheated!! Or oops something just confused our advanced tracking system and my shots are out of focus.
Like my a6000, totally love my a7Rii, can I pre-order the a7Riii please?

So what you meant to say in a nutshell... you don't like the hype of the a6300?
There are still Photographers who use the Canon 5D3 with 22MP, does that mean they shouldn't get paid at all?

Nothing about the known extreme rolling shutter issues and overheating...? So long credibility...

I only shoot short clips so overheating is not an issue. But I want to use it for architecture and aerials (attached to a prodrone), so I really want to rent one of these to find out just how bad the rolling shutter is for slow movements.

Also, does anyone have real world experience with the video to say just how clear/clean it is? I've used Canon cinema cameras (C100, etc) and after that all dlsr footage looks plastic to me. But perhaps 4k downsampled on the latest generations of these sonys is clear?
FWIW, I personally find the GH4 video to be garbage, so I'm curious how this performs.