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Sony a6300 vs a6500: A Quick Comparison

So which one should you buy? They're both incredible cameras for the price, but don't pay for what you don't need: you should always save money on a camera body to spend more on high quality lenses.

Only seven months after the Sony a6300 began shipping in the USA, Sony announced the a6500. The a6500 is not intended as a replacement for the a6300 so much as a step-up in the camera line.

So which one should you buy? They’re both incredible cameras for their price points, but there’s no use in paying for features that you’ll never need: if you can, you should always save money on a camera body to spend more on high quality lenses.

The Sony a6500 adapted to the Sony 300mm F/2.8G II Stabilized Lens
The Sony a6500 adapted to the Sony 300mm F/2.8G II Stabilized Lens

Where They Are Different

Let’s begin by taking a look at where these cameras differ and where they are the same. Where one camera is better, the table cell is highlighted in green, although “better” is occasionally subjective.

 Sony a6300Sony a6500
Price (Body)$1,148.00$1,398.00
Body MaterialMagnesium AlloyMagnesium Alloy
LCD Size3" TFT
921,600 pixel
3" TFT
921,600 pixel
Viewfinder2.36 Megapixel OLED2.36 Megapixel OLED
Continuous Live View
(no black out)
Up to 8fpsUp to 8fps
ArticulatingYes (up 90 deg., down 45degrees)Yes (up 90 deg., down 45degrees)
Touch SensitiveYesYes
Touch FocusNoYes
Sensor24.2 Megapixel Exmor24.2 Megapixel Exmor
ISO Range100-25600
+51200
100-25600
+51200
Shutter Speeds30-1/4000th sec
+bulb
30-1/4000
+bulb
Expected Shutter LifeN/A
(probably 100k-150k)
200,000 shots
In Body StabilizationNoYes,5-Axis (5-stops)
Focusing System4D FOCUS4D FOCUS
Focus Speed0.05 sec. claimed0.05 sec. claimed
AF Points425 Phase Detection
169 Contrast
425 Phase Detection
169 Contrast Detection
Frame Rate11, 8, 6, or 3 fps11, 8, 6, or 3 fps
Buffer Size44 JPG Extra Fine shots
21 RAW Shots
233 JPG Extra Fine shots
107 RAW Shots
Flash Sync Speed1/160th sec.1/160th sec.
High Speed SyncYesYes
Wireless Flash CommanderYesYes
Video Resolutions4K, 1080p, 720p4K, 1080p, 720p
Video Capture Method6K capture, oversampled6K capture, oversampled
Video Frame Rates4K @ 30, 25, 24 fps
1080 @ 120, 100, 60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps
720 @ 30, 25 fps
4K @ 30, 25, 24 fps
1080 @ 120, 100, 60, 50, 30, 25, 24 fps
720 @ 30, 25 fps
Video CodecXAVC S MPEG-4, AVCHD Ver 2., MP4
H.264
XAVC S MPEG-4, AVCHD Ver 2., MP4
H.264
Video Picture Profiles
& Gamma
Yes, +S-log3, S-log2, S-GamutYes, +S-log3, S-log2, S-Gamut
Clean HDMI Out?Yes, 4:2:2 8-bit 4K and 1080, with time codeYes, 4:2:2 8-bit 4K and 1080, with time code
Card SlotsMutli-slot for UHS-I SDXC, microSDXC, Memory Stick DuoMutli-slot for UHS-I SDXC, microSDXC, Memory Stick Duo
ConnectorsMicro USB, HDMI Micro, 3.5mm Mic (stereo)Micro USB, HDMI Micro, 3.5mm Mic (stereo)
BluetoothNoYes, 4.1
Wi-FiYesYes
NFCYesYes
Battery Life350 Shots (viewfinder)
400 Shots (LCD)
310 Shots (viewfinder)
350 Shots (LCD)
Body SizeApprox. 120 x 66.9 x 48.8 mmApprox. 120 x 66.9 x 53.3mm
Weight361g (no card or battery)
404g (with battery and card)
410g (no card or battery)
453g (w/card & battery)
Customizable Buttons910
Weather SealingYesYes
Headphone JackNoNo

