With the introduction of their newest release the a6300, Sony now offers 4K across their entire alpha line. It’s a compact interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera with a Super 35 image sensor that shoots 4K, 120 frames per second in 1080 HD and can shoot in both S-log2 and S-log3 picture profiles.
Sony announced the a6300 this year in New York City along side the new G Master line of lenses. Sony championed the a6300 as the autofocus king, introducing many new AF features for photographers while touting 4K for us in the filmmaking and video production crowd.
We got our hands on a production model pre-release while on a press shooting experience Sony put on in Miami Beach, Florida. They set up lots of different shooting situations, like shooting wakeboarding during the day, Parkour indoors, a salsa band at night and the beautiful neighborhood of Wynwood where every building is adorned with elaborate graffiti. We shot however we felt necessary for testing. During the process we shot with four total lenses. Two of them were the new G-Master lenses — 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and 85mm f/1.4 GM — while the other two were the Sony FE 70-200 f/4 and the Zeiss 16-70 f/4.
The a6300 body: strengths and weaknesses
The a6300’s compact size is very nice. Without a lens, it can fit in your shirt pocket. The body is weather sealed and all of the buttons and knobs are good quality. We did feel it’s missing more customizable buttons and dedicated dials for shutter and or ISO. While we’re on buttons, you’re able to set functions to 2 custom buttons, and it seems no matter where they put the record button, it’s just not where you want it.
Another missing feature to the a6300 is that the body is void of steady shot. This means if your lens doesn’t have any image stabilization — for instance if you use one of the new G-Master lenses — you’ll be without. Normally, we wouldn’t complain about this, but the 5-axis in camera image stabilization in the a7 line has us spoiled. That aside, we feel that the camera as a whole is nicely built, has good build materials and is smartly laid out.
Like with the other cameras in the Alpha line, the display tilts but doesn’t pan. We found it very hard to view the display in bright sun, so we used the EVF. Because the EVF loads the menu, it’s a very usable workaround.
The a6300 also puts out clean 4:2:2 at 8-bit via its HDMI port for an external recorder. However, it lacks a dedicated headphone jack. Out of all the things we can ding this camera for, this is the largest. Most of our other criticisms have workarounds or can be accepted because of its price, but it’s just not recommended to record audio without the ability to monitor and expect that you’ll get anything but mixed results. The best you could do is have an external audio recorder and sync in post, but that would require buying more equipment and or needing more hands to do the same shoot.
That said, the built in mic on the camera sounded surprisingly good. When shooting a quite loud salsa band the audio turned out great. Set just to auto gain, there was no pumping or clipping. If you had no other option than to use the internal mic, it’s not bad. In a pinch, you could use it and be happy with the result. However, there is also an external mic input, so if you have an external mic, use it; it’ll only benefit your final product.
Battery life and overheating
One thing we noticed with this year’s alpha camera releases is that they all eat up batteries and can have overheating issues. We tested the battery life indoors and after three batteries at about an hour and fifteen minutes each, we didn’t experience any overheating. However, the next day we shot in full sun on a half charged battery and got an overheating warning. At that time, the camera only gave a warning and did not shut off. We felt that this needed further looking into, so we put it in the sun with a fresh battery. After 24 minutes it shut off due to overheating. We were shooting 4K and had the display against the body. There was no effect on the video. It simply ended with no corruption or issues. On a side note, if battery life is a big issue for you, the a6300 will run via usb to an external battery of your choice.
Sony is really proud of the autofocus on this camera, and they should be — but for photos not video. When shooting video, the new AF options aren’t available. We didn’t experience the video AF as anything special. A good thing about it, however, is that it didn’t hunt for what to focus on. On the other hand, it didn’t always choose what we would have chosen to focus on. It did have a nice feature allowing the operator to choose how fast the AF would work. Say you wanted to do a slow pull focus; this option would assist with that.
We also wanted to see how the AF would work when using an adapter and a non-native lens. When using a Metabones MK IV to a EF 24-70 f/2.8, although the AF was functionable, it didn’t perform as well as it did when mounted with a native E mount lens.
As a rule, we don’t recommend using auto anything when shooting. As storytellers, we wouldn’t leave a creative choice up to the tool but the artist.
Image quality, dynamic range and log shooting
When announced, the video world was just clamoring for a more affordable a7S II. We were hopeful that the low-light performance of the a6300 would be in line with the a7S II. Unfortunately, it is not. That’s not to say it doesn’t perform well, because it does, but it’s not able to see in the dark like its big brother — sorry folks.
When testing, we found that you can shoot up to 6400 ISO before noise would become a problem. With some noise reduction software, it could be pushed a bit further. That’s not to say that its performance is a disappointment; it is an improvement over its predecessor, the a6000.
