We are always seeking to improve our travel photos and videos, and it was about time to upgrade our camera to be able to get more compelling results in our travel vlogs.
There is an endless amount of choices you can make when choosing the best camera to suit your needs, and we are going to explain our reasoning behind choosing the Sony A6500.
A starting point for our search
We started off by making a list of the most basic characteristic our cameras should have, and from our point of view, we wanted it to be quite compact and lightweight, able to shoot 4k videos and slow motion as well, to be able to work on improving our cinematic effects and our b-rolls. But if you only need a camera to take photos for your blog or Instagram, you can ignore the 4k feature.
We’ve left most of the other camera features and technical specs out of the picture at the beginning of our search, to get an outline of what we wanted and narrowed it down to just this: a mirrorless camera able to shoot 4k and slow-motion videos for our YouTube vlogs and that could also take great pictures for our Instagram channel.
Coming up with a shortlist
After having a look around about the possible options we made a list of mirrorless cameras that could suit our basic needs. The list looked like the following:
Sony A6300/A6500 or A7s II
Olympus EM1 Mark II
We’ve probably missed a few of the options we short-listed but these were the main ones.
We then started to read and watch endless reviews about these options, together with comparison videos. I highly recommend doing the same before picking one of the options, you will end up knowing the best camera for you and you will start loving it even before it’s in your hands! If this happens, it would be a great sign that you found the one.
Ruling out the Canon cameras
The list included some of the most commonly used vlogging cameras such as the Canon 70D or 80D, but we quickly had to rule them out since these Canon models still don’t shoot 4k and the slow motion in Full HD at a maximum of 60 fps felt a little limiting, plus the weight and size were too bulky for our travel needs.
A better look at the Nikon options
The Nikon D5500 was quickly dismissed for the lack of 4k capabilities, but the D500 looked like a great camera, lighter than the Canon counterparts and able to shoot 4k at 30fps, and slow motion in Full HD at 60fps. It came out quite pricey though at around £1.700, which felt a little over budget for us and kept looking at the other options.
What’s up with the hype about the GH5?
Since the Panasonic GH4 was mostly superseded by the GH5, we pretty much focused our attention on the GH5 only, even though the GH4 was a cheaper great option, with 4k video support and up to 60fps in Full HD. Now, the price of the GH5 was comparable to the one of the Nikon D500 but the GH5 looked like a beast with 180fps in Full HD and lighter weight, but this was probably due to its smaller sensor (a micro 4/3) compared to Nikon’s APS-C sensor.
We’ve dug the GH5 quite a lot, and watched tons of reviews about it, we really wanted to like it, some of the pictures we found online were absolutely amazing, but the videos we saw on YouTube were not that great, the autofocus looked quite laggy and vlogs looked quite terrible due to that. We definitely didn’t want to risk throwing £2k pounds down the drain, so we dismissed it.
Here comes the Sony A6500
Since we had a first look at some of the example footage for the Sony A6500 we found online we literally fell in love with it. Stunning photographs and crispy clear videos, even in low light, with always-in-focus subjects in vlogging videos, it looked like a dream, so we had a better look at the specs.
The specs were what we were looking for, 4k video support at 30fps and 120fps for Full HD videos, also really lightweight (the body weights 453g compared to the Panasonic GH5’s 725g) and with a smaller form factor. On top of this, quite unexpectedly the camera was cheaper than the GH5 (£1,200 VS £1,700) and the sensor is an APS-C, which is definitely a nice to have, a larger sensor means more light.
After looking at the A6500 we then started comparing it with other Sony options, such as the older A6300 and the more high-end Sony A7S Mark II. The Sony A6300 look pretty much the same camera in terms of specs, the main missing bits in the A6300 are the IBIS (in body image stabilisation) and some touchscreen functionality mostly limited to touch-to-focus. In general, it didn’t look like a massive upgrade, but some of the comparison videos online outlined a much more stable image when taking handheld pictures and videos, which was nice to have for us, and we were also planning to buy for the future, so a newer model was very welcome.
The Sony A7S has everything the A6500 has to offer, plus a full-frame sensor, higher ISO, faster shutter speed and more, and it all comes only an extra 170g in weight, but with an extra £1,300, doubling the cost and we are talking about only the body.
It’s worth mentioning that the Sony A6500 has some downsides too, first of all, it doesn’t have a flip-out screen, which most people consider a must for vlogging, but it hasn’t been much of an issue for us, when we are talking at the camera we can usually see whether it pointing at us or not without the need of a flip out screen. It could still be a problem if you’re trying to show the scenery around you because you wouldn’t know what’s in the frame, but it is not an issue for us because we are a travel couple. The Sony also has other issues like overheating, but we never really shoot long videos with it so we’ve never noticed, and the menu system takes a while to get used to due to the lack of touchscreen capabilities, but again it’s not a great deal if you set up the camera with the right settings, shortcuts, and custom buttons.
What about the Olympus?
The Olympus EM1 Mark II looked really good as well, almost like a cousin of the Sony A6500, similar specs, weight and size, and capabilities. The main reasons why we opted for the Sony A6500 instead are mostly the same as for the others in our short-list, the Sony A6500 has a bigger sensor, shoots at 120fps in Full HD (the Olympus only at 60fps), and it’s £1,000 cheaper.
We ended up choosing the Sony A6500 as we didn’t feel like we were compromising against other models, and at the same time, we were able to spend some extra money on a great lens rather than having a more expensive camera body with a not-so-good lens due to budget constraints. In case you’re curious, we’ve opted for the Sony Zeiss 16-70mm OSS lens to go with our Sony, with a price tag of around £750. We are still planning on pairing this lens with a fast prime lens as well, but we haven’t bought one yet.