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Sony A6500 Review: A Great Sony Mirrorless Camera

What’s up guys, in today’s Tech Gear Talk we’re going to look at one of the top Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras, the a6500. This camera shares a lot of it’s core specs with the really popular a6300 but with some improvements. We’re going to talk about why this is a camera a lot of people are choosing for photography as well as video, and also whether it’s a good choice for vlogging and creating YouTube content in general.

When we look at this particular line of Sony cameras westart with the a6000 as the entry-level option, the a6300 as the mid-range option and now the a6500 more toward the top of the market.

My goal with every product review is to give you a detailed overview of the product features as they relate to real life use. If you find it helpful please let me know by giving it a like and hitting the subscribe and notification button for more camera and tech reviews.

This will be a pretty detailed review and there are both pros and cons to each camera so if you’re serious about your research, I recommend that you take the time to watch this video to the end.

This camera has some really great specs so let’s start by looking at some key features before we jump into the detailed review.

Sony A6500 Highlights

  • The a6500 is a mirrorless camera that has a  24.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor with 425 phase detection autofocus points.
  • It has the new Bionz X processor which improves speed and performance as well as image quality.
  • There is also an improved buffer which makes it possible for photographers to continuously shoot 11 fps up to 300 consecutive images if you’re shooting jpegs, and 100 consecutive RAW images.
  • You can shoot 4K video at up to 30fps and Full HD or 1080P at up to 120fps.
  • We have 5-axis in-body image stabilization which offers more stable video when shooting handheld.
  • The a6500 also finally incorporates a touch screen that can be used for autofocus both when it’s used in liveview and as a touchpad when using the really nice electronic viewfinder.
  • Another nice feature for video users is the 3.5mm mic input which lets you use an external microphone for better audio.
  • And it also has Wi-Fi with NFC so that you can easily move images to your mobile device and even control the camera using an app.

So let’s jump into the features in a little more detail.

Sony A6500 Sensor Size and Processor

The A6500 comes with a really impressive 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor with “front end LSI.”, which stands for Large Scale Integration. This is basically an additional chip which provides more processing power.  This new processor does a really nice job at reducing noise, and increasing readout speeds which is great for video.

As always with cameras, the bigger the sensor the better, because a larger sensor can use more information to create a better image with more detail and better dynamic range.

Sony paired up this APS-C sensor with BIONZ X image processor which together allow for a continuous shooting rate of 11fps. Now if you’re shooting standard JPEGs you can get 301 shots and in raw you can get 107 sequential shots in one burst, and that’s with auto-focus and auto-exposure. That’s pretty insane.

So this is a great setup for photographers and videographers and the image quality of this camera is really impressive. The new processor also makes the camera very responsive and fast to operate. It turns on really fast and you’re pretty much ready to shoot pictures or video right away.

From a photography standpoint this is a super solid camera. It takes outstanding images with great color and clarity. I’ll get into this more in the next section but for video users, it’s going to give you really nice and crisp video, and this powerful sensor let’s you shoot 4K video as well as full HD.

Sony A6500 Resolution and Framerates

Next I want to talk about some of the major strengths of this camera: video resolution and framerates as well as image resolution for photography.

The A6500 can record UHD 4K video at 24, 25 and 30fps, and full HD or 1080P at up to 120fps. And this is really impressive for a small, mirrorless camera. Choosing a fps setting has to do with what you want your final video to look like. If you want a more cinematic, softer look, go with 24fps if you want a more crisp look you can shoot at 60 FPS. I like to get the best of both worlds and so in shoot at 30 FPS.

The 4K video, essentially records footage that is 4x the size of full HD. So you’re getting that many more pixels to work with on each frame. And this has several advantages. I don’t want to go into them in too much detail here but I’ll put a link in the description and up in the corner to another video where I explain why you might want to shoot in 4K.

There are some issues with the camera body overheating when shooting 4K video for prolonged periods of time. There is a setting for Auto Power OFF Temp which can be set to either standard or high. Most people have reports around the mid-20 minutes of recording time for the STANDARD setting, and over an hour for the HIGH setting. Of course, these vary depending on the ambient temperature.

