The Sony a6500 is a powerhouse camera intent on delivering many features and usage highlights rather than comprehensive superiority over other cameras in its class. As a camera in a crowded market, it behaves more like an update than a game-changer. Although most photographers would be proud to own one, we found that a little research would likely push most consumers toward a camera more specialized to their own distinctive needs.
In this article, we break down and evaluate the Sony a6500 (sometimes called the Alpha a6500), and determine its merits and pitfalls versus competing cameras on the market. Our review of this and competing models should help guide your camera selection in the right direction.
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What is the Sony a6500?
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The Sony a6500 is the latest in the legendary electronics maker’s A6000 series of cameras. It is the most advanced model among the three iterations available on the market as we write this review. The a6500 is a mirror-less DSLR camera that offers quality photographic versatility alongside exceptional video capabilities, all packed into a compact, thin and efficient camera body.
This is a “pro-sumer”-grade camera revered largely due to Sony’s continuing achievements in camera technology. For the critiques you can find calling out less-than-optimum user focus and a few other shortcomings, the Sony a6500 still performs very well and harnesses the power of advanced processing to deliver extremely strong video and photo capabilities.
When viewing previous-model iterations in this line, we found that the physical camera design has stayed mostly unaltered. Where Sony chose to place focus instead was on upgrading the internal processing power, setting options, and features. This effort targeted more versatility in image quality, footage quality/continuity, and range.
The Sony a6500 DSLR camera has excellent image stabilization due to its 5-axis SteadyShot system. With this function built in, it is no longer essential to switch out lenses. The 24.2MP Exmor APS-C CMOS boasts thrilling, industry-standard image quality while the LIS and Sony BIONZ X image processor speeds up performance while maintaining quality. This means you benefit from a maximum 11fps shooting speed for up to 107 RAW (269 JPEG) photos at burst speed.
A 425 phase-detect autofocus (AF) system keeps video footage and photos in focus. An exciting touch-focus feature allows you to lock focus by just selecting it on the screen. That screen itself is a 3-inch touchscreen with tilt action for ease of articulation and shooting. In bright daylight scenarios, you can opt for the XGA OLED viewfinder, which boasts 2.36 million dpi for accurate composition monitoring.
For video, the Sony a6500 offers S-Log2 and S-Log3 gamma curves for truly versatile handling of color in post-production. Gamma Display Assist makes it easy for you to check exposure and quality on the fly.
The Sony a6500 lists for around $1,300, but it can be found at bargain prices closer to $1,000. This price is for the body only, which means first-time high-end camera buyers will need a lens and support gear like memory cards. Amazon.com is a great place to start looking for quality prices on this camera and everything else you need to make the most of your purchase.
How It Compares
The Sony a6500 is a quality camera, but on the market against other competitors, it definitely receives its share of criticism and dim performance reviews. We selected three other, similar cameras on the market and weighed them against the Sony a6500 for the price, performance, and design. Our goal was to present a cohesive assessment of the values and missteps of Sony’s new entry into the mirror-less camera department. The competitive entries we checked out were these:
- Canon EOS M5
- Fujifilm X-T2
- Panasonic GX8
This camera is comparable in the investment required to all the other cameras on our list. It lands in the midrange for price within its class.
EASE OF USE
Sony has made the majority of available settings internal instead of controllable via buttons or dials. This means that identifying the settings and items you need can be challenging, and for that concern, we have deducted points from the Sony a6500 in the ease-of-use column.
Again, Sony’s emphasis appears to be on technology claims and digitally driven functionality. The camera itself winds up seemingly focused more on economy than ergonomics. Your SD card is located inside the battery door, your “hot shoe” is inconveniently covered, and external batteries are harder to replace than with some other cameras.
This camera has experienced nearly no changes to its physical design since previous iterations, and we see this as a detriment to its reputation in the market. Its hyper-thin body can often come as a surprising negative quality for those who order online since it provides insufficient counterweight against the heavy lenses required to shoot at a professional or semi-pro level.
This camera is easy to buy from Amazon or from other vendors, and it is backed by highly regarded Sony warranty coverage.
- 4k video shooting capability
- 425-point phase-detect AF
- 5-axis, body-based image stabilization
- ISO range: 100 – 25,600 (expandable to 51,200)
- More expensive than other cameras with full-frame sensors
- Small, ultra-light body may not balance lenses well
- Digital focus means the physical design is lacking ease of use
Canon EOS M5
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Coming from a favorite camera maker for traditional photographers, the Canon EOS M5 is the latest entry in Canon’s foray into mirror-less DSLR cameras. A latecomer to this field, Canon offers a few qualities that are great, but ultimately fall a bit flat when compared to the exciting and continuously advanced charge Sony leads in the mirror-less camera world.
This camera stands out for economy in comparison to the Sony camera and other products we reviewed.
EASE OF USE
An articulated touchscreen LCD and an array of dials and familiar designs give this camera a traditional feel that is easy to work with. Its size makes this camera suitable to handle larger lenses that enhance the power of its built-in sensors.
