September 29, 2023

Hello there! Today I will be comparing the Sony a6500 with kit lens, to the RX100 compact camera. In this case the RX100 mark 4. But all the latest 3 generations of RX100 cameras have about the same still picture quality These are obviously quite different cameras But it is still interesting to see what will give the best picture quality. The a6500 kit lens is admittedly not known as the greatest lens optically. But it is convenient with a small size and useful zoom range. Taking that one step further, an RX100 has the same zoom range and is quite a bit smaller. The a6500 is Sony’s top APS-C camera, and with a sensor more than 3 times the size of the RX100, one could assume it would create much better pictures. Particularly in low light, and for creating subject isolation with background blur. However, the RX100 has a much brighter lens, which goes from Fto 2.8, compared to Fto for the kit lens.

So if we convert the specs to their full frame equivalents we see that they are actually very close, when we adjusted for sensor size. So let’s see how that turns out in pictures! First I will look at sharpness. Here is a centre crop from the wide end of the zoom range with a wide open aperture. They are fairly comparable, with maybe a slight edge to the a6500. Stopping the RX100 down to the same aperture as the a6500, and it’s pretty much equal. While if we stop both down to F10 the a6500 again gains a slight advantage to the RX But they’re both very similar at this point. Wide open in the corner however and they’re both pretty bad! Although the RX100 is not quite as bad. If we stop the RX down to the same aperture it does improve quite a bit and stopping down to the RX improves a bit more, while the kit lens remains just as bad it was! For comparison of what a really good lens gives on the a6500 here is how the Sigma 16mm renders in the corner.


Sony A6500 vs RX100



The Glass Quality

Let’s look at a mid-range zoom setting of 45 mm equivalent. Wide open in the centre the a6500 has a slight edge, but it’s close. And if we stop them both down to 5.6, then they both sharpen a little, but the a6500 still slightly better. In the corner, however, the RX 100 is clearly sharper. If we stop them both down to f 10, they both get better, but the RX 100 still has a clear advantage. And if we compare the a6500 with a good prime lens, the Sigma 30mm, then the a6500 shows its real worth. And then let’s check the far end of the zoom range, first wide open in the centre. Here the a6500 is better. If we stop the RX down to the same aperture it gets closer, but maybe a slight edge to the kit lens. And at last, let us check the corners. Wide open the RX is clearly better as we’ve seen throughout the zoom range. But stopping it down to the same aperture the RX actually gets worse than it was wide open, although still better than the kit lens. And just for comparison, here is what it looks like with a good prime lens, in this case, the Sony 50mm.

I think we can see that the kit lens maybe has a slight sharpness advantage in the centre throughout the zoom range, while the RX100 has a clear advantage in the corners. However, if you put a good prime lens on the a6500 it will be much better. Still, the compact RX camera comes out well compared to the kit lens. But how does it do in low light, where larger sensors usually have an advantage? To test that I kept the shutter speed constant, as that is often limited by subject or camera movement, and then set the aperture wide open and let the camera choose ISO setting for correct exposure. And for this test, I want to test both the a6000 and a6500 as the noise performance usually improves in newer models. So first up the a6000 with kit lens at the wide end versus the RX100. And here we can see that the wider aperture of the RX100 which allows it to shoot at ISO 2000 makes up for the smaller sensor, as the kit lens has to shoot at ISO 6400 for the same exposure.

If you check the shadows the RX has clearly less noise then the a6000. And by the way, all these pictures are RAW files without any noise removal, so we see the noise that comes straight out of the camera. If we try the kit lens on the newer a6500 then it does do better, but it’s still worse than the RX100 at the same shutter speed. However, if we put a good prime lens on the a6500, like the Sigma 16mm, then there is a night and day difference, and the compact camera doesn’t stand a chance. And doing the same test at the long end of the zoom range gives pretty much the same result.

Next, I did a test to see how much bokeh, or background blur, was possible to get with each option. First, at the short end of the zoom range, I place the foreground at the minimum focus distance to create the maximum background blur Don’t worry too much about foreground sharpness, as it might not be completely in focus, rather what we are looking for here is how much blurred out the background is. And at the short end of the zoom range, the RX has an advantage in that it has a much shorter minimum focus distance. This is a cool effect for some semi-macro photography, but may not be representative for general photography. Testing the long end of the zoom range gives the more general situation. Here the RX doesn’t have the minimum focus advantage, as these were shot from about the same distance, and we can see that the bokeh is very similar to the kit lens. This is about as much bokeh as is possible to get with these lenses. For comparison, if we put a bright prime lens on the a6500, it has a much stronger effect than either.

So can we draw any conclusions from this? I think we have seen today that the RX100 is as good or better than the a6500 with the kit lens in every situation. The only advantage of the kit lens was maybe slightly sharper in the centre, but then it was much worse in the corners. So does that mean that you should rather buy an RX 100 than an a6000-series camera? No, but what it does show is that you need to use good lenses with an a6000-series camera. If you only intend to use the kit lens, then you’re likely to get as good, or better results with a good compact camera.

So that was it for today. Hope you found this helpful!