Sony’s A6500 mirrorless camera boosts performance, adds five-axis stabilization

Sony’s A6300 is one of the best APS-C mirrorless cameras around, but now Sony has one-upped itself with Thursday’s announcement of the A6500. While built around the same 24-megapixel sensor as the A6300, the A6500 gains a faster processor, larger image buffer, and — most importantly — five-axis sensor-shift image stabilization.

The lack of in-body image stabilization was one of the few complaints photographers had with the A6300 and is a feature found in all of Sony’s second-generation full-frame mirrorless cameras. Sony says the new system is optimized for the APS-C format and provides up to five stops of shake reduction, according to CIPA standardized testing.

Five-axis image stabilization is now unique to Sony among both APS-C and full-frame mirrorless cameras, although Olympus and Panasonic offer it for the Micro Four Thirds format and Pentax offers it in its K1 full frame DSLR. Interestingly, Sony does not make any claim that stabilization is significantly improved when combined with optically stabilized lenses. The company noted that the OSS system in the lens will take over from the sensor on the axes it can handle, but did not say if it improves the overall stabilizing power.

The A6500 matches the continuous shooting speed of the A6300 at 11 frames per second, but thanks to the faster processor and larger buffer, it can now shoot 300 JPEGs in one burst — or 100 RAW files. That is good news for sports and action photographers.

The video specs are all but unchanged from the A6300, with 4K video recorded from an overscanned 6K region of the sensor at up to 100 megabits per second. One new video-specific feature is the Slow and Quick mode, which allows speed to be ramped all the way from one frame per second up to 120 in Full HD, for capturing up to 60-times fast motion and five-times slow motion. Also new is the ability for users to rack focus by touching the LCD screen.

All of this makes for a very capable camera and Sony is likewise proud of its achievement. “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,” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics, in a statement.

But all the new capabilities will come at a cost: the A6500 will sell for $1,400 with availability scheduled for November. That is a fair amount above the $1,000 for the A6300, but the new camera is not a direct replacement; both models will continue to be available concurrently.

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