Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera – Thoughts and Field Test

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Sony has spent recent years charging full steam ahead into the full-frame mirrorless camera market. But they have also managed to satisfy the desires of APS-C shooters, mainly through their widely-popular a6000 mid-range mirrorless camera. In March 2016, just two years after the debut of the a6000, Sony released the a6300 with improved features, that still retain many of the characteristics of the older model.

To be clear, Sony doesn’t intend for the a6300 to be a replacement for the a6000, meaning the older camera is still in production and can be purchased at a very attractive price point (around $549.00 for the body only).

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

My Camera Background

Before diving into this review, I want to clarify my digital camera experiences to make my perspective more apparent. The Sony a6300 is the very first mirrorless camera I’ve owned, besides my very brief experiment with the a6000 for comparison purposes. Until recently, I’ve shot almost exclusively with Canon DSLRs, namely the 5D Mark III and 6D. As a result, many of the a6300’s features such as its pop-out LCD screen and electronic viewfinder might seem like standard features to other mirrorless shooters, but for a Canon DSLR user like myself, these are newfound novelties that turned my world upside down. With that being said, let’s move on to the a6300’s specs.

Key Features of the Sony a6300

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

The main improvement with the Sony a6300 is a newly developed sensor with a pixel count of 24MP (same as the a6000) that is packed with a whopping 425 phase-detection AF points, which is significantly higher than the a6000’s 179 AF points. According to Sony, the a6300 has the greatest number of phase-detection points to date, on an interchangeable-lens camera ,and makes the a6300 the camera with the world’s fastest autofocus.

Video is another aspect that Sony upgraded on the a6300, with the inclusion of 4k video recording capabilities, the addition of a mic socket, and the ability to record time code. Besides the autofocus and video systems, the a6300 sees an OLED 2.36M-dot viewfinder, an improvement from the a6000’s OLED 1.44M-dot viewfinder. Battery life is also slightly improved at 400 shots versus 360 shots.

Physically, the a6300 is only 2 ounces heavier than its predecessor, although it feels much more solid with its weather-sealed magnesium alloy build, that was lacking on the a6000. An AEL button with an AF/MF switch has also been conveniently added to the back of the camera, which sports and action shooters should find handy. Other than these few additions, the Sony a6300 doesn’t look or feel much different than the a6000.

Overall, these added features of the a6300 clearly appeal to shooters looking to focus on action, sports, and video.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample action shot with a Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

Pros of the a6300

While discussing the pros and cons of the a6300, it should be noted that many of the same features are also available on the a6000.

Extremely compact

As a DSLR shooter, the a6300’s compact size was particularly appealing. While testing the Sony a6300, I used both the kit 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 retractable zoom lens, and the Sony 20mm f/2.0 pancake lens, and was amazed that both were incredibly lightweight and basically the same size. There is of course, the trade-off of both lenses being made of plastic and not feeling as robust as say a Fujifilm lens, but they both perform very well and weigh close to nothing. Pairing either lens with the a6300 makes for a very compact, low-profile camera system that is perfect for travel.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

An informal food photo taken at a restaurant table moments before consumption. Shot with a Sony 20mm f/2.8.

Silent Shutter

While many DSLRs offer a Silent Shutter that is still quite noisy, the a6300’s silent shutter feature makes the camera so quiet you wouldn’t even know a photo was being taken. It’s a great feature for undercover or candid photography moments when you truly want no sound associated with taking a photo. With that said, non-silent shooting on the a63000 produces a very crisp shutter snap, especially when firing away at the camera’s highest shutter speed of 11 frames per second.

Panoramic shooting feature that actually works (most of the time)

After consistently trying, and failing, to take advantage of panoramic shooting on a variety of devices from point and shoots to cell phone cameras, I was beginning to think that on-the-go panoramic shooting was a myth, until I tried it with the a6300. Unlike other devices, the a6300 will shoot and stitch together a near-perfect horizontal or vertical panorama even when your manual panning isn’t spot on. There were a few times when the camera insisted that I wasn’t panning straight enough to make a clear pano shot, but most of the time even my wobbly panning techniques were good enough for the a6300 to make sense of.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample panorama shot with a Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

Focus Modes + Face Recognition

Easily two of the best features of the a6300 are the Face Registration and Eye AF (autofocus) features, which do pretty much what their names imply. Activating Face Registration allows you to program the a6300 to recognize and prioritize up to eight faces. This feature is incredibly handy when shooting a crowd of people, and the a6300’s accuracy of picking out the correct face is astounding. Eye AF works very similarly, but without the need to register (program them in) the eyes. Simply enable Eye AF on the a6300 and the camera will automatically search for your subject’s eyes and track them using continuous autofocus. This feature is so spot-on that the a6300 will even lock onto artistic renderings of eyes, such as a painted portrait.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample portrait shot with a Sony 20mm f/2.8 lens.

