With the flagship a6500 scheduled to begin shipping early December, the Sony a6000 Series hits three. Which Sony a6000 Series mirrorless camera suits you best?
Sony a6000, a6300 & a6500 all offer 24MP sensors capable of 11 Frames per Second continuous shooting in a compact, lightweight mirrorless body. But they offer three distinctly different levels of features and price points. Here’s a look at how they compare to help answer which camera is best for you.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Round 1: Image Sensor
WINNER: Sony a6300/a6500. While all three cameras feature 24 MP Exmor CMOS image sensors, Sony a6300 & a6500 have an improved sensor that features a thin copper-wiring layer and large photodiode substrate designed for light collection efficiency resulting in less noise at High ISOs.
Round 2: Image Stabilization
WINNER: Sony a6500. The only a6000-Series model featuring 5-Axis Image Stabilization using an all-new mechanism designed specifically for Sony APS-C mirrorless sensors. You’ll get 5-axis IS with native E-mount lenses (and 8-pin Sony A-mount glass on LA-EA adapters) and 3-Axis Image stabilization with any other lenses – including lenses that were never stabilized before.
Round 3: Auto-Focus Points
WINNER: Sony a6300/a6500. Featuring 425 Phase-Detection + 169 Contrast Detection AF points (compared to 179 Phase-Detection + 25 Contrast Detection AF points on a6000) for extremely wide and dense AF point coverage throughout the frame. High-density Tracking AF Technology seamlessly activates AF points to track subjects moving within frame with precision.
Round 4: Processing Power & Buffer Size
WINNER: Sony a6500. With the most in-class processing horsepower, a6500 adds a a new LSI Processor & much larger buffer to allow for long bursts of up to 107 RAW images (or 233 JPG Extra Fine) at 11 FPS. Think of it as the a6000 Series with a Hemi-engine.
Round 5: Autofocus Speed
Round 6: Third-Party Autofocus Performance
Round 7: Touch Focus
WINNER: Sony a6500. Only Sony a6500 has touch focus. Sony a6000 and a6300 do not. If touch Focus is important to you, a6500 is your champ.
Round 8: Video Resolution
Round 9: Silent Shooting
WINNER: Sony a6300/a6500. Sony a6300 and a6500 have Silent Shooting Mode. Sony a6000 does not. Bear in mind that the standard Electronic-Front Shutter is extremely quiet – but only Silent Shooting mode is totally silent…
Round 10: Expected Shutter Life
WINNER: a6500. The Sony a6500 shutter is rated at 200,000 shots – double the expected shutter life of a6000 and a6300, according to Sony. [PLEASE NOTE: This is just an estimate. I’ve greatly exceeded the expected shutter life of many Sony cameras.]
Round 11: Weight & Size
WINNER: Sony a6000. Weighing in at just 12.13 oz with battery and memory card, Sony a6000 is the lightest of the a6000-Series bodies. The added weight of a6500 comes from the 5-Axis Image Stabilization mechanism. Grip size also grows from 1.8″ on a6000 to 2.1″ on a6500. In this instance, I’d argue BIGGER IS BETTER!
Round 12: Price
WINNER: Sony a6000. If price is your bottom line, Sony a6000 weighs in at five bills and change. This makes it the lowest-priced contender in the Sony a6000 Series line-up.
AND THE WINNER IS…
Who’s the winner in the battle between Sony’s 42.4MP fullframe cameras?
OBJECTIVE: Sports Photography or Birds in Flight
WINNER: Sony a99 II
Sony a99 II’s Hybrid Phase Detection AF system with 79-point dedicated AF sensor working in tandem with a 399-point on-chip focus system and its 12 FPS with continuous AF and tracking gives a99 II a BIG edge for action. Besides, when shooting with a massive 500-600mm lens the weight savings of the lighter E-mount body is rather negligible and the slightly larger size of the a99 II camera body is actually a plus since it makes it more grip-able when shooting with big glass.
OBJECTIVE: Landscape Photography
WINNER: Sony a7R II
For maximum resolution when shooting landscapes, I’d rather not shoot through a translucent mirror if I can avoid it. Image quality loss from translucent mirror is about the same as using a high-quality UV filter (you’d be much worse off slapping a $15 UV filter over your lens.) You also don’t need lightning fast AF or 12 FPS when shooting landscapes. Unless you have another compelling reason for choosing the larger a99 II body, save yourself half a pound and go with a7RII. Your shoulders will thank you!
