Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sony a6300 Announced; Preliminary Comments on a6300 vs. a6000 Differences

Sony's successor to the immensely popular a6000 is finally here.  Sony announced the Sony a6300.  Its headline features are:
  • 425 phase-detection AF points with claimed focusing speed of 0.05 second.
  • At shooting speeds up to 8fps, it has minimal viewfinder blackout, allowing the photographer to continue to see the subject.
  • New 24.3 megapixel sensor with copper wiring.
  • 4k video, SLog3 support, and microphone input.
  • Available March 2016 for $999 (body only).
Sony's official page.

I've had the a6000 since launch and here are my thoughts on the a6300 compared to the a6000: I think the a6300 is more evolutionary than revolutionary.  The new features are impressive, but they will make a greater difference for advanced amateurs than casual shooters.

  • Autofocus: I expect the a6300 will have class-leading autofocus.  However, I would want to know whether the very high number of phase-detection AF points might cause it to have poorer autofocus performance in low light, or might cause a slight decrease in image quality than otherwise.  The Samsung NX1 and NX500 has 205 phase detection points, of which 153 are cross-type, and they are very good at tracking subjects in decent light but have slow autofocus in low light, which I suspect is due to the shading of the hybrid AF pixels to allow it to differentiate light direction.  See here.  The a6300, with 425 AF points, might have the same issue.  But we won't know for sure until it is released and tested.
  • Image quality: The copper wiring should reduce the noise in the image and therefore improve high ISO performance.  However, the current class leaders for mirrorless, the Samsung NX1 and NX500, also used copper wiring.  On top of that, the NX1 and NX500 had backside illuminated sensors, whereas the a6300 does not have backside illumination.  Therefore I think that the a6300 image quality will likely be similar to (as opposed to better than) that of the NX1 and NX500.
  • Minimal viewfinder blackout.  This is an innovative feature for mirrorless cameras.  On other mirrorless cameras, using continuous burst will cause the viewfinder to blackout, which means the photographer will be pointing the camera blindly at the subject during continuous shooting.  The a6300 has minimal blackout - seemingly better even than an optical viewfinder of a DSLR based on Sony's press event.  However, I don't think casual shooters care too much about EVF blackout.  Therefore this feature appeals primarily to advanced amateurs and pros. 
  • 4k video, SLog3 support, and mic input.  These are very welcome features for more advanced video production.   However, most casual shooters don't have the hardware required for 4k video editing, and most casual shooters don't care to use an external microphone (even though it would greatly improve the video).  Therefore, again this is a feature that will mean more for advanced amateurs and pros, instead of casual shooters.  Another video feature of the a6300 is the option to record in SLog3 color space, which maximizes the dynamic range but requires color grading.  Needless to say, SLog3 support is a feature that benefits advanced videographers.
In summary, the Sony a6300 is an impressive camera.  If you're an advanced amateur or pro, you already know whether you need its features.  For casual shooters, the a6300 is indeed better than the a6000, but not by as much as one might expect.  If you care about having the absolute best don't mind spending the extra $500, then go for it.  Otherwise, I think you can save a lot of money with the a6000 and perhaps use the savings for another lens.