Sony A6600 – A Third (or fourth) Impression (Long)
A few sentences on me before I get started on the camera.
Once upon a time, I was a professional photographer, but that was a long time ago. I moved into IT to support my family. I also was a long time Nikon guy, but in 2012, I sold everything and went with the Sony NEX-7. I love how anonymous you can be with such a small camera that packs a high quality punch. I knew that 2021 would be the year that I would upgrade, and last April there was a sale on the 6600 and I placed the order.
In May, I went up to Washington DC to take pictures for my daughter’s graduation from George Washington University. Since then I have used the 6600 on a few occasions. A few weeks ago, I went to Costa Rica for 8 days. It was the first real test of using the camera for my style of photography.
The menu is much improved since the NEX-7. The “My Menu” feature makes going back and forth from different setups super fast. Setting up My Menu is very easy
Note: I did buy the David Busch book when I bought the camera. There are also some good tutorials on You Tube.
The battery life is amazing. I shot a day and a half and the battery still was at 40%. And I shot many images in that day and a half. Still, for the rest of the trip, I made sure I charged my #1 battery every night (I had brought 3 batteries with me) which was overkill.
Like most digital cameras, there were some situations where the focus was not where I wanted it, or wasn’t there at all. Mostly this was in low contrast shots. Upon review of the images on my PC when I got home, I found very few out of focus images. The camera has so many focusing choices so I will need to experiment to see if I can find better setups.
Although not my normal photography, I was on several excursions where birds and animals were part of the experience and I felt that my wife expected pictures. From the reviews that I have read, the 6600 does a better job with human eyes than animals, and the snapshots I took confirms that. Still, I was using the 55-200, mostly at 200 and got a very acceptable amount of sharp images.
I found myself sometimes accidently hitting the Control Wheel. From time to time, I would have to reset ISO, Display and shooting mode. I realize there is a Lock feature but it does not seem practical (but I might try it).
Imaging Edge Mobile App
I brought a tripod and knew there would be water pictures in Costa Rica where I could shoot at a low ISO, stop down the aperture so I could do slow shutter speeds of 1 second or more to blur the flow and give me that surreal quality.
Imaging Edge worked but it is a bit troublesome to setup, and then you have to put the camera into single shot mode (and since it must be in that mode, it could be nice if that could be changed from the app). Of course, a small version of the image gets sent to my phone, which is nice if I want to do something with the image on the web, but if not, it just takes up space till I delete it.
I think a wireless shutter button would be a much better solution.
Warning- It is going to get a little weird from this point due to the photography I like to do.
I love Panoramas. I have always been interested in that type of photography, even in the film days. I had looked into buying a Widelux, but never could justify spending that kind of money for basically a one trick pony. And Widelux was the cheapest option.
Then along came digital and splicing software. I knew the basics of Panorama photography and the need for metering the brightest area and shooting on manual. However, the first digital cameras that I used were very difficult to use Manual and get proper exposure.
When I got the NEX-7, I looked forward to the Panorama mode, but ended up hating it. I didn’t feel in control. The camera would say “Too Fast” or “Too Slow”, and you couldn’t really control the length of the pan. Plus, I like to do some unusual panoramas which sometimes does not always mean using wide lenses. Panorama mode would not work when you start zooming in. But I discovered a very successful workaround that also allowed me to get off Manual mode. Auto HDR. By metering at the brightest area and holding down the shutter button to lock in exposure, using Auto HDR would make the splicing of images almost flawless. The big negative with the NEX-7 was that it could take 6-7 seconds to do each frame of the panorama, so a 4 frame pano could take 30-40 seconds to shoot.
The 6600 is much, much faster. I would guess the average is 2 seconds per frame. I shot over 100 panoramas in Costa Rica. However, I started experimenting with another feature that seems to be working for panoramas. Dynamic Range Optimizer, DRO. I found that if I was in a situation where I had a fast shutter speed, I could mimic panorama mode by turning on DRO, metering for the brightest area, hold down the shutter button, and then pan while firing off in continuous shooting mode. The DRO would give me the flexibility to be able to splice without seams. Of course, you can find yourself trying to merge 20-30 frames together (but so far, they look pretty damn good). I was on a sunset catamaran cruise and used this technique for the sun set images (Costa Rica’s Pacific shoreline has numerous small islands and large rocks so the images weren’t just sea and sky). Had I tried my Auto HDR technique, the boat's movement would have caused continuity problems due to the gap in time between frames.
FYI- Hand Held Twilight can be used for night time panoramas.
I bought a Godox TT685 a couple of weeks after getting the 6600 (did not realize that the 6600 had a different hot shoe than the NEX). I first used it in Washington doing my daughters grad pictures (love flash fill outdoors images). I was very impressed that with very little setup, I was able to get perfectly exposed flash shots.
On the sunset cruise, I threw the flash onto the 6600 to take some pictures of my wife with the sunset in the background. Boom…one of the best pictures I have ever taken of her.
I loved my NEX-7 and since this is a much better camera, I love the 6600 too. I can’t stress enough how great it is to be able to produce high quality images from such a small, non-descript camera. It is easily transportable, so no need to carry around a big bulky bag. I do most of my shooting with the excellent 16-70 and only use the 55-200 5-10% of the time (although deep down, I want to upgrade that lens, although I can’t justify the cost for something I use so rarely…and no, I won’t use an ultra-zoom like an 18-200.
When you walk down the street with a DSLR with a 70-200 2.8, people notice, especially in an age of phone cameras. When I walk down the street with a 6600, no one cares.
Now that I really put the camera through its paces, I’m going to go back through the Busch book and see if I want to try some new setups.
Note: Will be going on a Thanksgiving cruise in November (saved up my time off for the last 3 months of the year). However, I find cruises to be terrible photography opportunities as you are usually on board during the best light. Still, I will bring the 6600 and any new ideas that I may want to try.
a6600, NEX-7, 16-70 F4, 55-200
Canon Powershot S3
Former Pro Photographer
Nikon User 1977-2012
I know the difference between an F Stop and a Bus Stop
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