When Sony announced its A6300 mirrorless camera, it promised a significant performance boost over the popular A6000, and it looks like it was spot on. As we found out when we had an brief hands-on with the camera at the UK Photography Show 2016, it is blisteringly fast compared to its predecessor, and considerably quicker than many of its rivals.
While there are minor design changes between the A6000 and A6300, most people would be hard pushed to identify which was which if the pair were sitting on a shelf in a camera store. That's not a bad thing though, as it's still a good-looking camera which handles well. The grip on the A6300 is substantial enough to give you a good hold on the camera, while not making it feel at all bulky.
A magnesium alloy body gives the A6300 (or α6300) a dependably solid feel, while sealed buttons and dials mean you won't have to worry about using it in most weather conditions. As with many mirrorless cameras, it can feel a bit front heavy with larger lenses. With the 16-50-mm kit lens, or a 308 g (11 oz) 16-70 F4, it felt great. But with a 18-105-mm F4 mounted, which weighs a hefty 427 g (15 oz), we felt like we were constantly holding it back.
It's worth remembering that many E-mount lenses are now designed to create an image circle big enough to cover full frame sensors, not just the APS-C sensor of the A6300, and as such are larger and heavier.
While everything feels familiar to the A6000 physically, with only minor dial and button changes, the performance of the A6300 puts it in a different league. It's one of the quickest mirrorless cameras we've used to date. With 425 focus points covering almost all of the frame, the A6300 can lock onto a subject frighteningly fast.
A couple of times during our test it took a photo so quickly we thought it must have missed focus, but reviewing the images showed they were spot-on. It's just that fast, and with continuous shooting up to 11 fps (frames per second) you're not going to have an excuse for missing the action.
However, we found we preferred shooting in the new continuous live-view mode, which maxes out at 8 fps. This gives a much more natural shooting experience by showing live images as you shoot a burst of images, rather than the last saved photo (which can be laggy and disorientating ). As such it makes framing fast-moving subjects easier and gives an experience more like using a DSLR.
As the Sony-provided cyclists riding on rollers weren't going to be the best test of subject tracking for our test of the A6300, we gave it a go on people milling around the exhibition hall. Again those 425 AF points do a solid job, this time of keeping track of a moving subject.
For this category of mirrorless camera it's very impressive. It also makes the A6300 a good option, not only for those who want to shoot sports, but anyone who could benefit from the the sort of focusing and shooting speeds you only got in flagship DSLRs not long ago. Parents wanting to photograph kids running around will benefit from this just as much as those shooing from the sidelines of a sports field.
Video recording is another area where the A6300 appears to excel. However, while we tried it out during our hands-on, we were only able to review footage on the rear monitor, so nowhere near the 4K resolution the camera is capable of. We did however see sample footage from the camera which looks great. We'll be able to give a more in-depth take on this, along with image quality from the 24-megapixel sensor, when we've spent longer with the camera for a full review.
Potentially our biggest negative against the Sony A6300 is its rear 3-inch 921k dot LCD monitor which, while it can be angled up 90 degrees or down 45 degrees, is not a touchscreen. This is particularly frustrating when shooting video, when you want to touch to set a focus point. For those who like to compose their shots in a more traditional manner, the rear OLED viewfinder has 2.4 million dots, and suffers hardly any lag.
After once being the darlings of the mirrorless camera world, Sony's APS-C offerings have lost out in recent years to its bigger full frame A7 siblings, and increased competition from other manufacturers like Fujifilm, Panasonic, and Olympus. But, with the A6300, Sony has once again created what could be the best mirrorless camera for a lot of people. The camera is available for pre-order now, and costs US$1,000 body-only, or $1,150 with a 16-50-mm kit lens.
Product page: Sony A6300