High ISO Photo Examples Shot with a Sony a6500

Here’s a selection of photos that I’ve shot at high ISOs with the Sony a6500 to give a sensor of how useful its high ISO settings are in real-world shooting.

Sony a6500 High ISO sample images collage
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Sony’s camera sensors are among the best in the best in the business. And while they put their best sensors in their flagship full-frame (and more expensive) cameras like the a1, the sensors in the models further down the list, like the a6500, are pretty darn good too.

The Sony a6500 has an APS-C sized CMOS sensor that produces 24-megapixel images. The data from the sensor is then run through a BIONZ X image processor.

It has an ISO range from 100 through 51200, but of that, 100 to 25600 is the normal range. Beyond that, you’re into the extended range that exceeds the hardware’s limits but where software takes over to boost things further. That range includes three steps: ISO 32000, 40000, and 51200.

Once you step into the extended range, things start to go downhill quickly. You can expect much more noise, much courser images, deteriorating color rendition, a narrower dynamic range, and generally harsher images. So for everyday shooting, it’s typically best to stick to the standard ISO range. But it’s nice to have the option to turn things up to 11 on a case by case basis if you really need the extra light sensitivity to make the difference between getting the shot or not (or if you’re shooting for black and white, which is more forgiving of these aspects).

Sony Alpha a6500 Camera
  • 24.2MP APS-C Exmor sensor w/ advanced processing up to ISO 51.200
  • Wide 425 phase detection AF points, Fast 0.05 sec. AF acquisition

There are several variations when referring to the Sony a6500. You can also see it referred to as the Sony α6600, Sony Alpha 6500, and Sony ILCE-6500. All refer to the same camera.

About These Sony a6500 High ISO Examples

Below are some high-ISO examples I’ve shot with the Sony a6500. I’ve tried to include a range of different types of tones and lighting and detail.

All of these images were originally shot in RAW, so they’re not directly out of the camera.

Like most cameras these days, the a6500 does have in-camera noise reduction. In this case, there are two types: long-exposure noise reduction and high ISO noise reduction. Those settings don’t affect RAW files, but they are applied to the JPG previews that are embedded in the RAW files.

To get around that, all of these images below have been regenerated directly from the RAW data. If you want the best of both worlds and aren’t being skimpy on space on your SD card, you can have the camera save both the RAW and a JPG version simultaneously (I’ve put together some Sony a650 memory card recommendations separately).

The RAW files were processed in Lightroom Classic. I haven’t applied any extra noise reduction to these files.

More Examples at High ISOs

I’ve included the ISO used in the caption of each image, and you can click on a photo to open a full-size version for a closer look.

Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 3200.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400. Normally, I wouldn’t shoot this kind of brightly-lit daylight exterior at such a high ISO, but it’s useful to show the color shifts. In this one, you can see a slight green tint overall.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 16000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800. Another example that I wouldn’t, under normal conditions, shoot at such a high ISO, but you can see the green color shift again.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800. The main entrance hall of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 3200. This LED light display is an installation at Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art. It’s titled Multiverse and is by American artist Leo Villareal. It also makes a useful and unusual test shot, and it’s one I shoot often with different cameras.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400. The Science Museum in London.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 3200.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400. Tower Bridge in London.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 40000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 3200.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 3200. The Imperial War Museum in London.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 3200.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 3200.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 51200.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 51200. It’s a challenging scene for any camera to handle well–especially with auto White Balance enabled.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 51200. The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Again, it’s a challenging scene for any camera to handle well.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 25600.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 32000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 51200.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 3200.
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.

Side by Side

Here are a few short sequences of the same subject at different ISOs so that you can compare them side by side.

Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 8000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 10000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 12800.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 16000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 20000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 25600.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 32000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 40000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 51200.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 6400.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 8000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 16000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 32000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 40000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 16000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 32000.
Sony a6500 High ISO Sample Image
This photo was taken with a Sony a6500 at ISO 51200.

ISO Auto Min SS on the Sony a6500

Auto ISO is one of my favorite features of digital cameras. Back in the day, you had to choose an ISO, make sure you had the right film on hand, and then stick with that for the whole roll. And the ISO was basically a fixed part of the exposure triangle, at least until the end of the roll. 1

With digital cameras, you can use a different ISO image to image. And with the advent of auto ISO, which is common on most new cameras, the camera’s own computer algorithm uses ISO as a completely fluid side of the exposure triangle, adjusting it automatically on the fly.

With the a6500, you have the option of using the Auto ISO on the standard setting. That’s a good default and is widely useful in many situations. It gives a good combination of minimum shutter speed and low ISO. But you can tweak it further, first with options for faster priority or slower priority, which are relative to the standard setting in 1 EV increments. But you can also set a specific shutter speed floor that the camera will try not to go below for stepping up the ISO. That’s especially helpful if you’re shooting moving subjects and need to favor faster shutter speeds. Same goes for reducing the risk of camera shake, something I run into in cold environments or when shooting from moving platforms like boats or trains. The a6500 has the option of setting that floor all the way up to 1/4000 sec or as slow as 30 seconds.

But one thing worth noting is that the Auto ISO won’t step into the extended range. For those higher ISO settings, you’ll need to specify the ISO manually.

Sony a6500 Price & Availability

The Sony a6500 has since been replaced by the a6600, so it’s getting harder to find new a6500s in stores.

Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/ 2.95" LCD (Body Only)
  • 24.2MP APS-C Exmor sensor w/ advanced processing up to ISO 51.200
  • Wide 425 phase detection AF points, Fast 0.05 sec. AF acquisition

The a6500 was sold in a range of different bundles, from just the body to kits with lenses and other accessories. With the newer model out now, the a6500 is harder to find new in stores. But you can often find used copies in good quality. If you’re in the market for a used copy, there are good odds of finding one at KEH, which is my go-to source of used photography gear.

Popular Accessories for the Sony a6500

Here are some popular accessories for the a6500.

Powerextra Battery (4-Pack) and Charger for Sony NP-FW50 and Sony Alpha...
  • Battery Type: Li-ion / Voltage:7.4V / Capacity:1500mAh
  • Replacement Sony NP-FW50 Li-ion Rechargeable Battery for Sony Alpha a6500, Alpha a6300, Alpha a6000,...
60M/195FT Waterproof housing A6xxx Series Salted Line (White) for Sony...
  • Please note! Sony A6600 Camera is NOT COMPATIBLE with this product! - Pistol grip is NOT INCLUDED
  • Compatible cameras: Sony a6500, Sony a6400, Sony a6300, Sony a6100, Sony a6000. This unit will work only...
VILTROX EF-E5 5th Generation Autofocus EF to E Mount Lens Adapter...
  • 【Fifth generation products】Note: (On "PDAF"mode,auto focus function is not available in video...
  • 【Metal Electronic Contacts】With the metal electronic contacts, camera's aperture, shutter speed and...
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens for Sony E Mount with Altura Photo...
  • INCLUDES: Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens for Sony E + AirBag Packable Bag and Camera Insert +...
  • A FAST, VERSATILE PRIME, the 56mm f/1.4 DC DN is part of Sigma's Contemporary series of lenses, and is...
  1. Yes, it’s technically possible to change up ISOs between shots when shooting 35mm film, and even go back and forth loading partial rolls of film, but neither of those is really practical for most shooters most of the time.[]

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2022-06-30 at 01:20. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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