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Date: 03/02/2016 | By: Mathieu

Opposites attract – Thoughts about the new Sony a6300 and the G Master lenses

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Opposites attract – Thoughts about the new Sony a6300 and the G Master lenses

Sony just announced the new a6300, the successor to the popular a6000, whose improved autofocus and video capabilities will definitely get heads turning. Along with its new flagship APS-C camera, the brand also introduced a new series of full-frame lenses called G Masters. The three first models clearly define the premium and pro categories of this line-up. Not only do we get the long-awaited f/2.8 constant aperture zoom lenses, but also an 85mm f/1.4 portrait lens.

If you are a curious to know all the specifications and details about these new products, we invite you to check out our individual reports on our mirrorless curation website. Here I will share some personal thoughts and first impressions based on what I’ve read about the camera so far (update: I spent some time with the a6300 in Amsterdam).

Before highlighting the most interesting aspects, let me share something interesting that popped into my mind. This announcement summarises the two faces of the Sony mirrorless system very well: on one hand, we have a new camera set at an attractive price point with excellent technology that can beat the full-frame A7 models in certain areas (AF being one of them). On the other hand, we have a series of new lenses that despite having interesting characteristics, are also more expensive when compared to their DSLR equivalents.

Sony a6300 – The mirrorless camera that can finally beat the DSLR?

sony a6300

The a6000 has long been one of the most popular and also one of the best selling mirrorless cameras. The reason is pretty simple: at a very attractive price ($799 with kit lens at launch) it offered some of the best technology you could find on the mirrorless market including an excellent sensor and image quality and one of the fastest autofocus systems around. The price fell fast and thanks to some great deals found online, the camera became a best-seller and still is today.

The new a6300 debuts at a higher price ($1000 body only). Can the various enhancements justify it? At first, the improvements may seem like a natural evolution for the APS-C camera. The sensor has the same resolution but can collect more light and has a better readout speed. The ISO sensitivity now goes up to 51200. The camera can record in 4K with full pixel readout with a new Super35mm mode that uses 20MP (6K equivalent), then down-samples to 4K for better sharpness and detail. And then there is the autofocus system with more phase detection points. The latter is what grabbed my attention more than anything else … but not for the obvious specs.

The a6300 has a new 4D Focus hybrid AF system with 425 phase detection points (the highest number we’ve seen on a mirrorless camera) and Sony claims it is also the world’s fastest speed of 0.05s. Curiously, Sony used a similar sentence for the a6000 press release two years ago. There are some nice improvements like, for example, a new High Density tracking AF: the camera has an increased density of AF points in the area around the moving subjects (7.5 times the coverage density of the a6000) to track subjects more accurately.

sony a6300

But really the specifications I find the most interesting concern the improved live view for the LCD screen and EVF (which, by the way, finally has a decent resolution of 2.4 million dots). You can shoot at 11fps or 8fps with continuous AF and tracking, and Sony claims that with the 8fps speed the live view has a minimal display lag. Quoting their press release:

… a real-time shooting experience that combines all the benefits of an electronic viewfinder with the immediacy of a through-the-lens optical viewfinder.

It is also worth mentioning that the EVF has a 120fps refresh rate option. Now of course until we can test this new camera properly we can only speculate about how well it works, and Sony doesn’t mention how reduced the time lag is (the reference is the Fuji X-T1 with 0.005s). However I find it interesting that Sony is putting effort into improving the only negative aspect of today’s electronic viewfinders, which is the time lag. It is also interesting that they decided to do it on the successor of a camera that is already known to be an excellent sports camera. So with the new EVF and the improved autofocus system I wonder if the a6300’s performance is the closest we’ve come to high-end DSLRs when it comes to continuous shooting and tracking capabilities.

 The Pro G Master lenses

sony g master

Many times I’ve read complaints about the Sony lens line-up. Namely, the fact that there isn’t enough choice and the products are expensive. For the former I often write in defence of the FE system because it is very new and like every new camera system it needs time to offer a complete package. For the latter I admit there is more room for debate concerning Sony’s strategy. They are prioritising expensive lenses over affordable ones and somehow that goes against what they do with some cameras (the a6000 is once again the perfect example).

