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Fingers-on take a look at for Sony A6600: Small digicam, huge deal

Sony Alpha a6600

“It’s an evolutionary update, but the A6600 is still the leader thanks to better battery life and great auto focus.”

Real-time AF is a breeze

810-shot battery life

Sensor shift image stabilization

Larger handle

Same sensor as A6500

Low-resolution EVF compared to colleagues

APS-C cameras have to scream to be heard about the roar of increasingly popular full-frame cameras, but two APS-C models announced by Sony in August 2019 prove that smaller sensors are still alive. The $ 750 A6100 is an inexpensive mirrorless camera for beginners or casual photographers, while the flagship A6600 is a $ 1,400 enthusiast camera that should make even many professionals happy.

These cameras have a lot in common, including 24 megapixel sensors, 4K video, continuous shooting at 11 frames per second and many trickle-down functions from Sony’s more expensive A7 / A9 full-screen series. We love full-frame cameras, but they often cost a lot more and not everyone needs one. Today’s APS-C cameras take great photos, and it’s nice to see that Sony hasn’t neglected the format – even if the A6600 hasn’t changed much from the 2016 A6500.

With so many similarities between the A6100 and A6600, you may be wondering whether the latter is worth the higher price. We think it is. From the better build quality to the longer battery life, it offers the functions with which you can take photos for years.

Design and handling

The best way to describe the design of the Sony A6000 series cameras is venerable – externally they have hardly changed in the past five years. This does not mean that nothing has been improved.

Sony A6600 Top with 16-55 f / 2.8

The A6600 has a much deeper and more comfortable grip than its predecessors, a nod to the target group of advanced avid photographers. This larger handle accommodates a much more powerful “Z” battery that is designed for 810 shots and has almost twice as many previous models.

The A6600 measures 4.75 x 2.75 x 2.4 inches and weighs 18 ounces without a lens. We had no problems with this camera and the 16-55mm f / 2.8G lens during our limited practical experience.

Sony A6600 back

Control, whether good or bad, remains familiar. There is a good amount of direct access control, but we have to utter our usual screeching that the video capture button is tiny and stuck in a corner. The situation is similar with the menus, which, although improved, are nevertheless easier and easier to navigate.

The EVF is 2.36 million points, while the touchscreen is 921 KB. Neither is the best in class – the Fujifilm X-T3 has an EVF of 3.6 million points – but they worked well in practice.

Video shooters will appreciate the use of headphone and microphone jacks, as well as HDMI output and power connections. Overall, the new A6600 has a nice “weight”, whereby the frame made of magnesium alloy contributes to this feeling. The camera is also dust and moisture resistant.

The eyes have it

Although the new flagship camera has a familiar personality, it has many features of more expensive full-screen Sony such as the new A7R IV ($ 3,500), including 5-axis image stabilization in the body. The best new features are real-time tracking and real-time eye autofocus (the latter now recognizes animal eyes in addition to human eyes).

Sony A6600 detail of the electronic viewfinder

The underlying hybrid auto focus system is similar, offering 425 phase and contrast detection points that cover 84 percent of the frame.

We have loved the original Eye AF since it was launched generations ago, and the new real-time improvements have brought Sony cameras to the forefront in terms of focusing. It’s easier than ever to take sharp pictures.

Real-time tracking and real-time eye AF work great in video mode too. Because videos often deal with moving subjects or a moving camera, a reliable AF system can make the difference between a great shot and a useless one.

First image quality impressions

To train the A6600, Sony took us to Coney Island in Brooklyn (we were guests of Sony, but all opinions are our own). While there were no bizarre side attractions to take pictures, acrobats, jugglers, magicians and models were available. Nearby there were roller coasters, carousels, promenades and other cult scenes.

Did we say how much we like real-time tracking and real-time eye AF? Forgive us for being superfluous, but that’s what really sets this camera apart. They just focus on a face and the camera takes over as it tries to capture a person’s eye.

You will see several illuminated dots in the viewfinder as artificial intelligence tries to find out what it sees. An attempt is first made to frame the face and then to catch the eye. When it hits the target, a small box appears on the left or right eye (you can choose which one). Once the camera clicks into place, you’ll get great portraits.

The fast burst rate of 11 fps is not new, but another plus. The color was also very accurate with a pleasant richness. Although the sensor is recycled from the A6500, it still works well by today’s standards and for the most part does not leave you wanting to have a full-frame camera.

It was a bleak, foggy day, so taking the pictures outside was a challenge for the camera. The A6600 handled them fairly well for the most part, but noise was a problem at higher ISO settings. The camera has a native ISO of 100-32,000, which can be expanded to 50 and up to 102,400. A full-screen camera would have proven itself here. Granted, Sony’s full-screen line starts at $ 2,000, but in extremely low light conditions you’ll notice the advantage of this larger sensor.

The next day was sunny and the A6600 did very well here. Here too, the autofocus was the real winner. Real-time tracking was fast enough to capture a racing cyclist as we walked the streets of Manhattan.

Sony A6600 sample picture

Sony A6600 sample photo

As for video, everything remains fairly standard for Sony. The A6600 records 4K HDR video with 2.4x oversampling for better sharpness. It’s still limited to Sony’s 8-bit XAVC-S codec, but offers both Hybrid-Log Gamma (HLG) and Sony’s standard S-Gamut / S-Log profiles to maintain dynamic range, though You have nothing against color corrections in the post. Other cameras have outperformed Sony in some areas when it comes to video – the Fujifilm X-T3 offers 10-bit recording and reads its sensor faster to shorten the roller shutter – but here, too, the A6600 has the advantage of autofocus, his peers are looking for ease of use.

The 24MP sensor itself may not be any better than the A6500, but the new auto focus means you get better results on both still and video, especially in fast or unpredictable situations.

Our first attitude

The new Sony A6600 is a good addition to the series, delivering high quality images and films in a compact package with an auto focus system that surpasses the class. Our problem is the price – at $ 1,399 for the case, it seems a bit high for a camera that hasn’t really changed from its 3-year predecessor. It may not be worth it for current A6500 owners.

You can save almost $ 650 with the A6100, which mostly has the same technology but no body stabilization, solid construction, or battery. There is also no S-Log, no headphone jack or Eye AF for movies, which makes it more for still images than for videographers or vloggers. And there are other cheaper APS-C cameras like the Fujifilm X-T30, the new Canon EOS M6 Mark II, and Sony’s own A6400 (which also has real-time AF) for $ 899.

The A6600 is much more evolution than revolution. While much has remained the same with the A6500, important improvements such as real-time AF and a larger battery should not be underestimated. The camera isn’t the best in class in every respect, but these two features add more to the user experience than anything else, and that makes the A6600 easy to recommend.

Do you want more camera options? Check out our favorite digital cameras.

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