It took Sony two years to update its mid-range mirrorless camera a6000 with the a6300. But it took only around nine months for the a6500 to arrive.
At first glance, the a6500 does not seem to differ much from its predecessor. However, it is slightly bigger (4mm thicker) and has a more pronounced grip for a better hold of the camera.
It still has a solid and sturdy magnesium-alloy body, but is 49g heavier than its predecessor. This can be attributed to the inclusion of a built-in five-axis stabiliser.
It retains the 24.2-megapixel APS-C image sensor and 425 phase-detection autofocusing (AF) points of its predecessor.
But it has a faster processor and bigger buffer, which let it shoot 300 Jpeg or 107 RAW images continuously before the buffer runs out. The a6300 is rated at 44 Jpeg or 11 RAW images.
In my tests using an SD card with a writing speed of 95MB per second, the a6500 was able to shoot 118 RAW images in 14.1sec before the buffer was full.
This is an absolutely stunning performance for a mid-range mirrorless camera, and it puts all other flagship DSLR cameras to shame.
PRICE: $1,949 (body only)
IMAGE SENSOR: 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS
SCREEN: 3-inch LCD touchscreen with 921,600 dots; electronic viewfinder with 2,359,296 dots
SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 51,200
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 11 frames per second
CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication
WEIGHT: 435g (body only, with battery and memory card)
BATTERY LIFE: 3/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
If shooting continuously with such speed and buffer is what you need, you can stop reading and go out to buy the camera.
The a6500 finally got a touchscreen display that its predecessors lacked. What's also nice about this is that you can use the electronic viewfinder to compose a picture, while at the same time use your thumb or finger to swipe on the touchscreen display to move the focusing point.
That said, moving the focusing point can be finicky as the feature was unresponsive at times. Also, the touchscreen display does not allow for the "tap to shoot" function found in many of its competitors.
Plus, the display can be tilted down by only 45 degrees and flipped up by 90 degrees. This is not a camera for taking selfies.
Operation-wise, it is around the same speed as its predecessor. The a6500 takes 1.4sec for both start-up and shutdown, compared with the usual 2sec of its competitors for the respective functions.
Paired with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, it achieved focus almost instantly in bright sunlight. During video recording in good lighting, it locked on a focus in less than 1sec at times, when I was panning to a new scene.
But in dim lighting conditions, it can take up to 2sec to get a focus. However, I think this is more due to the 50mm lens than the camera. With a Sony 16mm f/2.8 lens, it took only around 1sec to do so.
Image quality is superb, like its predecessors. It displays great dynamic range with plenty of details, even in the darker areas.
Noise performance is excellent as well. There were very few noise artefacts even at ISO 3,200. At ISO 6,400, noise artefacts were more evident, although the detail loss was minimal. Only at ISO 12,800 and above did the detail loss become really evident, with discolouration clearly visible.
Battery life continues to be average, at 350 still images on a full charge, which is the same as its predecessor. However, this is mitigated by the use of micro-USB charging, making it easier to charge the battery anywhere and also means one adapter fewer to take on your travels. You can also use a power bank to charge it on the go.
Perhaps the biggest downer is its price. At $1,949 without a kit lens, the Sony a6500 is $470 more expensive than an a6300 with a basic 15-60mm kit lens.
•Verdict: The Sony a6500 is a monster when it comes to buffering. Thus, if you are shooting sports requiring bursts of speeds over a prolonged period, this is definitely the camera to get.