Sunday, 23 August 2020

More Random Thoughts on the A6300

The Path is Lined

Fujifilm X-T2, 7Artisans 12mm f2.8

I got out yesterday for a hike on the Seaton Hiking Trail with the A6300, giving me a chance to really use it for more than just some neighbourhood flower shots. With 340-ish shots on it, we're still in New Toy mode. 

Frankly, it's clear that I was not giving the A series APS-C cameras a fair shake. I've been avoiding them for a while largely due to my mixed experiences with the earlier NEX bodies, specifically the 3 different NEX-5 variants I've owned and the two NEX-7's. 

The A6300 was the mid-range body of its generation, sitting between the older A6000 (which replaced the NEX-6) and the slightly newer A6500. The A6300 was for all intents & purposes the NEX-7 replacement body, delivering the build & EVF experience that a NEX-7 user would not have found on either the NEX-6 or the A6000. 

Compared to Fuji, it really sits in between the X-T20 and X-T2 in terms of capability, but is closer overall to the X-T20 in features and target market. Sony's flagship of this generation was the A6500, which featured IBIS and a truly impressively deep buffer (100 RAWs vs 48 max for the X-T2) plus a touchscreen, vs the better sealing, pro-grade shutter (1/8000 mechanical, 1/250 sync) and higher max fps (14 vs 11) of the X-T2, plus the X-T2's bigger finder (0.77x vs 0.71x for the Sony's). Interestingly, both Sony's were priced between the X-T2 and the X-T20, with the A6500 coming in a little below the X-T2 and the A6300 coming in just above the X-T20.  The pricing really does reflect the relative capabilities of these bodies, aside from AF performance, the A6300 and A6500 took the APS-C Mirrorless AF performance crown back from Fuji and have kept it ever since.

In terms of ergonomics, the A6300 is better than I expected, as I noted in the last post. I do like how many options Sony made assignable to buttons, there's about 50% more options that are assignable compared to on the Fuji's. You do have less buttons to assign to, but the switch allows you to overload one of them. The lack of a MyMenu is annoying, but Sony's Fn menu is more configurable than Fuji's Q menu. 

Sony's JPEG's are decent out of the box, but you're very limited on how you can tweak them (contrast, saturation & sharpening only) and there's no custom slots unlike Fuji or Nikon. Sony, you REALLY can do better here. The defaults are good, and there's actually more options there including some very specific ones (Autumn Leaves, Sunset) but the lack of tweaking limits you compared to the Fujis or Nikons.

Auto ISO is better than on older Sony bodies, but you still need to set a custom speed for lenses which need a speed higher than 1/60th if they're not electronically coupled. Luckily this is assignable directly to a switch (On Fuji, you can assign Auto ISO options to a switch and dive into a second menu from there, or put Focal Length on your MyMenu, which also writes EXIF and lets you leave Auto ISO on Auto shutter speed. Sony's quicker, Fuji's more powerful).

For IQ, frankly the RAW's aren't quite as good as the Fuji overall, as they're 14-bit lossy compressed (12-bit in continuous) and I like the default colours less. That said, there's more room to recover in the highlights on the A6300 than on the X-T2, meaning I can bring back sky using my Nikon D750 presets without too much issues. The Sony's are losing more data in the shadows from the compression and the shifting of 1EV or so of data into the highlights. Also the green rendering is closer to the Nikon's so it's easier to get that punchy green and deep blue look for landscapes that I love. Can't quite get the Nikon Indigo's yet, but I think that might be achievable from the Sony files, it's not on Fuji. 

I did a quick ISO test to see how the different bodies metered. I set the X-T2 to ISO 200, mounted my Nikkor 50/1.8D set to f5.6 and got a shutter speed of 1/1250. Swapped the lens onto the A6300 and matched the shutter speed at ISO 160. Then I swapped it onto the A7II and matched shutter speed at ISO 125. I was metering against blank sky with the same aperture, so the Field of View differences between the A7II and the two APS-C bodies shouldn't matter, at f5.6 there's little vignetting on the Nikkor so that shouldn't have affected metering either.

The takeaway from this is that there's about 1/3 stop difference in how the two APS-C bodies meter and/or rate ISO. That gives me effectively 2/3rd a stop lower ISO range on the A6300 (base of 100 vs 200 on the X-T2), which should be good for longer-exposure work when shooting rivers & streams. Combined with the extra RAW headroom in the highlights, I should be able to worry less about blowing highlights when shooting the Sony vs the Fuji.

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