Sony is serious about APS-C and today’s announcements are proof of that. Just announced were a new high-end APS-C mirrorless, the a6600, an upgrade to Sony’s entry level in the a6100, a bright APS-C mid-range zoom that is the E 16-55mm f/2.8 G Lens, and a super telephoto E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS Lens—all APS-C and all very good. Not only is this good news for fans of the smaller format, it is good for all Sony shooters because it continues to bolster its E- mount system and "1 Mount" philosophy. Let's take a closer look at all these new releases.
Only the Best for APS-C: the a6600
Effectively the new flagship of Sony's APS-C format camera offerings, the a6600 set a new benchmark in usability and feature set. It not only gains the best-in-class autofocus of other recently released models, such as the a6400 and a7R IV, but also improves image quality made possible by a 1.8x jump in processing over its predecessor. Using the latest BIONZ X processor and front-end LSI, this model can now process 16-bit data straight from the updated 24.2MP Exmor APS-C CMOS sensor to create a high-fidelity 14-bit raw file.
Autofocus is the next most important upgrade, with Sony again claiming to have the world's fastest for an interchangeable-lens camera. Locking on in just 0.02 seconds and offering the latest Real-time Tracking AF options solidifies this claim. These are similar features to those found in the a6400 and a7R IV, including Real-time Tracking AF, Real-time Eye AF for both humans and animals, and support for all these continuous focus modes during movie shooting. Behind these awesome capabilities is a Fast Hybrid AF System that uses 425 phase- and 425-contrast-detect points covering 84% of the image area to track fast-moving subjects.
Returning to image quality, it is important to point out that this is an upgraded imaging pipeline. The 24.2MP sensor offers outstanding control over noise with a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-32000 and an expanded range of ISO 50-102400. Speed is not lost here, with an 11 fps continuous shooting rate, complete with AF/AE.
Body design is substantially different from previous APS-C models. The best news for existing users is that the a6600 has adopted the larger NP-FZ100 Battery Pack found in the most recent a7 and a9 series full-frame cameras. This offers 2.2x the power of its predecessor—good for up to 810 shots per CIPA standards when using the LCD. The body design didn't even grow too much, just enough to fit the pack and provide a more substantial and ergonomic grip. You will even find 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization in the a6600's durable magnesium-alloy framing, helping to minimize the impact of camera shake no matter what lens is being used.
Inheriting the best new design elements of recent releases, the a6600 gains a 3.0" 921k-dot 180-degree flip-up touchscreen and retains the capable 2.36m-dot XGA OLED electronic viewfinder. The camera claims to be a bit more resistant to the usual dust and moisture, as well. Next up are the ports which, for better and worse, remain very similar to other cameras in the series. These include the basic micro-USB/Multi-Terminal, micro-HDMI, and microphone input. An awesome new addition, however, is a headphone jack, allowing for monitoring of audio during video recording.
At this point, it makes sense to talk about the video features. These also have remained quite familiar. The a6600 can read the full 6K image from the sensor and create a richer, more detailed UHD 4K image. It is worth mentioning again that all the improvements to autofocus have found their way into video for near-unmatched performance. Otherwise, we have our now standard UHD 4K at up to 30p and Slow & Quick Motion settings for Full HD recording at up to 120 fps.
Professional functions make a return in this camera, too, with S-Log 2/3 for maximizing dynamic range and color grading potential. Related is the implementation of HLG for an Instant HDR workflow. These options, combined with superb autofocus performance and a flip-up screen, make it an outstanding choice for vlogging.
A Solid Entry-Level Option: the a6100
After upgrading the top end, it only makes sense to revisit the entry level. For that, Sony offers the a6100. A major improvement to the venerable a6000, which will remain in the lineup for the foreseeable future, the a6100 takes things up a few notches.
It is almost easier to describe the a6100 by saying what new features from the a6400 and a6600 are forgone in the name of affordability and portability. Primarily, the a6100 does without the in-body stabilization, advanced video profiles such as S-Log2/3 and HLG, and Eye AF during movie recording. It also uses the smaller NP-FW50 Battery Pack and has a lighter-weight, more plastic body.