A very cool option that the a6300 offers is the capability to shoot in both S-Log2 and S-Log3 with a native ISO of 800
A very cool option that the a6300 offers is the capability to shoot in both S-Log2 and S-Log3 with a native ISO of 800. In S-Log, Sony claims 14 stops of dynamic range, and we believe it. When we were testing this, we shot in the shade with bright sun in the background. There was still information in the hot spots while retaining plenty of detail in the dark shade. In every dynamic situation we shot, their was still detail in the shadows. This kind of dynamic range was unheard of just a few years ago, and now it’s available in a camera that’s just $1,000.
The image quality of the a6300 is superb. The video is very sharp; infact it’s so sharp that it suffers from some significant morie. You’ll also experience significant rolling shutter on the a6300. Neither is the worst we have ever seen, but they aren’t good either. It’s something to be aware of when making a purchasing choice. If this is something you can’t live with, then the a6300 might not be the camera you’re looking for.
a6300 frame rates and resolutions
Until last year, getting anything more than 60fps in 720 HD was almost unheard of. We were very excited to hear that the a6300 had 120 fps in full 1080 HD at 100Mbps in XAVC S.
We tested overcranking the camera to 120 fps for five-times slow-mo to 24 fps. When testing, we were shooting wakeboarders in full sun. At first we shot with without a neutral density (ND) filter and cranked the shutter, and even after we added an ND we found the 120 fps to be a bit softer than we’d like. It was a bit better when shooting 60 fps, but because having a five-times slow-mo option is so wonderful for a camera this affordable, we can let it slide.
In UHD 4K, the a6300 can shoot in 24 and 30 fps at 100 mbps in XAVC S. As a side note, the camera will only shoot 29-minute, 59-second clips, requiring you to start a new clip when hitting its time limit. It does not automatically start a new clip.
Verdict and recommendations
There aren’t many cameras in this category and price range that shoot 4K. If resolution is key, then you have two choices currently in the same price tier: the Panasonic Lumix G7 and this camera, the a6300. The Samsung NX500 would be a contender if it had a microphone input, but alas, it doesn’t.
There are many contrasts between the Panasonic and Sony; they aren’t similar enough for an apples to apples comparison, but we’ll help you out a bit. The a6300 has a larger sensor and is weather sealed whereas the Lumix G7 has a fully rotating screen and costs $200 less. If you’re looking to make a choice between the two, you need to keep those issues in mind, as they each cater to a different shooter with different needs.
So, who is this camera for? If you’re looking for your first camera, on a tight budget and want to have resolution, log shooting and high frame rates, then the a6300 is for you. If you’re looking for a second camera to act as your B camera that has lots of options and shoots beautiful video, then the it’s for you too.
Then, who is this camera not for? If you plan on shooting a lot of hand-held video, the rolling shutter might be too much for you to handle. Also, if you don’t plan on using any third-party audio devices like a recorder or field mixer, then the headphone jack will be an issue in creating the best video possible.
Overall we really liked the a6300, and we‘re sure Sony will sell a boat-load of them. It has great features, looks awesome and is at an easy entry-level price point. It checks just about every box for the masses.
The big stand out features are UHD 4K, 120 fps and S-Log shooting. The big downfalls of this camera are the lack of a dedicated headphone jack, short battery life and the possibility of overheating.
Our parting words for the a6300 are that we think it’s a great camera for the money. Any negative is outweighed by really usable features and its affordable price tag. Sony didn’t make a camera that would out-value their a7 line, but they did up the game for any manufacture trying to compete.
- 120 fps in full 1080 HD
- S-Log2 & S-Log3 picture profiles
- 14 stops of dynamic range
- No dedicated headphone jack
- Short battery life
- Overheating issues in direct sun
a6300 TECH SPECS:
Lens Mount: Sony E-Mount
Camera Format: APS-C (1.5x Crop Factor)
Sensor Type / Size: CMOS, 23.5 x 15.6 mm
Movies: AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MP4, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, XAVC S
Audio: AAC LC, AC3, Dolby Digital 2ch, Linear PCM (Stereo)
Memory Card Type: SD, SDHC, SDXC
Video Recording: Yes, NTSC/PAL
Video Format: UHD, 1080HD, 720HD
Frame Rates: 120, 60, 50, 30, 25, 24
Video Clip Length: Up to 29 Min 59 Sec
Audio Recording: Built-in Mic: With Video, Stereo
Focus Type: Auto & Manual
Viewfinder Type: Electronic
Viewfinder Size: 0.39″
Viewfinder Pixel Count: 2,359,296
Viewfinder Eye Point: 23.00 mm
Viewfinder Coverage: 100%
Display Screen: 3″ Rear Screen Tilting LCD (921,600)
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100-25600 (Extended Mode: 100-51200)
Connectivity: 1/8″ Microphone, HDMI D (Micro), Micro-USB, USB 2.0
Wi-Fi Capable: Yes
Battery: 1x NP-FW50 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Pack, 7.2 VDC, 1080 mAh
Weight: 14.25 oz / 404 g with battery and memory card