Sony a6600 Review

Introduction

The a6600 is nine years in the making and aims to be the culmination of the best Sony has to offer in their APS-C mirrorless lineup. Over the previous iterations, Sony has continuously refined and updated both the feature set and performance of these cameras. This latest release sits at the topmost of their lineup, replacing the previously release a6500, as the newest flagship camera. Many have wildly anticipated when the new model would come to fill in the predecessor’s gaps, initial release three years prior.

And in the fall of 2019, we have it here. The immediate question is, how does it compare to the rest of the entries in this lineup? Sony aims the camera to videographers primarily, but it inherits features and capabilities photographers will appreciate as well. It’s a mirrorless camera with a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, stabilization, unlimited 4K video, and the longest battery life of its peers. On paper, its specifications suggest a marked improvement over the predecessors, no questions there. The question remains, is enough to justify the demanding price? Sony has even generously endowed the camera with much of the capabilities from their higher-end full-frame cameras.

Did they go too far? How does this camera now compare to the previously released a7 Mark III? Can this camera defeat one of the most popular camera releases of 2018? In today’s post, we find out what’s changed, what’s new, and how it fits into Sony’s existing lineup of mirrorless cameras. Sony has poised this camera to be a popular release in the APS-C realm and stiff competition to Fuji’s XT-3.

sony-alpha-a6600-mirrorless-camera-with-18-135mm-zoom-lens-specs

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Sony a6600?

Pros:

Image Quality

It houses the same 24.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor as many of the a6000 series cameras before it. However, it uses the same 14-bit RAW format, color science, and the latest image processing as the a7 Mark III and a9. These additions allow the camera to deliver crisp and clear images with excellent dynamic range. The camera now shares the best colors and tones in the series to date. Gone are the days of artificial-looking colors, especially in skin tones. Instead, colors are more natural and faithful than ever before.

Video Quality

In terms of video, it boasts a broad range of capabilities and excellent flexibility. The camera natively shoots 6K resolution, which it then oversamples to 4K UHD. This oversampling provides exceptionally sharp footage with resounding details and pleasing colors, all without any pixel binning.

It shoots 4K UHD up to 30 fps and 1080p full HD up to 120 fps. In 1080p, this camera remains above the competition as one of the only cameras to record both audio and maintain autofocusing while filming in this mode. While this capability is nothing revolutionary for Sony, their 1080p remains more flexible than its rivals.

Interestingly, it even sports the most comprehensive color and dynamic range control available of any camera to date.

Like the a6400 before it, this camera also removes the artificial 29 minute and 59 seconds movie record limit. With that, you can shoot as long as your battery and SD card allows. In today’s market, Panasonic and Sony are the only two manufacturers who offer this particular removal.

It can now shoot 4K video in HDR as well, further improving the camera’s dynamic range and adding slightly more detail.

It features S-Log2, S-Log3, and HLG profiles from the a7 Mark III and a6400. These profiles provide flatter footage, which lends themselves to better post-production grading and highlight roll-off.

Low Light Performance

It has a native ISO range from ISO 100 to ISO 32,000, expandable up to ISO 102,400. Users can expect usable images up to ISO 6,400, where the details are sharp, with only minor color noise in the shadows.

Focusing Performance

It houses a 425 AF point system with a combination of both phase and contrast-detect points covering 84% of the imagining area. Bar none. This system is the most notable addition to this particular camera. It now features full-time Eye autofocus during video recording, and Real-Time AF inherited from the flagship a9. Eye AF is now enabled by half depressing the shutter. Gone are the days of creating custom buttons or relying on Central Lock-On AF for tracking. Not only that, but the system now sports both Face and Eye Detect AF for humans and animals, updated with Sony’s latest real-time tracking algorithms.

While typical phase-detection AF systems are fast, the addition of an algorithmic approach delivers all-around superior autofocusing performance. The camera can predict movement far beyond the capabilities of these traditional systems and its predecessors. It provides better subject tracking and recognition through distance and texture, resulting in more precise focusing. It’s excellent at identifying and tracking faces even when obscured or at great lengths away. Also, if an object or other subjects momentarily obstruct them, the system still confidently maintains proper tracking.

