This is an exciting week for photographers who love shooting fast-moving subjects. Canon dropped the details of their new flagship camera with up to 16 frames per second, 4K video and screaming-fast processing power. At $6,000 US for the hulking body many speed shooters will drool over the EOS-1 D X Mark II, but only the financially flush will be scooping them up. As if on cue, Sony pulled the covers off their tiny speed demon this morning and it brings some of the rapid-fire prowess of the big professional DSLRs and it does it for 1/6th the price and in a much smaller form factor. The A6300 mirrorless camera looks great on paper and since it leverages a tried-and-true body style from the beloved A6000 and fresh technology from the wizards at Sony, it is sure to deliver incredible performance at a price point that many of us can handle.
Frame rates are fun to talk about, but when it comes to nailing sharp images, it’s a camera’s autofocus chops that deliver the goods. With the A6300 Sony is building on a AF system called 4D FOCUS that was introduced with the A6000. While I haven’t the foggiest notion what 4D means, the little camera will lock onto subjects in as little as .05 seconds and with 425 phase detection AF points covering the entire APS-C sensor, the camera can lock and track subjects anywhere in the frame. The camera can motor along at 11 frames per second, but as any mirrorless shooter can tell you the Electronic View Finder will be darned for much of that time, making subject tracking a tricky proposal. Sony answers that criticism with 8 FPS continuous shooting using what they call Tru-finder EVF or the camera’s back LCD screen. The video demo of this new technology did look impressive with a more unobstructed view more in line with optical viewfinders. Once I get the tiny camera in hand, I will be interested to see if this new technology makes me miss my old DSLR less. The A6300 delivers AF control with expanded flexible spot AF and the ability to use AF in focus magnifier mode. I am especially thrilled to see Sony’s cool Eye AF functionality included as well. For those of us who use the full-frame Alpha 7 line of Sony cameras, the smaller and snippier A6300 will make a wonderful second body.
APS-C is Good for Me
The A6300 is wrapped around a 24.2 MP Exmoor CMOS sensor which pumps it’s data through a BIONZ X Processor. Whoop-De-Doo! To translate that alphabet soup, the new little camera has an APS-C sensor which will give photographers a crop factor of 1.5, making lenses 50% “longer”. Your full-frame 50mm lens will be a 75mm lens on the A6300. This increased focal length is one of the biggest selling points of the A6300, as it was for the A6000 before it. For full-frame shooters the option of extending our existing glass by using it on a crop-sensor camera is a bonus. I look forward to seeing how the little camera plays with my Canon EF 100-400 L lens and Metabones IV adapter.
The sensor technology in the little camera isn’t the back-side illuminated tech found in the flagship A7R Mark II, which I hoped would become a standard feature in all future Sony cameras. Instead the engineers at Sony have utilized copper wiring to allow for better light sensitivity and faster data transfer to the processor. What that means to us is a faster-focusing and faster-processing camera. Sony also claims the new prosumer camera will perform better in low light despite not having a BSI sensor. The A6300 will shoot up to ISO 51,200 (expanded) for stills and up to 25,600 ISO for video. Low light action shooters will be anxious to pixel peep for noise at high ISO’s once the camera ships next month. While the A6300’s sensor resolves 24.2 megapixels, I will be anxious to see if the BIONZ X processor can keep up with the advertised frame rate. One of my biggest frustrations with the A7R Mark II is the pixel jam that happens when I push the frame rate past pedestrian. Since the A6300 is being touted as an action-loving camera, I have hope that the buffer on the little beast will eagerly chomp data and not nibble like the A7RM2.
4K Video in Your Pocket
The iPhone 6s can shoot 4K video, as can the GoPro Hero 4. It would have been a severe disappointment if the A6300 didn’t have the muscle to make 4K video. Sony did not disappoint as the new camera will produce 4K with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. The A6300 will record the 4K video in Super 35mm format which will collect 20 MP of data and then oversample it to produce footage with high levels of detail and dynamic range. For video geeks, the camera will use XAVC S codec to capture 100 Mbps, which makes the A6300 the video king of APS-C sensor cameras. There are options for 120fps for slow motion playback and S-Log recording for up to 14 stops of dynamic range. The camera also comes with a mic input port and all kinds of other video-centric features like zebra overlays, time code and Sony’s picture profile settings.
Same Shell, Only Harder.
The A6300 looks identical to the A6000, which makes for a clean and simple camera, but one lacking in the ergonomics hand-held action photographers appreciate. The chassis is more weather sealed than its predecessor, and it is carved from Magnesium Alloy, so it should hold up to heavy use. The pivoting LCD screen is much sharper than the previous iteration, but Sony has once again withheld any touch screen technology. There is also built in WiFi and NFC communications tech, but GPS is lacking. The camera will also employ Sony’s suite of camera apps for those looking for enhanced functionality.
When Can You Get It?
The A6300 will hit the streets in March with a price tag of $1,000 US and $1,350 CAN. There will be a kit option that includes the 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 lens for $150 more. You can read more over at Sony’s Alpha Universe.