OBJECTIVE: Portrait Photography
Sony a7RII and a99 II are both great choices for portrait photography each offering great lenses for portraits. I’d give the FE 24-70mm 2.8 G Master a slight edge over either 24-70mm 2.8 ZA, and the FE 85mm 1.4 GM and 90mm 2.8 Macro are a substantial upgrade over the A-mount 85mm 1.4 ZA and 100mm 2.8 Macro. But A-mount gets points for the incredible 135mm 1.8 ZA that is thus far not available in E-mount. So I call this a push or a Win for both sides.
OBJECTIVE: Using Adapted Lenses
WINNER: Sony a7R II
Because of its thin 18mm Focal Flange Distance, Sony a7RII allows you to adapt virtually any fullframe lens. The same cannot be said for a99 II since A-mount has a 44.5mm Focal Flange Distance that makes it far less viable for using adapted lenses. (Read More: Guide to Understanding Flange Focal Distance)
OBJECTIVE: Using Minolta AF Lenses
WINNER: Sony a99 II
Sony a99 II is the clear winner if you’ve got lots of Minolta AF lenses (or screw drive Sony A-mount glass). While Sony’s LA-EA4 adapter will allow AF with screw drive lenses on E-mount bodies, LA-EA4 uses the rather antiquated AF system from a65 which is not nearly the speed or coverage you get from a99’s Hybrid AF that combines a dedicated 79-point PDAF + 399-point on sensor PDAF system.
OBJECTIVE: Using E-mount Lenses
WINNER: Sony a7R II
If you’ve got lots of E-mount glass stick to Sony a7RII. While Sony E-mount’s thinner bodies allow you to use of A-mount glass on E-mount cameras, the reverse is NOT true. You can’t use E-mount lenses on A-mount cameras.
OBJECTIVE: Battery Life
WINNER: Sony a99 II
Bigger Camera. Bigger Battery. Longer Battery Life. Sony a99 II uses larger Sony NP-FM500H InfoLithium Batteries that have double the battery life. Then again, carrying a couple spare NP-FW50 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Batteries which weigh a fraction of the half pound difference in weight between the bodies.
OBJECTIVE: Lowest Noise at High ISOs
WINNER: Sony a7R II (Barely)
Sony a7R II wins by just a hair. Far too much is made of light loss from Sony a99 II’s translucent mirror. That does NOT, I repeat, NOT mean images shot on a99 II are 30% noisier than a7RII. That’s not how it works. Light loss is roughly 1/3 stop which means noise is roughly the same for a99 II at ISO 5000 as a7RII at ISO 6400. With this back-illuminated senior, there is no visible difference in noise from 1/3 stop.
OBJECTIVE: Low Light AF
WINNER: Sony a99 II
Sony a99 II’s Sensitivity to -4 EV @ f/2.8 AF is not merely best for Sony – it’s best in class – beating Canon 5DM4 by a full stop.
OBJECTIVE: Street Photography
WINNER: Sony a7R II
Weighing in at 22.05 oz, Sony a7RII is nearly half a pound lighter than the 29.92 oz Sony a99 II. Plus a7RII is thinner and smaller for a stealthier appearance on the street so it won’t attract as much attention from the people you want to photograph…or thieves…
OBJECTIVE: Street Photography with a Fast 35mm Lens
WINNER: Sony RX1R II
Sorry, a99 II and a7RII, but Sony RX1R II was MADE FOR THIS!!! What? You forgot there was a third Sony camera rocking this 42.4 mp sensor??? If 35mm is the perfect focal length of you, you won’t find a higher quality 35mm F/2 lens than the Zeiss lens built-into RX1R cameras.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY:
And the Winner Is….
Sony shooters who will soon be able to shoot with Sony’s top-of-the-line 42.4MP back-illuminated sensor in both A-Mount and E-Mount…or even in fixed lens RX1R II if you prefer.
Sony a99 II is available for pre-order Now (Order from B&H Photo for $3,199.95). Sony’s new flagship 42 mp A-mount camera can shoot up at 12 frames per second with AF/AE tracking. It has 79 AF points on its dedicated PDAF sensor, which work in conjunction with 399 on-sensor PDAF points that work in conjunction to provide ‘Hybrid Cross AF points.’ The a99 II focus system is able to focus down to -4EV.
Sony a99II’s 5-axis image stabilization is rated to 4.5EV in CIPA testing. The body is down in size to that of the Sony a77II. The camera’s sensor uses Back-Illuminated Sensor CMOS technology with copper wiring for ultra-fast readout. The camera also has a newly-developed front-end LSI Processor to cope with the speed of the sensor.
