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The Sony a6300 A Mirrorless Beast

The Sony a6300 A Mirrorless Beast

May Be The Best APS-C Mirrorless Camera on the Market

You’ll find a great technical review over at Camera Labs and on DPreview. The scope of this review is not a deep dive into the technical minutia. But rather a real world review with an emphasis on the Sony a6300’s insane ability to follow focus {aka continuous auto focus}, with its 169 contrast detect areas, a staggering 425 phase detect points spread over the entire sensor area, edge-to-edge; its color rendition; the a6300’s “wide area” focus ability to quickly identify a subject and nail the focus, its snappy autofocus 0.05 of a second; its ability to capture 4k video with no pixel binning; its brisk frame rate of 11 frames per second; upgrading the pixel count {by doubling} the EVF from the a6000 of 1.4 million dots to 2.4 million dots in the a6300; face detection; eye focus; silent shutter and so much more. A welcomed upgrade is the camera aesthetics too. Sony has done away with the shiny finish of the a6000 and used the finish reminiscent of the a7rii’s outer body matt construction. All at a price point of $998 dollars, and in a palm-sized mirrorless camera. Read on for my Sony a6300, a mirrorless beast review. IMHO this is a best in class camera.

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[Above] The Sony a6300 with FE 55mm f/1.8 and the Peak Design Summit Edition sling strap. Photographed with iPhone 6+

Below are real world samples all shot in journalistic style. Almost everything was photographed in Auto ISO in AV mode. Action images were shot in ISO 1000 to“freeze” movement with a high shutter speed. No models, nothing posed. I packed up my Think Tank, Street Walker Pro with the following lenses for a half-day shoot in Laguna Beach: Sony FE 16-35mm f/4.0 ZA OSS, Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA, Batis 85mm f/1.8, Sony FE 90mm Macro f/2.8 G OSS, Sony FE 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS [but didn’t use it much]. The a6300 is a 24.2 mp mirrorless camera with APS-C sensor with a crop ratio of 1.5x. With some quick math ….the magnification of the aforementioned lenses on an APS-C sensor is as follows:

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4.0 ZA OSS = 24-52.5mm
Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA = 82.5mm
Batis 85mm f/1.8 = 127.5mm
Sony FE 90mm Macro f/2.8 G OSS = 135mm
Sony FE 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS = 105-300mm

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[Above] This guy was sitting about four feet away from me while I was having breakfast at Nick’s in Laguna Beach. Too bashful to ask permission for to take his portrait, I placed the camera on the bar in stealth mode, tilted the rear viewing screen up towards me so I could see the composition. Using only Wide Area focus, I tilted the camera up ever so slightly from the bartop and pressed the shutter. All done with one hand. The Wide Area focus nailed the shot, tack sharp, in a single capture. a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/30th/sec, AV mode. Pleasing skin tones in a mixed tungsten-ambient light environment with AWB

“For me it was a leap of faith to simply trust the a6300 to perfom autofocus traking with fast moving action. And perform it did.”

Who’s the a6300 perfect for?
The a6300 doesn’t fall squarely into a single category. I see the a6300 as a camera that fits nicely into the family camera category and a full use professional camera. It’s the perfect travel camera. Small enough to put into a backpack, perfect for family vacations. And you’re not limited to one lens. Due to the continuous autofocus algorithms this is a top notch family sports camera, for both moms and dads wanting to photograph their children at soccer, baseball and football league practices and games. Surf and sports photographers will take comfort in the 1.5x crop factor {allowing them greater telephoto reach}, the ability to follow focus with the a6300 focus tracking, and the ability to use native FE glass and legacy lenses with a wide range of adapters. Bonus for surf photographers: the a6300’s dust and moisture resistant magnesium-alloy body. There is a large community of professional real estate photographers who use the a6000 for their craft, the a6300 would be a welcomed upgrade and ships with the ability to shoot 4k video too. Wedding photographers: Yes I said it. I see no reason why wedding photographers couldn’t use a pair of a6300’s for a daytime wedding. As I mentioned the a6300 accepts all FE lenses and legacy glass via adapters. Wedding photographers need to choose the right tool for the right job. I’d personally be very comfortable photographing a wedding with a pair of a6300’s. My only caveat would be to photograph the group portraits with my a7rii or RX1Rii. While you can print a double page spread of the wedding party or extended family from an a6300 file, these images warrant a full frame 42.4 mp file. Street photographers: The a6300 is an unassuming, non-intimidating, palm-sized powerhouse of a camera. Add the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA to the front of the camera and you have a low profile highly capable 52.5mm lens ready for street with blazing fast autofocus and killer follow focus. Senior Portrait photographers: With eye focus…when invoked, the a6300 will focus in on the eye closest to the camera. Pair the a6300 with the 90mm Macro or the Batis 85mm and you’ve got a portrait making machine. Journalists: Its no secret that budgets are constantly being slashed. A small mirrorless camera that comes in at a third of the cost of a comparable DSLR, the a6300 is a no-nonsense, journalist dream camera. With its ability to capture high frame rates, low profile, featherweight status, Wifi transfer capabilities and 4k video capability, a pair of a6300’s, with 3 lenses can easily fit into a small bag and be a highly capable journalist’s trusted media asset creator on the campaign trail or for local news stories.