One complaint professionals had was the lack of f/2.8 zoom lenses and the absence of a very fast portrait lens. Well, meet the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS and the FE 85mm f/1.4 GM.

Sony shares some interesting information concerning the optical quality of the new G Master series. They designed a new XA element that is supposed to improve sharpness from corner-to-corner and render better bokeh without onion rings. The 85mm features a diaphragm iris with 11 blades and that should also render a very pleasant bokeh which is something that portrait photographers can appreciate. The 70-200mm f/2.8 has a floating focus mechanism (a first for a Sony Alpha lens) and a wobbling mechanism to minimises focus breathing for video recording. It also has a minimum focusing distance of 95cm.

I don’t want to jump to any conclusions before testing these new lenses but in the meantime I am certain that the high prices will attract some criticism once again. Just for the sake of comparison, let’s see what the prices of the equivalent lenses from Canon and Nikon are:

  • Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM: $2200
  • Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 ED: $1800
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 II USM: $1800
  • Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS: nd
  • Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II: $2100
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM: $2000
  • Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM: $1800
  • Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4 G: $1600
  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 IS II USM: $2000

Now if we look at the A-mount series (Sony DSLR system), most of their professional lenses are quite expensive. The SAL 70-200mm f/2.8 costs $3000 and I’m afraid that this is the price to expect for the FE lens as well (I hope to be wrong here). The FE system is even younger and I am pretty sure that the lower share of the market will force Sony to put a higher price on some of its products, especially if they are brand new with technology that requires more investment. It is also interesting to notice that Sony designed new lenses that are supposed to be the best the FE system can offer without involving its historical partner Zeiss.

I think Sony wants to make a clear statement: that it is capable of delivering the best image quality from both a sensor and optics point of view.

That said, I’ve noticed now more than ever with the most recent announcements that a large group of users is very sensitive to this topic. Certainly a professional photographer who chooses Sony will have fewer problems investing more money since his paid work can rapidly amortise that investment. For an enthusiast or advanced amateur, things can be more complicated. Many times I’ve read posts by people lamenting the high cost of the new Olympus 300mm f/4 Pro lens or even the Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3. The same reasoning has been applied to the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and even the Olympus Pen F.

My impression is that Sony is trying to do two things at the same time. On one hand it produces a large quantity of camera bodies and many of them rapidly become affordable because they lose their value quickly (the a6000 stands out more because it remained the flagship APS-C camera for almost two years). On the other hand the brand is concentrating on expensive lenses. Some having stunning performance (55mm, 90mm) while others have produced mix feelings (the FE 24-70mm f/4 is a perfect example).

I do hope that Sony will soon start to listen to all the users who wish for more affordable lenses like the 28mm f/2 and counterbalance all these more expensive professional products.

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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Mathieu

    We’re waiting for the Sigma MC-11 to see what the a6300 can do with EF lenses 😉

  • Robert Moore

    I don’t know if any here might be interested but lately I’ve been using an a6300 adapted via the Metabones T iv with several EOS lenses. So far with my knowledge I’m limited to Wide or Center or Flexible Spot in AF-C and have discovered that AF-C Center is the best option BUT have experienced success using EOS 300mm/F2.8 IS ii and 400DOii. At this point I wish I had access to Mat’s Kites in Wales (Gigrin farm?) to confirm what my heart is telling and that finally we have an e-mount that is fully capable of BIF with Canon adapted lenses.

