Sony Alpha A6500 review - Quality

Quality

To evaluate the real-life performance of the Sony Alpha A6500, I shot this outdoor scene with it and the Fujifilm XT2 for comparison. The best quality wide lens I had available for the A6500 at the time of testing was the E 24mm f1.8, and I closed it to f5.6 for optimal sharpness across the frame. Unfortunately I didn’t have access to a matching prime for the XT2 at the time of testing, so I fitted the XF 10-24mm f4 zoom and adjusted it to deliver the same field of view, again closing it to f5.6 for the best performance. I realise this is not an ideal comparison, but both are quality lenses and if you compare the crops from near the centre of the frame, you’ll effectively reduce the impact of the different optics. If you think it’s unfair or irrelevant, just ignore the results in the right column and concentrate on those on the left! The crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangles below and presented in the table at 100%; I shot in RAW+JPEG, but until the RAW files are supported by Adobe Camera RAW, I’m just presenting a JPEG comparison here using the default settings.

sonya6500_outmain_1890

Looking at the Sony crops first, it’s clear the E 24m f1.8 prime lens exhibits some softness in the corners even when closed to f5.6, but the crops taken from nearer the centre of the frame reveal a good degree of detail.

The Fujifilm crops alongside reveal the XT2 is applying greater sharpening and contrast by default for a punchier result, and also that the XF zoom is performing more consistently across the frame at 24mm.

I feel a little frustrated by this comparison, partly because the lenses weren’t matching primes, but also because the Sony lens didn’t deliver the performance I expected from a prime costing just shy of $1000 USD. In tests with previous Sony APSC bodies I’ve used the E 16-50mm and E 16-70mm and found both were also soft in the corners. Indeed so far I’ve only enjoyed sharp details across the frame on the Sony APSC bodies when fitting them with full-frame FE lenses – for example, when comparing the A6300 with the FE 35mm f2.8 against the XT2 with the XF 35mm f2, although annoyingly at the time of testing the A6500 this FE lens was not available to me. Should I get the chance to retest with this lens, I’ll update this page.

Clearly the crops from near the centre of the frame prove the A6500 can resolve as much detail as the XT2, as you’d expect given both share 24 Megapixel APSC sensors (albeit with different colour filter arrays and PDAF capabilities), but the crops towards the edges again prove Sony APSC owners need to think carefully about their choice of lenses if they want consistently sharp details across the frame.

Keep scrolling down for my Sony A6500 noise results or use the tabs to check out my Sony A6500 sample images or skip to my verdict.

Left: Sony Alpha A6500 (JPEG) with E 24mm f1.8, right: Fujifilm XT2 (JPEG) with XF 10-24mm f4 at 24mm

sonya6500_outcrop1

Above left: f5.6, 100 ISO, above right: f5.6, 200 ISO

sonya6500_outcrop2

Above left: f5.6, 100 ISO, above right: f5.6, 200 ISO

sonya6500_outcrop3

Above left: f5.6, 100 ISO, above right: f5.6, 200 ISO

sonya6500_outcrop4

Above left: f5.6, 100 ISO, above right: f5.6, 200 ISO

 

 

Sony Alpha A6500 noise

To compare noise levels in low light, I photographed this scene with the Sony A6500 and Fujifilm XT2. Like my first test page, the A6500 was fitted with the E 24mm f1.8 and the XT2 with the XF 10-24mm f4, both set to f5.6 and the latter adjusted to deliver the same field of view. I’ve explained the choice of lenses on the previous page (essentially it was the closest match I had available to me at the time of testing), but with the cropped area being taken from near the centre of the frame on this page I’m confident any optical differences will be negligible to irrelevant. More importantly, both cameras were using their default processing settings (with DRO disabled on the Sony) and the exposures were matched for each quoted sensitivity – so what you’re looking at below is directly comparable. The full view is shown below with the red square indicating the cropped area, presented below at 100%. I’ve compared out-of-camera JPEGs here but also recorded the scene in RAW for a future comparison when the cameras are properly supported in Adobe Camera RAW.

sonya6500_noise_main_1890

This is going to be an easy one to analyse: apart from a minor difference in measured white balance and the slightly higher contrast and sharpness applied by the Fujifilm by default, I’d say there’s very little to choose between the two cameras here. Both are recording essentially the same degree of real-life detail and exhibiting similar amounts of noise up to 3200 ISO. Between 6400 and 51200 ISO, the two models take slightly different approaches to noise reduction with more visible artefacts on the XT2, but I think the underlying signal level is very similar.

So when comparing noise I’d rank the Sony A6500 and Fujifilm XT2 on a level playing field. Indeed in terms of real-life detail in bright conditions as seen on the previous page I’d place them neck-in-neck too. The only major difference between them in terms of overall image quality is the choice of lenses with many of the Sony APSC options I’ve tested looking soft in the corners.

Left: Sony Alpha A6500 (JPEG), right: Fujifilm XT2 (JPEG)

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_100iso

Above: 100 ISO

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_200iso

Above: 200 ISO

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_400iso

Above: 400 ISO

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_800iso

Above: 800 ISO

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_1600iso

Above: 1600 ISO

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_3200iso

Above: 3200 ISO

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_6400iso

Above: 6400 ISO

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_12800iso

Above: 12800 ISO

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_25600iso

Above: 25600 ISO

sonya6500_noise_jpeg_51200iso

Above: 51200 ISO

 

You can see the A6500 tested with a variety of lenses in my A6500 sample images page.
 
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