It can capture 4K UHD video from the full sensor width or 1.8x over-sampled 4K video in Super35 mode. Sony 99 II includes tethering options and twin card slots to appeal to professional users. And in great news to many users, the menu has also been revised with color-coding to make navigation easier.
• 42MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
• BIONZ X Image Processor & Front-End LSI
• Internal UHD 4K Video & S-Log3 Gamma
• S&Q Motion in Full HD from 1-120 fps
• 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
• Hybrid Phase Detection AF System
• 0.5″ 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF
• 3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
• ISO 102,400 and 12 fps Shooting with AF
• Dual SD Card Slots; 14-Bit Raw Output
Sony’s flagship fullframe A-mount camera finally gets a remake and it’s a Big One!
Sony a99 II ($3,199.95 – Available for Pre-order Now) gets Sony’s top-of-the-line 42.4 MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor and a all-new processor and LSI turbocharged for more processing horsepower than any Sony camera to date. It’s packed full of new features – some are totally new features, some are new to fullframe and others are new to A-mount. These are my favorites.
1. Hybrid Phase Detection AF
NEW TO FULLFRAME: Sony a99 II is the first fullframe camera to get 4D predictive focus. Sony a99 II Hybrid Phase Detection AF combines a dedicated 79-point Phase Detection AF module with the large 399-point on-sensor PDAF system found in a7RII and RX1R II for the best focus tracking ever.
Dual-Pixel AF systems found in DSLRs can only use one system or the other – but never both together. Sony’s Hybrid Phase Detection AF system uses both systems together continuously – not separately. Unlike DSLRs, a99 II focuses with both systems continuously – even when the camera is recording. This is only possible with translucent mirror cameras.
This combination allows you to continuously track moving subjects at a high rate of speed with extreme accuracy – even in challenging lighting conditions.
2. Shoot 42.4 MP at 12 FPS
• Fast AF/AE tracking at up to 12 FPS
NEW FEATURE: Sony a99 II is the FIRST fullframe camera over 24mp to offer 12 FPS continuous shooting. And thanks to Sony’s fastest processor ever, you can shoot 50 continuous frames of full res RAW + Jpeg before hitting the buffer. That’s slightly more than a 4-second burst.
Continuous shooting while maintaining reliable AF and AE tracking requires serious processing power and speed. Sony a99 II is able to do this with a 42.4 effective megapixel image sensor that allows high-speed readout, BIONZ X processing, and a newly developed front-end LSI for controlled noise processing at higher resolution. The shutter unit itself has also been redesigned for faster response. These refinements work with Hybrid Phase Detection AF to allow continuous auto focus and auto exposure at up to 12 FPS. Yup, focus and exposure are NOT locked on the first frame – even at 12 FPS.
• Live View with Minimal Lag at up to 8 FPS with AF/AE tracking
FIRST IN A-MOUNT: With the a99 II you can even use live view while shooting continuously at up to 8 FPS with full AF and AE tracking, thanks to an improved display algorithm. Display lag is so small that viewing is essentially no different from an optical viewfinder. Continuous live view shooting speed can be set to 8 fps, 6 fps, or 4 fps to match a variety of subjects
3. First Fullframe DSLR with 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilization
NEW TO A-MOUNT: Taking a cue from Sony a7 Mark II cameras, a99 II gets a brand-new full-frame optical 5-axis in-body image stabilization system developed specifically for A-mount cameras. Advanced 5-axis image stabilization not only helps to realize the full resolution potential of the body’s 42.4 megapixel sensor, but also works effectively for video as well as stills. The redesigned system implements precision gyro sensors that are capable of accurately detecting even the smallest camera motions that might cause blur, providing up to a 4.5 step shutter speed advantage.
4. Reliable Low-Light AF Down to EV -4
NEW TO A-MOUNT: Although low light can be a challenge for many autofocus systems, Sony a99 II maintains reliable, accurate autofocus right down to EV-4 brightness levels at the dedicated phase detection AF sensor’s central focus point – matching the performance of Sony’s low-light monsters a7S & a7SII. That means you can take full advantage of the camera’s excellent low-light imaging capability with uncompromised AF performance even when shooting in near darkness at high ISO.
5. 4K Recording
NEW TO A-MOUNT: Sony a99 II allows you record 4K video from the FULL WIDTH of the fullframe sensor…unlike some other DSLRs. Or you can select to shoot over-sampled 4K in Super35 crop mode with full pixel readout and no pixel binning or line-skipping.
