Sony A6500

Review of the Sony A6500

The Sony A6500’s price is now significantly lower than when it exploded onto the scene in 2016. If you’re looking for a compact mirrorless camera with innovative autofocus and killer in-body stabilization, there’s no time like the present to scoop one up for yourself. It’s portable, practical, and solid, and compatible with any prime or zoom lenses built for the Sony E mount. This camera is a quick beast with diverse applications, and its specs have stood the test of time.

Overview

Ease of Use:

I’ve never been a fan of bulky, showy camera bodies with so many bells and whistles that you can barely hold the thing without pressing various buttons accidentally. The A6500 delivers on that front, with a no frills build that fits comfortably in your hand. The only issue I had with its handling is that it’s almost too light, and feels a bit unbalanced with, for example, a zoom lens attached. 

If you’re used to using a DSLR or a larger mirrorless camera, it may take some adjusting to get comfortable using the A6500’s external controls. There’s no front dial or joystick, so I had a bit of a clumsy time attempting to adjust settings quickly. This is, however, is a personal preference, as most of my personal gear is Canon, and the front dial is a mainstay with most of their models. 

What I really love about the A6500’s interface is its relative menu simplicity. It’s intuitive and easy enough for photographers of any level to understand with a bit of exploration and practice.

Product Features:

  • Sensor: 23.5 x 15.6mm (APS-C range)
  • ISO range: Auto, 100 - 25600 (51200)
  • Shutter: 1/4000 sec to 30 sec
  • Lens mount: Sony E
  • Continuous shooting speed: 11 fps (frames per second)
  • Resolution: 24.2 megapixels
  • Autofocus: 425 points – runner up for world’s fastest autofocus
  • Weather sealed body
  • In-body, 5-axis image stabilization
  • Tilting rear touchscreen
  • 4K video capability

In-Depth Analysis

Without a doubt, the Sony A6500 blew many minds in 2016. Its specs remain inarguably impressive in 2019, and it holds up just fine against today’s similarly built models. 

People thought the A6300 was the superstar camera until this convenient mirrorless beauty came along to up the ante. In October 2016, Sony revamped its groundbreaking-at-the-time predecessor with a few key features that took the original model up a few important notches. The crowning jewel feature of the A6500 is its lightning speed autofocus, ranking second fastest in the world only to its recent successor, the A6400, which was curiously wedged between the series’s existing two models in February of this year. That’s 425 autofocus points, to be exact, and let me tell you, they make for an extraordinary shooting experience when you’re capturing video or moving subjects. You can’t afford to settle for less these days. Especially if you all too well remember the days when you spent hours (or what seemed like hours) waiting for that little focus box to do its job! 

Autofocus isn’t the A6500’s only highlight, though, and with top-notch in-body image stabilization, it’s a perfect on-the-go camera for travelers, sports shooters, and videographers. In fact, it’s the first Sony cropped sensor camera to boast 5-axis stabilization. Footage is extra smooth, and if shaky clips were a problem for you with the A6300, you’ll have no such issue with this stable Mabel. Videographers will rejoice in 4K video capability, too, and the A6500’s compact size makes it a lifesaver when you’re out and about and can’t be bothered to lug around your hefty DSLR. Every image that comes out of this camera is crystal clear and just about as sharp as it gets, thanks to its 24.2 megapixels and above average low light performance. With an ISO range up to 25600, I was pleasantly surprised at how little grain came out in my nighttime shots. I can’t stress it enough – the clarity is astounding for such a small body, which brings me to my next point – size and weight.

Like I said, the A6500 performs incredibly for being relatively compact. It handles well, though, and doesn’t have the same borderline fragile feel as other Sony mirrorless cameras. The body and buttons are weather sealed and ready for adventure, and these characteristics together make it capable of withstanding a bit of wear and tear. It isn’t waterproof, though, so don’t go dunking it underwater for that perfect snorkeling shot without taking proper protective measures. It’s comfortable to hold – solid, but fairly light at 15.98 oz, further amping up its portability score. Like I said earlier, the only downfall here is the potential weight unbalance, depending on your lens of choice. This camera is small, but mighty, and you don’t have to worry about it weighing down your bag.

Sony estimates the battery life of the A6500 at around 310 shots, or 105 minutes of continuous video shooting. That’s not great, but it’s rather standard for mirrorless cameras. If you’re committing to ditching the DSLR, even temporarily, it’s important to know that you might have to switch up your photography workflow to accommodate longer charging times. 

A definite step up from the A6300, the A6500’s foldout LCD screen is another great feature geared toward videographers and your typical selfie fanatic. It’s a 3-inch, 921K pixel display, and while many reported difficulty with the touchscreen’s functionality, I didn’t have an issue with it. However, I understand that it’s not exactly up to speed with its current competitors, and many modern mirrorless cameras boast quicker, more intuitive touch response. All-in-all, the disparity is hardly noticeable to the average user, and the addition of touch access is indisputably convenient. A great feature that comes with the addition of the touch screen is the ability to choose your focus point by touching the screen. Another convenience: the quick start up time, which is about 1.3 seconds, comparable to most mirrorless cameras and almost identical to the A6300’s.

Common Complaints

  • Battery life. It surprised me to learn that the A6500’s battery life is even less than its predecessor, the A6300, which lasts for 400 shots. Let’s be honest here, if you’re going with the A6500, you might do well to have a few backup batteries charged and at the ready, just in case.
  • Price for what you get. Arguably the most common challenge to the A6500’s merit is the simple question: Is it worth it? My answer is, as it often is: it depends. People will argue that you get little more in the A6500 than in the A6300 in terms of features. That’s true objectively, but if image stabilization and autofocus are significant to your goals as a photographer (i.e. you’re a filmmaker or videographer), then I think it’s definitely worth the upgrade. The touch screen is a convenient step up, and if you know that’s more your style, give this model a shot.

Common Accolades

  • Autofocus. Just wow. I’ve always emphasized autofocus functionality when purchasing new gear, and the A6500 does not disappoint. I shoot a lot of video, and I can’t tell you how much more relaxed I felt knowing I would not sit down at my computer to edit the footage and realize 5 seconds of every clip was out of focus.
  • Image stabilization. The A6500’s claim to fame is its autofocus, but I would be remiss not to further applaud the in-body stabilization. It makes videography an absolute breeze, and significantly reduces the need for an external stabilizer or tripod, which is a big relief for photographers on a budget.
  • Portability. Whether you’re a professional travel photographer or a hobbyist on the move, it doesn’t get much better than the A6500 when you’re talking all around value. I love the sturdy feel for such a lightweight model, and you can’t beat the small size when you’re looking to pack light.

Product & Pricing Options

Model / Name Price Link to Buy
Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only) $1,198.00 B&H Photo
Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Lens Kit $1,496.00 B&H Photo

Final Words

The Sony A6500 is a tiny powerhouse for everyone from professionals looking for convenience, to committed enthusiasts looking to up their game. It’s easy to use, easy to carry, and just so easy to get incredible shots without too much tinkering. I genuinely love this camera for more than its top of the line autofocus and image stabilization. This baby has class, and I still haven’t come up with a situation in which it wouldn’t be ideal. Oh, besides that snorkeling thing. Not ideal for snorkeling.

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