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Sony A6600 Review

Sony A6600 review
Review

Price when reviewed

£1450

€1600
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Our Verdict

At times the Sony A6600 is frustrating, a couple of changes to the control arrangement could improve its handling enormously, but it’s capable of delivering excellent-quality images and video. It has an extensive feature set and decisive, accurate focusing in both stills and video shooting.

For

  • Very good image and video quality
  • Fast, accurate AF system
  • Excellent battery life (800+ shots)

Against

  • Poorly positioned video record button
  • Little use made of the touch control on the tilting rather than vari-angle screen
  • Single SD card slot

What is the Sony A6600?

The Sony A6600 is Sony’s flagship APS-C format mirrorless camera. It has a great range of features including Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals, plus Eye AF for humans in video mode.

Unlike most of the Sony A7 series, but like the rest of the A6000 series camera, the Sony A6600 has a rectangular design with the viewfinder off to the side of the camera.

Specification

  • Camera type: Mirrorless
  • Announced: 28th August 2019
  • Lens mount: Sony E
  • Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS (23.5 x 15.6mm) sensor
  • Video: 4K (3840 x 2160) 25/30p video capture with log profiles
  • Continuous shooting rate: Hi+: 11fps, Hi: 8fps, Mid: 6fps, Lo: 3fps
  • Burst depth: In Hi+ 46 raw files, 99 Extra Fine Jpegs or 44 raw and Jpeg files
  • Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100-32000 (expandable to ISO 50 – 102400)
  • Autofocus : Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection and contrast-detection each with 425 points), Face Detection and Real-Time Eye AF
  • Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,359,296-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • Screen: 3-inch 921,600-dot tilting touchscreen
  • Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I or Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick Micro (M2)
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 120.0 x 66.9 x 69.3mm / 4 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 2 3/4-inches
  • Weight: 503g / 1lb 1.8oz with battery and memory card
Sony A6600 review

Features

Inside the Sony A6600 is a 24.2Mp APS-C format sensor. That means that the sensor measures 23.5 x 15.6mm and that lens mounted on it incur a 1.5x focal length magnification factor.

Nevertheless, Sony uses the same mount on its APS-C and full-frame mirrorless cameras so you can use full-frame and APS-C format lenses interchangeably.

Sony has built an excellent reputation for its autofocus systems and its great to see that the A6600 has 850 AF points made up of 425 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points. In addition, there’s Real-time Eye AF which can be set to work with humans or animals for stills shooting and humans for video.

As we’ve come to expect, 5-axis image stabilisation is built in the Sony A6600. It’s claimed to extend the safe hand-holdable shutter speed by up to 5 stops.

Video features

Sony has given the A6600 a comprehensive collection of video features. The headline specifications are Super 35mm format, 4K recording with full pixel readout and oversampling by 2.4x the information required for the resolution at 24p and 1.6x at 30p.

Effectively, this means that the A6600 captures 6K video but downscales it to 4K to produce higher quality footage.

In 4K 30/24p the bit-rate can be set at up to 100Mbps.

Within the A6600’s Picture Profiles there are both S-Log3 and S-Log2 gamma curve settings to extend the dynamic range by as much as 1300% in comparison to standard Rec. 709 video. In S-Lo3, Sony claims that the A6600 has a dynamic range of 14-stops.

To ensure that the audio matches the visual quality, the A6600 has 3.5mm mic and headphone ports.

The A6600 also has an S&Q (Slow and Quick) mode for producing slow and fast motion video in-camera. An option in the menu allows the frame rate for this mode to be set to between 1 and 1000 frames per second.

Alternatively, in standard video mode, it’s possible to set the A6600 to record Full HD video at up to 120/100p for 4x slow-motion playback.

Sony A6600 review

Build and Handling

Sony’s decision to use its rectangular, rangefinder-like design for the A6600 was something of a surprise to me. I felt sure that the company would want to underline the connection to the A7 series by giving its top-end APS-C format camera a similar mini-DSLR-like shape with the viewfinder in the centre of the top-plate. But no.

Perhaps Sony went for the rectangular form because it makes the camera seem a bit smaller? Who knows.

The good news is that the A6600 feels pretty robust and its top cover, front cover, internal frame and rear cover are made from magnesium alloy. In addition, the ‘major buttons and dials’ are sealed while the casing sections have and interlocking double-layer to help keep out dust and moisture.

Sony has given the A6600 a nicely-shaped grip. However, it’s the sort of grip that my little finger automatically slips beneath. This helps balance the camera, but if you’re using a long telephoto lens your little finger can tire quite quickly.

Sony A6600 review

Sony A6600 Viewfinder

The A6600’s viewfinder is located in the top-left corner of the camera. It’s a 0.39-inch 2,359,296-dot OLED with a frame rate that can be set to 60 or 120fps.

I mainly used the viewfinder in its standard quality setting and I found it provided a good, clear view that’s a good match for the captured images.

Sony A6600 review

Sony A6600 Screen

On the back of the A6600, there’s a 3-inch 921,600-dot touchscreen. This can be tilted up through 180° for viewing from in front of the camera, or down through 74° for when shooting at above head height.

Disappointingly, the touch-control is pretty limited. I hope that the touch-control that is enabled on the Sony A7S III shows that Sony has had a change of heart with regards to touch-control. On the A6600 and other Sony mirrorless cameras, it seems like a wasted opportunity.

As it is, you can only use the A6600’s touchscreen to set the AF point (when looking at the screen or in the viewfinder), to release the shutter, to activate Real-Time AF and to zoom into images. You can’t swipe through images or make setting selections or adjustments.