  • Robert Moore

    Great discussion.
    For one I’m glad I got an a77ii when I did. What an unsung hero of a camera it is. A-mount may die but I get to enjoy the a77ii (with an A-mount Tamron 150-600) until it croaks. A BIF machine with incredible reach.
    I’ve got an A7Rii…’s my landscape machine but I’ve done BIF, astro, and macro with it, and tell me where that sensor cannot shine? The EVF refresh rate and fps was/is the only thing holding it back from world domination…I can see now the new tech of the A6300 trickling up into the A7Riii and suddenly a truly viable BIF/Sports machine. Now wouldn’t it be ultra cool (I think Nikons can do this??) if when put into ‘crop’ mode the frame rate could double!
    Battery life? Meh, I lived through the days of changing 10-12 rolls of film in a day-popping in a battery ain’t a thing….and with Sonys latest I can connect a USB battery brick (I use Patriot Fuel cells) and not only charge the A6000/A7Rii/RX100iii but can power it as well (wonderful for long timelapses or star trails).
    The FE GM series says to the photography world that Sony can do weddings! I’ll never shoot a wedding but with an A7Sii + A7Rii and these new bokeh Glass Masters any wedding guy has got to be thrilled.
    What I’m missing, and why I haven’t added the a6300 yet is long native e-mount glass.
    Reports are just now coming in on the a6300’s performance. I’ve yet to hear/read about it’s ISO ability—but what if it is ISOLESS like the a7Rii; that’s putting it in the realm of the 1DXii but still NO long glass.
    Surely Sony sees what Oly and Pana (Fuji too) are doing with focal length and addressing the needs/desires of the BIF, birder, sports crowd.
    A 100-400 or 400/4 e-mount just has to be in the pipeline!

    On build quality I don’t have a problem with the latest A7x series…much better than before. I do have a serious problem with one card slot though. Kudos on Fuji for addressing that.

  • Hawkeye

    It’s a Canadian thing.

  • Mathieu

    Thanks, really appreciate your comment 😉

  • Hawkeye

    Really enjoy Mirrorlessons btw. Nice job by you and Heather. Balanced, even-handed, good mix of pros and cons in your evaluations. Always a good read.

  • Mathieu

    I hope it will. I can’t wait to see more Sigma lenses designed for mirrorless cameras.

  • Hawkeye

    It will be difficult for third party lens manufacturers to grow their businesses if they continue to focus most of their attention on the shrinking FF DSLR market.

    At some point they will respond with some more serious lenses for the mirrorless market which has critical mass and is a long-term trend. I’m sure we will see more product offerings that are designed specifically for the mirrorless APSC and M4/3 format cameras.

    Sigma has so far concentrated its mirrorless offerings in the low-cost end of the market (Art DN series) and hasn’t really produced any high performance glass yet. This too shall change.

  • martin clinton

    Exactly, i’m looking for something to compete with the olympus 12-40 F2.8 for example in performance/size/price, seems Sony can’t crack it

  • Mathieu

    Yes I read similar discussions on Fuji groups as well.

  • Michael

    The topic of 3rd party has come up on Fuji Rumours many times, given how they love Fuji glass , they must want cheaper X mount alternatives too

  • Jens A

    And there is also a big used marked and it is easy to rent lenses etc for Canon and Nikon.

  • Mathieu

    It often depends on the specific lens itself.

  • soundimageplus

    That’s what I’ve seen, though after your comment I looked again and I’ve found some reviews that say AF is fine with the A7r II as the comment below suggests.

  • Turbofrog

    That AF situation may be the case with older E-mount bodies prior to the A7r II and the A7 II firmware update that brought native PDAF focussing with adapted lenses.

    I suspect the A6300 will also be able to natively focus EF lenses with the proper adapter.

  • Mathieu

    At least if you go on an Olympus official website the 4/3 DSLRs are no longer present, only the lenses are still listed.

    Yes it’s true that the A-mount seems to be on life-support (like this expression by the way :) ) and perhaps they will slowly stop everything. Bu they should make it clear sooner rather than later so that no one accidentally invests on a DSLT body.

  • Mathieu

    Are you sure about the AF with the metabones adapter? Because they work with the Fotodiox adapter (which is not the best).

  • Turbofrog

    Realistically, Sony no longer supports the A-mount. It is on life-support, and every few years you might get a trickle of news for a new product, but it is always a very basic one with the minimum of R&D effort involved. The last FF A-mount body was released in 2012.

    Sony are actually following exactly the same strategy as Olympus in that respect, who never truly admitted they were discontinuing their 4/3s SLRs. They just…stopped making new products for them, and then gave 4/3 die-hards the E-M1 that could focus their old lenses and hoped that would be good enough.