Image Stabilization & Focus

In-body image stabilization is the big, important difference between these two cameras, and for those who will use it, it should justify the higher price of the a6500. Sony’s Steadyshot Inside 5-axis image stabilization system promises 5-stops worth of stabilization, which is remarkable: if you’re using a 180mm non-stabilized lens, the rule of thumb is that you’d need a shutter speed of over 1/250th sec. to hand-hold a shot without significant impact from camera shake1. With the a6500, you should be able to hand hold the same shot at 1/8th sec.

And you’ll get this benefit with the best, non-stabilized lenses available. Want to use Sigma’s ART series 18-35 f/1.8, or 50mm f/1.4 lenses, or the 30mm f/1.4 C? You’ll get them, stabilized… something Canon and Nikon can’t do (though Pentax can).

That said, when you have an f/1.4 lens and a camera that can easily shoot at ISO 3200-6400 (or higher), stabilization is less important than it once was.

Both cameras share the same autofocus system: the same number of AF points, the same type of AF points, and the same AF speed. The only difference? The a6500 has touch-pad focus control, too.

Processor & Buffer

The BIONZ processor of the a6500 has a new front-end LSI, just like the new a99 II, where a custom front-end LSI dramatically improved the camera’s performance. A front-end LSI (Large Scale Integration) is a microprocessor that performs a first stage of specialized operations on the data before sending it to the main processor, making it more fast and efficient.

How does this affect the a6500? So far, the only way that we know for sure is that it allows for the increase in the camera’s buffer size. While the a6300 can shoot 21 RAW shots in a row at full speed, the a6500 can shoot 107.  Though few photographers will actually need to shoot that many consecutive shots, it does mean that there is almost no risk of running out of buffer space while shooting multiple shorter bursts when on a sports assignment.

There is some possibility that the front-end LSI will create a small advantage for the a6500 when dealing with sensor noise, but that remains to be seen, and will likely be insignificant.

Body & Screens

The magnesium alloy bodies of the a6500 and a6300
The magnesium alloy bodies of the a6500 and a6300 have some strong similarities, as can be seen here.

The differences in the bodies and controls between the two cameras are minor. First, they both have durable magnesium alloy bodies with weather sealing. They both have the same fast, sharp EVF. The bodies are virtually the same size, though the a6500 is about 5mm thicker to accommodate the stabilization system. Unsurprisingly, the a6500 is about 50g heavier than its predecessor (50g is about the weight of a medium chicken egg).

a6500 and a6300 backs
The backs of the a6300 and a6500 show minimal differences.

However, there are some significant differences. The most important is that the rear LCD of the a6500 supports touch-pad focusing when shooting video or photos with live view. This means that you can easily track your subject with your finger on the screen, or pull focus on a subject with just a touch when shooting video.

The a6500 has been given an additional custom button, located on the top of the camera: it now has C1, C2 and C3, while the a6300 has only C1 and C2. The grip and main thumb control dial have some minor differences in ergonomics.

Overhead view of a6500 and a6300
Overhead view of the a6500 and a6300 showing the differences in custom function buttons and shutter release button.

Who Should Buy the a6500?

