First Impressions: Sony A6600 (Sony E Mount, APS-C)

The Sony A6600 is the company’s latest flagship mirrorless APS-C camera, adapting the improved Z battery and including weather resistance

Sony announced its latest APS-C flagship A6600 today at their New York headquarters. While the resolution remains at 24.2 Megapixels like the rest of the cameras in the A6xxx series, the A6600 features Sony’s latest-generation BIONZ X image processing engine which it claims to be 1.8x faster than the A6500, and can output 14-bit raw files. Like the A6500, the A6600 has 5-axis image stabilization built-in. The magnesium alloy body is dust and moisture resistant and sports the same flip-up rear LCD that was first introduced with the A6400. The most noticeable change with the A6600 is that it uses the larger and higher capacity NP-FZ100 Lithium-Ion batteries. This is a first for a Sony mirrorless APS-C body, which results in the camera having a larger handgrip. We got to spend some time shooting with the new camera in a variety of different environments. Head on after the jump for our first impressions.

Gear Used

We tested the Sony A6600 with the Sony E 16–55mm f2.8 G and the Sony E 70-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS.

 

Tech Specs

Tech specs for the Sony A6600 taken from Sony’s official product page.

  • Fast 0.02-s2 AF, with 425 phase-detection AF points
  • Real-time Tracking and Real-time Eye AF, to detect and hold onto moving subjects
  • 5-axis optical image stabilization for rock-solid shooting
  • 24.2-megapixel10 APS-C Exmor™ CMOS image sensor
  • High-resolution 4K HDR (HLG) movie recording1, with diverse movie features
  • LENS COMPATIBILITY
    • Sony E-mount lenses
  • SENSOR TYPE
    • APS-C type (23.5 x 15.6 mm), Exmor® CMOS sensor
  • NUMBER OF PIXELS (EFFECTIVE)
    • Approx. 24.2 megapixels
  • ISO SENSITIVITY (RECOMMENDED EXPOSURE INDEX)
    • AUTO (ISO 100-6400, selectable lower limit and upper limit), Movies: ISO 100-32000 equivalent, AUTO (ISO 100-6400, selectable lower limit and upper limit), Still images: ISO 100–32000 ((ISO numbers up from ISO 50 to ISO 102400 can be set as expanded ISO range.),
  • BATTERY LIFE (STILL IMAGES)
    • Approx. 720 shots (Viewfinder) / Approx. 810 shots (LCD monitor) (CIPA standard)19
  • VIEWFINDER TYPE
    • 1.0 cm (0.39 type) electronic viewfinder (color)
  • MONITOR TYPE
    • 2.95 in (3.0-type) wide type TFT

 

Ergonomics

Meet the Sony A6600. Aside from the larger handgrip, the rest of the camera looks nearly identical to previous models in Sony’s 6000 series of mirrorless APS-C cameras. The front of the camera is a minimalist affair, with the sole button being the lens release button situated between the handgrip and the lens mount.

On the top of the camera, you’ll find the hot shoe, mode and control dials, and a pair of customizable buttons. The Shutter button and the On/Off switch can be found on top of the handgrip. Previous 6000 series cameras included a pop-up flash that was located to the right of the hot shoe, noticeably missing on the new A6600.

In terms of connectors, the A6600 includes a Micro USB port, Micro HDMI port, and dedicated Microphone and Headphone jacks. All of these are tucked away behind a newly designed door mechanism that feels sturdier than ones found on previous models.

The tiltable screen first introduced in the A6400 makes a return in the A6600: useful when taking self-portraits or vlogging.

The rest of the A6600’s controls are found on the rear of the camera, with the tiltable rear LCD dominating much of the real estate. Above the LCD, you’ll find the OLED Electronic Viewfinder, Diopter Adjustment Dial, Menu button, and an additional Customizable button. The AF/MF/AEL switch, Function button, Control Wheel, and Center Button, along with the Playback and Delete buttons, are all situated on the right, and easily reachable with your thumb when holding the camera.

The A6600 uses the larger and higher capacity NP-FZ100 battery which is housed within the now larger handgrip. The single UHS-I SD card slot can also be found behind the cover at the base of the grip.

 

Build Quality

The A6600 is the most robust crop sensor mirrorless camera Sony’s produced to date. The main housing of the camera is constructed out of lightweight, durable magnesium alloy and is resistant to dust and moisture. Although it looks very similar to earlier A6xxx cameras, the most noticeable change you will find on the A6600 is the larger handgrip, within which you will find the larger and higher capacity NP-FZ100 battery Sony has been putting in their latest Full Frame cameras. We shot with the A6600 in the rain and didn’t run into any major issues other than rain droplets occasionally confusing the rear touch screen.

 

Ease of Use

Aside from the more robust handgrip and the internal performance upgrades, the Sony A6600 will feel very familiar to photographers who have used a Sony mirrorless crop sensor camera in the past. It still doesn’t have a dedicated joystick on the back, but you can use the touch screen or the D-Pad to move the AF points around. Disappointingly, you still can’t navigate the camera menus using the touch screen. When shooting through the EVF, we also ran into instances where our nose would activate the touch screen, inadvertently moving the AF point around and requiring us to cancel out of touch focusing, thus interrupting the shooting process. This resulted in multiple missed shots. Previous 6000 series cameras also included an integrated pop-up flash which was omitted in the A6600. While it wasn’t the best light source in the world, the pop-up flash came in handy in a pinch when photographing in low light scenarios. If you plan on shooting the A6600 in situations that require additional lighting, you’ll need to purchase a standalone flash separately. Despite these shortcomings, the A6600 is far from a challenging camera to operate once you’ve familiarized yourself with its layout. The advanced AF tech it inherits from Sony’s more premium Full Frame offerings will ensure that even novices can capture excellent images.

 

Autofocus

Overall, the A6600’s autofocus is very responsive and on par with what we’ve experienced with the A9, the A7 III, and the A6400. It’s got all of the advanced AF tech that we’ve come to expect from Sony, including persistent real-time tracking, Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals when shooting stills, and Real-time Eye AF for humans when recording video. For the most part, it was able to acquire and maintain focus on subjects quickly and accurately. We did run into a few instances where the camera back focused or failed to focus altogether when we were photographing birds using the Sony E 70-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS. Granted, it was raining at the time and both the camera and lens that we were using were pre-production samples running beta firmware. We will need to call them in when final production review units are available to conduct further testing.

 

Image Quality

Since the Sony A6600 is a pre-production sample running beta firmware, camera profiles are not yet available for Capture One or Adobe Lightroom. All sample images seen within this First Impressions article are straight out of camera JPEGs. The only editing that some of these images was subjected to was cropping. As a matter of ethics, none of the sample images seen within this First Impressions article have been retouched so that you can judge the quality of the images produced by this camera for yourself.

First Impressions

With improved ergonomics, longer battery life, and industry-leading autofocus tech inherited from the Full Frame Sony A9, it’s no wonder that Sony is positioning the A6600 as their flagship crop sensor camera. It’s got the price to match, at US $1,400 for the camera body alone. But it’s still cheaper than the super popular “entry-level” Full Frame Sony A7 III, which has the same resolving power and autofocus tech and uses the same long-lasting Z battery. For photographers who don’t need Full Frame or prefer the smaller size of APS-C cameras, the A6600 is a compelling option for serious photography enthusiasts and professionals alike. We look forward to evaluating the final production version of the Sony A6600 more comprehensively once final production review units are available. Please stay tuned for our upcoming full review.