Overall, this camera delivers the best autofocusing performance of any camera in the lineup to date. Surprisingly, this system provides the same confidence seen in Canon’s acclaimed Dual Pixel CMOS AF. Overall, if autofocus is crucial to you, this camera offers industry-leading performance and delivers a9 capabilities into an affordable APS-C body.

Battery Performance

It’s the first Sony APS-C camera outfitted with the new NP-FZ100 battery, an addition initially introduced with the newer Sony a7 models, namely The a7 Mark III. With the inheritance of the new battery, the camera can now easily achieve a full days battery life. Overall, battery performance has now doubled, Sony claims a 2.23x improvement over the predecessor, allowing the camera to now provides 810 shots per charge instead of 310. For some users, this addition alone is enough to justify upgrading to the new camera.

Display & Viewfinder

It inherits the articulating touchscreen from the a6400, which tilts downwards at 74 degrees and upwards at 180 degrees for front-facing selfies or vlogging applications. Compared to the a6500, this addition represents greater flexibility, though still matched by Sony’s cheaper a6100 and a5100 cameras. Nonetheless, it’s good to see this highly popular feature return on this camera.

The addition of a touchscreen allows users to perform intricate focus pulls and transitions with a single touch. By default, touching the display disable continuous autofocus and focuses on the selected point, which works well. Users can also alter the functionality so that touch enables Touch Tracking instead. When enabled, the camera can track complex movements of subjects across the frame in both photos and videos. Overall, it is a compelling addition. Outside of this, the display also supports touch shutter and can act as an AF touchpad when composing via the viewfinder.

It features the identical OLED electronic viewfinder from the a6500 with a resolution of 2.36M dots. It’s positioning on the far left corner prevents your nose from unnecessarily interacting with the touchscreen during use.

User Interface

Sony changed the dull grey focusing area of the predecessor to a bright white selection instead. While this is a small change, it allows for quick identification of the Spot AF selection on the screen.

It features two custom shooting modes on the Mode selector dial, which allows users to customize and preset shooting parameters for immediate access.

It inherits the Star Menu feature from the a6400, allowing users to create a custom menu to reduce the painstaking need of deep menu dives to find applicable settings. Thankfully. It is a perfect option for those of you who find the menu here poorly organized or want more immediate access to specific features or settings.

Sony has also introduced a new My Dial function. This addition allows users to set one of the custom buttons to alter the functionality of the rear dial and control wheel’s default settings. Interesting.

Sony has even introduced a visual Custom Key Settings menu, thankfully. This change helps users by presenting a visual representation of the camera to see which custom button is selected and its available adjustments. Gone are the days of looking at a list and guessing.

It now has a total of 4 custom buttons, C1-C4.

Physical Layout & Ergonomics

Physical and ergonomic changes are some of the significant updates seen in this particular release. Ergonomics, specifically, are a notable improvement over its predecessor. This may seem surprising since, at a glance, both cameras greatly resemble one another in design and controls. However, in hand, you immediately feel the difference in build quality and form.

Much of the improvement is the result of the inheritance of the larger Z series battery, a feature typically found on only recent full-frame cameras. This addition has afforded the camera with a larger and more pronounced grip, which is more suitable for larger hands. However, it does create a slight departure from the traditional design during the process. But it works in its favor to deliver the best grip in the series to date. Overall, this addition is one of the primary highlights over its predecessors, and it’s number one upgrade over earlier models.

In terms of design, the camera follows the same logical structure and cues as previous iterations. Overall, it stays mostly true to the original compact heritage of the series and remains a small camera. However, Sony has improved the build quality, supplying it with a robust magnesium alloy construction. This construction provides excellent weather sealing and resistance to both dust or moisture. It just oozes that aura of quality. The combination of the improved build plus increased weight, and a larger grip makes the camera incredibly well balanced. Gone are the days of the camera being front heavy when using longer lenses or mounted on a tripod.

The camera still retains two custom buttons on the top, C1-C2. But, with the decision to remove the popup flash, space now goes to the addition of an extra custom button, C3. The camera now total four distinct custom buttons, deliver the best customization of the entire series.