  • soundimageplus

    I agree with all of that. It’s something however they have always done. I called it the ‘scattergun approach’ Release a lot of stuff and hope some of it sells.

    Good point about the lens manufacturers. Those Sigma ART lenses with an e-mount and therefore AF would be very compelling. I’ve read their Canon fit lenses don’t AF with the Metabones Canon > e-mount AF adapters unfortunately as that would be an interesting option.

    If Sony had gone mirrorless with the a-mount, then all of this might be a different story and personally I’m hoping this is the way Nikon and Canon will go, keep your existing and well proved mount. That way you don’t get stuck in this endless unsatisfactory catch-up.

  • Mathieu

    I don’t think Sony will follow Samsung (at least not for now). I think the problem with Sony is that they are trying to do too many things at the same time. They basically have four systems (or two main systems with different formats):
    – A-mount (APS-C and FF)
    – E-Mount (APS-C and FF).
    Given the fact that non of them is outranking the competition (except the a6000 really), they are trying to keep everything and make them as much compatible with one another as possible. Olympus made a brave decision when they put an end to their DSLR line and concentrated on m4/3 only. I think that is paying off now. They have a complete system with a good choice for both amateurs and enthusiast (also because the system has been around for a longer period of time).

    What is sure is that compactness and lightweight is not the only argument in favour of a mirrorless system anymore. It is not enough especially when each brand release larger/heavier lenses to meet pro demands. So the only way to convince more people is advanced technology (and they are doing that well for now) and more choice of lenses including from third party manufacturers (because that’s how you get high quality lenses at a cheap price really).

  • Mathieu

    You have a point there. Mirrorless systems lack serious third party lenses. I hope Sigma will do something soon.

  • soundimageplus

    Agree with you completely about the lenses. ‘I do hope that Sony will soon start to listen to all the users who wish for more affordable lenses like the 28mm f/2 and counterbalance all these more expensive professional products.’ Well said. I checked and the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 is actually 10g HEAVIER than the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 II and liable to be more expensive. As to all this ‘redefining the lens’ or some such nonsense, the proof will be in the actual images.

    ‘For an enthusiast or advanced amateur, things can be more complicated. Many times I’ve read posts by people lamenting the high cost of the new Olympus 300mm f/4 Pro lens or even the Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3. The same reasoning has been applied to the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and even the Olympus Pen F.’ Again well said, this is right on the button and something I write about constantly as well. I really do not understand how in a falling market camera manufacturers just raise their prices. I’m a professional, I make a decent living, I also buy and own a lot of gear, but I gulp at some of these prices. I’ve put together a seriously good selection of lenses by shopping around, buying grey imports and S/H and I get tax breaks. But how the average photography enthusiast with other commitments copes with this level of pricing has to be difficult. And Sony fail to understand that apart from their aimed squarely at pro’s cameras such as the D5 and 1Dx II, Nikon and Canon know that to make money they have to price their high-end cameras (and lenses) so that serious enthusiasts will consider buying them. Sony won’t persuade professionals to make the switch to them unless the A7 series gets a lot better in terms of build quality, speed of image capture and battery life. And also when buying into Sony FE means loosing money at resale.

    Finally I have real doubts about Sony staying the course and I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually follow Samsung. They apparently aren’t even the biggest seller of mirrorless cameras in Japan, that is Olympus. And if they can’t achieve that, what hope for them in the rest of the world.

  • Michael

    Sony produce another high speced camera, it’s predecessors always had a superb price. However Sony being Sony ,I’m wondering what the user experience will be, subjective maybe , why some love Fuji & others won’t be leaving their DSLRs. If Sony could improve that ,then I’m sold. Price & specs alone aren’t quite enough.

    I am still very much interested in the new lenses & how they perform. Forget not Canon & Nikon users also have the cheaper & superb 3rd party lenses from Sigma & Tamron.

  • K-Nine

    If I wanted to lug around a Full Frame lens, I would have bought a Full Frame camera. I wanted a great APS-C lens.

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