Quick Wi-Fi connection

Like most newer digital cameras today, the a6300 has Wi-Fi and NFC, to connect with smartphones and tablets for remote camera shooting, and wireless image transfer via Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app. Setting up Wi-Fi on the camera is very quick and intuitive, and Sony’s accompanying app also includes an array of other options that can further enhance your shooting experience, such as time-lapse and multiple exposure apps, among many others.

Built-in flexible flash

Sony a6300 flash

Thankfully, Sony kept one of the a6000’s best features on the a6300: a built-in pop-up flash. Extremely compact and flexible, the little flash can bend 45 degrees to tilt upwards, allowing for bouncing the flash off the ceiling.  Next to the pop-up flash is a hot shoe mount that can fire Canon or Nikon Speedlight flashes when used with an adapter.

One accessory that can help fully utilize the pop-up flash are plastic bounce cards which attach to the a6300 via the hot-shoe mount, and hold the flash in an upright position.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample night shot with a Sony 20mm f/2.8 lens.

Sony Lens Options

Currently, there are over 70 Sony lenses that you can purchase to go along with your new a6300 body. Options range from compact, low-priced primes and larger, higher-priced zoom lenses. Cheaper prime options include the 16mm f/2.8, 20mm f/2.8, 28mm f/2, 30mm f/3.5 macro, 35mm f/1.8, and 50mm f/1.8, all ranging in price from $249.99-$449.99. Wide-range zoom lenses, without a fixed f-stop, are also somewhat affordable, such as the 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 ($749.99) or the 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 ($998.99)

Sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 ($749.99)

However, Sony’s higher-quality lenses are much higher in price, which may be difficult to swallow if you’re converting from a DSLR kit. Larger, high-quality Sony primes such as the 24mm f/2 and 35mm f/1.4, prices are upwards of $1,200.00 and more. The same is true for Sony’s versions of traditional DSLR lenses such as the 16-35mm f/2.8 ($2,248.99), 24-70mm f/2.8 ($2,098.00), and 70-200mm f/2.8 ($2,999.99). If you’re a DSLR shooter with an array of lenses, you can always invest in a converter to use your DSLR lenses with your Sony camera body, but at the expense of slower autofocus.

When you purchase either the Sony a6000 or a6300, you have the option of buying it body-only, or with a 16-55mm f/3.5-5.6 E-mount retractable zoom kit lens, which is valued at approximately $260.99 if purchased separately. For its size, range, and overall performance, the kit lens, plus a Sony prime lens, aren’t a bad starter combination, especially if you’re looking to keep your gear compact and lightweight, and aren’t quite ready to invest in higher-priced Sony E-mount lenses yet.

ISO Performance

Sony opted to improve the a6300’s high-ISO performance by including a native ISO range of 100-25,600 with the possibility of extending that ISO to 51,200. While the ability to shoot at higher ISO is great in theory, I found that ISO 6400 was the highest I could comfortably push the a6300 in darker environments, without sacrificing too much image quality. Even my RAW photos shot at ISO 6400 were a little too grainy for my taste, no matter how much noise-reduction I did in post-processing.

Sony a6300 high ISO2

Cons of the a6300

Sony’s bloated camera menu

A common complaint among Sony shooters, that I have to agree with, is that the camera menu is very difficult to navigate. It truly seems like Sony outfitted the a6300 with so many features, and tried to stuff them all into a menu, that it can take weeks for new Sony shooters to get used to using the camera.

This could be easily solved if Sony allowed users to customize the menu a bit more, so that frequently-used features can be quickly accessed. As it stands, Sony only allows assigning custom functions to the camera’s physical buttons, and there aren’t nearly enough of those.

With that being said, the trick to making sense of Sony’s menus is to customize as much of the camera’s settings as possible. Presently, I’ve customized the buttons and settings on the a6300 set to shoot almost identically to the way I shoot with my Canon 5D Mark III, making it easier to switch from one system to another.

Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera

Sample action shot with a Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

LCD screen sometimes blanks out

When it comes to the a6300’s LCD screen, I was grateful for its pop-out rotating feature, something that has been sorely lacking on Canon DSLRs. Some other reviewers complained about the a6300 lacking a touch screen LCD, but again, this is something I’ve never had on a camera, so the fact that it’s missing doesn’t bother me.

One feature of the a6300’s LCD that was troublesome, was its occasional blackouts, which usually occurred right after rotating the screen. Oftentimes, the only way to get the LCD working again was to turn the camera off and on. With that said, using the electronic viewfinder (EVF) always worked without fail, even when the LCD blanked out.

Over to you

Do you already shoot with the Sony a6300, or are you considering making the move? What do you love about it, or what hesitations remain? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Sony a6300
Author Rating
4

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Suzi Pratt is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a prolific blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • BenPal

    I own an a5100 which has many similarities with the a6300. One major difference: The a5100 is lacking a viewfinder. While this is no problem in normal situations, in bright sunlight on a white beach it is rather difficult to see what’s on the screen.
    Sharpness and resolution are fantastic. My previous camera was a Canon EOS 60D and the a5100 seems to perform even better in this respect; photos are really crisp.
    The stabilization of the lenses is also worth mentioning. with the 55-210 mm lens I have shot pictures of mountain peaks distant by about 80 km, at full zoom and hand-held, without visible blur.

  • egidiotx

    I’ve owned the a6300 since late March. As a sports enthusiast (car/moto racing), I have to wholeheartedly agree that the a6300 is amazing for sports/action shots. The bracketed options are also great, especially being able to use the auto-timer function to help with stable bracketed photos. I’m very happy with the change from my previous Sony NEX-5R.

  • Frank Villafane

    Hey Suzi,

    Nice article and images. I shot the A6000 for a while, and although I liked the camera (and Sony’s offerings in general), I was not too enamored with the IQ, nor the lens availability. You could say I was spoiled with my Nikon(s).

    Since then I’ve moved on to another mirrorless camera, the Olympus PEN-F, and love it. Mirrorless cameras have steadily improved in all areas and I anticipate the day they will supplant Full-Frames entirely. Quite a number of photographers have already made the switch.

    Still, I’m not quite ready to put away my Nikon just yet…maybe in a couple more years.

    Anyway, welcome to the club.

    Frank V.

  • Hi Frank!

    I’ve heard a lot about the Olympus PEN, but hadn’t even considered it at the time, mainly b/c most of my other fellow photographers were already enamored with Sony or Fujifilm, so I was torn between those two brands. The Sony definitely takes some getting used to and is in many ways not a replacement for DSLRs…yet. It remains my “fun” camera, but I still rely on my Canons for my pro-level work.

  • YES! Having a viewfinder was a crucial decision factor. Although strangely enough, I find that I shoot more with the LCD than the viewfinder on my a6300. Not sure why that is.

    Also great point on lens stabilization, although at the moment I’ve only invested in smaller, cheaper Sony lenses and haven’t quite invested in lenses with IS…yet 😉

  • Janssen

    I have an A6000 and I love it. I don’t think I need the features of the A6300, so I don’t think I’ll be upgrading.

    Just two comments on your list of cons:
    1. Have you tried customizing the Fn menu? You can organize the options in that menu the way you like them. It might make the lack of fully customizable menus more bearable.
    2. When the LCD blanks out, make sure there isn’t anything next to the sensor on the EVF. The sensor is designed to detect when you’re holding the EVF to your eye and turn off the LCD. It’s still annoying when your finger or the camera strap get too close, but knowing this, you can deal with it much better. I do wish there were a way to turn this feature off, though.

  • Hi Janssen!
    Yes, there’s not a huge difference between the a6000 and a6300; the main advantage to me is the newer model being made of more solid material, which sits better with me.

    Customizing the Fn menu–I didn’t realize that was possible! The menu as a whole is so overwhelming. I’ll give this a go.

    LCD blank out–typically if I just snap the LCD off and on once or twice it will normalize, but it is a very strange occurrence that I hope Sony does address in the future.

