Sony continues to expand the interchangeable lens system with the α6500, their best α6000 series by far. The sensor is APS-C size, offering an effective 1.5x crop on traditional lenses. On a 17-50mm lens, that translates to 24-75mm. Sony is currently one of the more expansive camera manufacturers, supporting multiple lines of systems, from the mirrorless APS-C to the mirrorless full-frame, and the recently-relaunched alpha A-mount DSLR.
The a6500 introduces many new features from the previous a6000 series, though some may seem familiar as the features may already be present in competitor models. Here is a list of noteworthy mentions:
Magnesium alloy body
The a6500 feels solid and I have no qualms throwing it into my bag without casing. Like the predecessors, the body is compact while ergonomics is balanced with the size.
425 phase-detection AF points
The huge number of AF points basically means I can practically focus on almost the entire sensor frame. This aids in subject tracking where the AF will follow the locked subject wherever it moves within the frame.
4D Hybrid AF
This technology basically allows the a6500 to predict the subject’s next move and so it focuses at a position before the subject reaches the focal plane and captures the moment. It is not foolproof. For instance, while shooting my daughter, it will accurately track her when she is running in a constant speed, but once she slows down, the camera will take a few frames to readjust and get the focus right again. Nevertheless, it helps to increase focus accuracy for sports photography where the subjects travel in a predictable pattern.
11fps continuous shooting with minimal viewfinder blackout
The a6500 is capable of firing 11 frames per second with continuous focus tracking. To top that, the viewfinder has practically zero blackout so that I can track the subject throughout the shoot. The a6500 has enough buffer to continuously capturing up to 307 full-resolution shots. In comparison, the RX100 V which I reviewed earlier can capture 150 shots in 24 frames per second.
To further aid in capturing the perfect moment, the a6500 has optical image stabilizer in 5 axis.
Touch screen with limited features
The a6500 is the first a6000 series camera that comes with touch screen. Sony has been slow in adopting touch technology on the cameras, including the latest RX100 V. The a6500 touch features are also limited to touch focus, and it has a short lag when doing touch AF.
Sony prides itself in offer 4K video recording in most of their imaging products. For the a6500, every pixel on the 24MP sensor is used instead of being discarded. In practice, high resolution 4K is only supported with high-speed SD cards. Since I do not own one, the a6500 prevents me from selecting the best recording option.
Here is a sample of a video in Full-HD (1080p), 50fps.
How does all these technological features translate to real life experience? First, the camera startup speed is considered slow in professional camera standards. It takes about 3 seconds before the camera is fully operational for me to shoot. 3 seconds is too long to capture the moment. To be fair, the a6500 is not classified as “professional”. For that, you have to opt for the a7-series, which I have reviewed positively.
I find the 2.3 million OLED EVF excellent, providing detailed dynamics for me to judge whether I am over or under exposed. The 3.0-inch LCD display, however, is not that accurate. With only 921K, highlights appear blown-out when it is not, so for safe outcomes, one should enable highlight clipping mode or review images with histogram graph.
Overall metering is generally conservative, which is good so that highlight details are not lost. Overriding the exposure with EV is easy, which I appreciate. The changing of aperture and shutter settings continue to be laggy, as I find myself waiting for the on-screen display to animate the setting changes after I turn the dial. This observation is consistent with all other electronic cameras, from a7 to the RX100.
Once you get past these issues, the camera works great. All the advanced tech described above is meant to achieve one objective: shoot the subject quickly, continuously and accurately. For that, the a6500 achieves above 90%. Shooting my daughter as she runs towards me is a piece of cake. Low-light poses no issue as the high ISO images are amazingly clean and usable, even at ISO 8000.
In the above shot, the a6500 at ISO 8000 looks amazing. Below crop, while the a6500 appears to be more grainy than the Samsung NX1, it is very usable and devoid of chroma noise.
Transferring images to the smartphone is convenient with the PlayMemories app. A QR code appears on the screen for the smartphone to scan in the app for easy connection. Battery can be charged using any USB charger, and the battery level indicated in percentages offer detailed breakdown for effective power management.
There is no doubt that the technology that is built in the a6500 works marvelously. The a6500 helps me focus and capture moving subjects with burst-shooting. With high-end SD cards, you can produce premium 4K content with the camera. Some aspects of the camera did not feel like pro-grade, while other areas like image quality and shooting buffer is certainly worth the investment. Retails at S$1,949 (body only), the a6500 supports all Sony E-mount lenses.
Official product site and specs: http://www.sony.com.sg/electronics/interchangeable-lens-cameras/ilce-6500-body-kit