As an entry-level model, it is surprising how many features of its bigger siblings have been retained. The camera does use a revamped 24.2MP Exmor APS-C CMOS sensor and BIONZ X processor to deliver detailed imagery. It is a bit more conservative than the latest and greatest a6600, with a sensitivity range that can only extend up to ISO 51200. Still, continuous shooting is available at up to 11 fps.
Autofocus is still spectacular on this model, with the same 425-point system and lightning-fast 0.02 second lock-on times as its related cameras. UHD 4K recording is possible, as well—a serious upgrade if you are an a6000 shooter. And Real-Time Tracking for movies is available for capturing moving subjects more easily.
The body is where you will see the biggest differences compared to the a6400 and a6600. The a6100 has lighter construction and the OLED EVF opts for 1.44m-dot resolution. The rear screen will support 180-degree tilting for selfies and has touch functions. It is quite nice to see how much from the higher-end cameras is still available in the a6100 and it gives users looking for a more affordable entry to Sony’s ever-growing E-mount system a great option.
Better Lenses to Match
Sony has been listening to its photographers, because the E 16-55mm f/2.8 G Lens is the compact, fast, mid-range zoom lens that many APS-C E-mount shooters have been asking for. Its 24-82.5mm equivalent focal length is ideal because of the versatility that enables it to go quickly from wide-angle to short telephoto. It’s relatively lightweight, too, at just 1.09 lb. Also benefiting shooters is the constant f/2.8 maximum aperture for increasing light-gathering capabilities of your camera system and improved control over depth of field. This is a top-notch lens and, as such, Sony equipped it with two Advanced Aspherical elements, two aspherical elements, and three extra-low dispersion elements for minimizing aberrations and improving contrast and clarity.
Going beyond the optics, Sony has fitted the 16-55mm lens with an XD Linear Motor autofocus system that is extremely quick and accurate. The lens also offers linear response manual focus for improved operation, and there is an AF/MF switch for rapidly changing settings. For improved versatility, it can achieve magnification of 0.2x with a 1.08' minimum focus distance. Another tactile control available to shooters is a focus hold button, which can be programmed to perform other functions. As for construction, the 16-55mm will hold up in less-than-ideal environments. It is dust and moisture resistant, while rubberized zoom and focus rings provide a great grip. This lens even has a fluorine coating on the front element that will help limit buildup of moisture and make it easy to clean.
More is always good, and if you want more reach than a standard zoom can give you, the only way to do it is with a telephoto lens. The E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS Lens reaches an equivalent 105-525mm range, plenty good for sports, wildlife, and tons of other applications. It is also a good match for the 16-55mm as an extremely versatile pair of lightweight zooms. This telephoto lens, even with its range, weighs just 1.38 lb, and incorporates one aspherical element and three extra-low dispersion elements to reduce distortion and aberrations.
The 70-350mm also has the XD Linear Motor autofocus system, making it a great match for the latest cameras, which have lightning-fast focusing speeds and advanced functions, such as Eye AF for Movies. This is equipped with Optical SteadyShot, as well, crucial at longer zoom ranges since it helps compensate for camera shake for capturing sharp imagery in stills and video. As a larger telephoto lens, it does offer additional controls to improve handling. Among them is a zoom lock switch, a focus hold button, and AF/MF switch.
The α9 Just Keeps Getting Better: Firmware 6.0 Coming Soon
Not only are there all these announcements for APS-C, Sony is again updating its flagship a9 with new features. Firmware version 6.0 is due out in September, and will add Real-time Eye AF for Animals and Interval Shooting for Time Lapse. Both features are notable and it is very important to see that Sony is supporting its existing lineup of cameras, effectively making them a new camera with continuous firmware updates. Stay tuned for more information on this when it becomes available.
Is that enough to satisfy you APS-C fans out there? That 16-55mm f/2.8 lens alone should make many photographers extremely happy. What from this announcement did you like the most? Let us know in the Comments, below, and please be sure to ask any questions you may have about any of these new releases.