Next let’s talk about slow motion. The a6500 can shoot full HD video at 120 fps which is something I love. This is a really nice feature to get out of a camera at this price point. Depending on what your final video’s framerate is, this gives you a lot of flexibility with slow motion.

For example, I edit my videos at 30 fps, so if I slow down 120 to 30, I’m actually slowing things down by a factor of 4. .

Sony A6500 Lens Options

Alright, let’s move to lens options. The a6500 uses the Sony E-mount and I’m showing it to you with a 16-50mm lens. With the 1.5 crop factor of the APS-C sensor, I’m getting a 24-75 35mm equivalent and built in image-stabilization.

This is a pretty basic lens and would work fine for beginners, but it’s not very fast so it only opens to 3.5 and at the larger focal points it’s limited to 5.6. When I say “fast” I’m talking about aperture and how much light this lens can let in  If you want me to go into more detail about this concept let me know in the comments section and I’ll create a video that will cover it.

But, this is where the advantage of having interchangeable lenses comes into play. If you want a faster lens, if you want to go wider or add some telephoto options you have some nice lenses from both Sony and other vendors.

The selection is not as extensive as with Canon or Nikon but there are some super nice options, especially at the higher end. Towards the lower end, there is a Sony 50  f/1.8, a 35mm 1.8 if you want to go wider and even a 55-210 if you want to be able to zoom in on subjects that are far away.

This isn’t a lens review so I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but if you have the cash to spend, there are some outstanding options which I will include in the description.

Sony A6500 Autofocus

Ok, that brings us to the next topic which is autofocus. And I’ll discuss this for both photography and video. The a6500 uses a 425-point phase-detection system which Sony says can focus in as little as 0.05 seconds. This system is then also used to be able to track moving subjects as they move through the frame.

What’s nice about all of these focus points is that you can easily set off-center focus areas and then compose images with the subject being off-center without having to get focus and then reframe. You can use the touch screen to tap on an area and set it as the focus point or you can drag the focus point on the screen while you’re looking through the viewfinder.

There is also a continuous autofocus feature that you can use for photography so you can select a subject and the camera will follow it throughout the frame and keep it in focus. So check out how this system works, I can click on a subject then keep shooting it and the a6500 will re-acquire focus for each exposure.

For video, you can select any point on the screen as the static point of focus which is really nice if your subject if off-centered. This works for both fixed and continuous autofocus. You can also select an object and then let the a6500 follow it and keep it in focus.

You can frame a shot with multiple layers and then tap to focus while recording, and the a6500 will automatically switch focus points.  It performs this relatively fast and doesn’t usually hunt for focus. Although, I do notice that it tends to go beyond then point of focus and then return to focus.

Overall the autofocus system for video is really good, it’s not as good or as fast as the Canon dual pixel autofocus, which so far is my favorite, but it’s still really nice. There are times when it hunts for focus, especially in low light and low contrast situations. If you’re shooting video, vlogging or creating content for youtube, it’s going to work really well for you.

One of the major things that I found frustrating is that the indicator of the focus point is a middle to dark gray square, so after selecting a spot, which you’ll see that if I drag it turns orange, it then goes back to gray and I found that it is difficult to see in various lighting conditions. I wish that there was a setting where I could change that color, or that they would keep it orange or white.

Sony A6500 Audio

Another great feature of the a6500 for video is that it has a 3.5mm mic input. It’s really great if you’re looking to up your audio game and want higher production value. Using the 3.5mm mic input, you can use an external mic instead of the on camera mic. So you can easily connect a shotgun mic and mount it on top of the camera and you’re good to go. This is a really light and compact setup and you can easily take this with you anywhere.

You can use it for vlogging or for recording interviews or anything else where you want to pick up directional sound instead of using the omnidirectional mic that is on the camera and would pick up sounds from all direction equally. We do have audio levels on the screen which is something that I love when I’m behind the camera because I don’t need to go into a menu area to check levels.

But because the screen doesn’t flip, I can’t see the levels when the camera is facing me. I have to point the mic in the other direction, then test, then flip it back and hope that it’s the same. It’s not an ideal workflow but it works, but I wanted to mention it because I think these are the types of real-life situations that make a difference when you’re actually using the camera.