Sony A6600 review

Controls

On the whole, the Sony A6600’s control arrangement is good, but there are a couple of issues. The biggest problem that I have with the camera is its lack of a joystick to speed setting the AF point when you’re looking in the viewfinder.

In the absence of a joystick, the quickest and easiest way to see the AF point while you’re using the viewfinder is to use the Touch Pad control. This enables you to use the touchscreen. However, while the AF point follows your thumb or finger around on the screen for the majority of the time, it occasionally stops responding. That’s a pain.

Sony A6600

The other problem I have is with the position of the record button – it’s near the top right corner of the back of the camera (shown above). It’s awkward to find and to press. It’s even more awkward to find if you’re standing in front of the camera with the screen popped-up ready to vlog.

Fortunately, there’s a pretty simple workaround for this. The A6600 has a fairly extensive array of customisation options and I set the ‘Center button’ (the button in the middle of the dial on the back of the camera) to stop and start recording. This button is easy to locate however you’re holding the camera.

Sony A6600 review

Performance

I shot with the Sony A6600 in a wide range of conditions and it’s delivered a very nice collection of images.

Helped by the electronic viewfinder, which displays an accurate preview of the image and guides the exposure settings, the majority of my images are correctly exposed. But that’s not to take away from the capability of the metering system in its default ‘Multi’ setting. This system takes a lot in its stride and there aren’t many surprises or occasions when you have to use the exposure compensation control when you wouldn’t expect to.

Autofocus Performance

The autofocus systems in Sony’s recent cameras are very good and the A6600 doesn’t disappoint in this respect. It focuses quickly and accurately and is capable of keeping speeding subjects sharp.

Sony’s Eye AF system set the bar for the other manufacturers, and while Canon may have taken the lead with the EOS R6 and EOS R5 in this regard, the Sony A6600 does a great job of spotting eyes in the frame and keeping them sharp.

When set to ‘Animal’ the Eye AF spotted one of my dog’s eyes and focussed on it on most occasions. Switch to ‘Human’ and the performance is every bit as good, if not better. It’s great for portrait shoots, but it also means that you can be confident that your eyes are in focus if you flip the screen up through 180° and step in front of the camera to vlog.

Sony A6600 Image Quality

Sony has given the A6600 a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-32000. I wouldn’t go above that value as the images become very noisy and there are false colours visible.

I’d aim to keep the sensitivity setting to ISO 6400 or lower whenever possible. Going above that value makes raw files look quite gritty and Jpegs look smoothed. You may get away with ISO ISO 25,600 with some scenes but be prepared to see some texture in the raw files and for the finer textures of Jpegs to be lost.

At the other end of the scale, low-ISO images have a good level of detail.

Dynamic Range

At the low-to-middle sensitivity range, the Sony A6600 has very good dynamic range, which means it can capture a wide range of tones within a single image. This means that you don’t have to underexpose to protect the highlights on a frequent basis and the shadows don’t turn deep black too quickly.

A wide dynamic range is very useful with high contrast scenes when you don’t want to lose the detail in the shadows and highlights. Thanks to its impressive dynamic range, low-ISo images from the A6600 can withstand significantly brightening without noise levels becoming excessive.

That’s handy with landscape images when you may want to reduce the exposure a little to capture every scrap of detail, because you can brighten the shadows in an image meditating software package like DxO PhotoLab or Adobe Photoshop. In fact, I was able to brighten a very dark image by a little over 4EV without noise becoming problematic – but it pays to keep an eye on even-toned areas.

Image Stabilisation

Shooting at the 55mm end of the Sony E 16-55mm f2.8 G lens, I found I was able to get around 60% of my hand-held images sharp at 1/5sec. That’s a shutter speed compensation factor of 4EV. Dropping the shutter to 0.4sec, which would require a 5EV compensation factor, proved a step too far. Several of my images were almost sharp, but they don’t quite make the grade.

Video Performance

Video footage from the A6600 matches the stills but you need to look out for rolling shutter effect. If you walk along a post and rail fence, for example, you may spot that the posts bend.

The stabilisation system works very well in video mode. It’s not good enough to smooth out the camera-shake created by walking with it hand-held, but it’s fine for stationary hand-holding, panning and the like.

Sony A6600

Sony A6600 Sample Images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution sample images

Sony A6600 Image Gallery

Sample Video

This video was shot with the Sony A6600 in 4K at 25p and 100Mbs mounted on a Zhiyun Crane 2S. The exposure was controlled manually and the white balance was varied between auto, Daylight and Shade depending upon the conditions. The Creative Style was set to Standard. The exposure of a few of the clips has been slightly adjusted, but most are straight from the camera.

Read our Zhiyun Crane 2S review

The video below was shot with the Sony A6600 in 4K at 25p and 100Mbs hand-held to test the in-body image stabilisation (IBIS). As you can see, the IBIS works well when there’s little or no movement of the camera.

I shot the video in S-Log3 and then graded some sections to reflect the vibe of the murky, overcast day.

Verdict

In some respects, the Sony A6600 is very good. It’s autofocus system, for example, is excellent and it has plenty of features for keen videographers – although you need to be wary of rolling shutter effect. It also produces high-quality images with a good level of detail.

However, some of the control layout the handling is behind the curve for a flagship camera. It was launched after Sony shifted the record button away from that awkward corner location on the A7-series, so it seems odd that the A6600 still has this issue.

Sony has only just woken up to vari-angle screens, so the A6600 missed out on this. A tilting screen is helpful when you’re shooting video and landscape orientation images, but a vari-angle screen helps with portrait-orientation images too. And why limit the use of the touch-control so much?

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