We all know that everything is changing quickly in the camera biz. But even knowing that the pace at which Sony is launching product is a bit breathtaking. It seems like the a6300 just came out in late Spring and here, just a few months later, is the launch of the new Sony a6500. Same basic body style, same sensor, same rear display, same EVF but with a brand new price. What does $500 more dollars really buy you?
There are two main features that will either drive you to embrace this updated model or leave you smugly satisfied with the a6300 you already have in your hands. The first one is legitimate, it's the five axis image stabilization that they coerced out of Olympus. The advertising propaganda states that it will give us up to five stops slower, handholdable shutter speeds. Okay, as a photographer who likes using lots of non-stabilized, non-Sony lenses on my a6300 I can see this as a big plus. The second headline feature is the inclusion of......a touch screen with which to move and adjust focusing points.
For me touch screens fall into the category of features that may be mandatory for other people but seem like some much fluff to me. Into that category falls GPS, Panoramic modes, wi-fi, and "sports mode!!!!" Maybe wonderful stuff for fiddly amateurs but extra stuff to be mis-set or go wrong for fast working professionals. But maybe working stiffs are not the target market for this camera. Heck maybe we are no longer a big enough market for camera makers to give a rat's ass about anyway.
I guess I'm a Luddite about some of this stuff but I'm trying hard to evolve an embrace "progress."
I read an analysis of the camera industry this week and it showed an overall decline (rapid, huge) in sales of interchangeable lens cameras. A lot of the bleeding came from Nikon. Things were flat or down for other lines. Some don't sell enough cameras world wide to be anything more than a speed bump. But I think it points to massive changes in what people look for in a camera. Changes in what constitutes a good, standalone, image making machine. If you can look past the form factor of Sony's a6x000 series you'll find cameras that are head-to-head competitive with the APS-C cameras being offered by Nikon and Canon. In all cases the Sony's are better 4K video machines. In most cases the newer two Sony's are as fast to auto focus as their competitors and, at least in the case of the cameras from Nikon, the sensors are as close as identical. What this all boils down to is whether or not you want to transition from a "traditional" design implementation of "classic" DSLR to a much smaller sized body which also features an EVF.
As you can tell, I've made my choices and most of them were at least somewhat driven by the inclusion of EVFs in the feature set.
The a6500 was just announced today and the indicated price for the USA market is $1,400, with is actually only $200 more than the a6300 was at its launch. Given Sony's recent inventory practices it seems like the a6500 is not a replacement for the a6300 but a new product tier with added features. Just as the a6000 is still in the line up I think the a6300 will also be regarded as current product for quite some time. This is actually nice. A consumer can choose the level of features as well as the build quality that serves their needs and/or their points of pricing pain.
Bottom level (a6000) delivers good performance, a similar (but not identical) 24 megapixel sensor. Lower video specs, a mostly plastic body and a slower frame rate. It's still a very serviceable image maker.
The middle level (a6300) gives you 4K video, a 24 megapixel, BSI sensor with copper tech, a faster imaging processor, a mostly metal body, the addition of picture profiles and S-Log for video. It lacks a touch screen and Image Stabilization.
The top tier (a6500) gives you some new (slow motion) video features, shares the sensor tech, shares the fast phase detect AF with 400+ sensors, increases the buffer dramatically, adds in a touch screen and state of the art Image Stabilization in much the same body.
I was interested in the a6500 when I first read of the announcement. I thought the improved video specs and the improved (faster) image process would be great for video but then I did some more research on the Sony website. The one feature that would have driven me toward a serious consideration of the camera would have been a headphone jack. It's absent on the two lower models and, sadly, also missing from the newest camera.
Given that the imaging pipeline is nearly identical to the a6300 the only real feature the a6500 would buy me would be the image stabilization. Since the whole a6X000 is a secondary system for me I'm not in a hurry to toss down more cash to acquire one. In time I'll probably sell off the a6000 and, if I'm using the system often enough, I'll consider replacing it with the new camera.
If I were starting fresh I think I would definitely go with the newer camera. If all the basic functions operate the same way the a6300 does I think it would be worth the extra cash to have a faster buffer and the I.S.
It's interesting to watch. Bigger cameras were always equated with better image quality in the film days. It's a prejudice that's driven the digital camera market along for quite some time now. But between the amazing Olympus products in micro four thirds and the some product line we're seeing equivalent image quality in each sensor size category, when comparing output (and handling) with bigger, more traditional cameras.
It seems as though Sony and others are driving us to reconsider what a good camera looks and feels like going forward. There might always be an argument for a bigger camera when used with bigger and faster lenses but maybe we'll just change the ergonomics of how we handle the lenses and cameras as unified package. Certainly, smaller cameras with fewer moving parts will be more reliable and portable. Now, if the haptics are friendly enough we'll probably see a tidal shift in the design of the actual packages.
It's fun to watch Sony's evolution on this line of cameras from the Nex models (loved the Nex-7 body, hated the menu) to the a6000 all the way to the a6500. These cameras must be resonating with the marketplace as Sony earlier this year bragged that the a6000 was the best selling, interchangeable lens camera in mirrorless digital. The market speaks.
I'm including an Amazon link for the a6300. It's here now and is a great intro to the Sony ILC systems. It's how I got roped in in the first place...