Shooting the Sony A6500, bye bye DSLR?

SLS Photography Owner, Stewart L. Sy with the Aquatica housings for the Sony A6500 and the Canon 5Dsr at the beautiful Dive Solana Resort in Batangas

Recent, I was able to make my way to the beautiful Dive Solana resort in Mabini, Batangas Province in the Philippines to shoot the Sony A6500 Mirrorless, Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC for short) and compare it against my Canon 5Dsr.  While this may not sound like a fair comparison, the odds were a lot more even than at first glance!

The Canon 5Dsr is the undisputed resolution king, boasting a whopping 50mp full frame sensor, while the Sony A6500 has a 24MP cropped sensor.  So, if you were to crop a 5Dsr sensor so that it would cover the same area as the Sony, then it would reduce it to about 18MP, thus the Sony actually has the Canon beat by about 6MP. But it’s not all about megapixels.  Would the Sony be able to compete against the famed AF of Canon’s near top of the line DSLR?  How about the ergonomics?  Would the Sony be a viable alternative?  Well, after 6 days of diving both systems side by side, I would say that “Yes” with some caveats, first of all.  A big “THANK YOU” to Rob Skeoch and Sony Canada for lending me the Sony FE90mm and 50mm Macro lenses and another big “THANK YOU” to Aquatica Digital for supplying me with the A6500 housing!

See the 2 near identical images below:

Hairy Frogfish shot with the A6500, Sony FE 90mm Macro, Aquatica A6500 Housing, Dual S&S YS-D1 strobes

Hairy Frogfish shot with the Canon 5Dsr ,EF 100mm f2.8L Macro, Aquatica AD5Dsr  Housing, Dual S&S YS-D2 strobes

Now, for more than 99% of the underwater photographers out there, these images will be displayed for social media purposes, uploading to Facebook, Instagram and the like.  Aside from the colour balance (both at default “As Shot”Smilie: ;) the images are near identical.  The images were shot within a minute of each other.  Even for the remaining shooters, both images would easily hold up to printing up to a 20×30 print, of course the 5Dsr could go higher, but how many of us do?

Pygmy Seahorse taken with the A6500, same setup as above

Pygmy Seahorse, taken with the Canon 5Dsr, same setup as above

Taking a look at the seahorse images above (aside from the body position as that I couldn’t contro), the images are both sharp and pleasing.  Both cameras had a bit of difficulty looking onto such a small animal (the nod going to the Canon for acquiring the critter faster) but the shots were taken and good images were made.

Shaun the Sheep nudibranch.  I didn’t even see the small one!

Now, the above images is where the Sony starts edging ahead of the larger Canon. While I’m sure that the Canon would still have taken a good shot, the extra pixels of the Sony help in the overall crop-ability of this image since I had essentially 6MP more.  The level of magnification is extreme, as the above image is a half of the original frame, so given the use of a +10 Aquatica Close-Up Diopter and that it’s a cropped sensor, this is a 6x magnification of the scene.  The extra depth of field inherent to a crop sensor helped keeping both animals in focus as well.

Suffice to say, image quality is more than adequate.  The Sony FE90mm Macro lens is easily the equal of the Canon EF100mm f2.8L.  I’d be happy to add the images taken by the Sony to my portfolio.   Now, how was the camera and housing in actual use?  Would a long time DSLR shooter find it difficult to switch?  How about a new user?

The Aquatica A6500 housing is a wonder of mechanical linkages, switches and buttons.  Every camera control (and thus function) is accessible from the housing.   The much loved Rear AF button is activated from the housing by an easy thumb lever.  Shutter speed and Aperture controls are easily reached by 2 dials and a simple thumb press on right joystick allows for quick ISO changes.  A nice difference from my DSLR is that the Sony’s video button is always active.  I don’ t have to switch to Live View like on my Canon.  Also, the Sony can take up to 30p, 4K video while my 5Dsr is limited to 30p, 1080.

A user simply needs to get used to the housing layout and it’s no big jump using the A6500 vs using my A5Dsr housing.  The biggest difference was the size and weight of the systems.  After using the DSLR housing, even with 4 x 8″ TLC buoyancy arms, the Sony was much more tossable with half the flotation.  Given the increasingly limited baggage allowances, the Sony is much more travel friendly.

I didn’t get to do much wide angle as I had made a mistake and brought the wrong port extension for the Sony, however I was able to use it with the Sigma MC11 EF to E Mount adapter and the Sigma 15mm Fisheye.

 

While I would have preferred a slightly faster sync speed than the camera’s 1/160th, it did superbly.  The smaller size made it easier to shoot in tight confines such as the shot with the yellow rhinopia.

So, in conclusion, for the new UW Photographer looking to upgrade from a GoPro or Advanced Point & Shoot, the Sony A6500 and Aquatica A6500 Housing will easily handle all of their needs, even up to producing professional level images and will do so at a price that is much more appealing to the bank account and/or significant other.  As a long time DSLR shooter, I was incredibly impressed with the performace of the A6500 and loved the familiar ergonomics of the Aquatica A6500 housing and would not hesitate in using the system again in the future.  The small size certainly makes the setup attractive to the travelling photographer.

While I’m not quite ready to give up my DSLR, especially for topside shooting, I still prefer the ergonomics of my DSLR for this, the A6500 certainly has me started me thinking about a smaller, travel friendly underwater setup.

See more images from the trip below:

 

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