After spending a day getting myself familiar with how to set up the new Sony a6300 camera for shooting, I headed out to shoot some real-world stuff with it for the first time on some Bangkok city side-streets. I shot a handful of quick grab stills, but mainly slow motion video.

1/160 s at f/5.6 / ISO 200 @ Fine JPG – ©Marc Schultz 2016

What follows are my initial impressions, and this is by no means meant to be a full review of the camera. I will leave that endeavor to the reviewer sites that do it best. This is intended though to give you the kind of real world observations that you would try to make yourself when putting a new camera in your own hands for the first time. So what follows are the few things that popped out at me right away, which are unfortunately mainly dislikes, or disappointments let’s say.

1/100 s at f/8.0 / ISO 100 @ Fine JPG – ©Marc Schultz 2016

I am also going to break this blog into 2 separate posts. Today I will just include some of the low-res still samples I shot within this post. Also, if you want to see the high-res JPG and RAW files for any of these shots in order to do some pixel peeping on your own, then you can download them all in a ZIP file here.

I still need to edit the video I shot today, so I will post that soon in Part 2 of this blog as I said. But before I go any further, I just want to say that this is already my third post in a row on this camera, and in a rather short period of time. It is partly because I just bought it 2 days ago and never shot with a Sony mirrorless camera before. But mainly I’m emphasizing it because I feel this camera is going to end up being the camera of the year in many people’s opinion, or one of the top 3 at least. And since I am one of the first people to have one of these cameras in their hands, I want to provide people with some immediate feedback to try and help everyone decide if this Sony a6300 is going to be a camera for them too or not.

1/320 s at f/8.0 / ISO 200 @ Fine JPG – ©Marc Schultz 2016

Let me first start by saying I have had endless questions about the auto-focus system since Sony has been talking so much about how ground-breaking it is on this camera. So in the last part of this post (below), I am going to give some detailed background on the auto-focus system itself. I am calling it Sony’s “How, What, and Where” auto-focus because it really is revolutionary in some ways.

1/250 s at f/4.0 / ISO 200 @ Fine JPG – ©Marc Schultz 2016

Following now are some of my immediate dislikes:

JPEG and RAW – It gives you an option to shoot both a JPG and RAW together (as do most digital cameras these days). Sadly there are no options though to set what quality of JPG you want with your RAW. It gives you 3 quality options to choose from, but only when shooting a JPG alone: Extra Fine, Fine, and Standard, along with the option of either a 6MP, 12MP or 24MP sized image. When you shoot RAW and JPG though it automatically sets it to Fine for JPG quality. There is no way to shoot a RAW with an Extra-Fine JPG in order to get the highest quality JPG and a RAW together. Normally the option to choose the JPG quality with your RAW is available on most other cameras these days. So that’s a shame.

Battery Power – As we know, the battery is only good for about 300 shots, or about 1 hour of video shooting, until it runs out of power. So if you are out shooting steadily, but intermittently, then maybe you can get the battery to last about 2 hours maximum. After about an hour today I had about 30% battery power left. So I just plugged my power bank into the camera and ran power from my pocket using a long USB cable running to the camera. Great solution for me. I was actually planning to buy a couple of extra Sony batteries, but they each take about 2 hours to charge and seems like you will be replacing batteries all day long if you are on a full day shoot. So don’t think I will buy any extra batteries for now. Having a 13,000 milliamp power bank in my pocket means I can shoot all day anyway.

Exposure – I felt most of the stills I shot today in JPG were underexposed by about 1/3-1/2 a stop. At the time I did not notice it because they looked well exposed in the electronic viewfinder when I reviewed them. I normally shoot fully manual, but was shooting in aperture priority mode, with auto white balance, and with matrix light metering to keep it simple and leave the overall exposure up to the camera. I thought maybe they looked a bit dark because I was shooting with no picture profile set up at all. But this should just give me a balanced looking exposure and not something a bit too dark. I also did shoot some RAW tests, but at the moment I can’t process them in Photoshop or Lightroom because Adobe does not support this camera’s RAW files yet. So I was left only with Sony’s own RAW processing program called “Image Data Converter” to work on the RAW files I shot. The Sony program is pretty useless to be frank and it is hard to tell what you are really even getting from the RAW files with that program. So I don’t plan to do any more shooting of stills until I can shoot in RAW and process them with Photoshop. I will also set exposure compensation to shoot 1/3 of a stop over in most instances.

