A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

The Sony a6500 Mirrorless Camera

December 20 2016

by Philip Northeast

The  Sony a6500 features improved image quality, autofocus speed and a faster frame rate for still photography.


Sony did not increase the megapixel count of the a6500’s sensor, leaving it 24 megapixels. This still makes it equal or better than anything in the APS-C class.  There is a price to pay for increasing megapixels, noisier photographs and slower frames per second shooting. Then there is the increased file size  placing greater demands on memory cards and computer storage.  Sony’s decision to provide  better image quality instead is the right one in my opinion.

front view

Sony a6500 with a Zeiss design lens


Autofocus is another area  of significant development  with 425 phase detect points built into the image sensor, unlike the separate AF sensor array used in DSLRs.  This is part of Sony’s Fast Hybrid AF system that combines high-speed phase detection AF with extremely accurate contrast AF  system to capture and lock on to moving subjects in as little as 0.05 seconds.

Image Stabilisation

Sony added 5-axis image stabilisation to the a6500, the first time this system has been used in a Sony APS-C sensor camera. This gives a shutter speed advantage of approximately 5 stops. Combined with the ability to use higher ISO settings, extending  the lower limit of light conditions practical for photographing while hand holding the a6500.

“We are continuing to push the boundaries of modern innovation in digital imaging, in particular within the mirrorless space,” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics.  “By equipping the a6500 with 5-axis image stabilisation and touchscreen AF, we’re offering photographers and videographers more control than ever before and a seemingly endless amount of creative possibilities.  As our flagship APS-C camera, it far exceeds the performance threshold of any camera in its class, and many above its class as well.”

In the DxOMark Lab

Comparing the Sony a6500 with top small sensor DSLRs from Nikon and Canon in the DxOMark.com  lab reveals the Sony more than holds its own.

noise test

Three way noise comparison Sony a6500 Canon 80D and Nikon D7200 courtesy DxOMark.com

In the DxOMark noise test the a6500 matches the Nikon D7200 and has slightly less digital noise in images than the Canon 80D.

Three way colour sensitivity test between Sony a6500, Canon 80D and Nikon D7200 courtesy DXOMark.com

Three way colour sensitivity test between Sony a6500, Canon 80D and Nikon D7200 courtesy DXOMark.com

The DxOMark colour sensitivity test is about capturing subtle  differences in colour in the image. Here the Sony  ?6500 show excellent performance for this class of sensor.

Shooting Speed

To go with the fast AF  the a6500 has continuous shooting capability of 11 frames per second, with a buffer capable of storing 307 images that are waiting to be written to the memory card.

Touch Control Panel

Additionally, in a first for Sony cameras, the ?6500 features touchpad functionality.  When utilising the viewfinder for framing and shooting, the LCD screen can be used as a touch pad.  Simply drag a finger across the screen to shift the focus point from one area to another.


The positioning of the electronic viewfinder is interesting. It is minimalist rather than obvious, as in the new Canon M5,  and in a similar position to  the classic film rangefinder style of camera. However, as it shows the view through the lens there is no parallax error that was a characteristic of the rangefinder optical system.

rear view

Rear view of the Sony a6500. Note the viewfinder in the top left corner, as in a rangefinder camera.

Lens Mount

The Sony a6500 uses  E-mount lenses that have a different diameter to the A mount lenses for their DSLRs. The E mount lenses are more compact then the A mounts intended for DSLRs. It is possible to use the A mount lens on Sony mirrorless cameras but it does require an adaptor.

with telephoto lens

An A mount telephoto lens mounted on the a6500 with an adapter.


The Sony a6500 is a more than capable compact APS-C digital camera with all the capabilities of and image quality of a DSLR in a more compact body.

Available now from Adorama for $US1,398.00



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