Niche Features/Extras

It now features a headphone input, making it the first in this lineup of Sony cameras. This addition allows users to finally monitor recorded audio without the need for external devices, such as a recorder, to do so. While simultaneously providing an extra level of professionalism video shooters appreciate.

It maintains the 11 fps continuous burst rate with mechanical shutter and autofocus from the predecessor. However, it does feature a slightly deeper buffer, now at 40 RAW + JPEG images in a row. Note, shooting at this frame rate does produce a slight blackout between frames. If you want to avoid this, then 8 fps is best as it delivers better live feedback between frames.

It has a microphone input.

It inherits 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) from the predecessor. Sony rates the system to deliver 5.0 stops of stabilization, allowing users to shoot ½ exposures handheld. Overall, it works well and makes for a camera that is a strong performer in low light and handheld video applications. However, as this is only the second iteration in the series to feature built-in stabilization, it doesn’t perform to the levels seen in Panasonic or Olympus cameras. Nonetheless, it still proves incredibly beneficial for both stills and videos, so we’re glad to see it return.

It has built-in interval shooting, replacing the need for the timelapse app found on the predecessor. Unlike the competition, this camera doesn’t go as far as to assemble the timelapse movie in-camera. Instead, this must occur in post-production. However, you can use the SNQ mode to perform a timelapse movie, though only at 1080p resolution. SNQ may or may not satisfy your desires, though, as most rivals output at 4K UHD, not 1080p.

You can now register spot focus points to specific camera orientations, whether horizontal or vertical. While niche, it is a useful addition for those who shoot portraits and often switch to landscape for alternative framing.

It features a Shutter Auto White Balance lock, which maintains a set white balance during a continuous burst for a more consistent color.

It features Movie W/Shutter, allowing users to program the shutter as the movie start/stop button. Thank goodness.

It has built-in focus magnification and focus peaking. Sony has even included an additional color for peeking, providing even greater flexibility when manually focusing.

When reviewing images in Playback mode, the camera now jumps directly to the focus point, which is helpful to identify where the camera focused quickly.

The camera features SNQ, Slow and Quick, Mode. This mode allows users to shoot between 1-120 fps for stop motion or slow motion, respectively.

Cons:

Image Performance

The camera still features the same 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor found on all other previous a6000 series cameras. While this resolution is more than sufficient for most users, the sensor itself suffers from a significant amount of rolling shutter. And, unfortunately, it makes using the camera in the electronic shutter mode useless. Of course, as this is the flagship camera, one can easily question why it doesn’t inherit a more modern 26 or 30-megapixel sensor, which inevitably caused disappointment. However, its main drawback is a lack of resigned with the current sensor in use with these cameras, not necessarily it’s resolution. This sensor begs for an update to address and lessen the amount of rolling shutter experienced when shooting in 4K resolution.

Video Capabilities

It only shoots 8-bit 4K video, 4:2:0 internal, and 4:2:2 external. It does not support 10-bit video whatsoever, whether internal or external. The reality is that Sony is doubling down on the same 8-bit codec from earlier generation cameras here, causing them to fall behind the competition aimed at serious filmmakers progressively. This camera does little to improve on the available video frame rates, bit rates, or codecs to make the camera more competitive at this price point. Considering the Fujifilm XT-3 and Black Magic Pocket 4K are at this price point, this camera offers very little to sway the professional videographer.

Like the previous cameras in the lineup, it experiences the same marginal crop when shooting 4K 30p or 1080p above 60p. Thankfully, shooting at 4K 24p or 1080p 60p both incur no crop, however.

As mentioned previously, the camera inherits the same sensor from the predecessors, which still suffers from rolling shutter. In this case, the rolling shutter is very obvious when panning during 4K recordings. Overall, users should seriously consider taking care when shooting in 4K, be it vlogs or run & gun style videos. Even though the camera has image stabilization, it makes only a marginal difference on rolling shutter in 4K.

Autofocus Performance

While the autofocusing system of this camera is excellent, the tracking it offers is enabled solely via the touchscreen during video recording. If you prefer composing via the viewfinder, it means you must first disengage then touch the screen to enable subject tracking. You may think this sounds simple on paper. But, in practice, it is quite cumbersome when filming complex motion across the frame. Unfortunately, you cannot enable tracking in video by half depressing the shutter, either, as you do in stills. Subject tracking also tends to lose the subject during video much more often than in stills. So, overall, it’s a helpful and enjoyable feature but remains slightly challenging for professional applications.

