Audley Jarvis takes a closer look at Sony’s flagship APS-C mirrorless camera
Sony A6500 review – Performance
With it’s new front-end LSI chip and BIONZ X image processor powering it along the performance of the A6500 is hard to fault. Button presses react with immediacy and everything feels instantaneous when using the in-camera menus or reviewing images in Playback mode. Our only minor quibble is that, at around 310-350 shots per charge, battery life isn’t exceptional – if you’re out all day then you’ll want to keep a spare or two handy.
The A6500’s enhanced buffer is undoubtedly one of the A6500’s highlights as it enables the camera to record significantly more images than the A6300 when shooting continuously. With a 16GB SanDisk Extreme Pro Class 10/U3 SDHC card inserted and the camera set to Raw capture, we managed to shoot 112 consecutive images in a single 11fps burst before the buffer filled and the camera abruptly ground to a halt, which translates to around 10 seconds of continuous capture. Once the buffer was full the A6500 took just over a minute to fully clear the backlog, although we were able to start shooting again within a few seconds (though obviously not for as long). In Raw+JPEG capture the camera recorded 103 consecutive images (nine seconds) before slowing down. Switching to JPEG capture the A6500 managed 260 Extra Fine images (24 seconds) and 340 Fine images (31secs).
Given how the A6500 is especially well suited to capturing sports and action, we decided to put its new 5-axis image stabilisation and AF tracking abilities through their paces in a couple of testing scenarios. Our first trip was to a local football match that started in bright winter sunshine but quickly turned overcast and grey. Over the course of 90 minutes the A6500 coped admirably, with the speedy autofocus, reliable tracking system and built-in 5-axis image stabilisation producing consistently sharp results – even while shooting handheld.
In terms of image quality, JPEG output can be customised via the Creative Style options. With this set to Standard the A6500 produces pleasingly rich images that are vibrant but not overly saturated. Likewise, contrast is also applied judiciously without being overdone. Of course, you can always change the Creative Style to suit your preferences, or use one of the A6500’s built-in filters to get interesting results. As with the A6300 there are no in-camera processing options to speak of though, not even a simple crop tool. If you want to edit your images on the go, or away from a computer, then you’ll need to send them to your smartphone/tablet via Wifi and edit them on that. Even more puzzling is the lack of an in-camera Raw conversion tool, which strikes us as a pretty major oversight given the A6500’s positioning as an enthusiast-grade model.
Metering is generally very accurate although we did find that the sensor-wide Multi metering mode was prone to occasionally over-exposing high-contrast scenes. Of course if retaining highlights is your chief priority then you can always switch to the A6500’s Highlight metering mode, shoot in Raw and recover shadow detail at the post-production stage. White Balance is generally very accurate too, although the camera did produce the odd image that we felt was slightly too warm.
Most enthusiasts will of course shoot in Raw and in this respect the A6500 produces images in Sony’s .ARW compressed Raw format. While we can understand Sony’s desire to keep file sizes down with its compressed Raw file format, it really should be optional not compulsory, especially on an enthusiast-grade camera like this. In this respect Sony’s decision not to offer Uncompressed Raw as on option of the A67500 – as it does on the A7 II – is very much a missed opportunity.