What's new, how it compares

The Sony a6600 is the follow-up to the a6500, and brings it up to date with some of the improvements seen in the company's lower-end models. But as we've written about regarding this series of cameras previously, we still think there are some further updates Sony should consider.

Key takeaways:

  • Industry-leading autofocus tracking implementation in both performance and usability
  • Big battery gives it the best battery life of any mirrorless camera
  • In-body 5-axis image stabilization will smooth out video footage, including roll correction to help keep horizons straight
  • Handling is very similar to other a6x00 cameras, but a6600 loses the pop-up flash

Autofocus

As with the a6400 and a6100 models that came before it, the a6600 offers Sony's latest autofocus implementation, dubbed 'Real-time Tracking AF' in marketing materials (it's simply called 'tracking' within the camera's interface).

Basically, the a6600 is adept at tracking non-human subjects as well as human faces, eyes, and even some animals with the sort of tenacity that would have been the stuff of pipe dreams not so long ago. Oddly, this tracking isn't enabled by default, but it's not terribly complex to set up:

How to engage 'Real Time AF Tracking'

1) Press the 'Fn' button and change the 'Focus Mode' from 'AF-A' to 'AF-C' (AF tracking is not available in AF-A mode, and AF-C is reliable enough that you can leave the camera in that mode all the time).

2) In the 'Fn' menu, change the 'Focus Area' setting to one of the tracking modes. To do this, scroll to the bottom of the list and then press left and right to select which kind of focus area the camera will use to identify what to track. We'd recommend one of the following:

  • Tracking: Flexible Spot M - If you want to choose what to track, either by tapping the screen or by pointing the camera at your subject (so that the focus point is initially on your subject)
  • Tracking: Wide - If you want the camera to choose what to track. It will prioritize the nearest person or, if there aren't any people, will track something central in your scene and nearby.

In-body image stabilization

While not strictly-speaking a new addition to the a6000-series, the a6600 inherits the same in-body stabilization system from the older a6500 (both are CIPA rated to 5 stops of shake reduction with the Sony 55mm F1.8 ZA lens). This makes it something of a standout in the APS-C space, and should especially aid those wanting to hand-hold slower shutter speeds for stills, or those shooting hand-held video.

Body, handling and controls

From here, you can see all the control points on the a6600. You can also see that the top plate is missing the pop-up flash that the a6100 and a6400 have.

The design of the a6600 is the most radical departure for the lineup that we've so far seen, in that it has a redesigned grip and an extra function button in the place of the a6500's flash button, since the a6600 lost its predecessor's built-in flash. And that's just about it.

However, that redesigned grip hides Sony's NP-FZ100 battery that the latest a7-series of full-frame cameras uses. And though it's just a battery, we were really impressed by it upon its release because it was the first time we finally felt freed from the photographic equivalent of 'range anxiety' on mirrorless cameras. Thanks to this battery, the a6600 is CIPA rated to over 800 shots per charge, which is a lot. That's basically DSLR territory, and the a6600 should still have plenty of charge left even after several days of heavy use.

The grip that surrounds the battery is deeper than previous a6x00 models. This will be especially useful for handling larger lenses - but the space between the grip and those lenses may still be a bit cramped for people with larger fingers.

The a6600 is CIPA rated to over 800 shots per charge, which is basically DSLR territory

As mentioned earlier, the a6600 comes with an additional custom button, dubbed C3, that lives between the menus and the autofocus rocker switch. It's in a handy place, and we find it much easier to reach than the existing C1 and C2 buttons on the top of the camera.

The rest of the controls are unchanged, meaning you get twin dials, but both must be operated with your thumb. We'd prefer the top dial to offer a bit more 'clickiness' and the rear jog dial to be more pronounced and less fiddly (Sony's addressed this on its recent a7-series cameras). The movie-record button remains in an awkward place, and all the buttons remain fairly flush, so it can be difficult to operate them with gloves.

Speaking of gloves, the a6600 offers weather-sealing, which is never a bad thing. And last but not least, the a6600 comes with both headphone and microphone ports - an a6x00 series first - to assist you with audio recording and monitoring while shooting video.