Display

The rear display has an unimpressive resolution of 921K dots, significantly lacking compared to the competition here. Not only that, but the touchscreen still lacks menu or user interface interaction. Infuriatingly, Sony still ignores years of smartphone innovation and overlooks, extending the touch capabilities even to support swiping between images during playback. We don’t understand this logic here.

The electronic viewfinder has the same standard resolution of 2.36M dots, the identical resolution found in the original a6300 released four years prior. While this is sufficient for most users, it is easily outclassed by rivals at this price point. Typically, 3.69M dot viewfinders are more in line for what we expect for a flagship body released in 2019.

Menus

Standard Sony, they’ve hunkered down with their standard logical structure and organization for the menu systems. Unfortunately, the release of this camera does little to change or improve on the overly complex organization. The camera remains incredibly complicated and cumbersome to navigation, even for existing users. Overall, reading the manual is a must, and significant practice is required to understand this camera.

Ergonomics

If you mount a shotgun microphone or receiver onto the hot shoe, it blocks the majority of the screen when articulated, rendering it mostly useless. Thankfully, you can offset the hot shoe by adding a bracket, which eliminates this particular design flaw.

With the addition of a more substantial grip, the camera begs for a front adjustment dial. Sadly, Sony still forgoes that with this camera, we’re not sure why they keep neglecting this particular addition on the a6000 series cameras. Instead, you must set up a custom key to change the default functionality of the adjustment dial. While not identical, it does provide enough versatility for manually controlling exposure.

Sadly, the movie record button remains in the same awkward recessed position on the camera. Like most users, we too hoped for a redesign here. Thankfully, users can assign the shutter as a movie start/stop, which is an excellent and much needed alternative.

The camera lacks an AF joystick, while not a deal-breaker, it would be helpful to add greater versatility in its ergonomics. However, the reality is that real-time autofocus works so well that it can easily never be disabled. The amount of times you may want specific control of focus is rare with this camera.

Lacking Features

It lacks Sweep Panorama mode, a useful feature found on all the predecessors but is surprisingly missing here.

It lacks a built-in pop-up flash, a feature found on the predecessor. If you’re someone who uses the function for fill, this could be a potential deal-breaker depending on your particular usage.

The camera only has a single SD card, which, unfortunately, is only UHS-I compatible. Brutal. UHS-I is the slower format. Users will experience enormous delays as the camera sluggishly clears the buffer, reducing the camera’s overall strength for continuous shooting applications. Considering the majority of the competition has UHS-II compatible slots, some of which even provide dual SD cards, this is seriously disappointing.

The camera maintains the micro HDMI port, forcing users to use an adapter to convert it to a full-sized HDMI. Mini HDMI is the preferred option here, as this is incredibly cumbersome.

Is the Sony a6600 a good beginner camera ?

Yes. It represents the merging of two distinct releases from the manufacturer, the a6400, and a6500. Its release takes all the best technology and improvements from previous iterations in the series, combining them into a single unified body. While the camera itself doesn’t introduce much grounding improvements in and of itself, it does pull from the best specifications from the predecessor. It puts them into a better build quality with a larger grip and robust autofocusing system.

Overall, it is a marked improvement over all other iterations in the a6000 lineup, no question about that. Sure, it’s not a new generation in Sony’s APS-C lineup yet. Its release does represent a new level of capability in the APS-C world, however. In the end, it is an excellent mid-range camera, one that’s not quite as expensive as their larger full-frame a7 cameras. Yet, it features much of their capabilities while maintaining the design cues from its original heritage, allowing it to remain small and compact in form factor. Its release has allowed Sony to deliver the best APS-C camera of their lineup to date, and finally, a complete system.

What are the best lenses & bundles for the Sony a6600?

