Sony’s a top-dog in consumer cameras. Not only does the Japanese giant have some of the most cutting-edge technologies, but they manage to cram it all into compact, portable packages. We also like how there’s different variations to suit different needs.
I personally started with the RX100, because I wanted something closer to DSLR than “compact camera” quality, but that could still fit in my pocket. The RX100 fit the bill so well, but some things (like low-light performance) could still be improved. So that lead me to trying out the better equipped a6500. One may be curious how exactly they differ in design, size, etc., so this Synopsis pits them side-by-side.
It’s apparent that the RX100 and a6500 are from the same family. The size difference is what visually sets them apart. The a6500 is around 25% larger than its little brother, resulting in freed up room for extra features. The two largest differences are the sensor size and that the a6500 is an interchangeable lens camera (via Sony e-mount). The RX100’s small size means that it has to settle with a fixed lens (but a really good one).
- Matte black magnesium metal body
- Tilt-able display
- Electronic viewfinder (only on later RX100 models)
- Pop-up flash
- Same main buttons and dials
- WiFi and NFC
- MicroUSB charging port
- Similar clunky menu system
- Can change the lens
- Larger sensor (better quality), which is stabilized
- Higher capture resolution
- Touchscreen display (for focusing)
- Better in hand (ergonomic grip)
- Customizable buttons
- Larger and heavier
- Display has poor outdoor visibility
- Significantly more expensive (considering the cost of adding lenses)
- Average battery life
- Great, pocket-able size
- Much lighter in weight
- Carl Zeiss, f/1.8, 3x zoom lens
- Back-illuminated sensor (BSI)
- Display that can flip to face front (for selfies/vlogging)
- Relatively cheaper
- Not as good in low-light (relatively)
- Small zoom range
- Stuck with the lens it comes with
- No touchscreen
- No sealing against weather/enviroment
Differences in use
- When speaking of the bodies, if you enlarge the RX100 and extend the grip, you’ll essentially have the a6500. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it makes quite a difference in day-to-day use. Because the RX100 fits in your hand, it’s easier to carry and hold onto (securely handle). The a6500 has a nice and substantial, right-hand grip, but its heft makes it more of two-hand operation, or else you’ll feel like you’re on the verge of dropping it (especially if you tack on a heavy lens).
- The a6500 is slim for its size, showing off the amazing ability of mirrorless technology. Just the body alone may fit in larger pockets. This is an advantage when you’re traveling. But when you’re on the go with a lens attached (non-pancake lens), the camera is colossal compared to the RX100.
- To be fair, when the RX100 is on, its lens extends substantially. It can be annoying to have to wait the couple seconds it takes for the camera to prep for shooting, but the pocketability when it’s off is worth it, in our opinion.
- You feel the snap of the shutter with the a6500, which makes it feel more like a DSLR and the RX100 more like a traditional compact camera.
- Both screens can be tilted by various angles, but the a6500’s panel cannot rotate up 180-degrees like the RX100’s can. This makes the RX100 suitable for selfies or vlogging (you can see what you’re filming).
- When Sony debuted the touchscreen function with the a6500, brightness took a hit. Outdoors, it’s significantly harder to see what’s on the display on the a6500 than the RX100. I use the EVF as much as I can as a result.
- Speaking of which, the RX100 series (currently on the 5th generation) still lacks a touchscreen display. Sony’s touchscreen implementation is for quickly selecting a focus point, which I love having on the a6500.
- The primary benefits that the a6500 has over the RX100, that edge it out in image quality, are the larger sensor and ability to change lenses. Specifically, the RX100 uses a 20MP 1.0″ sensor and the a6500 sports an APS-C size (over double the size of the RX100’s). Despite the RX100’s sensor being back-illuminated (BSI), its low-light performance still pales in comparison to the a6500, especially considering you can pair the latter with a lower aperture lens.
- To add, the ISO capacity of the a6500 is double that of the RX100 (25,600 vs 12,800). The RX100 simply cannot compete in low-light performance.
- The RX100’s lens has optical stabilization, but the a6500 one-ups it with a stabilized sensor. Couple this with a optically stabilized lens and you have a super stable setup.
- The a6500 technically has some weather resistance on paper, while the RX100 does not. However, I used my RX100 in light rain a few times and never had a problem.
- The battery in the a6500 is about double that in the RX100. On paper, it can pump out more pics on a charge, but in my experience (maybe because I use the EVF a lot), it’s about the same life.
- The RX100 (the latest “Mark V” model) bests the a6500 with continuous shooting framerate: 24fps vs 11fps.
- The main dials (rotary mode selector and scroll wheel) are the same on both models. The big difference is that the a6500 has a few customizable buttons around the exterior. You can set these as shortcuts to a particular function (i.e. ISO, focus mode, Sony’s clear zoom, and many more) or a picture processing style or profile. Sony is generous with the options.
Camera Sample Comparison
*Note: The lens we used on the a6500 (Sony SEL30M35, 30mm, f/3.5 macro lens) isn’t the best to compare to the RX100’s f/1.8, 24mm lens, but this is all I had at the moment. These shots were in Aperture Priority Mode, with the RX100’s aperture matching at f/3.5. 30mm on APS-C is 45mm effectively, so I moved to match the view as close as possible (but the RX100 will have a wider shot).
If you care about portability, choosing between the RX100 and a6500 is tough. If you don’t want to deal with separate lens purchases and want the best camera that can fit in your pocket, then you know the answer. But, although it may not sound like it, the RX100’s small sensor keeps it from really competing with the big boys. Even the a6500’s sensor is a crop sensor; full-frame is larger still. But what we love about the a6500 is that it’s a sweet spot between a compact camera and a full-on DSLR, having features than lean more on the latter.
Price is also a big consideration. The current, 5th gen RX100 runs around $900, while the a6500’s body alone is about $1200. Factor in an entry level lens and you’re looking at a tough-to-swallow $1500.