Sony a6500 Review – Real World Video Samples and First Impressions

Not long ago, Sony announced and presented the new a6500, a successor to its successful a6300. During a recent visit to Japan, I had a chance to spend a day with the new camera and I’m happy to finally share my first impressions here. Mind you, this is only a first impressions review, dealing ONLY with the video capabilities of this new camera.

sony-a6500

Sony a6500 Features

The four new features which I think are worth mentioning are the re-designed menu (more on that later), the capable autofocus system, touch screen LCD, and in-body 5-axis image stabilization. I would also highlight that the camera grip size got a bit bigger, making the camera easier to hold and work with. All the rest – such as sensor, picture quality and even low light performance – is pretty much the same as with the older a6300.

An additional advanced feature which can be accessed via the menu is the ability to extend the 4K recording time. As we all know, the a6300 would have got warm and likely shut down while recording. Although this may still happen with the new a6500, you now have the possibility to delay this by accessing the menu, changing the Auto Power OFF Temperature to HIGH, and allowing the camera to get warmer… In fact, Sony recommends using a tripod as the camera can get really hot.

In my experience, I had no problem whatsoever even while shooting in standard mode and in a hot location. However, this is of course no indication of anything as people will use the camera in different ways and on different locations, so please do share your experience with us. On a side note, I’m yet to find out if the a6300 can get its menu updated in order to gain access to the same feature.

Sony a6500 menu

Control how much heat the camera can sustain.

Menu, autofocus, touch screen LCD, 5-axis image stabilization and rolling shutter effect.

During previous discussions at Sony, I emphasised the need to completely separate the video and photo camera menus – an opinion I believe many others shared too. Sony has listened, and have taken the first step in redesigning and reorganising it to make the video crowd feel more comfortable when searching specifically for a video-related function. I would say that 80% of the work is done regarding the introduction of this new menu structure, but I truly hope that they can technically achieve that last extra mile – which surprisingly is not so easy.

The new touch screen on the Sony a6500 LCD is responsive, easy to use and works well with the new faster autofocus system. Mind you, make sure to select “Flexible Focus Point” if you want to be able to look at the EVF and drag your finger across to the desired focus point. The new built-in 5-axis image stabilization works OK, but falls way behind the one found on recent cameras by Olympus.

When it comes to criticism, I have to mention the camera’s rolling shutter effect. If you were hoping for the new model to shine and deliver better results than the a6300, then expect to be disappointed. To my naked eye, the performance looks exactly the same as its predecessor, although we will try and conduct our lab test soon to verify my observations. 

Sony a6500 Review – Our Findings 

Sony a6500 pros (in no particular order):

  • Touch screen LCD
  • Fast autofocus system, although not always very accurate. 
  • A slightly enhanced camera grip that makes it easier to hold and operate the camera.
  • Ability to extend the 4K recording time via menu selection, allowing for a longer tolerance to overheating before shutting down.
  • All the positive functionality of the a6300 such as S-log, manual audio controls, markers, lowlight performance, clean HDMI output are all still there…

Sony a6500 cons (in no particular order):

  • Camera menu needs to be 100% separated from the photo menu.
  • Headphone jack is missing.
  • Unjustified rolling shutter effect!

sony-a6500

Conclusion:

Upon returning the camera, I was invited for a discussion with Sony’s a6500 engineering and marketing people and was asked to give my honest opinion about the new camera, My straight forward answer was:

there is not enough innovation in the new model to make one move up from their current a6300 model to the new a6500.”