Menus and UI

As we've covered with just about every recent Sony camera, we think the menus could use some work. The a6600 comes with the latest implementation (as did the older a6500) with color coded tabs, but we're still confused as to why, for example, something like 'Func. of Touch Operation' - which essentially controls how focus works via the touchscreen - is in a Custom Operation2 menu, and not in one of the AF sections.

Even if you're coming from another Sony camera with a very similar-looking menu system, be aware that menu options are likely shuffled around just enough so that you'll have to re-memorize where things are. This is compounded by a lack of navigation cues for specific subsections; in any case, you'll eventually learn where things are given enough time with the camera. We'd also highly recommend taking advantage of the customizable 'My Menu' for your most-used menu options.

Wi-Fi and connectivity

The a6600 can transfer images and video clips over a Wi-Fi connection to iOS and Android devices using their Imaging Edge Mobile app. The a6600 continues to come with NFC (near-field communication), which many of its competitors have dropped, but it allows for quick pairing with compatible devices simply by tapping them together.

But NFC is arguably more necessary on this camera because, even though it supports a Bluetooth connection to your phone for location-tagging images, a constant Bluetooth connection cannot help initiate that Wi-Fi connection as most other competitors can. So if you don't have an NFC-compatible device, the process gets a bit clunky, and you need to operate both the camera and the app to get things moving.

How it compares

Most camera manufacturers have high-end crop-sensor offerings around a similar price point to the a6600, so we've taken a look at some of them here.

Sony's lineup is somewhat more complicated by the physical similarities between its models. We've already looked at the differences in the a6000-series in a separate article.

Sony a6600 Fujifilm
X-T3
Canon EOS M6 Mark II Panasonic
DC-G9
Sony a6500
MSRP
(With kit if applicable)
$1800
(18-135mm)
$1899
(18-55mm)
$1099
(15-45mm + EVF)
$1699
(Body only)
$1400
(Body only)
Sensor size APS-C APS-C APS-C Four Thirds APS-C

Pixel count

24MP 26MP 32.5MP 20MP 24MP

Autofocus system

Phase detect Dual Pixel Phase d/t Dual Pixel Phase d/t Contrast detect Phase detect

Image stabilization

5-axis in-body + lens Lens only Lens only + EIS in video 5-axis in-body + lens 5-axis in-body + lens

Connectivity

Wi-Fi w/ NFC
Bluetooth for location data
Wi-Fi w/ Bluetooth for quick connection Wi-Fi w/ Bluetooth for quick connection Wi-Fi w/ Bluetooth for quick connection Wi-Fi w/ NFC for quick connection
Burst speed (full res) 11fps 20fps 14fps 20fps 11fps
Electronic viewfinder
(Res/Mag)
2.36M dot
0.71x
3.69M dot
0.75x
Opt. 2.36M dot (mag not given)

3.69M dot 0.83x

2.36M dot 0.71x
Rear screen 0.92M dot
tilting touchscreen
1.04M dot fully-articulating touchscreen

1.04M dot tilting touchscreen

1.04M dot fully-articulating touchscreen 0.92M dot
tilting touchscreen
Max video resolution 4K/30p 4K/60p 4K/30p 4K/60p 4K/30p
Video crop Full width (24p)
1.23x (30p)
Full width (30p)
1.2x (60p)
Full width Full width Full width (24p)
1.23x (30p)
Microphone socket Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Headphone socket Yes Yes No Yes No
USB charging Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery rating (CIPA) 810 390 305 400 350
Dimensions 120 x 67 x 69mm 133 x 93 x 59mm 120 x 70 x 49mm 137 x 97 x 92mm 120 x 67 x 53mm
Weight 503g (18oz) 539g (19oz) 408g (14oz) 658g (23oz) 453g (16oz)

By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive spec comparison of the a6600's potential rivals - our side-by-side camera comparison tool will help you out if you're curious about another model. In particular, we should also mention the Olympus E-M5 Mark III. In many respects other than sensor size, the Olympus is competitive with the a6600 - fast burst speeds, in-body stabilization, good 4K video.

But you can see from this chart that the Sony, while still awfully capable, is starting to fall behind some of its competitors. Of course, it has by far the best battery life and still the most capable autofocus system, but in terms of burst speed, video capabilities and viewfinder quality, the a6600 is lacking somewhat.