  • Dave Skinner

    I bought the A6300 3 months ago to complement my Canon 6D. Mainly for travel but with the idea to use it for sports and wildlife as well due to the autofocus performance and having an APS-C sensor.
    Most of the photos I’ve taken have been with the Zeiss Touit 32mm. Very pleased with results. Used it exclusively in Spain for people, architecture, cityscapes and landscapes. Haven’t found the noise at high ISO a problem myself. Obviously depends on the type of shot and how much NR you’re prepared to use.
    Recently got the new 70-300mm G OSS. Amazingly sharp. Found the autofocus to be very fast and dependable. I did try the Canon 70-200mm with the Sigma MC-11 adaptor but the autofocus hunted and could not do burst shooting.

  • Frank Villafane

    Hi Suzi,

    Well, I looked very closely (i.e. I owned them all at one point) at the Fuji XT-1, the Sony A7II, A6000 and the Olympus OMD EM1/EM5II and lastly, the PEN-F.

    The Fuji XT-1 is a great camera, and I liked it, but the menu system was a bit kludgy (aren’t they all?), and I saw no discernable difference between the XT-1 and my EM1/EM5MII, so I stayed with the Olympus. When the PEN-F came out, I was most interested in the 20mp (OMD’s are 16mp, as is the XT-1), and the color filters. Since I already owned the best of the Oly lenses (12-40mm 2.8pro, 7-14mm 2.8pro and the 40-150 2.8pro) it made sense to move to that model. Well, I enjoyed shooting it so much, and the increased detail resolution got me that much closer to my Nikon, so I began to use it more and more.

    Much of my recent work is done with the PEN-F. I now reserve the D750 (and recently acquired D500) for the heavy-duty architectural/industrial stuff. But honestly, one is hard-pressed to find real differences between the two once the final images are posted. As an example, I took two shots of a local eatery, the Frog and The Peach. See if you can guess which is the PEN-F and which is the D750:
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f3a69946e2dfa325e39389b12bc7fd542f39fc2c391e873026af947077c6daea.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5ba5c12f9405394f7f2310c241031573d033801ad33a87e8d6701f49895ee6b5.jpg
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e0493ad84aff5c5e8a995fd1cc67f35448944097e973f74315c03428f33e83c8.jpg

    The final image is a PEN-F shot from my recent trip to Texas. All were processed in post (i.e. cropped, cleaned up, sharpened and a liberal amount of Clarity added).

    The downside to the mirrorless (at least imho) is that they don’t perform as well as the Nikon in low light. I wouldn’t crank the ISO past 1600 on the PEN-F, whereas on the Nikon, I can crank to 6400 before I start to worry about noise. And the Nikon (and all DSLR’s, frankly) have better AF performance.

    Nevertheless, the results are very good. As I said earlier, mirrorless cameras are in their ascendancy and will only get better as time progresses.

    Frank V.
    (BTW…the Nikon image is the 1st one with the 4

  • Christos

    There is no 24mm f/2 Emount lens. There is a Sony Zeiss 24mm 1.8 (which I have) which goes for about $1,000 and is terrific. Also a 28mm f/2 FE lens that runs about $450 and has been well reviewed. There is also no 16-35mm 2.8. It’s a Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar FE 16-35mm f/4 that runs about $1,100. That lens has Stabilization.

    It seems like you may be confusing some Sony A-mount lenses (which would require an adapter) with Sony E (aps-c) and FE (full-frame) lenses.

  • Paddy

    Nice review, I am planning to buy the a6000 or a 6300, I don’t want the kit lens. What lens would you suggest I buy first?

  • David Bahn

    Not sure if it applies to the 6300, but the 6000 eats batteries at a voracious rate! I bought two additional batteries for mine and have had occasion to use an extra battery more than once. Your other Pros and Cons ring true, and I love the small size that can couple with some great lenses.

  • Wow, very nice! Thanks for including the sample images. Looks like the PEN-F is definitely up to par.

    I agree 100% about low light issues with mirrorless cameras. They really reinforce the fact that being able to push ISO to 6400+ with retained image quality is a big luxury and advantage with DSLRs. The Sony really couldn’t handle more than ISO 3200 based on my image quality preferences. That was by far my biggest disappointment.

  • I think the point more was that higher level Sony glass (A or E) is pretty expensive, not that they were compatible mount.

  • Rahul Pandey

    I am buying a6300 this week, may be with one single prime lens, or a prime and a zoom . which single prime would be better . E 50 mm f1.8 OSS or E 35mm 1.8mm OSS . Which one is better, when bought singly, or with a zoom to complement it. I am interested in good portraits with bokeh effects, and some street/ landscape photography. Will it be all right to use 50 mm as single prime . I have heard that it is the best & sharpest sony prime (excluding Zeiss lenses). What would you suggest. Thanks.

