Audley Jarvis takes a closer look at Sony’s flagship APS-C mirrorless camera
Sony A6500 review – Dynamic range, resolution and noise
Our Applied Imaging tests show that the Alpha 6500’s 24.2MP APS-C sensor has a maximum 13.8EV at ISO 100 – an outstanding figure by any standard that indicates huge leeway to recover shadow detail from raw files. However, even more impressive is how the Alpha 6500 manages to maintain relatively high dynamic range figures as sensitivity settings are increased, with 12.7EV recorded even at ISO 400. At IS0 1600, it still provides 11.4EV of range, while at ISO 6,400 it only drops to 9.3EV. At the top end, dynamic range does tail off sharply, with the Alpha 6500 returning a figure of 7.2EV at ISO 25,600.
Comparing processed raw files with JPEGs from the camera, we can safely say that the former have a critical edge at resolving fine detail. At ISO 100, raw files achieve 3,800lph compared to 3,500l/ph for JPEGs. That said, even when shooting JPEGs, resolution remains above 3,000l/ph until you reach ISO 3200, which is pretty impressive. Raw images maintain 3,000l/ph at ISO 6400. From here, things do begin to tail off, with raw files resolving 2,800l/ph at iSO 12,800, dropping to 2,300l/ph at the extended setting of ISO 51,200.
Both raw and JPEG images taken from our diorama scene are captured at the full range of ISO settings. The camera is placed in its default setting for JPEG images. Raw images are sharpened and noise reduction applied, to strike the best balance between resolution and noise.
At lower sensitivity settings, the Alpha 6500 provides very good image quality, with JPEGs captured at ISO 100-400 displaying excellent sharpness and good retention of fine detail. Above this, however, carefully-processed raw files begin to gain a distinct advantage when it comes to the preservation of fine detail, no doubt owing to the in-camera noise reduction being applied to JPEGs. That’s not to say that JPEG files lack quality, though – far from it. Even at mid-range settings such as ISO 800 and ISO 1600, JPEGs remain perfectly usable with only minor luminance noise visible at 100%. Above this, noise does begin to interfere with overall JPEG quality more markedly, with a noticeable drop-off in quality visible between ISO 6400 and ISO 12,800. the highest ISO settings suffer greatly from the effects of noise, and should only be used when there’s no other choice.