Is it worth spending so much on the Sony A6600? Or is the much similar Sony A6400 the better choice for a new camera?
Sony offers a wide range of cameras, including the Alpha series. While the naming scheme confuses many, the cameras can be even more confusing. Since there is an extensive range of cameras to choose from, settling for one of them can be a challenge.
There are several things to consider regarding the Sony Alpha 6000 series flagship, the A6600, and one of Sony’s best-value cameras, the 6400. Both cameras are among Sony’s best, but we must choose one based on factors including image quality, resolution, battery performance, and other related features.
Why Nikon Sony A6600?
We think the Sony A6600 takes the cake in this comparison. Despite the significant price difference between the A6400 and the A6600, the latter includes several upgraded features.
The A6600 can do all that the A6400 does and more. It offers better ergonomics, so you should find it easier to use and hold. It also has a much better battery life and a 3.5mm audio jack for monitoring audio during recording. And although the image and video quality are similar between the two cameras, the A6600 retains the eye auto-focus for video mode, along with in-built image stabilization. On the other hand, the A6400 only has eye auto-focus for stills and face tracking for shooting videos.
The A6400 in a Nutshell
The A6400 is quite similar to the A6600. The difference is in a few features, including battery life, image stabilization, and eye auto-focus. For a smaller price tag, you get almost identical picture quality. And the profiles, including the S-Log2, S-Log3, and HLG, are still here, unlike in the A6100, which is the entry-level camera of this series.
In more detail, let’s look into the individual aspects of the A6600 and the A6400.
About the Sony A6600
The Sony Alpha 6600 is the flagship mirrorless camera of the Sony 6000 series. It was launched in August 2019 and is yet to be replaced by another device in the same series. At the time of launch, it was the successor of the A6500, similar to how the A6400 succeeded the A6300. Overall, the A6600 has features and a hefty price tag to match.
Build and Design
Similar to the A6400, the A6600 has a magnesium-alloy body. But unlike the A6400, this camera is a bit bigger and chunkier. It weighs around 500 g, about 25% more than the 6400. And the larger body is due to this camera’s bigger battery. We will talk more about the battery below.
The larger grip ensures a comfortable handheld experience. And this is especially true when using the camera for extended periods or if you have bigger hands.
Buttons, Navigation, and Customization
The A6600 has four customizable buttons on the back. This should give you more options and versatility when you need to switch between modes or functions.
The buttons are not level with the body; instead, they pop out slightly. And this should help in pressing the controls while you are not looking at them.
The start-up time and the navigation in the menu are great. You still cannot use the touchscreen for the menu, but hey, at least it feels retro. And the raised buttons do help in navigation.
Since there are four programmable custom buttons, switching between different modes and functions should be easy.
Image and Video Quality
Being a flagship camera, the A6600 does not disappoint in picture quality. It has the same 24MP APS C CMOS sensor as the A6400. And as you might expect, the performance is excellent. The pictures should be crisp and have great detail.
To increase the dynamic range, you can also use different picture profiles, including HLG (HDMI). As with the image quality, the A6600 records excellent quality videos. Combined with the auto-focus, the IBIS, and the picture profiles, the A6600 can shoot outstanding videos.
Not to mention, it also has S&Q mode and no limits on video duration. We will talk about these features in a bit.
The A6600 has excellent auto-focus, both for images and video recording. Rather than just having EAF for stills, it also offers eye-tracking for videos.
You can use the touch screen for subject tracking. The camera will revert to face tracking if the eyes are not detected.
This means you will not find your camera hunting for the right focal length. The video should be smooth and precise. So rather than getting the focal length right, you can worry about framing instead.
In-Built Image Stabilization/IBIS
The A6600 comes with in-built image stabilization or IBIS, a.k.a. OIS. This ensures a smoother video for countering the camera shake.
When you use a lens with OIS on top of the camera, the system combines both stabilization systems to achieve stability. However, we think mirrorless cameras require a gimbal for absolute stability.
Do not get us wrong. The IBIS can make some difference, but the results with and without the IBIS are close enough. So do not consider this all the stabilization you will need.
The A6600 also has three picture profiles, i.e., S-Log2, S-Log3, and HLG.
You can use this to record the sensor’s full dynamic range and capture more details, including the shadows and the highlights. In fact, with the S-Log 3 profile, the camera can reach 14 points of dynamic range which should be pretty significant.
These options can be particularly important when there’s a significant difference between your shot’s brightest and darkest parts.
The A6600 has one of the best battery lives in any mirrorless camera. The NP-FZ100 battery is rated for 810 shots and should last around 140-150 minutes while recording. Where you might need a couple of batteries in other cameras to last a day, you might be able to pull off a day of vlogging with this camera on a single battery.
The battery is also the reason why the A6600 has a large grip. So even though it adds a bit of weight to the camera, it also makes for better battery timing and ergonomics.
As with the A6400, you have both mechanical and electronic shutter options. While the mechanical option is faster and gives you the live view, it might introduce shutter shock. Furthermore, it can also introduce blackouts in the photos.
On the other hand, the shutter is suitable for silent shooting and should help avoid shutter shock. However, it is a bit slower. But at the end of the day, the difference in speed may not be that noticeable.
The buffer memory can support up to 115 JPG or 47 RAW files, which should be more than enough.
This camera has an external microphone port. So, you can mount a directional microphone on it. If you need it, you can also purchase an L-bracket or a cage to go with it. This can give you more space to fit the microphone.
And what makes the A6600 and Sony a bit unique here is the 3.5mm audio jack. While other companies took out headphone jacks, Sony put one back in their flagship camera.