In terms of video performance, the two models are very similar with some advantage to the a6500 due to its new advanced autofocus system and touch screen LCD. The point is this: the a6000 was a nice HD camera. Then, with the appearance of the a6300, we got 4K and reasonably fast autofocus. In theory, what is missing from the new Sony a6500 is a “killer feature” – a unique selling point like internal ND filters, higher quality recording codec or bit rate, not to mention a headphone jack…

For those of you asking “will it ever come”, my answer is as follows: for Sony, this device is first and foremost a photo camera. Although their statistics clearly show that many users are buying into these little technical achievements and are using the camera in professional video shooting environments (see the below Sony’s official slide), they need to be convinced by seeing a critical mass of users who tell them in a clear loud voice: “we are using these kinds of cameras for our creative video work and need the extra functionality, so please give it to us without the fear of cannibalising your higher level video markets!”.

sony-official-target-user

Sony’s a6500 official target user view

Camera settings for this review: XAVC-S, PP7 (S-Log 2), 4K/24p. 100Mbps, shot mostly at native ISO and with available light. Sound was recorded in-camera. Edited on Adobe Premiere CC 2017 (so unstable on my Mac!). Colour corrected with a LUT designed in-house.

Ungraded version to play with: 

 

Music by: Art-list , The Valley Man by Easy People

Thank you Hiro-san, Kioske-san and Lee!

Guys, Sony reads your comments, so please share your opinion with us. Do you think they should surprise us by introducing a more video-oriented mirrorless stills camera on the a6xxx line?

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 Dmitri Tsitelauri Reply
Dmitri Tsitelauri December 1, 2016

Sony, “we are using these kinds of cameras for our creative video work and need the extra functionality” – please, listen to Johnnie!

Riley Endicott Reply
Riley Endicott December 1, 2016

Thanks for the review. I appreciate your work Johnnie! Any word on when the new menu system could make its way to the a7sii?

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Dmitri, Riley, thank you!

Riley, I’ll try and find out but to my opinion, it is not coming anytime soon.

Thank you!

Johnnie

 Ferri Ferri Reply
Ferri Ferri December 1, 2016

Thanks Johnnie for your precious work!

First thing I’d like to say don’t you find the extended recording time in 4k something and important improvement for videomakers ? As well don’t you find the IBS a big feature for casual videomaker who doesn’t what to spend and walks around with gimbals?

Second I’d like to ask your point of view about one feature, the 120fps a6500 can manage. Well I’ve pre-ordered this camera one day ago cause I need a good camera to film sports like motocross and mountainbike and for sure I’ll do a lot of slow motion on my editing, and 120fps for me are enough. Than Yesterday I saw this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTWMUNdEkxc

… and I get sick , is it possible that RX10 m2, the smallest sensor camera con give a better IQ at 120fps the the A7S ?? a6500 also have a softer IQ at 120fps than the RX10 m2 ?? I asking my self if I’ve to delete my a6500 order …

Andy Jaxx Bertozzi Reply
Andy Jaxx Bertozzi December 2, 2016

Ferri, don’t forget that the A7S can only record in 720p mode when in 120fps speed so the difference is exaggerated. But having the RX100m4, which has the same sensor as the RX10m2 I have to say that the slow motion of these cameras is indeed remarkably good, especially for the price.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Hi Ferri.

Andy already answered some of your questions. Just let me add that to my opinion, the 5 axis stabilization in video mode in this camera is not as useful as the one that can be found on the Olympus E-M1 Mark II.

In addition, the “extended 4K recording time”, needs to prove itself on the field.

We will all be more knowledgeable after the camera will get into the hands of more people.

Thank you!

Johnnie

Derek McCabe Reply
Derek McCabe December 1, 2016

The quality of the image Johnnie gets from this camera is really nice. I watched this in 4K on a calibrated Eizo monitor and also on a Samsung 55″ 4K screen.. and it looks stunning – especially for such an inexpensive camera. My only comment was overall skin tones looked a little yellow (any details on the custom LUT you used?), but I think what you captured under that lighting was very acceptable. I see many people complain about Sony color vs Canon color science… and for the work I do I see no issues with Sony for skin tones.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Thank you Derek.

James Davis Reply
James Davis December 1, 2016

“there is not enough innovation in the new model to make one move up from their current a6300 model to the new a6500.” I love how you said that.

