The Sony a6500 is a mirrorless APS-C camera which comes with in-body image stabilization, a very advanced buffer and a touchscreen interface which all make it an excellent choice. With an APS-C CMOS sensor of 24.2MP and a 4D focus system that has 425 phase detect AF points, the characteristics of the a6500 are the same as the ones of the a6300 but they added many new features to make the upgrade worth the effort.
The a6500 is the first APS-C camera from Sony to provide a 5-axis in-body image stabilization and this will work with the OSS stabilized lenses as well, not just with the non-stabilized ones. The buffer has been overhauled and the camera is now capable to capture 307 full-size JPEG files or 107 Raw files at a burst rate of 11fps which is an enormous advance from the 44 JPEGs or the 22 Raws of the a6300.
The large-scale integration chip and the image processing algorithm have been made faster so the texture reproduction is better and the noise is reduced even up to a sensitivity range ISO25,600 but this can be expanded to up to ISO51,200.
The LCD in the back has three inches in size, 921,000 dots and a vari-angle touchscreen that allows you to change the focus point really easily while you are shooting video. Speaking of video, the a6500 is quite similar to its predecessor in this regard but you have capabilities of shooting 4K at 25p or 30p as well as Full HD at up to 120p if you need slow motion action and this is quite sufficient for most of us.
The XGA OLET Tru-Finder has a 2.36-million dots resolution, a 120Hz maximum refresh rate and compared to the a6300 you have an eye cup that has been made a bit more comfortable to use.
One other thing that was optimized is the overheating problem that many noticed in the previous models. This time Sony introduced the Auto PWR OFF Temp setting which will focus on recording instead of on the cooling so in this mode the camera’s thermal limiter will be turned off and this means that the 4K footage can be extended to 29 minutes and 50 seconds. You let the camera cool off and after that you can have another 30 minute session but it is obvious that this solution won’t be optimal for many.
Design and Handling
The exterior design is very similar to that of the a6300 with a combination of plastic and magnesium alloy but this one is a bit thicker to have room for the stabilization system and the addition of new components means that it has 453g.
The grip is a bit deeper and this means that the camera can be held better than before. The controls are still quite basic and if the a6300 had one single custom function button, this one has two which is still insufficient for those needing to adapt to many different conditions. They are between the shutter button and the mode dial so they are easy to reach.
The versatility of the camera is improved though the touchscreen that was added but this only helps to change focus points while taking photos or filming and you can also use it as a touchpad while looking through the viewfinder. You cannot swipe through the photos, zoom or do other things that we are all now accustomed to from using smartphones so much.
The LCD has problems if the light around is really intense so in a sunny day it will be very difficult to read from it, especially when you want to monitor a video recording. The EVF is practical in framing and exposing shots and the black-out time between exposures has been reduced by quite a lot.
The menu is problematic once again, you have to go through a lot of pages to find what you need and this is clearly suboptimal but some thought about organization has been given as they color-coded the menu and tried to arrange everything in a better way. They didn’t really succeed though, so if you had a Fujifilm before this might be annoying.
The camera allows transfer to a smartphone but the files can be converted to JPEGs from Raw images without asking you about this so it is something that you may not want done.
Autofocus and Performance
The 4D Focus system is really impressive due to the 425 phase-detect AF points which come with 169 additional contrast-detection points that will provide an extremely fast focus find. The 11fps and the enhanced buffer make this even more attractive so you are looking at a model that competes with some of the best DSLRs in this part.
The adaptation speed is really impressive and the multi-zone metering system doesn’t get confused easily by light changes so you will get very little over or underexposure. You get over ten white balance modes and three custom settings that you can tweak to set the color temperature and tint that you desire.
When it comes to battery life, the a6500 is rated at 350 shots so it is quite average and for the 4K recording it is estimated that one minute of recording will drain about 1% of your battery so having some extra ones handy if you are planning a long session will probably be a good idea.
The sensor offers an amazing performance since the colors are reproduced very accurately, really sharp and you have a flexible dynamic range. The upgraded LSI means that you can go to up to ISO25,600 and still have good results although there will certainly be some noise to deal with in these cases.
The video quality makes the a6500 an excellent choice for a videographer as you can get 4K images at 25p or 30p and you can record in the Super 35mm format that uses the entire sensor of the camera to capture at 6K in order to avoid cropping and the oversampled data is then worked with enhanced depth and details to create the final 4K output.
The presence of Full HD 1080 allows you to capture up to 120p so that works great for slow motion videos and the 4K footage is sampled at 4.2.0 internally and at 4.2.2 externally via HDMI. Stabilization is also something that makes the upgrade from the a6300 worthwhile but there still isn’t any headphone jack for the camera so you will need to put an external monitor with an audio-out for this which is really impractical in many cases.