Review: Sony a6500

Three refreshes: that’s how long it took for Sony to create a camera with a sensor that can keep up with its competitors. Granted, the processing engine in the Sony a6500 is very capable and a big part of it. But then we also beg the question: Why so many refreshes so suddenly?

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fast autofocus in most situations, but perhaps this is best showcased when using some of the newer prime lenses
  • Sony is trying to do things a bit different with a touchscreen
  • Great feeling in the hand
  • Simple to use for the most part
  • Great image quality up to 25,600 ISO
  • Compact
  • Survived being shot with in the snow

Cons

  • They’re trying, but that touch screen isn’t so up to par as what the competition offers
  • The a6xxx series of cameras desperately need a third exposure dial
  • They also need a thumb joystick to make focus area/point selection easier

Gear Used

We tested the Sony a6500 with the 24mm f1.8, 85mm f1.4 G Master, the Sony flash transmitter, the Impact Venture 600 TTL monolight, the 24-70mm f2.8 G Master lens, and the 70-200mm f2.8 G Master lens.

Tech Specs

  • 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • XGA Tru-Finder 2.36m-Dot OLED EVF
  • 3.0″ 921.6k-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • Internal UHD 4K Video & S-Log3 Gamma
  • S&Q Motion in Full HD from 1-120 fps
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • Built-In Wi-Fi with NFC
  • 4D FOCUS with 425 Phase-Detect Points
  • Up to 11 fps Shooting and ISO 51200

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

Fans of Sony’s a6000 series will feel right at home with the a6500. The small, sleek design is largely unchanged when compared to other models in the lineup.

Where it differs is that it’s borrowed a few features from the a7II series of full-frame cameras, and now includes a more robust lens mount, a recessed grip for better handling, larger release button, and up to 10 customizable buttons. The new magnesium alloy body feels rock solid.

It even gives the camera somewhat of a premium feel especially when compared to previous cameras in the lineup. This is meant to be a serious camera even pros will be proud to use on a daily basis. Lastly, the buttons/dials are all logically placed and a great size for those with larger hands.

Build Quality

Sony states that this camera has moisture and dust resistance. Of any of the mirrorless cameras on the market, the a6000 series have always felt the most hearty. Indeed, this proved to be true when I took the camera out into the snow for shooting time. It shrugged off the snow with ease.

To be fair, this wasn’t one of NYC’s worst snowstorms and only the worst it yet to come.

Real World Use

There are a few things about the Sony a6500 that sort of annoy me. For starters, these cameras have needed a third exposure control for a really long time. A dial on the front by the grip would be ideal and would allow me to control aperture, shutter speed and ISO with ease. Then there’s Sony’s attempt with the touch screen. In my efforts, I didn’t find it to be so incredibly useful. Instead, it just became a nuisance.

When shooting sports in portrait mode, the camera detected that my nose was hitting the LCD screen and tried to change the focusing point. So I needed to turn it off when shooting in portrait mode. But then I couldn’t even get through Sony’s menu system via the touchscreen–or at least I couldn’t figure out how to do this.

Then there are just weird things like reaching for the two custom function buttons on top of the camera It’s just oddly positioned.

Sony’s new color system and organization of the menu system however is pretty appreciated. But otherwise, there isn’t a whole lot that I really like about this camera which I feel is limited by the real estate space. It’s a small body and Sony is trying to do so much with it yet market it as a workhorse. I’d honestly be alright with it being Fujifilm X Pro 2 sized. Why? Because that’s the most perfect camera on the market when it comes to ergonomics and is seconded by the Olympus Pen F.

Metering

According to Sunny 16 standards and tests, the Sony a6500 conforms. This means that setting it to the high contrast black and white mode while shooting in the NYC subways will be a breeze if you know a lot about shooting methodologies.

Autofocus

Cameras like this are really designed to be used with small primes and zooms. For the most part, that’s what I stuck to. The autofocus performance I found to be fastest when using these lenses. It started to slow down a lot with big zooms for some odd reason.

Image Quality

The biggest competitors when it comes to image quality here are the Sony a6300, Fujifilm X-T2, Fujifilm X Pro 2, and the Nikon D500. Overall, they’re all incredibly capable of getting a lot of details in the shadows and highlights. But when it comes to color rendition, Fujifilm takes the cake here. All f the cameras have high ISO output that is about on par with one another with the exception of the Sony a6300. The a6500 has high ISO output that is much cleaner than its predecessor.

JPEG Quality

One of the best qualities about Sony cameras are their JPEGs. They’re pretty nice right out of the camera when the right white balance is set. Plus the camera can wirelessly port them to your phone or tablet using its built in WiFi.

RAW File Versatility

A fair amount of details can be recovered from the highlights and the color rendition is overall pretty manageable. The files are highly capable for the needs of most photographers.

High ISO Output

Here’s where things become really amazing. The image above was shot at ISO 25,000. That’s pretty clean when looking at the whole image, right?

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Image quality
  • Feel

Dislikes

  • Pretty much everything I said in the pros and cons.

The Sony a6500 is a really solid camera. I can’t sit here and deny that. But if you’re a Sony a7 series camera owner, you’ll see just how much better that is. In fact, I feel like the Sony a6500 was rushed in many ways. There was absolutely no point in updating the body this often in such a short amount of time and I genuinely hope that Sony will wait a while before they release the next update.

Is it a good camera? Sure. Is it a fantastic camera? In many ways yes, but I personally feel like Sony needs to start doing some things to boost the mojo of the a6000 series. The Fuji cameras look very tempting as does the Nikon D500.

We rate the Sony a6500 four out of five stars. Want one? See Amazon for the latest pricing.