Auto-Focus – Remember, below is a full breakdown of how the elaborte auto-focus on this camera works. But I can say from the little bit of still shooting I did today with some moving subjects in burst mode, like Tuk-Tuks and motorcycles, that the hit rate of sharply focused shots from the auto-focus was not nearly as high as I expected. I have had much better results using Canon’s AI Servo continuous auto-focus mode. I also (surprisingly) had many out of focus shots when shooting at high shutter speeds and with just stationary objects. But before I draw any final conclusions on this I still need to do some more tests with it.

Function Quick-Menu A Lifesaver – There are so many settings on the menu system that finding things you want to change on the fly, right when you need them, can be challenging. Especially if you are going from still photo to video settings and back and forth. Luckily they have a separate programmable function menu (called Fn) which is accessible from a button on the back of the camera. In this separate user menu it gives you 12 slots for your most frequently used settings which you can program in yourself. For some reason though it does not allow you to add a quick Fn setting for what is called the “Record Setting”, which are the settings that allow you to change quality and frame rates for video shooting. A much needed setting when you are going back and forth between 120fps slow motion video and standard 60fps video. Seems Sony missed it for some reason.

1/160 s at f/5.6 / ISO 200 @ Fine JPG – ©Marc Schultz 2016

Sony’s How, What, And Where Auto-Focus System

HOW – First the how. It gives you many options in terms of how to focus. You have single shot focus lock, continuous (for moving subjects), and of course manual. But what is really impressive is that they have a mode they call “Automatic Auto-Focus”, which first locks for a single shot, but if the subject moves before you release the shutter, it will then automatically refocus on the subject and lock again. That’s cool.

WHAT – Then the what. Like many auto-focuses systems, it allows you to choose to activate all of its focus points (and on this camera you have 425 of them covering the entire screen). Or you can choose to focus by zone (it gives you 9 zones to choose from), just a single point, or by an expanded area around a single point. So it definitely gives you quite a number of options.

WHERE – But some of the most amazing stuff is in the where part of the AF. You can set it to follow someone by focusing on just their eye and the focus point then follows them wherever they move to in order to maintain focus on their eye at all times. It also has a face recognition option where you can train it to recognize someone’s particular face. You can then follow that person within a group of people to stay focused on just that person within the group at all times. And one setting that is really useful is the function that locks on and tracks any subject of your choice. Sony calls it Center Lock-on AF where the camera detects the subject positioned in the center of the screen and continues to track the subject. Once you enable it, a dot appears in the center of the viewfinder. Place that dot over the subject you want to track, then press the dot again, and it stays focused on that subject at all times.

One other thing the auto focus can do is that, when you are shooting in burst/continuous mode, it can continue refocusing on a moving subject after each consecutive shot in a burst (up to 11 shots per second). Something most other auto-focus systems can’t do as of yet.

1/160 s at f/5.6 / ISO 200 @ Fine JPG – ©Marc Schultz 2016


Is it a professional quality camera, or a camera I would use for professional work in general? In a word, no. In a few rare instances though, yes, perhaps. But my feeling is it really is not up to the professional level of standards that Sony would like everyone to believe it is. It is still a compact camera gadget in most ways, but is it an amazing camera anyway? Yes, definitely. It is very good at being a lightweight travel camera, a powerful and inconspicuous camera for street photography, and a great video camera for capturing bits of footage quickly, in low light, and with a minimal amount of extra gear. I am also sure that lots of people will be taking this camera, pushing it to high levels, and creating some amazing stuff with it over the next year. And as I get more familiar with how to get the best out of it myself, some of my initial disappointments may dissipate. 

1/60 s at f/4.0 / ISO 100 @ Extra-Fine JPG – ©Marc Schultz 2016

1/60 s at f/4.0 / ISO 100 @ Extra-Fine JPG – ©Marc Schultz 2016

1/125 s at f/4.0 / ISO 200 @ Extra-Fine JPG – ©Marc Schultz 2016

Download all the high-res JPG and RAW files from the above 9 shots in a ZIP file here.

Part 2 is coming soon!

*UPDATE #1 / 17-March-16* Great news! Adobe just released an update to Camera RAW. Version 9.5 of Camera Raw now supports RAW files from this camera. If you are using Photoshop CC and you update your Camera RAW plugin to version 9.5 then you will be able to process RAW files
from the Sony a6300 camera in Photoshop.

*UPDATE #2 / 21-March-16* Part 2 of this article has now been published. Click here to read Part 2.