Reply
David NJ December 2, 2016

I agree…rolling shutter is the big one. Built in ND filters are showing up on 1″ sensor cameras. It is a big plus for both photo and video…and easy to do.

In camera recording is nice, but I’d really like 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI 2+. If you need more than 100 Mb/S an external recorder is needed. But HDMI only recorders are under $1000.

Then the headphone jack. I’m in favor of it. But…on screen level indicators are nearly enough. The external video recorder or external audio recorder (Tascam, Zoom) provides that. Any line level input can have a splitter for a headphone before the attenuation cable.

Note that the Sigma lenses, non-image stabilized 18-35 and 50-100 seem like they were made for this camera…a complete package for below an A7rII in size, especially with lenses.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Hi David.

Understood. To my opinion, the usage of all those external audio recording devices could be avoided (for some type of work), if we had an headphone jack….

Thank you!.

Johnnie

Alex Masella Reply
Alex Masella December 2, 2016

So rolling shutter is probably the same huh? That’s extremely disappointing, maybe even a deal-breaker for me.

Reply
Narek Avetisyan December 3, 2016

I agree that’s the biggest flaw in the a6300/a6500 to me.
Makes shooting action really dificult to impossible with that kind of lag. Something that the small form factor of the a6500 fits very well for doing.

Hambone Dailey Reply
Hambone Dailey December 2, 2016

Thank you Johnnie. I had to watch it two times. One to analyze the video quality and then again to read the subtitles and follow the story. I think an a6300 is going to be coming in the mail for me fairly soon.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Thank you Hambone.

If you can, try before you buy. Maybe you would like the a6500 over the a6300 after all….

Johnnie

Art Sanchez Reply
Art Sanchez December 2, 2016

Hi Johnnie, how did you monitor the audio? Does this Sennheiser transmitter have audio out?

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Hi Art.

I tried simulating a true working scenario with that camera and decided to monitor the sound by watching the meters on the LCD screen only….(I guess that in order to minimize the risk of having corrupted audio, I should have been using a wired solution and not the AVX, BUT, as I was traveling, I took very little equipment with me.

I suggested Sony to come up with an “XLR k3m” adapter kit which is similar to the XLR k2m but with an additional headphone jack socket, so on all those “headphone-less” cameras we will at least have the possibility to monitor some sound. Not ideal as the sound won’t be monitored on the camera itself butI hope you will agree it is better then nothing…

Thank you!

Johnnie

Reply
Nicola Verdi December 2, 2016

Thank you for the review. But it is very confusing about the first positive point: “Touch screen LCD”? The internet is exploding about the slow screen. “Feels like old phone from 2008 with a 40ms lag”. Why Sony can’t not do it right? I don’t get it…

Rolling shutter: Same as A6300? Deal breaker. This is so huge mistake and Sony will lose so much money…

Let’s try again Sony: (A7SIII?)

Add global shutter or reduce rolling shutter to min: 12ms.
Please add internal ND filters. (game changer)
4:2:2 10-bit with minimum 300Mbps internal recording. (possible)
Add 4:4:4 for external recording and Sony stock market will explode.
4k 60fps, 1080 240 fps (in 2017 durable)
A little bigger body for better cooling.
Cleaner menu interface. Can’t be so hard or?
Better optical image stabilization.
Better battery life (350???)

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Hi Nicola.

I can only share my personal experience and as such, I had no problem what so ever with the LCD screen or its quality.

Rolling shutter: You are absolutely right!

In regards to all other points, I agree.

Thank you!

Johnnie

Reply
Nicola Verdi December 3, 2016

Johnnie thank you for all the hard work!

Joachim Richter Reply
Joachim Richter December 2, 2016

Thank you Johnnie!

These a6*** cameras offer a great value for money. In combination with an a7s** I do not only have two cameras, I have two sensor sizes, two lenses get four viewing angles now. This is a very good concept for single operators.

Rolling shutter is a minor problem for me, it is easy to fix in post.

What I am waiting for is an a7s*** with the same AF as a6*** cameras.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Hi Joachim.