6. Silent Shooting Mode NEW TO A-MOUNT: This popular feature found in Sony a7S, a7RII and a7SII, makes its way into Sony A-mount cameras offers the options to shoot in total silence.
UPDATE: (4:30pm 9/21/16) Sony Japan presented Sony USA with specs for a99 II that included Silent Shooting Mode and that’s what Sony USA presented to me.
I triple-checked all the specs before posting and have since re-confirmed that Silent Shooting Mode is on the list of specs I was given. This error either came from Sony Japan or was simply “Lost in Translation.”
6B. Eye Focus
NEW TO A-MOUNT FULLFRAME: Eye AF automatically detects and focuses on the ideal focus point for portraits: the subject’s eye. In the a99 II it provides reliable detection within the relatively narrow depth of field of the full-frame sensor, The detected eye is indicated in the viewfinder for pre-shoot confirmation. Eye AF can be assigned to a custom button for quick access when needed.
7. Flicker-Free Shooting
NEW FEATURE: Flicker from fluorescent lights and other artificial lighting can ruin still images if it and the shutter timing are out of sync. The a99 II automatically detects flicker and adjusts shutter timing to minimize its effect. Exposure and color anomalies that can occur at the top and bottom of images shot at high shutter speeds are reduced, as are exposure and color inconsistencies between continuous shots
8. Custom File Naming
NEW TO A-MOUNT: This great feature first found in a6300, allows you to set Custom File Names for the images you capture. This is a great feature for anyone shooting with multiple cameras or wedding and event coverage with multiple photographers.
9. Embed Your Copyright Notice
NEW TO A-MOUNT: First introduced in a7RII, allows you to save your copyright notice into the copyright field of your EXIF metadata of your photos so it’s there right from the start in case you forget to add it later.
10. Image Storage Selection for PC Remote
NEW FEATURE: When the camera is tethered to a computer, still images can be stored in the camera as well as on the computer so they can be reviewed without having to leave the camera position. And when shooting RAW+JPEG it is possible to transfer only the JPEG files to the computer to reduce data volume and allow transferred images to be reviewed almost immediately
11. New Metering Modes & Improved Spot Metering
NEW FEATURE: With this totally new option, you can select between Highlight Weighted Mode and Full-frame Average Mode. Improved Spot Metering allows you to link the metering spot to focus area and Spot Metering Area can be set Standard or Large.
12. Fast and Slow HD Video Recording Modes
NEW FEATURE: Sony a99 II offers 120FPS for 5X Extreme Slow Motion and 1 FPS for Time Lapse HD video recording.
This video that shows how it works:
13. S-Gamut/S-Log and Gamma Display Assist
NEW TO A-MOUNT: S-Log3 and S-Log2 gamma are now included making wide dynamic range shooting (1300%) possible without blown highlights or blocked shadows. Gamma Display Assist lets you view images with natural contrast while recording in S-Log gamma setting, converting S-Log2 and S-Log3 into ITU709 (800%) gamma for monitoring* images, or checking focus while enlarging an image on the LCD screen or viewfinder.
14. Extract Stills From Video
NEW TO A-MOUNT: You can extract high-quality 8 megapixel stills from 4K video and stored separately.
15. XGA OLED Tru-Finder with Zeiss T* Coatings
NEW TO A-MOUNT: Sony a99II gets the top-of-the-line XGA OLED 0.78 Magnification Tru-Finder with a high-resolution, high-contrast organic light-emitting diode EVF found in a7RII and a7SII. A viewfinder magnification function provides up to 15.5x magnification for precise manual focus.
What it DOESN’T Have…
Like the other A-mount cameras, Sony a99 II is not compatible with Play Memories Camera Apps.
GPS won’t function through Sony’s all-metal body and pro-camera shouldn’t be made out of plastic. But for those of you who need GPS, location data can be acquired from mobile devices via Bluetooth and recorded to still images.
The camera can be paired to the PlayMemories Mobile app installed on a compatible smartphone or tablet, allowing it to acquire location data from the mobile device and record that data with still images or movies. The PlayMemories Home application can then be used on a personal computer to organize images imported into the computer on a map.
Bluetooth connectivity available with the following terminal devices (at the date of release):
• Android (Android 5.0 or later, Bluetooth 4.0 or later)
• iOS (Bluetooth 4.0 or later)
Sorry, they don’t put pop-up flash in pro cameras.
HUGE THANKS to Sony Digital Imaging Samurai Mark Weir for his technical assistance in breaking down these great new functions!