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Sony A6300 first impressions

Adam B

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Joined
Dec 27, 2015
Messages
30
Let's take the A6300 to do some birding.

On paper, the A6300 is a fantastic birding camera. APS-C camera, with fantastic AF, 8 fps with live stream.

But any serious attempt at birding brings out one of the big remaining deficiencies in the Sony system -- Their longest decent lens is 200mm. (or the superzoom 24-240, but that is slowly and inferior). If you are going to do birding with a Sony A77ii, Canon 7dii, Nikon D500: You can choose between a 70-300, an approximate 100-400, some Tamron/Sigma lenses that go to 500/600mm, 300-500mm primes (though Sony A-mount is also a bit deficient here). With the crop factor, in other words, you can pretty easily reach 450mm to 900mm in rival systems. If you want to stick with native lenses to maximize the A6300 AF system, you are limited to an effective reach of 300mm. EVENTUALLY, Sony will release their 70-200/2.8gm with 2x teleconverter, which will get you to 600mm, but it will weigh a ton, and it will likely cost $3500-$4000 or more (for the converter and lens). Plus, stick a 2x teleconverter on a 2.8 zoom lens, you usually get pretty marginal IQ.
I don't have long zooms in my Nikon system, but I do have the 300mm/4. PF prime. It is smaller and lighter than the Sony 70-200/4. But would give APS-C reach of 450mm. It can be paired nicely with 1.4 teleconverter (primes play nice with teleconverters than zooms do), and get 630mm of reach.
So in other words, the A6300 may be a great camera body for wildlife and birding, but in practice it's only good for very close birds and wildlife, until they really expand the telephoto lineup. And there remains a question of how well their AF systems work with long lenses. They need 3-4 additional telephoto options to be serious for wildlife and birding: Relatively lightweight 300mm and 400mm primes would be nice. A native version of their 70-400. And maybe something like Nikon's new 200-500/5.6.

Now on to my experiences with some backyard birding. I put the 70-200/4 on my Nikon D750 and on my Sony a6300. Set both cameras around F8 and 1/800, to get enough shutter speed and DOF for the unpredictable movement of birds. Shot in the early morning, so there was good sunlight but also a lot of open shade. Easiest way to capture birds was my neighbor's birdfeeder, but it was in the shade. That drove up ISO. And I'm sad to say, I continue to be disappointed in the medium to high ISO JPEGS out of the Sony A6300.

I managed to capture this same bird with both cameras. Remember, the Nikon version had to be cropped 50% more, to get the same field of view.
So here is the Nikon, at ISO 7200:

25608159102_e59d12ac5f_h.jpg
   ---            
DSC_6418.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

Here is the Sony, with less cropping, at ISO 6400:

25729182275_b48c224ed0_h.jpg
   ---            
DSC00221.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

Yes, the Nikon is full frame. But looking at SOOC JPEGS of each, with the Nikon cropped 50% more than the Sony was cropped, the Nikon ISO 7200 is far superior to the Sony ISO 6400. Here are some 100% crops of the same images, to make the point even more obvious:

Nikon:
25453363650_425e669e95_o.jpg
NIKON D750    70.0-200.0 mm f/4.0    200mm    f/8.0    1/800s    ISO 7200
DSC_6418.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

Sony:
25453814850_8366c5fa52_o.jpg
ILCE-6300    FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS    200mm    f/8.0    1/1000s    ISO 6400
DSC00221.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

Nikon:
25634118191_061094b6e2_h.jpg
   ---            
DSC_6429.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

Sony:
25634095301_74ce623250_h.jpg
   ---            
DSC00180.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

Now enough of the bad news, time for the good news:

The AF system is indeed fast and accurate. Including when shooting continuously at F8.
And when I was in the sun as opposed to the shade, keeping ISO at 3200 and lower, I did indeed get some very very nice results from the Sony:

(unfortunately, I had to pull some of the shadows on these, and there isn't a huge amount of room on jpegs to do it):