Almost everyone will benefit from image stabilization now and then. So, perhaps it will make more sense this time to point out who will not benefit much from buying the a6500 rather than the a6300:

  • if you shoot action and want sharp images, the stabilization won’t be much help: you’ll still need fast shutter speeds. Stabilization only helps with camera shake, not subject movement.
  • if you’re a landscape photographer, portrait photographer, product photographer, or any other type of photographer that regularly shoots from a tripod, then you don’t need the a6500’s stabilization. It does the same thing as a tripod, only not as well.
  • if you always shoot with flash or strong, bright light, you’ll be fine with the a6300. Not sure who this would be.
  • if all of your lenses are already stabilized, or if the lenses you’d use are stabilized, then getting the a6500 probably won’t add much benefit. It may give you an extra stop of stability, but probably maybe not a few hundred dollars worth.
  • if you’re a vlogger/YouTuber who keeps the camera tripod mounted

However, you should seriously consider buying the a6500 if:

  • you regularly shoot indoors, or in low light
  • if you’re a travel photographer and don’t often carry a tripod
  • if you shoot video and want the best stabilization without special equipment
  • if you shoot video and want to use touch focus
  • if you shoot action in RAW format and frequently shoot longs bursts of images (longer than 10 or 20 images at a time), the buffer on the a6500 will allow you to do so.

Image and video quality in these two cameras will be identical, as far as we know. If you’re shooting RAW, there is no reason to expect a difference. If you shoot JPG or video, there is only potential for a very minor difference, since the sensors are identical.

Still, most of us will be included in the second list, since most of us shoot indoors frequently, and travel photography is perhaps the most popular of all styles. That should make the decision relatively easy for you, if you’re on the fence, especially if you shoot a lot of action.

 

Questions? Comments?

As usual, I’m interested to hear your opinions about these cameras, and about Sony’s choice to produce a more expensive camera less than a year after releasing the a6300. And of course, I’ll do my best to answer any questions that you may still have.

 


  1. The rule is 1/focal length, which would appear to mean 1/180th, but this is an APS-C, so the 1.5x crop factor makes it 1/270th sec. I rounded down.
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14 Comments

  • I am an Event photographer. I have the original Sony A7 w/Sony 24-70 F4. I also kept (from my Canon DSLR) a Canon 24-105 F4 L lens. I also plan to do “business profile video”. Would the Sony A6300 or A6500 be best?

    • Since both of your lenses are stabilized already (though I don’t know if the IS works with the adapter you’re using… I’ll assume it does), you have a little flexibility. The major difference between these two cameras is the stabilization in the body, and since you don’t need it (at least, not as much as if your lenses were not stabilized), you could probably get away with not paying for it.

      In part, though, it will depend on your working style. If you shoot sports events, for example, then the larger buffer on the a6500 might make a big difference. If you shoot 4K video and especially if you shoot long clips, then the overheating issues that you get with the a6300 may be a significant problem, and the a6500 might be better for you.

      My general opinion here is that if you’re planning on shooting professionally (especially if you’re shooting video), then it will pay to get the better camera, and it will offer you the flexibility down the road to get large aperture prime lenses (for example) that are not stabilized, and still be able to use them for shooting video and low-light events with the a6500’s stabilization. So, I’d go with the a6500. Good luck!

  • You missed a really important (perhaps most important) part of this comparison which is the A6300 will overheat well under the 30 minute recording limit, while shooting 4k, and refuse to start again until it cool down. The A6500, supposedly, will not have this issue.

    • Hi Nick,

      That’s right; when I wrote this back in early October, the camera wasn’t available for real world testing yet, and I was skeptical of the claims that they’d fixed the overheating issues (since they didn’t fix it between the a6000 and a6300, for example). But it does now look as though there has been enough testing that we can safely say that the a6500 really doesn’t have the overheating problem that the earlier models did. I’ll update the post above, thanks for the reminder!

      – Matt

  • Thank you for the suggestions regarding the IBIS, very useful.
    I am still left in the open with respect to the use of the adapters for A-mount lenses on the a6500. The LA-EA3 is suggested by many, since its use saves light (unlike the more expensive LA-EA4). However – and this is the key question – older Minolta lenses have a screw-driven AF mechanism. If older Minolta Maxxum lenses cannot by used for this reason on the a6500 this is a very important information for potential buyers – like me. Auto focus function is important in many shooting conditions and I do not want to lose it!

