The A6600 builds-upon the series so-far to become Sony’s most powerful APSC mirrorless camera to date. Like many new cameras, it combines or enhances elements from existing models, so at the heart is the 24 Megapixel sensor introduced on the A6300 with its broad and confident autofocus coverage, 11fps bursts and oversampled 4k video up to 30p. The screen which angles all the way up to face you coupled with unlimited movie recording times comes from the A6400, the built-in stabilisation is inherited from the A6500, while the high capacity battery – making its debut here on an A6000 model – comes from the full-frame A9 and third-generation A7 bodies. The addition of a headphone jack and eye-detection in movies are also firsts for an A6000 body but seen before in the full-frame series.
Sony’s strategy of equipping new lower-end models with its best features means much of what makes the A6600 compelling is available at a cheaper price; indeed the entry-ish level A6100 launched alongside it at almost half the price shares the same photo and video quality, much the same autofocus and burst shooting, unlimited movie recording and the same screen articulation. The A6400 comes even closer, matching the A6600’s build quality, viewfinder resolution and picture profiles, but still with a $500 saving.
This $500 premium on the A6600 gets you four main benefits over the A6400, albeit losing the popup flash in the process. In reverse order of usefulness – in my view anyway – there’s eye detection in movies which is nice if you’re shooting with long and large aperture lenses like the FE 135mm f1.8, but won’t make much difference in general filming as the existing face detection was already very effective. Second is the headphone jack, a very useful addition for film-makers allowing them to monitor the sound being recorded by the camera, and a first for the A6000 series. Third is built-in stabilisation which in my tests proved useful for photos or static video compositions, but like the A6500 proved less effective at ironing-out wobbles as I walked, making it less compelling for vloggers. The fourth and for me the number one upgrade is the battery life which thanks to the Z-series pack now comfortably out-lasts any other mirrorless camera – at least those which use single packs. I managed over 900 shots or almost three and a half hours of 4k video in a single clip on a full charge. This is by far the highlight of the camera and what makes it unique in the market.
In terms of image quality, the A6600 shares the sensor and processing of the recent A6400 which means it sports the best-looking colours and tones of the series to date. Gone are the often artificial-looking colours of earlier models, especially the original A6000, and in their place are much more natural results with really crisp details. Sure the actual resolution’s not increased since the A6000, but as an owner of that original model, I can tell you the photos now look a lot better. Put it this way, I certainly don’t miss the extra Megapixels of the latest Fujifilm and especially Canon APSC models, and feel the decision to stick with 24 Megapixels is fine for the photo side of things. Some may prefer the colour and tonal approach of Canon or Fujifilm, but it’s really down to personal preference.
What you still won’t get on an A6000 body though are twin memory card slots or indeed even a single card slot that exploits UHS-II speeds, a viewfinder resolution better than 2.36 million dots, shutter speeds faster than 1/4000, a hotshoe with the A7r IV’s digital pins to fully exploit the new digital mic, a USB-C port, AF joystick, menu navigation with the touchscreen, or 4k above 30p or in 10 bit. I feel most of the physical limitations are down to recycling a body mostly inherited from the three and a half year old A6300 and a shutter mechanism which may be even older. I know Sony loves its small bodies, but if increasing it a little could allow twin card slots and improved stabilisation, then I’d go for it.
There’s also no getting away from the price which is close to the Fujifilm X-T3 which may not have built-in stabilisation, unlimited recording, a forward-facing screen or as long a battery life, but does have twin UHS-II slots, a higher resolution viewfinder, sideways screen articulation and 4k up to 60p or in 10 bit. For me though the biggest rival is arguably Sony’s A7 III which may be closer to $2000, but gives you full-frame, better stabilisation, twin card slots, an AF joystick, USB C and while the screen won’t face you, it does have the Z battery and headphone jack. What makes the A7 III even more compelling is if you’re buying a full-frame lens at the same time – for example the A6600 with the 16-55mm f2.8 costs the same as an A7 III with the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8.
Then there’s that $500 premium over the A6400 or $650 over the A6100, both of which share the same photo and movie quality. They obviously lack stabilisation and the big battery, but you could equip either of them with a small but decent gimbal like the Zhiyun Weebill Lab and enjoy far better stabilisation along with connecting a USB battery for extended life and still come in cheaper than the A6600, albeit without a headphone jack.
So as much as I enjoyed shooting with the A6600 especially fitted with the 16-55mm f2.8 and appreciate Sony’s continued development of APSC, potential buyers really have to ask themselves how much they’d exploit those four key upgrades over the A6400, whether the alternative feature-set of the X-T3 better suits their needs, or if the dream APSC camera they truly desire already exists in the A7 III with the bonus of full-frame. That said, if you want Sony’s steadily refined photo and movie quality coupled with industry-leading autofocus in the smallest body with the longest battery in the business, then the A6600 is for you.Check prices on the Sony A6600 at B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!