Sony a6300-First Impressions

When Sony’s invitation to spend a couple of days shooting with the new a6300 in Miami arrived via email, I didn’t have to think twice before sending my RSVP. Announced in February and shipping this month, the successor to the wildly popular (and speedy) a6000 is built around a new 24 megapixel APS-C sized sensor, is billed as having the world’s fastest autofocus in its class, is equipped with 425 phase detection AF points and is the first non full-frame Sony mirrorless camera to shoot 4K video. You can check out the a6300’s full specifications here.

Physically, the a6300 isn’t much different than the a6000. Although sturdier, the camera is still compact and easy to handle. Packed with features and even more customization options than before, the best way to get to know the camera—especially if you’re not a dedicated Sony mirrorless user—is through exploration. The menus are deep and sometimes confusing, even for those of us who have shot with just about every alpha camera Sony has released. It’s not just the organization of the menus that can thwart quick navigation but the amount of options at hand.

I remember speaking with an engineer at last year’s Sony a7R II press trip, complaining about how many steps it took to use the manual focus point option (flexible spot) and was pleasantly surprised that, with the a6300, accessing and moving the manual focus point is much simpler and more convenient.

But manually setting and moving the focus point wasn’t much use on the first stop on our packed agenda. Photographing wakeboarders in action was perfect for testing out the a6300’s continuous shooting speed, continuous autofocus and tracking capabilities. Given the size of the lake and my position on a floating dock, I used the Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS lens with the a6300. Fortunately, the lens was stabilized with a SteadyShot mode for panning, which helped keep images free from camera shake blur. The a6300 is capable of shooting up to 11fps using the EVF and 8fps in Live View. However, unlike other cameras, the a6300’s blackout time while shooting is pretty much non-existent so I was able to follow the fast moving wakeboarders as I panned the camera. The biggest problem I had was keeping the horizon level as the subjects whizzed past on their boards, capturing between 4-8 Raw + JPG images in a burst.

The hit rate of in-focus shots was exceedingly high using the wide AF option. Given the bright reflections off the water, auto exposure wasn’t quite as accurate, even after changing it from center to multi. Some of the wakeboarders’ faces were a little under-exposed depending on how the scene was framed. However, the lens/camera combination delivered exceedingly sharp images, including the spray of water and droplets produced by the wakeboarders.

Slowing things down a bit, we visited Wyndood Walls—a mural and graffiti laden art district in Miami. Shooting with the a6300 and the 16-70mm F3.5-5.6 lens, the colorful murals were reproduced accurately and with excellent detail.

If you ever visit the area, be sure to look down at the sidewalk to check out some of the stenciled artwork. While some of the stencils’ paint was worn off, the camera and lens picked up the gritty texture of the sidewalk’s concrete.

I didn’t shoot much video during the quick two-day visit, but took advantage of the a6300’s HFR (high frame rate) video to capture these Parkour practitioners in action.


Quick Thoughts

Obviously, this is a quick first impression of the a6300 and I hope to take a more in-depth look when a review unit is available for a longer period of time. But, even with only a couple of days with the camera, it’s easy to see that the a6300 will likely be even more popular than its predecessor. Performance is excellent as is its ability to track quick moving subjects. Given the right lens, I can see casual sports shooters using the a6300. Anyone who photographs children will easily be able to capture their high energy movements without missing a beat. And I’d love to shoot runway with it—dumping a full-frame DSLR and long lens for the compact a6300 will save a lot of aches and pains during fashion week. It’s an extremely versatile camera, although it’s bit pricey at $1,000 and I’m disappointed that there’s no in-camera image stabilization.

In addition to the camera’s performance, its 425 phase detection AF points cover a large part of the frame and provide more flexibility to compose and focus. I’m a
huge fan of Sony’s eye AF, which—as the name implies—automatically focuses on the subject’s eye. Although it’s a little more accurate on the a7-series cameras, eye AF is one of the a6300’s many strong points.

Like almost all cameras in its class, the a6300 is equipped with WiFi. In addition to NFC for Android users, iPhone owners can easily take advantage of WiFi by scanning the camera’s QR code. And, Sony offers a number of its own apps—some free, some for a small fee—to enhance the camera’s capabilities, even though the apps are not unique to the a6300. If you want to learn in-depth how to use this camera, CreativeLive has a great Fast Start course on the a6300, which walks you through every button, dial, menu feature, and setting.

With more time, I’d like to continue exploring the camera’s AF and tracking, as well as its 4K video capabilities and, especially, low light/high ISO performance. (The latter ranges from 100-51200.) Meanwhile, the a6300 has really piqued my interest with its impressive AF, tracking, speed and excellent image quality and I’m looking forward to spending more time with this little powerhouse.

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    • I really like the look of this camera, but the lack of a really good standard zoom is a handicap. Reviews/test reports, and user samples of the Zeiss f4 zoom are, well, not quite up to the camera's standards. And that's a shame.

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    • I'm shopping for a new compact camera and had the same thought about the lack of a convenient zoom range. I'm used to using a Canon G10 with 28-140 lens (35mm equivalent). They probably want you to buy two lenses. For me, that defeats the purpose of a compact camera, if I have to lug around two lenses and switch between them. Other than that, it looks like a very impressive tool!
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