General Photography:

E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS
E 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS
E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS

Specifically for Macro Photography:

FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

Specifically for Landscape Photography:

E 10–18 mm F4 OSS
E 16 mm F2.8
Sonnar® T* E 24 mm F1.8 ZA

Specifically for Portrait Photography:

E 50 mm F1.8 OS
E 35 mm F1.8 OSS
E 55–210 mm F4.5-6.3 OSS
Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70 mm F4 ZA OSS

Specifically for Astrophotography:

E 10–18 mm F4 OSS
E 16 mm F2.8
Sonnar® T* E 24 mm F1.8 ZA

Specifically for Sports Photography:

E 70–350 mm F4.5–6.3 G OSS

Specifically for Wildlife Photography:

E 70–350 mm F4.5–6.3 G OSS

Specifically for Product & Still life Photography:

FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

Extra Batteries:

Sony NPFZ100 Z-series Rechargeable Battery

SD Cards:

Sony 64GB High Performance Class 10 UHS-1/U3 SDXC

Is the a6600 a good camera for you?

Yes.

For those looking at the previously released a6400 that were initially hesitant on diving in due to lacking stabilization, this is your camera. Its stabilization plus added capabilities make it the superior choice between the two offerings.

It is an excellent choice for those seeking a hybrid all-in-one camera and one that appeals to both filmmakers or budding videographers alike.

For current Sony shooters, it makes an excellent B camera to your existing setup, as it now offers the identical battery, capabilities, and color science. It also makes for an excellent replacement for those looking for a capable travel option in place of a full-frame camera.

For vloggers, this is among the best vlogging cameras on the market to date. Though not perfect, namely due to the screen articulation and rolling shutter. However, if you take ease while panning in 4K, you will be pleased with its stabilization, robust autofocusing, headphone, and microphone ports. Overall, this camera does wonders to lower the barrier of entry in your pursuit of content creation.

For photographers, this is an excellent camera with its industry-leading autofocusing system. Gone are the days of customizing a custom button to engage Eye AF, and now with the best battery life on an APS-C mirrorless camera, it’s a no brainer.

It could be a sufficient option for sports and wildlife applications. Though, its single UHS-I slot will be a slight hindrance compared to a rival who employs UHS-II compatible slots.

The final, and immediate question, is considering the cameras starting price, does it offer enough to forgo Sony’s full-frame a7 Mark III? Its main advantages are smaller form factor, cheaper APS-C lenses, 4K HDR, and Real-Time AF.

Many will debate whether this camera offers enough value to pull existing users from other ecosystems over to Sony. Ultimately, this comes down to your specific needs and circumstances. But, in short, yes, it can, and it will work for many users. If your budget allows purchasing this camera, the reality its the absolute best offering in Sony’s APS-C lineup to date. And if you’re looking for their best all-in-one mirrorless camera or APS-C camera specifically, this is it. Not only that, but it lends itself incredibly well for those who desire to upgrade to full-frame later. Sony is the only manufacturer offering a single unified mount between both formats and the best option for the smoothest transition.

While many may claim it lacks the revolution typically delivered by Sony. The reality is that nothing like this existed before its release. And the debut of this camera represents massive innovation with an inkling of what’s to come as well. In the end, it makes all previous iterations in the series mostly irrelevant for those who are new to Sony. Sure, the Fujifilm XT-3 is touted as the overall better APS-C camera. It’s an excellent camera.

Nonetheless, this is the future of what’s to come in this realm. And a better alternative to going full-frame altogether. 2019 was Sony’s opportunity to assert its dominance in the APS-C sphere. In the end, they’ve done well to create the top-performing APS-C cameras available to date.

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
4

Summary

This is the merging of two distinct releases into a single unified body. While the camera itself doesn’t introduce much grounding improvements in and of itself, it does pull from the best specifications from the predecessor. It puts them into a better build quality with a larger grip and robust autofocusing system. If your budget allows purchasing this camera, the reality its the absolute best offering in Sony’s APS-C lineup to date. And if you’re looking for their best all-in-one mirrorless camera or APS-C camera specifically, this is it. The reality is that nothing like this existed before its release. And the debut of this camera represents massive innovation with an inkling of what’s to come as well. 2019 was Sony’s opportunity to assert its dominance in the APS-C sphere, and that they did by delivering the best APS-C camera to date.