With the impending launch of its A7R IV and possibly also the rumored A9 II, you could be forgiven for thinking that Sony has more than one eye on its full-frame mirrorless offerings. Here to quell that kind of talk is the Alpha 6600 ($1,400/£1,450 body only), a polished and impressive flagship option in its APS-C mirrorless camera line-up.
Sony A6600: design
The A6600 is designed to withstand a little more than other Sony APC-S cameras. Boasting a weatherproof design, it’s fitted with Sony’s step-up NP-FZ1000 battery, which effectively doubles the battery life to about 720 shots that, Sony claims, makes it the longest-lasting APS-C mirrorless camera around. To take the extra bulk it boasts a larger grip than its siblings, though the most visible difference to us when compared to the nearby A6100 was the A6600’s chassis. It’s fashioned from magnesium alloy and looks rather more high-end than the A6100, though at 503g this is not a super-light camera body.
The A600 has a three-inch touchscreen LCD that tilts up to 180° degrees. Vloggers will love that, as they will its microphone and headphone ports, though a built-in flash has been reduced to a hotshoe.
Sony A6600: features
Powered by Sony’s Bionz X processor, the new top-billed camera in its APS-C has the specs to match its high price. Beyond its now aging 24MP APS-C sensor are some intriguing autofocus skills; 0.02-second autofocus, 11 frames per second (fps) burst shooting, Real-Time Tracking Autofocus and Real-time Eye AF for recognizing eyes and automatically keeping them in focus. Its upper limit for ISO is 32,000, but expandable to 102,400.
Unlike the A6100, this camera has 5-axis image stabilization in-camera (impressive on a camera this small) and a 3.5mm output for some headphones, which enables audio monitoring. Vloggers will love that, and the A6600 does have a lot here for anyone after a video-centric camera. As well as that Real-time Eye AF working for video – something step-down models can’t do – the A6600 features 4K movie recording in Super 35mm format, unlimited video recordings and XAVC S format 4K video at 24fps and 30fps, and Full HD at 120fps for slo-mo. It also offers HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) picture profile, and S-Log3 and S-Log2 Gamma profiles for color-grading in post-production.
Sony A6600: performance
During our time with the A6600 it was the Real-time Tracking autofocus technology that impressed most of all. Able to track a subject and focus on them even when they turn their backs, it worked well during a live demo with a model striding around a test zone at Sony’s IFA stand.
The 11 fps burst shooting also proved handy for getting a sharp shot. With eye-tracking activated, the A6600 locked onto the eyes of a moving mechanical cat (no pets at trade shows allowed!) and remained focused on them as the cat moved. It’s also possible to swap seamlessly between face detection, eye tracking and object tracking. Helpfully, that Real-Time Eye AF feature also works during video capture.
The A6600 is designed to take Sony’s E-mount lenses, and also on show at Sony’s IFA stand were the lightweight E 16-55mm f2.8 G standard zoom lens ($1,400/£1,200) and the E 70-350mm f4.5-6.3 G OSS super-telephoto zoom lens ($1,000/£830). They’re both part of its newest APS-C zoom G lens series, and on sale in October.
Sony A6600: early verdict
So what’s truly special about the A6600? It’s not the aging 24MP APS-C sensor and nor the (albeit impressive) Real-Time Tracking Autofocus and Real-time Eye AF features on its brilliant autofocus system that benefits from the A6600’s 5-axis image stabilisation. There’s not much to get excited about in its design, but dig deeper and the A6600 has obvious advantages; a longer-lasting Z battery, a larger grip, a more agile tilting LCD touchscreen and a headphones jack. Add some seriously impressive 4K video chops and the A6600 just about aces its flagship status.
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