Now I can also use a lavalier microphone if I don’t mind being tethered to the camera. Or, I can even take it to the next level and go wireless by using my Sennheiser AVX with an XLR to 3.5mm adapter.

Now I am getting the performance of a lavalier mic and I’m completely free to move around and still get perfect audio. It’s also easier for me to set the audio levels because I can walk behind the camera and see them before I start recording, since the distance between me and the microphone doesn’t change as I move around.  I can now get different types of shots without having to change anything about my audio.

Sony A6500 Size, Weight and Build

The a6500 shares the same form factor, or body size and shape, as both the entry-level a6000 and the mid-range a6300. So if you’re already using one of those cameras, the a6500 will feel very familiar in your hand.

It’s a magnesium alloy, rangefinder-style body, and of course because it’s a mirrorless camera,  it’s super compact. It also has nice seals around the buttons for dust and weather resistance. The grip is nice and deep and Sony covered the entire right side with rubber so you can always get a good grip and you don’t have to worry about it slipping out of your hand. Sony incorporated a high-resolution XGA Tru-Finder OLED electronic viewfinder. The image quality is outstanding. It’s super bright and crisp and you’re going to super impressed the first time you look through it.

Sony A6500 Screen

Now we’re going to take a look at the new 3 inch screen which is ok at best. The image quality on it is really nice and it can be tilted down to 45 degrees for doing overhead shots.  It can also be tilted up to 90 degrees for when the camera is on a slider or whenever you’re operating it from above.

Let’s talk about my issues with this screen. First, it can’t be flipped 180 degrees up or to the side  to face the front. So it’s pretty much useless when you’re in front of the camera like I am now.  This may not matter to most people but if you’re using this camera as a content creator and you plan on being in front of the camera, take that into account because you can’t really tell if you’re framed well or are in focus. This is especially true if you’re going to hand-hold the camera facing you and walk around, you’re not going to get visual feedback about your framing. With practice you’ll be able to do it, but it’s not ideal.

Second issue with this screen is that it’s only touch-screen-ish. You can tap or drag to focus, but you can’t use the screen to operate any of the functions of the camera or the menu. And what I find myself doing is constantly trying to do that. Because I use the screen to focus, then I hit the function button, my instinct is to then click on the screen again and make a selection. Then when it doesn’t work I go back to using the controls on the side.

I don’t really understand why Sony did this. They clearly invested in a touch screen that has the ability to detect when I touch it, why not extend this ability to the full functionality of the camera? At this price point that is something that I think is a fairly big miss by Sony.

The last thing I want to discuss is the screen brightness. Well, my first impression was…it’s not really bright, and it’s hard to use. With a little more research, I found out the Sony intentionally dims the screen when shooting 4K or 120fps due to the overheating issues of the a6500.

There is a setting for monitor brightness but it is disabled in the modes that I just mentioned. If you’re shooting 24, 30 or 60 fps in Full HD, or 1080P then you can use it and the screen is really nice and bright.

Overall the image quality on the screen is excellent, but I wish Sony added a few more features here that would absolutely make this camera crush other options at this range.

Sony A6500 WIFI/BLUETOOTH/NFC

The a6500 has built in wi-fi with NFC (near field communication) which lets you pair it with a mobile device and then easily transfer images and movies and also control the camera. Transfering files is pretty easy, you can just go to the menu and then hit send to smartphone, then connect to the phone and the image will be transferred.For remote control, the app will allow you to take pictures and start/stop video but it’s extremely limited.

For both images and video I couldn’t set focus, I couldn’t change aperture, shutter speed or ISO, nothing… I could just preview, shoot images with the current exposure setting or start/stop video.

So, for photos it would work if you’re in aperture priority, shutter priority or P (which is programmed automatic). This way the camera will make the needed adjustments for you. You still can’t see the selected settings so you have no idea what the camera is choosing.

Now, while I’m unhappy with the performance of this feature, it’s really only going to matter to people who are looking for this functionality. I don’t understand why you would make such a nice camera and then skimp out on such a great feature. But, that’s me.