    Speaking about adapters: how about using other types besides those produced by Sony? I guess these would allow the use of manual focus lenses such as Minolta Rokkor (and other brands) in which case auto focus would be lost by definition.
    Thank you for taking your time.
    Best regards,
    Mark

    • Yes, my understanding is that if you’re using a screw-drive (non-SSM) Minolta lens, you need to use the LA-EA2 or LA-EA4 adapters to retain auto-focus; you’ll lose AF with the 1 or the 3. The EA2 and EA4 will retain AF, but AF speed will be limited by the size of the adapter’s motor… so larger lenses may not focus as fast as you’d like (but that has always been a problem with large lenses of that sort… with Nikon too). I don’t have much experience with these old Minolta lenses, though… I was already shooting Canon at the time… so I’m afraid I can’t offer you much help there.

      Good luck!

  • Great article!!

    This especially made me laugh:
    if you always shoot with flash or strong, bright light, you’ll be fine with the a6300. ***Not sure who this would be.***

    On a serious note, have you tried the Sigma 18-35mm (or any of their Art primes) with this body in low light? If so what difference did you see from the 6300?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Justin,
      No, unfortunately. When the production model starts shipping (hopefully soon), I’ll be interested to try out that combination… the 18-35 with stabilization sounds awesome to me. In fact, I’m trying to decide between buying myself a new a6500 with some good glass or a Fuji X-T2, since I’m looking for a lighter camera kit for long trips where heavy luggage is a pain.

  • Has the bottom of the a6500 body exactly the same shape and dimensions so a battery grip for the a6300 can be attached and functional?

    • Hi Jens,

      Yes, a grip made for the a6300 should also fit the a6500, though I haven’t actually tried it… in fact, I don’t know if there is an OEM model available. I’ve seen some aftermarket ones… one by Meike in particular, but I haven’t actually tested them, so I can’t be certain. If you test it, let me know!

      – Matthew

  • Great article, thank you! However the lens named “Sony G Master 300mm f/2.8” is actually the Sony 300mm F/2.8G II. The G Master line is e-mount only, whereas the 300mm is a-mount.

  • Thank you for this very clear and informative review. For an introduction, I am a nature photographer, mostly macro, landscape and birds.
    My question relates to the use of A-mount lenses on the a6300 or a6500. I have been using Minolta lenses for a long time and still have really professional quality glass. These work fine of course with the Sony SLT-57 (which I have and use often) but so far I have not moved over to the Sony mirrorless camp. Maybe for good, because there is no IBIS in the a6000 or a6300. Now the decision may be easier to make except for the cost. As far as I know the a6300 offers much more advanced AF with an adapter than the a6000 but no IS. The a6500 offers both AF and IBIS with the use of an adapter (preferably the LA-EA3 no to lose light?) for the use of A-mount lenses.
    I’d be very interested to know what you think the best choice (a6300 or 6500) would be in my case. Thank you.

    • That’s a good question, and the answer will depend largely on how you shoot.

      For landscape photography, I almost always shoot from a tripod with a small(ish) aperture. For birds, I tend to use 400mm or longer lenses (or equivalent with crop) and also use a tripod (gimbal head) or at least a monopod… and with macro I either use flash or shoot from a tripod.

      In each of those cases, for me, it would not make sense to pay the extra money for the a6500… I wouldn’t really need the stabilization.

      However, the question is about you. If you tend to shoot hand-held for ANY of those things, and don’t want to buy new, stabilized lenses (more expensive than the difference in buying the a6500), then the a6500’s IBIS will probably be worth it… especially for macro work, where minor movements can have a big effect. And if buying the a6500 allows you to continue using your existing lenses, then perhaps that’s a factor that’s worth considering as part of the overall cost.

      (For birds, I’m generally shooting at a high enough shutter speed that the stabilization probably wouldn’t be a big deal. )

      I’m not sure what more I can say this time… it sounds like you understand the issues, so it’s just a matter of making the choice. Good luck!

      – Matthew

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