Low Light Testing of Sony a6300: Usable Up to ISO 51200!

Yes, Sony's a7S II  [B&H|Amazon] blew me away last fall with its low light capability. But in part 1 of my just-created series entitled "How Much Low Light Capability Does One Really Need How Often?" Sony's a6300  [B&H|Amazon] leaves me gobsmacked. I also recant my earlier assessment of Sony's 24-70mm f/4 E-mount lens  [B&H|Amazon] while reaffirming my joy with Sony's FE 28mm f/2  [B&H|Amazon] and Zeiss' Touit 12mm f/2.8  [B&H|Amazon]. Your mileage may vary.

Last week I looked at the little Sony a6300's 120fps capability compared to the video-dedicated Sony FS5. It wasn't a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but guess what: it was close enough, and it surprised a bunch of folks.

This week, I'm looking at the a6300's low light capabilities, beginning with stills.

Here are some photographs I took last night of the legendary Colonial Theater featured prominently in the wonderful 1958 shlock-fi masterpiece THE BLOB. I also grabbed some shots of a local loading facility for ... something, I'm not sure what. Unless otherwise noted, these are straight out of the camera.

Sony a6300 with Sony FE 28mm f/2: ISO 25600, 1/250, f/5.6 uncorrected except for minor crop after adjusting perspective using DxO ViewPoint 2

Sony a6300 with Sony FE 28mm f/2: ISO 1600, 1/160, f/2

Sony a6300 with Sony FE 28mm f/2: ISO 51200, 1/4000, f/2.8. No post-processing other than slight rotation and resultant crop. You read that right: ISO 51200.

Sony a6300 with Sony FE 28mm f/2: ISO 100, 1/15, f/2.0. No post-processing other than slight rotation and resultant crop. Yes, it's much, much cleaner when you look closely. And?

Sony a6300 with Sony FE 28mm f/2: ISO 1600, 1/320, f/2.0 hand-held

Sony a6300 with Zeiss Touit 12mm: ISO 4000, 1/160, f/2.8 hand-held

Sony a6300 with Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8: ISO 3200 1/60, f/2.8 hand-held

Sony a6300 with Sony Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS: ISO 3200 1/60, f/2.8 hand-held

Sony a6300 with Sony Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS (at 24mm): ISO 6400 1/40, f/4 hand-held

Sony a6300 with Sony Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS (at 54mm) : ISO 6400, 1/50, f4 hand-held

   Sony a6300  with    Sony Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS    (at 24mm): ISO 32000, 1/125, f/5.6 hand-held

Sony a6300 with Sony Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS (at 24mm): ISO 32000, 1/125, f/5.6 hand-held

Sony a6300 with Sony Vario Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS (at 45mm): ISO 6400, 1/60, f/4 hand-held.

Here's the thing: 

  • Unless I'm pixel peeping for the express purpose of finding problems -- in other words, if I'm looking at the images as a viewer, rather than reviewer -- I think they can be awesome all the way up to 51,200 ISO on my 27" Thunderbolt display (maybe not for a 20" x 30" print, though even then  I'm not sure).
  • If you think I need new glasses, a) you may be right, or b) you might understand that my perspective is shaped by almost six decades of loving photographs, especially by the legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson.  Technically speaking some of his best shots sucked (grain and focus, like the cover shot of MOMA's Cartier-Bresson retrospective below), but not only did this not matter, the imperfection added to the emotional impact of the image. See what I mean?

Cover of the Museum of Modern Art's 2010 Retrospective of Henri Cartier-Bresson The Modern Century, copyright 2010, Museum of Modern Art (under Fair Use)

Takeaway, Part 1

With all three lenses - two of which generally only get mediocre pixel peeping reviews -- the gating factor was me, not the technology. It most certainly wasn't the camera. The a6300 continues to blow me away.

Next up? Video. And after that? Rolling shutter.