  • Keeping in mind that the a6300 is a crop sensor camera, your 35mm lens will be more around a 55mm and the 50mm will be around 75mm with the crop factor. Along those lines, I’d go for the 35mm, personally.

  • Rahul Pandey

    Thanks Suzi. Yes I think E 35mm f1.8 along with E 55-210 OSS Zoom should make a good combination. Else one can think of E 50mm f1.8 along with 16-50 OSS Kit Zoom, where Kit Zoom can look after the narrow view angle of 50mm Lens.

  • fsociety

    Low light issues with mirrorless? I’m sorry but that doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s all about the sensor and processing. There is no reason a dslr would be better just because it has a mirror box inside the camera. The sensor inside the a6300 performances even better in low light than the D7200 which currently has the best tested APS-C sensor according to DXO testing. I think you see a difference because you are comparing the a6300 to a full frame camera. In that case the full frame A7RII has the best tested sensor of all cameras.. it’s a mirrorless camera.

  • You can set a list of favorites on the fn button. You can do 12 of them and they are fully customizable.

  • Clemens

    You are telling us that mirrorless cameras have more low light issues than the DSLR? Please Suzi, correct this asap before people start believing you

  • Christos

    I don’t think so. She’s mixing up A-mount lenses with E-mount lenses. She calls them Sony’s “version of DSLR” lenses, but list A-mount lenses which are DSLR lenses. Sony does offer a e-mount 35mm 1.8 OSS for about $400.00.

    Sony does have a G (higher level) 18-105 f/4 zoom for e-mount for about $500.

    She also lists the kit as a 16-55; it’s actually a 16-50.

  • Mark

    I was going to get an A6300 last week, only problem was there is no stock in the country due to the Japan earthquake recently which affected their sensor factory.

  • Mark

    I may be misunderstanding, but I think the comment may be in regards the low light capability of m4/3 cameras relative to the A6300, Fuji etc. Having come from a full frame DSLR a few years old the change to latest APS-C would likely be minimal versus the change to m4/3 which is great in good light, not so great otherwise.

  • Mark

    Depends on your typical photography subject matter/style. If you want general purpose then the 16-70 f4. Landscape -> the 10-18 or 16-35 if you feel you may go full frame.

  • Mark

    Can I just ask why 32mm? I’m sure the lens is excellent, was that choice to get as close to 50mm full frame equivalent?

  • Dave Skinner

    Good question. I struggled with the choice between 50mm FE equivalent and 35mm FE equivalent. After reading blogs from street photographers I liked I went for the 50mm FE equivalent with a wide aperture to isolate the subject from the visual clutter. Very happy with the choice. Sometimes 50mm FE equivalent is not wide enough. A good tip is to shoot several frames and stitch them together in LR.

  • 50mm on APS-C sensor is equivalent of 75mm on a full frame. I find it not to be a very useful focal length. Sony 35mm 1.8mm is not fast enough for my needs. I suggest to consider Sigma 30mm 1.4.
    http://www.phototraces.com/reviews/review-sigma-30mm-f1-4-e-mount-prime-lens/

  • Mike C.

    There is. You can go into the menu and change from auto to either view finder or LCD. Go into the second menu folder and then page 3, scroll down to FINDER/MONITOR.

  • Mike C.

    You can take the LCD off auto and use either just the view finder or LCD.

  • mukesh kumar

    There is also no 16-35mm 2.8. It’s a Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar FE 16-35mm f/4 that runs about $1,100. That lens has Stabilization.

  • elle

    Mike C. is right.. just toggle on or off the auto feature for FINDER/MONITOR on the Settings (Gear, 2nd from left) Menu, page 3.
    Auto – your eye or finger or anything close to the sensor that switches on the viewfinder will turn off the LCD screen and turn on the viewfinder.
    Viewfinder- only the viewfinder will light up.. the LCD screen is black/off.
    Monitor- only the LCD screen is on.. the viewfinder will not work it’s off.

    I find auto frustrating when I use the LCD screen and hold the camera too close to my body for added stability.. the LCD screen goes black, until I move the camera further away from my body, which defeats the purpose of stabilizing the camera with my body! grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. OK…. a good choice for one of the custom fn items.

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