25703127116_0fa0418d3b_h.jpg
   ---            
DSC00263.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

Realizing the poor quality I was getting at high ISO, I opened up the aperture to 5.6, and got this at ISO 3200 in the shade, much better than the shots above:

25608100762_e2eed633f4_h.jpg
   ---            
DSC00260.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

ISO 800 in the sunlight:

25102568913_cf10ae72d1_h.jpg
   ---            
DSC00234.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

ISO 1000 in sunlight, but had to pull shadows in jpeg:
25729157495_29e4adeb66_h.jpg
   ---            
DSC00160.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

I certainly would have been able to pull shadows more effectively in RAW files. The AF system was indeed magnificent, and the 8fps live stream works very very well. There does still seem to be a tiny bit of lag compared to OVF, but very very tiny. The buffer clearance is pretty poor. If I shot a burst of 10 images... it felt like the camera was locked up for an eternity afterwards, and I couldn't even review my images while it cleared.
I was reminded of one pretty big negative of the A6000/A6300 as I took these shots -- the viewfinder eyecup is nearly impossible to use with glasses. Need to take off my glasses to shoot.

So how do I rate the A6300 for birding/wildlife?
- Camera body/performance/AF etc: A-. Loses a few points for the hard viewfinder eyecup, the buffer clearance time, and poor battery life. But overall, great.
-System suitability: C-. The 70-200/4 is a nice lens, a decent size, high IQ. But that only gives you a reach of 300mm. Right now, there are really no other decent native options. And there are really no great practical options on the immediate horizon.
-Image quality for birding: JPEGS: B-. You need to crop heavily when birding, even with a long lens. And you often need high ISO, as you may want to stop down and you need a good shutter speed for birds. Keep the ISO under 1600, and you're doing pretty well. But anything over 1600/3200 range gets progressively ugly. IQ in RAW files remains: TBD. I'm hoping I can raise my overall assessment of IQ once I truly process some raw files.
 

Adam B

TalkEmount Regular
Joined
Dec 27, 2015
Messages
30
Adam, I'm having trouble reading your follow up posts after the street sign....is there a reason your text is formatted dark blue?
I am running the Old Default Dark Style.

Sorry... no idea why you are having a problem
 

Adam B

TalkEmount Regular
Joined
Dec 27, 2015
Messages
30
Thanks very much for sharing your impressions!
I'd be curious to see a low light AF test. IME focus errors are THE single biggest detriment to IQ. If this 6300 can focus reliably in conditions a couple of stops dimmer than my old NEX-7 - and render good usable captures at a couple of stops higher ISO - that would make a very compelling case (to me) for upgrading.

I have the Nikon D750 which is a low light AF champion. The A6300 can't come close to it, when it comes to focusing in minimal light. But in semi-low light situations -- indoors at night with artificial lighting, the A6300 is doing pretty well. At least if you have a fast lens on it.
 

Adam B

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Joined
Dec 27, 2015
Messages
30
I must say I am a bit confused with edge to edge performance you get from 70-200/4G on crop sensor, since it uses only center part of the lens, where it is sharpest. Lens has a bit soft extreme borders, but it shouldn't be affected on APS-C as this sensor simply doesn't use these rays of light.

Yes, you are only using the center of the lens.... but on a different denser sensor. I can't explain the physics of it, but my observations are consistent with objective profession testing.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR on Nikon D750 vs Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS on Sony A6000 | DxOMark

Take a look at the "measurements" tab and sharpness field maps. The edges on the A6000 (they obviously haven't tested the A6300 yet) are pretty soft. The performance of the 70-200 is much better on the A7r than on the A6000.
 

