If you’re on the market for a high-quality compact camera, you can’t go wrong with the Sony a6000 series. Ever since the original a6000 debuted, this camera has topped multiple best-seller lists and remains popular among enthusiasts and professionals alike. With the recent release of the Sony a6400, there are now four cameras in this series to choose from. This article will explain some key differences between all camera models with recommendations on which camera is best for you.
Sony debuted its first high-end mirrorless camera in 2010. However, 2014 was the year that the Sony a6000 was introduced. This compact crop sensor mirrorless camera has been a hit among consumers and professionals alike. Over the last few years, Sony has released several updated versions of this camera that include features such as 4K video recording, IBIS (5-axis in-camera image stabilization), and better low light performance. Interestingly, Sony has not discontinued any previous models. So right now, as of early 2019, you can still buy any of these cameras brand new, directly from Sony.
- 2014: the original Sony a6000
- Early 2016: the Sony a6300
- Late 2016: the Sony a6500
- 2019: the Sony a6400
What’s the same
Despite some key differences, these four generations of Sony crop-sensor mirrorless cameras have a lot in common. Namely, they have almost the exact same camera bodies. There are a few minor differences in size and weight, with the a6500 weighing the most at 16 ounces. All four cameras also come with a 3-inch LCD screen and a 1-centimeter OLED viewfinder. All cameras capture images of approximately 24-megapixels in size at 11 frames per second. Finally, battery life is also about the same, lasting about 300-350 shots.
Still photography differences
We start to see noticeable differences when looking at key photography specs such as:
With every new release, Sony ups the limit in terms of ISO range. The a6000 has the smallest range of ISO 100-25600, while the a6400’s high range ISO is the most at 102400. Both the a6300 and a6500 have the same ISO range of 100-51200.
Another key difference is in the number of autofocus points. The a6000 sits at the bottom of the pack with 179 phase-detection AF points and 25 contrast-detection AF points. Both the a6300 and a6500 have 425 phase-detection AF points with 169 contrast-detection AF points. Finally, the a6400 offers the best autofocus with 425 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points.
One of the biggest perks of shooting with mirrorless cameras is silent mode shooting that truly is silent. When enabled, silent shooting allows you to shoot stills in stealth mode without the telling snap of the shutter going off. It’s an ideal feature for shooting weddings or events that frown upon extraneous noise. Silent shooting is a feature lacking on the a6000. The a6300 and a6500 can shoot in silent mode at up to 3 frames per second (fps), while the a6400 is at 8 fps.
Which camera should you buy?
Best for beginner photographers on a budget
If you’re a beginner photographer on a budget, the Sony a6000 is still a fantastic deal. For about $500 for the body-only or $600 with the kit lens included, you can get one of the most popular mirrorless cameras on the market. The main features you’ll be lacking are ultra fast and accurate autofocus, the very best low light photo performance, and key video features such as 4K video recording and in-body stabilization. However, you can still shoot up to 1080p video if you choose, and the still images are decently crisp. Bottom line: get this camera if you are a casual still photographer on a shoestring budget.
Best for intermediate photographers or budding videographers
If you happen to have the extra budget, consider the Sony a6300 as the ideal intermediate camera of the bunch. There are many improvements for both photography and videography. This camera got a major sensor upgrade with faster and more accurate autofocus including 425 phase detection points. Low light photos and videos are also vastly improved.
Video features also got a major boost with the ability to record in 4K, or 120 fps for 4x slow motion at 1080p. The a6300 also allows for shooting in S-Log, a flat video profile that allows for easier color grading in post-production.
Finally, the a6300 also debuted with a more solid, magnesium alloy camera body as opposed to the a6000’s mostly plastic build.
Bottom line: there are big autofocus and low light performance enhancements to make this a much improved still photography camera. But the biggest reason to buy this camera over the a6000 is if you’re in need of modern video features.
Best for intermediate photographers or advanced videographers
A few months after the a6300 came out, Sony pulled a strange move and released yet another camera: the a6500. This camera is essentially the a6300, but with 3 key new features. First, they added 5-axis in-body camera stabilization. Also known as IBIS, this feature stabilizes the a6500 so you can shoot steady handheld video or low-light photos no matter what lens you are using. In contrast, the other a6000 cameras offer only 2-axis stabilization when using a stabilized lens. Unfortunately, battery life shrinks when IBIS is on.
The a6500 also adds a touch screen rear LCD and slightly faster in-camera image processing.
Bottom line: If you absolutely need IBIS for video or ultra-fast image processing for say sports photography, get this camera. But if you don’t need either of those features (and most hobbyists or beginning photographers won’t), save the extra cost and put it towards a lens instead.
Best for Vloggers or pro videographers
This year, Sony pulled another strange move by releasing the a6400. It sits right in between the a6300 and a6500. This camera features a new image sensor and processor that work together to enhance autofocus performance and speed. There are also significant upgrades in video. The a6400 allows for high dynamic range capture, plus interval recording for time-lapse video. Also, Sony finally delivered a rear LCD screen that can flip up 180-degrees. This is ideal for vloggers or those who want to monitor footage while in front of the camera.
However, there are a couple of flaws with the a6400. First, the flip screen stands directly in the way of the hot-shoe mount. If you’re trying to use the flip screen with a light or microphone on the camera, forget it. Second, the a6400 omits 5-axis in-body camera stabilization (IBIS), offering only 2-axis stabilization if you use a stabilized lens.
Bottom line: The a6400 offers a new sensor, processor and other features. But these things are more important to professional photographers and videographers. Unless you need IBIS, a flip screen, or ultra fast camera performance, you’re better off with another camera in the a6000 line.
No matter which camera you choose…
Remember that any of these cameras can be purchased used or sold if you decide to upgrade in the future. If you take care of your camera gear, these cameras retain their value and are fairly easy to sell.