Saturday 22 August 2020

First Thoughts on the A6300


Sony A6300, Sony E 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS PZ

I had to make a quick run to the local grocery store last night, which gave me a chance to try out the A6300. Mostly I shot with the tiny 16-50 Power Zoom that's been the kit lens for all the APS-C Sony bodies since the late NEX era. Note I've owned the older 18-55 OSS with my first couple NEX's (the 5N and 7) and didn't like it much, it was too big and no great shakes optically. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the grip is. The camera is a soapbox with a grip, and it's not a large grip, but it fits my medium-sized hands reasonably well. The thumb rest could do with some more definition, but that's all I can complain about.

I was also surprised by how thick the bodies are. After owning several NEX's, I was expecting pretty similar form factor (despite the pictures making the body changes obvious). The A6300 body is about twice as deep as the NEX bodies, including the 7 and that brings 2 real changes to the handling. The first is the palm section of the grip becomes much deeper, which is a good thing. The second is that there is now some actual surface for a tripod plate to stabilize against.

None of the NEX bodies paired well with tripods because of how unstable the plates were (the NEX-6 started to get usable, but I found I had to use adapted lenses on the NEX-7 when shooting on a tripod if only to be able to use the much better tripod feed on the adapters, particularly the LA-EA1 I used with my selection of A mount glass back then)

Control layout is good for the most part. The AF/MF+AEL button/switch combo is better located than on the A7II, and that makes it more useful as AF-On. C1 and C2 are in lousy locations though, C2 is basically unusable when holding the camera in shooting position (same issue with C4 on the A7II which is in the same spot) and C1 is just awkward. As such, I threw AE Lock on C1 (as I don't use it that much) and the Auto ISO Minimum Shutter Speed onto C2 (C4 on the A7II is Focal Length for manual lenses, but since Sony only uses that for IBIS and the A6300 doesn't have IBIS, that's not an option on the A6300). For the switch, in AF/MF I set it to AF-On, in AEL the button is Focus Magnification, so I can just flip the switch when using manual focus lenses. I disabled the movie button outside of movie mode, but sadly Sony still doesn't make it assignable in this body (better than the NEX-7 initially, but Sony added the disable there via firmware update and nothing has changed since then). I wish it was dual-wheel like the NEX-7 rather than having a mode dial, I was fine with Mode as a menu item, but most people do change Mode a lot more than I do (and I only really use 2 modes anyways, A & M)

Performance is good. The camera is responsive in most regards, although it does feel slower than the X-T2. Frankly, in terms of responsiveness it feels a lot like the X-T1, very good but not outstanding. AF is a little odd, it feels slower than the X-T2 (for the little AF shooting I've done), but it definitely tracks much better. I think the actual single-shot AF lockon time is a touch slower, but the AF tracking (and thus Video and AF-C performance) are decidedly better. Face detect is usable (it's not on the X-T2).

One thing I've missed from the Sony's is that they auto-switch to Manual Focus mode when mounting a manual lens or non-electronic adapter. One of my few annoyances with the Fuji's is you have to still flip the focus mode switch to M to get access to the manual focus assists, and that switch is awkwardly placed on the front of the camera (one of the few cases where I wish Fuji would ditch the dedicated physical control). This is minor, but it was a delight when I mounted my Nikkor 105/2.5 and realized that the camera went into MF mode by itself. I don't mind automation when it does the right thing.

As to the 16-50, it's impressively unimpressive. I can't think of a lens I've shot with that's as thoroughly mediocre without annoying me. Now I don't really like Power Zoom, but this thing is a pancake when retracted so I'll give it a little there. It's optically unimpressive, not bad, just not good either. Acceptable seems to have been the design requirement and they've hit it dead on. The one thing I will call out is that the close focus performance at 50mm is pretty good. I was expecting it to be mediocre, much as the FE 28-70 is (with 0.45m at 70mm), but it gets down to 0.3m at 50mm, which is actually very good for any 50mm non-Macro. 

Now I generally found the FE 28-70 to be a decent and arguably underrated lens, and optically I'd say it's visibly better than the 16-50, but the 16-50 is noticeably wider, a touch longer and just more flexible thanks to the closer MFD. 

At the end of the day, the 16-50 is an acceptable kit lens and a useful bag lens thanks to adequate performance, low cost and utterly tiny size when collapsed. Plus being Power Zoom, it collapses itself like Fuji's 15-45 but unlike Nikon's 16-50 or Olympus's 14-42 R. Sadly it's not the gem than the Oly 14-42 EZ is, but again, it's acceptable, cheap and tiny. Very useful as a small lens for light carry or light video work on the APS-C or A7R series bodies (in crop mode for the latter)

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