SRHEdD

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Real Name
Steve
I've changed systems more times than I care to recount, and paid WAY too much in eBay and PayPal fees. What I've found is, like a painter, surgeon, or carpenter, you need different tools for different tasks. I had the A7ii for a few months, I LOVED the hardware, but not the results. The Nikon Df is MUCH better for me in low light, so I keep a small Nikon kit. I loved the NEX-6, and dropped Oly in favor of Sony way back when (but still miss the Oly jpgs.). The hardware aspect of the NEX-6 was better than the A6000, but I couldn't deny the improvements, so I sold off the NEX-6. Now, the A6300 shows up at my door, fixing MY issues with the A6000, and I fear the A6000 will be relegated to a back up, or get sold. I shot 1700 photos on the first day the A6300 arrived, at 5 different lacrosse games in varying light. the A6300 fired great BURSTS without AF or buffering issues, and I had a high degree of acceptable images. Color is good, sharpness seems better (and more pop, akin to Oly), speed is noticeably faster in MY real world, and I might just have to turn DOWN that 11fps. What a great problem to have! The point is, keep the gear that is better at one thing (or another) and add to THAT kit. Keep the OTHER gear that is better at OTHER stuff, and build THAT kit to suit your work. Don't expect one camera to be everything. There will always be a camera that is better at something than the one you have. It is usually introduced about 30 days after you buy yours.
 

Jefenator

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The first ISO6400 bird shot with the 100% crops doesn't fare very well but the next one seems to hold its own much better. Looks like the Sony JPEG engine might not be the best at higher ISO - be nice to see how a RAW capture would fare, downscaled to match the cropped Nikon image for subject sizing at 100%. (With the focus & blur equally nailed for both captures, which I'm sure is a lot more easily said than done with live birds.)
Thanks for sharing all your results, though - each round of tests gives me a slightly more complete impression of what this new camera can & can't do.
 

Adam B

TalkEmount Regular
Joined
Dec 27, 2015
Messages
30
I've changed systems more times than I care to recount, and paid WAY too much in eBay and PayPal fees. What I've found is, like a painter, surgeon, or carpenter, you need different tools for different tasks. I had the A7ii for a few months, I LOVED the hardware, but not the results. The Nikon Df is MUCH better for me in low light, so I keep a small Nikon kit. I loved the NEX-6, and dropped Oly in favor of Sony way back when (but still miss the Oly jpgs.). The hardware aspect of the NEX-6 was better than the A6000, but I couldn't deny the improvements, so I sold off the NEX-6. Now, the A6300 shows up at my door, fixing MY issues with the A6000, and I fear the A6000 will be relegated to a back up, or get sold. I shot 1700 photos on the first day the A6300 arrived, at 5 different lacrosse games in varying light. the A6300 fired great BURSTS without AF or buffering issues, and I had a high degree of acceptable images. Color is good, sharpness seems better (and more pop, akin to Oly), speed is noticeably faster in MY real world, and I might just have to turn DOWN that 11fps. What a great problem to have! The point is, keep the gear that is better at one thing (or another) and add to THAT kit. Keep the OTHER gear that is better at OTHER stuff, and build THAT kit to suit your work. Don't expect one camera to be everything. There will always be a camera that is better at something than the one you have. It is usually introduced about 30 days after you buy yours.

I tend to agree, which I often have to explain to people when they want to buy a single camera for $500, never change a lens, and have a camera that can do it all.

But for those very reasons, it's good to evaluate where a camera excels, where it is passable, and where you need a different tool.
 

Adam B

TalkEmount Regular
Joined
Dec 27, 2015
Messages
30
The first ISO6400 bird shot with the 100% crops doesn't fare very well but the next one seems to hold its own much better. Looks like the Sony JPEG engine might not be the best at higher ISO - be nice to see how a RAW capture would fare, downscaled to match the cropped Nikon image for subject sizing at 100%. (With the focus & blur equally nailed for both captures, which I'm sure is a lot more easily said than done with live birds.)
Thanks for sharing all your results, though - each round of tests gives me a slightly more complete impression of what this new camera can & can't do.