Sony A6500 Skill Level

I want to talk a little about the skill level required to use this camera. This is a very nice camera and it has way more settings and features than most people are going to use, but I still think it’s a good fit for both beginners and more experienced users.

Beginners can let the camera do most of the heavy lifting. There are a ton of presets and picture styles which really give you some flexibility even without having to really understand how they work. More advanced users are going to love the level of control that the a6500 offers for both photographers and videographers. There really is just so much that you can do with this camera and so don’t let the small size deceive you, it’s really impressive.

I will say that the menu system is ok, again, if you want a lot of features you’re going to get a big menu so you may have to dig down to find some things.

Sony A6500 Other Features

Let’s talk a little about some additional features that I think might help you make a buying decision. Sony added what they call a S&Q, or slow & quick video capture mode. This mode lets you capture Full HD or 1080P video at steps between 1 – 120fps. So this lets you slow down or speed up action in your video. I wouldn’t use this at anything like 120fps because of the decreased bitrate (just ignore that comment if you don’t know what that means and trust me that you want to use the actual 120fps setting instead of S&Q)

It will let you shoot sort of a timelapse as long as you don’t need anything slower than 1 image per second. There is also a timelapse app available which costs $10 if you want to do in-camera timelapse.

The a6500 also offers 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization and depending on the choice of lenses you can add in-lens image stabilization. That should help with hand-held video footage as well as photography with slower shutter speeds. For truly professional-looking smooth video, I would still recommend using a 3-axis gimbal for additional stabilization.

Finally, the a6500 has a clean HDMI out which means it can output what you’re seeing on the LCD display but without the menu and features. That makes it possible for you to use the a6500 for streaming.

Sony A6500 Final Thoughts

Alright, so I think the A6500 is a really good choice if you’re looking for a full-featured mirrorless camera. It has outstanding image quality for both photography and video.

  • The 24.2MP APS-C sensor and the Bionz X processor will give you great low-light performance, and you can shoot 11 fps at up to 300 consecutive images when shooting in jpeg and 100 when shooting in RAW.
  • You can record 4K video at up to 30fps and Full HD or 1080P at up to 120fps.
  • Interchangeable lenses offer you additional flexibility as your need change or grow. There are also some options at various price points so you can really get top-notch professional results.
  • The 425 phase detection autofocus points together with continuous autofocus work pretty well for both photography and video.
  • There is a mic input which lets you connect an external microphone to the a6500 and get better audio without having to record it separately and then sync it in post production.
  • The touch screen is limited. It works for autofocus and for displaying current selected attributes and settings, but can’t be used to actually control the camera or navigate the menu.
  • It’s small and portable and you’re getting a lot of power in a very small camera.
  • The built-in Wi-Fi let’s you move images from the camera to a mobile device and even have limited remote control of the camera using the PlayMemories Camera App.
  • More advanced users are going to love all the manual settings and control that the a6500 offers and beginners will be able to let the camera take charge and make decisions for them.

The Sony a6500 body along sells for right under $1300, and the kit I used for this video which includes a 16-50mm lens sells for right under $1400 which is really nice because the lens on its own sells for $273 so you’re saving $170 by buying them together.

I’ll put links in the description to all of the items I discussed in this video and the links will always be updates with the lowest prices whenever there are any specials, rebates and discounts.

I really hope this video gave you a good overview of the Sony A6500. If it did, please let me know by giving it a thumbs up, tweet it, share it and if you haven’t yet, hit the subscribe and notification buttons

You can also find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @techgeartalk.

Good luck and see you soon.

Products Used in This Articlevideo:

Buy the Sony a6500 Mirrorless Camera (updated):
Body + 16-50mm Lens
Body + Free Accessory Kit

Great Additional Lens Options:
Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS Lens
Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS Lens

Gimbals for Mirrorless Camera:
ikan MS-PRO Beholder 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer
Zhiyun-Tech Crane v2 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer
DJI Ronin-S
DJI Ronin-M 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer (I use this one)

Bracket and Tripod used for Microphone:
Vello CB-600 Straight Flash Bracket
Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom

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