“…The a6300’s ability fo autofocus track, fast moving subjects is uncanny.”

Shooting in Burst Mode at 11fps | Wide Area Focus | Autofocus Tracking

Putting the camera to the test I had to find out how well burst mode worked in follow focus mode with Wide Area focus, with fast moving action. Here’s a video to see a sample of how autofocus tracking works in live view mode. For me, it was a leap of faith to simply trust the camera to perform autofocus tracking with fast moving action. And perform it did. When I was a Canon shooter, I was always miffed at Canon’s inability to atuofocus track my subjects and I was using some of their flagship cameras. The a6300 while not perfect, performed admirably. I found two glitches. 1} The autofocus tracking algorithm seeks the nearest subject in the field of view, 2} At times, randomly, the camera had a tough time finding focus at all only while using Wide Area focus. To be fair this happened 3-4 times in several hours of shooting. The EVF viewfinder would just go blurry. Taking my finger off the shutter button and then a simple half-press of the shutter button would clear that up right away and it would find focus just fine. Other than these glitches, which were temporary and easily remedied, the a6300’s ability fo autofocus track, fast moving subjects is uncanny.

Color Rendition and Detail
Images below photographed at the Laguna Beach farmers market. Auto ISO all with the FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA.

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 100, f/5, 1/160th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/200th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/125th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/80th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/50th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 100, f/2, 1/400th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/500th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/400th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/60th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/320th/sec

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/800th/sec

Single Frames Around Town and At The Beach

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a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 ZA, ISO 1000, f/2.8, 1/4000th/sec

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a6300, FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/4000th/sec. The 90mm Macro always blows me away by how consistently sharp it is wide open at f/2.8.

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Same image and same specs as above. B&W conversion in Adobe LR CC. Notice how the shadows are opened up on the back of the bench with no degradation of the image, and no artifacts.

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a6300, Batis Zeiss 85mm f/1.8 , ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/1600th/sec. I met a bunch of guys sitting on a bench at Main Beach. The Husky below is theirs. Once of the guys had an a6000 that he was proud to own too. Notice the natural skin tones. No retouching at all. Wonderful bokeh from the Batis/a6300 combo. I could use the Batis/a6300 combo all day to create portraits with depth.

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Shot from the sand, camera unaware with autofocus tracking through the use of Wide Area focus. a6300, Zeiss Batis f/1.8, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/4000th/sec. Sharp with a pleasing bokeh when wide open, and great subject isolation with crisp edges. Natural color rendering.

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a6300, Zeiss Batis f/1.8, ISO 100, f/2.51/2500th/sec. Single focus point, Med size…focusing on the blue eye.

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a6300, Zeiss Batis f/1.8, ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/2500th/sec., Wide Area focus picked up the beach umbrella. Remember that I mentioned that the autofocus tracking in Wide Area focus mode will pick up and focus on the closest object to the camera.

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I think I oversaturated this image a bit too much but I’m leaving this not to subtle rendition here because it’s a great example of the subtle way the a6300 renders the sky. a6300, FE 90mm Macro f/2.8, ISO 100, f/10, 1/160th/sec., hand held.