Customization and features are minimal, so this camera is fairly easy to get up and running. Unfortunately, the onboard stabilization system is not as strong as Sony’s and, as a result, this Canon camera itself does take a little time use at a high level.
It’s a tight race, but Canon still seems to lag behind when trying to stand out in the mirror-less DSLR camera battle. It lacks weather resistance, like the Fuji X-T2 or the Sony a6500, and it doesn’t provide the internal quality and speed that Sony’s internal operating system delivers, but it’s a well-designed box overall.
On Amazon, we saw both 3- and 4-year warranty coverage available for this camera when purchased new.
- Cheaper than other similar cameras
- Fully articulated touchscreen
- In-camera RAW image processing
- No 4K video recording capability
- Only 7fps AF shooting mode
- Less accurate autofocus (AF) system than competitors
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The Fujifilm X-T2 is a mirror-less APS-C DSLR camera comparable to the Sony a6500 in nearly every way but for a few, select and notable differences. Both cameras come from top-quality tech companies with great histories in imaging. Comparing two models, it seems that the Fujifilm X-T2 puts more focus on pleasing classic photographers while the Sony a6500 is right for those who enjoy futuristic, refined design. The results: both brands and their cameras have both fans and critics all across the board.
The price of this the Fuji X-T2 stands out as a bit more expensive than all the other cameras on this list.
EASE OF USE
The 3 out of a maximum 5 stars we assigned here are based on the ready availability of key functions on this camera. With three dials and many more physical design features, this camera can be tailored to your distinctive needs quite easily. The issue then becomes whether new users will have the capacity to understand how to implement and customize these features for their own needs. Our reviewers faced a daunting array of features that may be either a great dream or a nightmare for you as you familiarize yourself with the camera.
Our lower rating here comes in part because, right out of the box, this camera really isn’t ready to use. You’ll need to spend a bit of time customizing the features to fit your distinctive shooting style and needs. Once that’s done, though, you will have a functional and exciting camera at your disposal that feels like it was designed just for you.
The technical complexity of this camera corresponds to its usability. The additional dials, buttons, and settings available to you make this camera a powerhouse in function and design once you get it up and running.
As with the other cameras available on this list, you can find this camera on Amazon. Warranty coverage is provided and extendable.
- Ergonomic design truly aids the user
- Exceptional autofocus
- The largest EVF on the market
- Not top of the line for video shoots
- More expensive than some leading competitors
- No internal stabilization
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The Panasonic GX8 is an economy-minded option compared to the other contenders on this list. Its body and support products are reasonably priced overall, and its smaller sensor provides for smaller lenses and ultimately a more portable and manageable product when you’re in the field. For photographers interested in entering the field without fear of mortgaging their house to afford it, this is a great, solid-quality starter camera.
Amazon lists this camera (body only) online. This makes it one of the least expansive current camera models in its class.
EASE OF USE
The tilt EVF offers an ergonomic solution to a situation many photographers encounter. Meanwhile, the full tilt and rotating screen mean, regardless of what angle you need to shoot from, there is a relatively easy solution at hand. This camera lacks the vast array of external dials and features that many photographers have come to value, however.
This is a simple camera with smaller lenses and relatively simple functionality. As a result, this camera is a solid, ergonomically sound solution for photo bugs of all pedigrees.
Once again, great features like the tilting viewfinder and easily articulated screen make this camera comfortable for shooters to use. The quality of the camera and its resulting photos make it a less formidable contender that its features alone suggest.
Three- and 4-year protection plans are available and recommended for this camera.
- Smaller lenses for more portable usage
- More cost-effective than other cameras on this list
- Articulated screen and viewfinder for ease of shooting
- Smaller sensor means reduced light fidelity and picture quality
- In-camera focus is not the strongest on the market
- Autofocus system is lacking by comparison to others on our list
Our Verdict & Conclusions
The Sony Alpha a6500 is an exceptional camera that should delight any owner, regardless of his or her camera arsenal overall. Its picture quality, 425-point phase detection autofocus, ISO range, and various internal configurations make this camera an exceptionally powerful and well-automated product. Its sensor size offers picture quality rivaling that of any other DSLR on the market. It loses some fans for its photo detail and lack of ergonomic balance.
Ultimately, if you are a photography purist with little interest in shooting video, this may not be the camera for you. Its small size can be troublesome against the size and heft of existing lenses. Meanwhile, the streamlined body makes for a unique feel that requires most photographers to adapt to Sony’s style instead of slightly adapting their traditional grasp and movements.
For amazing video and top-notch still-shooting capabilities, we graded this Sony camera 4 out of 5 stars overall. It manages pro-grade film footage at 4K, utilizes a fast and effective in-body automation system, and continues to push mirror-less camera technology. Although the photo quality does not quite reach the standards of the Fuji-film camera we checked out, post-processing software and other add-ons can compensate for that.