The Sony Alpha a6300 sits at the top of the Sony APS-C camera lineup. It costs £1,000 body-only at release, sitting below the full-frame Sony A7 II.
Some will be unable to give up on the idea of owning a full-frame compact system camera, and we don’t blame you. However, the Sony Alpha a6300 is faster than its full-frame cousin, both at focusing and shooting, and is capable of capturing 4K video too.
If a CSC sensor will cater to your needs then the Sony Alpha a6300 is one of the best system cameras available.
Related: Best Cameras 2016
The Sony Alpha a6300’s descendants are the NEX-6 and a6000, two great cameras in their own right. All three generations are an upper mid-range option for those willing to spend a decent amount on a model that's a little smaller than a DSLR. The a6300 is clearly the most high-end of the trio, though.
Its layout and style are similar to that of the a6000, but the a6300 is a few millimetres thicker, a little heavier, and is made of stronger stuff in certain areas. The frame is magnesium, both back and front, making the camera feel tough and solid.
Similar to magnesium DSLRs, there’s a roughened finish to the frame that offers an extra hit of toughness. Typical of a Sony compact system camera, there’s little nostalgic retro charm to the Alpha a6300. It’s striking and attractive, but its design cues are most definitely contemporary.
Having come from reviewing the compact Panasonic TZ100, I find the Alpha a6300’s large grip reassuring. It has comfy, middle finger-hugging curves, and while that curvature doesn’t extend all the way back into the body such as the Nikon D750, you get a firm enough grip to use the camera one-handed – even with a chunky lens attached.
While bigger, heavier and somewhat tougher than its predecessors, the Sony Alpha a6300 is designed for ease of use rather than supreme manual control. For a £1,000 CSC, I’m almost a little surprised by the accessibility of its control layout.
There are only two manual controls dials. One sits on the top plate; this is the one I’ve been using most. The other is a rotary dial that sits around the D-pad on the rear of the device. At the serious end of Sony’s APS-C CSC lineup, you may have expected an exposure dial or a control dial around the front. The A7 II has both.
If you want control options that are more akin to a DSLR then maybe you’d prefer the FujiFilm X-T1, but I still think the a6300 offerings feel good. They’re not cramped, their action is solid and mode dial-based shooting is easy and fun.
Despite being quite pricey, Sony clearly believes the Alpha a6300 will appeal to the mainstream; I tend to agree.
What cements this belief further is how quickly you forget about the fundamental benefits of a DSLR over a CSC on using the Alpha a6300. For example, the a6300's EVF is superb.
Its 2.4-million-dot resolution doesn’t set any new standards, but it’s big, it’s bright and it can even carry on displaying an image preview between burst shots.
I still await the day that 4.4-million-dot EVFs of the sort included in the Leica SL (Typ 601) come down in price to become commonplace, but this EVF is certainly fun to use. Since it has an OLED panel, contrast and blacks are excellent, and 100% coverage provides a good indication of what your actual photos will look like.
The rear display is decent, but almost nudges you towards using the EVF – since its default setting is no good for use outdoors. It just isn't bright enough and, unlike your average smartphone, there’s no Auto brightness setting. Instead, you have to flick through the menus to find the "Sunny" mode.
It can be a pain – and I’m not a huge fan of Sony’s menu system either. While you’ll doubtless learn to zip around it quickly within a few weeks, its layout just isn’t as intuitive as that of some rivals.
In its favour, the Sony Alpha a6300 screen does fold out on a hinge that allows it to tilt both up and down. It isn't fully articulated, though, and can’t flip right over to let you see how trouty your pout is looking. This is exactly the sort of screen I’m after in terms of hinge flexibility, although I can imagine some video shooters wanting a fully articulated display as seen on the Panasonic GH4.