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a6300, FE 16-35 f/4.0 Z OSS, ISO 100, f/13, 1/250th/sec. Excellent color rendition, tack sharp imagery. I’d use the a6300 in a heart beat for architectural and real estate photography.

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Just a fun image of kids playing at the shoreline on Main Beach. a6300, Zeiss Batis f/1.8, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/4000th/sec. Stretching the limit of the Zeiss Batis: It’s important for me to see how this lens performs wide open at 1.8 in bright light. The Wide Area focus picked up the children in the foreground and nailed the focus, freezing the action. A pleasing palette of pastel colors and soft bokeh background completes the image for me.

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Feeling more and more comfortable relying on the Wide Area focus too pick up on fleeting moments as a throng of beachgoers head to the tidal pools. a6300, FE 90mm Macro f/2.8, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/1600th/sec.

Autofocus Using Wide Area Focus To Freeze and Capture Fast Moving Subjects

As my shoot progressed I became more and more comfortable with the idea of simply trusting the a6300’s autofocus coupled with its Wide Area focus. The results are spectacular. The cameras ability to follow focus of a quickly moving subject, like a child playing in the waves, volleyball players hitting it hard and digging on the sand courts, and, dunking basketball players. All perfectly frozen and tack sharp. I don’t have any of out of focus sequenced shots to share. As I mentioned earlier, there were a couple of times that the camera got confused and the entire field was blurry. I simply took my finger off the shutter and half-pressed again to engage the autofocus. Drive mode was in Hi at a rate of 11fps. The was no noticeable EVF black out. And even though I was leaning pretty hard on the shutter release button the buffer never filled up to the point where I was unable to shoot. However there were definitely times I was unable to view the images I’d just captured or access the camera menu while the images were still buffering.

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To demonstrate the power of Wide Area autofocus: The image on the left was photographed using a single Med. focus point. The image on the right was photographed using Wide Area autofocus. The focusing array lit up green and nailed focus on the hoodie dude’s face. End of story. a6300, Zeiss Batis f/1.8, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/4000th/sec.

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed simple shots like this with normal autofocus. These images were child’s play for the a6300, Wide Area autofocus. The focus picked up right away on the Pelicans. Bam! Tack sharp. FE 90mm Macro f/2.8, ISO 100, f/5, 1/2000th/sec.

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a6300, FE 16-35 f/4.0, ISO 1000, f/5,6, 1/4000th/sec [shutter speeds vary from frame to frame AV mode]. Note the girls crossing into the frame. Had they moved a bit more into the center of the frame, the Wide Area autofocus would have snapped onto them instead of the volleyball players.

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a6300, Zeiss Batis f/1.8, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/4000th/sec, Wide Area autofocus. Shutter speeds vary from frame to frame – AV mode.

 

 

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a6300, Zeiss Batis f/1.8, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/4000th/sec, Wide Area autofocus locked onto the boy and stay locked on throughout the sequence. Shutter speeds vary from frame to frame – AV mode.

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a6300, 90mm Macro f/2.8, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/4000th/sec, Wide Area autofocus. Shutter speeds vary from frame to frame – AV mode.

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a6300, 90mm Macro f/2.8, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/500th/sec, Wide Area autofocus. Shutter speeds vary from frame to frame – AV mode.

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a6300, 90mm Macro f/2.8, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/500th/sec, Wide Area autofocus. Shutter speeds vary from frame to frame – AV mode.

Conclusion

The Sony a6300 may be the best interchangeable lens, mirrorless camera on the market today for $1000. With its uncanny ability to capture fast moving action with autofocus at 11fps, in camera 4k video, silent shutter, eye focus and more, it’s a no-brainer for the casual user, photo hobbyist and seasoned professional photographer.

In part 2 I’ll go over how I’ve set up my camera with custom functions and menu sets.

Marc Weisberg is an award winning photographer and Sony Artist of Imagery based in Irvine, California. Specializing in Luxury Architecture & Real Estate Photography, Food + Wine Photography, and Weddings & Family Photography, he’s easy to work with and produces clean, crisp, and technically flawless images. Marc’s photography is published internationally in over a dozen books and magazines. You can contact Marc by phone at 800.943.0414…. or email.

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