The Sony a6500 for Trail Running

The Sony a6500

In the last months, there has been a resurgence of the age old question asked of successful photographers, “What camera do you use?” While this question used to annoy me, and I wanted to scream, “It does not matter!” Now, it actually does matter. But for reasons less about quality, and more about size. For me, and the work I am doing a lot of right now, size matters.

Today we have more options than ever for camera gear, and with those options comes opportunity. Depending on what you shoot, the size and weight of your camera gear can make a huge difference to how you work. If you’re pulling up to a shoot location and walking 100 meters, a heavy camera is fine. But no one wants extra weight for a 30km run through the Alps with 2000+ meters of gain. Our team at ALPSinsight is not only producing trail running photos, we’re doing the runs as the athletes, carrying our own gear. Gear choice has become critical.

Some years back, when Sony started to come on strong, I switched to the a7 series. My reasons: they were much lighter, less bulky, and I felt the quality was better. I never looked back. The Canon gear, which I had amassed a ton of in my 15 years of shooting professionally, got dustier and dustier until one day it all ended up dumped on the counter of a second hand camera shop, along with a whole lot of other photographer’s Canon gear. I wasn’t the only one to make the switch.

As a back up to the a7’s, I got an a6300, which I promptly fell in love with. Later, when the a6500 launched, I had my dream camera. The a6500 is a camera I can take running, climbing, and ski touring. Given that that is about all I do, it has become my go to camera. I now save the a7 for photoshoots where we are shooting more static subjects, when speed is not important, and when we don’t have to carry it.

If you follow along here, you know we’ve been doing a huge amount of real trips. I cannot imagine having to carry anything heavier than the a6500 when we did our Nepal 3 Passes run, the Glacier Haute Route, or all the many Way Ups. I’ve already written about our switch to Sony, and how I use Sony for all our work. Now, with the a6500, I have been able to run with my camera gear and shoot with zero concern of compromising quality for carriability. Our entire Run the Alps Switzerland book, and Elevation : The Alps Trail & Peak Running Resource site are 100% Sony RX100 or a6500 images. Ditto for our Trail Runner magazine features and covers, Runner’s World features, Black Diamond, Dynafit, Osprey, and Camelbak advertising shoots, and a Swiss Tourism campaign.

For me, the only thing more dreamy would be for the RX100 to suddenly work for all my needs. Wait a minute… the RX100 VI is out, and while it won’t replace the a6500, I’m certainly going to have a look.

So, we’ve covered what camera we use for trail running… Don’t forget to ask the almost more critical question, “What lenses do you use?”

For 98% of the trail running images, it’s the Sony E 16-70mm f4 ZA OSS Zeiss Vario-Tessar E-Mount or the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 Lens. That’s it! Everything else is too heavy.

By Dan Patitucci

All the Clips below were shot with the Sony a6500. Clearly, it works for publication, so… why are you carrying extra weight?


Comments 4

  1. Love your work and you inspired me to switch to sony for my outdoor skitouring and trail running etc. One thing that has been bothering me a bit though, is thinking about if the running with the camera in hand, or in the backpack, will shake things so much it damages the camera body or lenses. What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever had any issues with something like this? I have the A7ii and the a6300. Trying to decide which one to keep. Thanks so much again and happy “gun and run”!

  2. Thanks for the review !
    Did you have any issues with the 16-70 ? It looks like an awesome piece of glass but there are so many negative reviews (mostly great mechanical quality but very bad optical results). But your pictures look really sharp to me. Any thoughts ?
    Thanks, and great blog as always.

    1. Post

      Hi Arno, My go to lens has been the Zeiss 16-70 on the a6500 for most all our running and ski tours, and I have had zero problems with the exception of some maintenance for the focusing ring, which was due to taking a beating in my packs. So for us, all good, we have two of them for each of our a6500 bodies. For us the problems were with the Zeiss 24-70 f4.0…

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