The Sony A6500 comes as an upgrade to the A6300, which was released only a few months before and felt like a pre-beta release given its price and introduction of professional features. The upgrade makes the A6500 the first one in the line to be usable in a professional environment, but with some limits to be aware of. Here are some of the most important changes:
- Internal 5 axis stabilization reduces shaking with a non-stabilized lens. In camera stabilization also allows for roll correction, which is something lens stabilization can’t do as it can’t rotate the image. Internal sensor stabilization is certainly less effective than lens shake correction on all other axes, particularly with telephoto lens. Sensor stabilization is always silent. The Sony A6500 can combine the two types of stabilization which should offer even better results.
- Overheating has been a serious problem for the Sony A6300 cameras filming 4K at room temperature over a few minutes, or half an hour if you’re lucky. The A6500 effectively fixes the problem. On one hand, the overheating itself is reduced with camera improvements including a better body design. On the other hand, it’s possible to turn off the automatic shutdown when the camera begins to heat up. There will be a warning sign but no consequences on the camera and no risk for warranty. This makes the camera usable on long events without issues. There is still a legal 30 minutes video limitation for cameras to be aware of, so you will need to monitor that if you need more.
- Buffer limitations made the A6300 very ineffective at capturing event images. Waiting up to a minute for the camera to get ready after taking a few shots was unacceptable or at best frustrating. The Sony A6500 can take hundreds of RAW shots at 12 FPS without any downtime. This feature alone makes it one of the very best cameras on the market for the task, its speed performance rivaling that of Canons and Nikons over €5000.
- Autofocus has been improved over the already excellent system of the A6300. Now you have a touch screen system which is, however, more effective for video than photos. The autofocus is among the best I’ve seen, and far better than the more expensive Sony A7 series.
- Clearview Zoom, particularly useful on video since it can zoom in without sacrificing quality since the sensor has higher resolution than UHD. There’s also some very effective interpolation in case you want to digitally zoom in on JPG images, in my experience better than doing it later on the computer, but I mostly shoot RAW.
Additional custom buttons are very practical. The general button placement is questionable, particularly the video recording one.
There are some omissions that were already bizarre in the A6300, and even less excusable on the A6500 given the price and target buyer.
- Screen quality reminds me of cameras before 2004 or 2005, very cheap and dim in sunlight. Sony makes great screens for their Experia phones but the two departments don’t seem to be exchanging knowledge.
- An annoying menu that shows an illustration of the different modes whenever you switch between them, or “running on PAL/NTSC” every time you turn on the camera if you are using a different system/frame rate than that expected in your region. It means you must skip the NTSC warning every time you turn on a PAL camera running 24FPS.
- No exposure compensation dial forces you to a 2 step process every time you need to adjust compensation.
- No headphone jack might resample to an engineering mistake but it’s probably a questionable choice, either way, inexcusable at this price range. You can get your audio by attaching an external display or an HDMI to audio adapter.
- No second card slot and the one available needs to be handled sunlight the parts inside are cheap and break easily.
- User interface and general usability can and should be improved. It looks like SONY abandoned years of experience and is learning everything again from scratch.
- Button placement is not my favorite and the video button placement is absurd, unreliable, and uncomfortable.
The A6500 is one of the best choices available out there to cover many types of events, with excellent photo quality and some of the best video you’ll see on any camera currently available. It’s important to know its limitations and shortcomings to prevent them from affecting your work. The sensor is APS-C size, so it will be more limited in a few ways compared to a good full frame, but it’s probably the best APC-C available on the market and its limitations will not affect most of us in most common conditions. It’s certainly noisier than any Alpha 7 cameras at high ISO but very usable even in common indoors situations and well controlled for its class.