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In today’s post, we will compare two mid-range Sony APS-C interchangeable lens cameras, the Sony a6300 and the newly released Sony a6500. We will cover the key differences between both cameras to help you understand which is best suited for your specific needs. Should you upgrade to the newer body? Or is the lower-end body still best overall? Sony positions the a6500 as the higher end body, offering distinct advantages over its lower-end brother. However, are these advantages worthwhile? Let’s find out.
Note: A formality as you read. We are comparing two camera models in the same lineup. With that, we will refer to the Sony a6300 as the “lower-end” body and the Sony a6500 as the “higher-end” body to differentiate between both cameras. While we are identifying the cameras in this way, this is only a formality. This naming convention doesn’t refer to which camera is best. It strictly for naming purposes.
Size & Dimensions
Physically, the size and dimension of both cameras are largely indistinguishable in hand. The higher-end body is slightly deeper by a mere 4mm, only to compensate some new internal additions, and is only marginally heavier by 50g. These changes are not significant enough to say there is a huge and notable difference between the two cameras during regular use. Both cameras remain very compact and lightweight.
Physical Controls & Ergonomics
Physically, the controls between both cameras are almost completely identical. The only difference in controls is that the higher-end body now features an additional custom function button, C3. Previously, the lower-end body only featured two custom buttons, C1 and C2. It’s nice to see the addition of an extra function button, as it provides added customization to the camera and immediate accessibility to crucial shooting parameters.
Outside of the additional custom button. The only other difference is the higher-end body now features a slightly deeper and more pronounced grip. This deeper grip further improves the handling of the camera by providing better contouring than the lower-end model.
In this category is where the two cameras become immediately distinguishable, however. While both cameras feature the same 2.95-inch 921K dot resolution rear LCDs, the screen of the higher-end body is now a touchscreen. Typically, the addition of touchscreen means better menu navigation. Sadly, the touchscreen here lacks that core functionality. Instead, it functions as a touchpad for AF point selection, touch to shoot, and navigating images during playback. With this addition, the newer model further increasing the versatility of the camera.
For viewfinders, both cameras feature identical 2.36 million dot resolution electronic viewfinder, which supplies 100% coverage of the imaging area.
The image sensors in both cameras are identical. Both cameras feature the same 24.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor. With that, the image quality and available dynamic range between both cameras are the same.
While both cameras shoot both 4K UHD at 30 frames per second and offer 1080p full HD up to 120 frames per second, the higher-end body performs the super slow motion in camera. What does this mean exactly? Well, since the camera renders the video at 120 fps internally, it removes the need to slow down the footage later in post, and simplifies the process of shooting super slow-motion footage. If you shoot slow motion, this addition will provide significant value to you as it speeds up your entire workflow.
The higher-end body also features a new mode, SNQ (Slow and Quick) Mode. We pleasantly surprised to see this feature inherited from Sony’s high-end cinema line. Essentially what it does is renders slow or quick motion effects all in-camera, working in tandem with the camera’s existing ability to shoot slow-motion natively. In all, it gives users more frame rates and flexibility in shooting various speeds of lapses. This feature also allows users to shoot in-camera time-lapses, allowing them to avoid the need for any external apps to do so.
Both have a maximum recording time at 29 minutes and 59 seconds, industry standard.
Both cameras feature an identical 425-point phase-detection AF system, no differences here.
Battery life is one area the cameras differentiate as well. As expected, the inclusion of 5-axis image stabilization reduces the higher-end model’s achievable battery life slightly. In this case, it delivers a 12% reduction in performance, dropping the battery life from 350 shots to 310 shots per single charge. This is a rather small performance drop but does make the battery life of this camera below the industry-standard expected for cameras of this size. If you’re unaware of what that standard is, it’s 350 shots per charge. If battery life is essential to you, the lower end body is best.
User Interface & Menus
The menus of the higher-end body are slightly re-designed, now offering improved groupings of larger subset settings and color coordinating. It also provides contextual information to assist in navigation, as well. In all, these additions help. However, they don’t go far enough to simplify the complicated menus found in either camera. Overall, both cameras have extensive menus that are challenging to navigate and remain rather unfriendly to beginners in many regards.
The higher-end body features 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS). This system is rated for a total of 5 stops of stabilization. The inclusion of IBIS makes this camera more capable of professional-level video productions and better at capturing sharp images in low light. The addition of IBIS also means the camera now can perform in-camera sensor cleaning, for moments when cleaning the sensor by hand isn’t practical. Overall, the stabilization performance this camera delivers is excellent and makes it a series contender amongst the competition.
Both cameras feature Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Both cameras have external microphone inputs.
One area that is seriously improved, however, is continuous shooting performance. This is an area the higher-end body reigns king. It can easily deliver 100 RAW images and 200 JPEG images at 11 frames per second before stuttering, a whopping 5x improvement in buffer depth.
Both cameras lack a headphone port for monitoring captured audio.
So which is best?
Well, clearly, the a6500 offers more advantages over the a6300. However, these advantages and added capabilities tailor the camera to a very specific demographic of users. The audience here is relatively narrow and comprises primarily of videographers looking for great run and gun capabilities, or action photographers wanting a deeper buffer along. However, considering these two this, this camera makes a better choice for those looking to develop their skills in video or action photographers. The main feature that purchasing the higher-end camera is in-camera stabilization. Outside of that, while we welcome the added feature, the reality is the a6300 remains more than sufficient for most users considering its existing performance. And if you’re looking for a more well-rounded camera, the a6300 remains king and remains the best choice to date between both cameras.