Obviously, I'm not expecting it to equal a full frame camera in IQ in most situations. But since I have the D750, I'm using it as a baseline. It's also 24mp, I can cover similar fields of view.

Where I would be happy, is if in IQ, the A6300 RAW files can match up pretty well through ISO 3200, and still stay usable at 6400 and higher.
So far, just with jpegs, unfortunately, you really start to see the full frame superiority as low as ISO 800.
 

Adam B

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Joined
Dec 27, 2015
Messages
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Don't have time for a long post right now...
But with the 70-200, ISO 2500 looking pretty good:

25744134336_c5fa1eda45_h.jpg
   ---            
untitled-100.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

Pixel peeping, not perfect.. but certainly acceptable for ISO 2500 jpeg:
25649227862_f4233aa8de_b.jpg
   ---            
untitled-100-2.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

The more I look... seems if you nail focus and exposure, things are pretty solid up toe ISO 3200, but you need to be cautious going any higher than that.
 

fractal

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Obviously, I'm not expecting it to equal a full frame camera in IQ in most situations. But since I have the D750, I'm using it as a baseline. It's also 24mp, I can cover similar fields of view.

Where I would be happy, is if in IQ, the A6300 RAW files can match up pretty well through ISO 3200, and still stay usable at 6400 and higher.
So far, just with jpegs, unfortunately, you really start to see the full frame superiority as low as ISO 800.

I think you are also seeing a bit of Nikon's better JPEG engine.
 

Adam B

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Dec 27, 2015
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I think you are also seeing a bit of Nikon's better JPEG engine.

I swear, if Sony and Nikon could have a love child, it could finally be the perfect camera. (I will say it's nice to finally see Sony integrate Nikon-like auto ISO in their newest cameras).
 

Adam B

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Joined
Dec 27, 2015
Messages
30
As I continue my running impressions of the A6300, let me discuss a true strength:

Family candids. The AF system is mostly remarkable. As long as the camera is on and active, it is super fast and responsive. The amazing live view, and the automatic switching between the LCD and the EVF, makes is super easy to frame and snap yoru subject at any time. No awkward kneeling to capture your subject, no reverting to a slow dSLR live-view just to use face detect or to be able to hold the camera away from your eye.
And when capturing candids, you almost don't even need to worry about what focus mode you're using. AF-C with face detect, and just watch to make sure the face you want is green. If you really want to nail focus, hold down the eye-AF, and the camera does a pretty good job of following the nearest eye. Add in the pretty good wifi sharing, and it makes sharing family candids darn easy.

If there are negatives about using the camera for candids: It is slow to turn on the camera or wake the camera. Thus, if the camera has fallen asleep, or been turned off, you can't instantly capture the candid. Second negative, if you do need to move focus points, there is no touch screen or joystick/thumb stick. Using the back dial to move the AF point can be slow and a bit annoying. I often find myself often clicking it incorrectly as I'm moving the dial, accidentally changing the aperture or whatever... So fast movement of the AF point isn't great. But if you primarily are relying on the face detect, it's not a big worry.

I wouldn't say that the camera performed miracles -- Focus is not nailed in every shot. But I got a very high percentage of keepers.

So some candids from yesterday, with the 50/1.8 and the 70-200/4:

25469519270_9bf63652dc_b.jpg
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untitled-72.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

25649233432_9f8cf51f1e_b.jpg
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untitled-58.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

25469499990_a9d7081aed_b.jpg
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untitled-41.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr

25770152245_b3b181ef2b_b.jpg
   ---            
untitled-2-3.jpg
by Adam Brown, on Flickr
 

RAWFA

TalkEmount Veteran
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Dec 25, 2011
Messages
327
I'm very interested in finding out if PDAF is supported using the Metabones Speedbooster. How amazing would that be if it worked! This would basically mean you would have the smallest full frame camera with the fastest mirrorless AF. Sure, it cannot match high iso with a REAL full frame, but still.
 

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