Our dear colleague Philip Bloom, posted a comprehensive autofocus test: http://philipbloom.net/blog/autofocus1/ You might find his conclusion interesting. Maybe the a7** camera you are looking for is already here…

Thank you!

Johnnie

Joachim Richter Reply
Joachim Richter December 3, 2016

Thank you Johnnie,
I do not understand what you mean. I watched this video, do refer to it?

https://vimeo.com/193536180

At 05:05 Philip films with the a7s II and the image stays out of focus for several seconds. I do not know if it is intended by him. After testing this camera in a store I found AF reacting very slow comparing to the a6300. Maybe my impression is wrong?

Following my experience the a6300 should not be set to Focus Drive Speed “high” when filming still images because the AF makes these undesirable search focus movements. I set it to “slow” normally as this looks more natural and gives the spectator more time to follow.

I have heard that the a7RII’s AF is performing as good as the a6*** series. But this camera shows best results not filming in FF mode. But this is what I still find so interesting as I sayed above.

Harvey Walton Reply
Harvey Walton December 2, 2016

Hi Johnnie!

Now I’m not one to criticise much but I’ve noticed with your films you tend to have a similar grade and with something like food surely you want the food to look vibrant and tasty? The colours made the food look grim! Maybe that’s just the 8-bit camera though ;)

Anyway keep up the good work & thanks for your review.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Hi Harvey.

Thank you for your constructive remark. If you only knew how many emails I got from people who saw the video and wrote me that they got hungry after seeing those images….

Seriously speaking, you are absolutely right. What I did offer in my article, is an ungraded version, so anyone who is interested to test and take the time for doing a better grading job is more then welcome to try.

Thank you again!

Johnnie

Vlad Box Rojas Reply
Vlad Box Rojas December 2, 2016

You know I watch these vignettes for the unusual content, As usual very entertaining and it made me hungry. The camera ñanaaa looks like any other 4K, well shot Johnnie.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri December 2, 2016

Hey VBR.

Hope the Olympus EM1m2 will look different for you. Review is coming up soon.

Thank you!

Johnnie

Vlad Box Rojas Reply
Vlad Box Rojas December 2, 2016

Well, I say content is KING, is just that I got stuck in the past with the BMPC 4K, I like the way it resolves the color and the sharpness, surprisingly its been a workhorse (mind you, everything I shoot ends on 1080). But I enjoy the stories and the way of extracting the most out of this technology. I do have the Olympus EM5 mark 2 and I loveeee the flat profile on video and killer for stills, also a workhorse. Love to get my hands on the EM1m2, so cant wait for that next short film. Thanks

Reply
Grant McGowen December 2, 2016

I’m a current owner of the a6300 and RX100v – previously an A7S – and have worked with many other cameras.

What I’m impressed with about Sony:
-Small form factor
-Image quality (particularly detail)
-Low light capabilities
-autofocus system
-touch screen finally!

What I’d love to see in future models:
-A Gamma Display for SLOG2 and SLOG3 where you can control the exposure. I’ve noticed it looks best to overexpose SLOG by 2 stops – this is always confusing for people new to Sony.
-a way to preload LUTs
-10 bit 422!!! (It seems Panasonic and Blackmagic are catching on.)

Thanks Johnnie and Cinema 5D!

Reply
Narek Avetisyan December 3, 2016

To me the 7 biggest features that can seperate them from the rest are

#1 Global Shutter in Video (even as an option)
#2 16 Stop Dynamic Range
#3 Internal Electronic Variable ND
#4 60p DCI 4K and 300p 1080p 10bit 422
#5 Really good front facing OLED touch screen
#6 No time limits in recording video or overheating
#7 And a headphone jack of course yes.

If they make this they will no only have a huge hit but also have a legendary camera that will be remebered for all time.

 Ferri Ferri Reply
Ferri Ferri December 3, 2016

If it performs like the e6300 is also funny how this machine can perform a stunning 4k but only a poor FHD …