The Perfect Travel Camera? | My Review of the Sony a6500

The Sony a6500 with Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 Lens

The Sony a6500 with Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 Lens

I recently sold both my Canon 7D Mark II and Canon Eos M3 for what I would consider is an upgrade to the Sony a6500.   Now, before I make some self-proclaimed camera expert's head explode because he (not assuming anyone's gender here) doesn't agree, let me explain...

I currently use the Canon 5D Mark IV as my primary camera and I have a full array of lenses for it as well.  I absolutely love the 5D and it takes much better quality photos than the a6500.  In the past I used my Canon Eos M3 as my travel camera since it was light, took decent photos and the lens it came with had a 18-55mm zoom.  Further, it was relatively small.  The issue for me was the camera was painfully slow, the images were just ok and I was always underwhelmed. I could get better quality images when I paired it with the metabones adapter and some of my top lenses, usually reserved for the 5D, but when I added those big lenses it sort of negated the idea of a "travel camera." When I travel I get access to some of the best photos I might ever take and it is frustrating to think that I could be limited due to quality, speed or any other limiting factor, so I decided it had to go.  
When I did photoshoots I always used my Canon 7D Mark II as a back-up camera.  A lot of times I would mount my primary lens on my 5D Mark IV and a second, specialty lens on the 7D.  This way I could quickly switch between the two.  In addition the 7D is a few frames per second faster than the 5D which makes it ideal for things like shooting sports, cars or if I really hated myself... birds.  The 7D is a great camera and I was sad to see it go, however, I needed to sell it in order to have enough cash to get the a6500.  The good news is the a6500 seems to be both a good travel camera and a pretty solid replacement for the 7D.  

So with my justification of out of the way, lets take a look at the a6500 by the numbers:

Cost- $1200 (body only)

Mount- Sony E Mount

Format- APS C (1.5 x Crop Factor)

Image Format- JPEG/RAW

Movie Format- AVCHD Ver. 2.0, MP4, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, XAVC S

Max Resolution: 24MP 6,000 x 4,000

ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100-25600 (Extended 100-51200)

Shutter Speed: 30 sec - 1/4000, bulb mode

 Continuous shooting: 11 frames per second

So if the above seems a bit confusing don't worry, it is to me too.  But to simplify it, the a6500 has a great ISO range (meaning it can handle low light), the 24mp resolution offers some quality shots that could be blown up just about as large as you'd ever need, it has a fast shutter speed and it can take a lot of shots under a second.  Not only that but the camera has some pretty awesome features such as Steady Shot which allows the camera to compensate for minor shaking of the user, creating a crisper image. In addition the camera shoots in 4k Video and is known for having great low-light resolution. 

So why do I think it's a step up from the 7D Mark II?  Well, for one it's cheaper ($1300 v $1200), it has better resolution (20mp v 24mp), it can shoot 4k video, it has better ISO sensitivity (100-16000 v 100-25600) and it shoots faster in continuous mode (10fps v 11fps).  Not only that, it's a lot smaller and very light weight with the lens and body weighing in at just over a pound..

Best camera for travel.jpg

In addition to the above I have found making the transition from the Canon to Sony to be relatively easy.  When I got the camera I purposefully didn't read any instructions on how to use the camera and I was able to figure out all the basics almost right away.  There are a few things that I have looked up since then, like putting the camera on bulb mode, but figuring out how to adjust aperture, shutter speed, white balance and ISO was almost immediate.  Given my level of intelligence, it says a lot about the camera. 

As far as photo quality goes I am very impressed.  The 24MP sensor is enough to turn any photo into a large blown up image.  In addition, the SteadyShot internal stabilizer gives you the ability to shoot at a shutter speed of 1/40-1/60 and still deliver very sharp photos.  More importantly, Sony continues to crush the low light game and all of my shots had very little noise. 

A Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium  Sony a6500, 16-70mm Zeis | f/4, 1/80, ISO 2500 

A Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sony a6500, 16-70mm Zeis | f/4, 1/80, ISO 2500 

The above shot has an ISO of 2500.  I left it blown up so you can see the noise.  In post editing I also bumped up the clarity which typically will increase your noise produced by a high ISO. So while there is still some noise, it's pretty impressive nonetheless. 

Sony a6500, 16-70mm | f/5, 1/200, ISO 100

Sony a6500, 16-70mm | f/5, 1/200, ISO 100

Sony a6500, 16-70mm | f/5, 1/60 ISO 400

Sony a6500, 16-70mm | f/5, 1/60 ISO 400

So is this the best travel camera?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it is the best one for me that I have been able to find.  I know I could go a lot smaller if I chose a camera with an integrated lens system such as the Sony RX10 Cyber-Shot.  However, I wouldn't have the ability to interchange lenses like I do with the a6500 or even the EOS M3.  

For the lens, I opted to buy the Sony SEL1670Z Vario-Tessar T E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS which is Sony's top of the line lens collaboration with Zeiss.  Because the lens is made as a collaboration it performs flawlessly and the quality of the glass is right on par with the quality of the camera body.  The 16-70mm zoom also will cover almost any shot I'd take while traveling.  I do wish the f/4 aperture was a little better, maybe an f/2.8, but I can still get just about any shot I want.  

I know the $2,000+ price tag of the body and lens of the a6500 would be more than most people might want to spend, so I do still recommend the Canon Eos M3 as a great, low cost, travel and entry level camera.  For around $800 you can get the EOS M3 body and lens that will take some great shots.  

So in short, I am extremely please with the purchase thus far and I'd absolutely recommend the Sony a6500 for anyone looking to get a great travel camera or even an all around camera for photography.  It's used by professionals around the world (I originally heard about it from Christopher Burkard who uses it for travel as well) and more than enough of a camera for what I will use it for.  



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