As far as functionality goes, having a 3.5mm audio jack can be helpful because you can monitor audio recording while shooting.
Having a 3.5 mm jack to monitor the live audio can save you time post-recording. Because rather than having to edit out the unwanted sound in all of the clips, you can be aware of the sound at the time and get rid of it then and there.
About the Sony A6400
The Sony A6400 was launched in January 2019, almost six months before the A6600. At the time, it was one of the market’s best-value APS C mirrorless cameras. And it seems like it has not lost any value over the years. It is still giving the flagship model a run for its money.
Build and Design
The A6400 has a magnesium-alloy body with weather-sealed dials and buttons. It weighs around 400g and should be comfortable enough in your hand. The grip is large but may not be as comfortable as the A6600s. However, the A6400’s grip might suit you better if you have smaller hands.
Buttons, Navigation, and Customization
The Sony A6400 has two customizable buttons, one of which is near the shutter release button. Besides that, the layout is pretty much level with the camera’s surface. Some might prefer more bumpy buttons for a better tactile experience.
The start-up time, as well as the general menu and function navigation, is smooth and snappy. However, we might have a gripe with Sony here. Even though you can use the touch screen for autofocus and tracking, you cannot use it for navigation. So much for the retro aura.
Image and Video Quality
The image quality on this camera is outstanding. The sensor captures 6K and samples it down to 4K, which makes the images great. And mostly, the photos should be crisp, sharp, and have a great dynamic range.
This should not come as a surprise, but the video quality on this camera is also excellent. You can record at 4K, 24 fps, and 4K, 30 fps. As for the lower resolutions, you can record at Full HD or 1080p at up to 24,30,60 or 120 fps. You should get a full pixel readout and no crop at 4K, 24 fps.
It also has S&Q or Slow & Quick mode for recording time-lapse and slow-motion videos. So rather than shooting a video in high fps and then editing it post-shoot, you can record slow-mo straight. Similarly, if you want to create a time-lapse, you can set the recording fps lower than the end fps. This feature can save you some time. And you can also use it on the electronic viewfinder.
Oh, another unique feature about these cameras is no limits on video clip durations. So, where other cameras may only go up to 30 minutes per clip, the A6400 can record much longer. However, the battery and the memory are the limiting factors on how long you can record. On a single charge, you can expect around an hour of 4K recording.
Along with a built-in flash, the A6400 also has eye auto-focus for taking photos, besides the usual face tracking. And if you know Sony, you might see that they have one of the best eye AF systems in the mirrorless camera industry.
In contrast to the lower-end 6000 series models like the A6100, the A6400 has three of Sony’s movie recording modes. These modes should help take sharper images with more dynamic range and details. And these modes should significantly help in recording shadows and highlights.
The A6400 uses the NP- FW50 battery. It isn’t the best battery, but it does a fine job. If you are a YouTuber and are out recording vlogs, getting a couple of extra batteries might be a good idea. And, of course, the battery timing depends on your recording quality.
The A6400 has mechanical as well as electronic shutter options. The mechanical option gives you a higher fps than the electric shutter setting. However, you get more blackouts in return, and the shutter shock effect becomes more probable.
On the other hand, when you use an electronic shutter over the mechanical one, you lose the live view, and the camera displays the last photo instead. In the automatic shutter option, you can shoot at 8 fps. While with the electric shutter, you can shoot at 11 fps.
The A6400 has the memory to store 115 JPGs and 47 RAW files, which should be enough for most photographers.
The A6400 has an option for external mic input besides the mics on the front of the camera. So, you can use a shotgun mic for recording audio. Furthermore, the audio levels are constantly visible on the screen. And you can adjust the audio levels during recording.
Similarities between the Sony A6400 and A6600
Camera Sensors and Image/Video Quality
As far as sensor comparison goes, both of these cameras share the same sensor. So both of them capture footage at 6K and sample it down to 4K, mostly giving you a full sensor readout, which provides excellent results and color depth. As for the lens mount, they also use Sony’s e-mount, which probably features the most robust series of lenses on the market.
There is little difference between the images you may take with the A6400 vs. the A6600. They also have the same normal ISO range from 1-32000, which is expandable up to 102,400. So, the low light sensitivity and performance should be similar as well.
Both of these cameras feature a tilting 2.4m dot LCD screen. You can use this LCD flip screen in many recording positions. You can even turn it 180° when recording vlogs or taking selfies.
However, the flip LCD screen only responds to touch when using auto-focus. So, you will have to stick to the buttons for navigation in the main menu and functions.
Face Tracking and Auto-Focus
Besides manual focus, both cameras have Sony’s face and AF tracking features. And you can switch between them using the mode dial on top of the cameras.
When you are taking images, both cameras allow eye focus. Eye focus provides even more accurate results than face tracking.
Unlike the lower-end Sony A6100, both cameras feature three of Sony’s picture profiles. The three profiles are S-Log2, S-Log3, and HLG (HDMI). These options should give you a greater dynamic range and capture more details with more color depth.
Electronic Viewfinder or EVF
The A6400 and the A6600 feature a built-in viewfinder with a 0.39″ OLED panel. The viewfinder has 0.70x magnification. And besides being OLED, you can also view 100 or 120 fps recording on it.
As mentioned above, you can shoot at 11 or 8 fps on both cameras. The default mode is an electronic front curtain shutter suitable for silent shooting. But if you want a higher capture rate, you might want to switch this mode off when using your camera for continuous shooting.
The memory on both cameras is similar. Both can store 115 JPGs or 47 RAW files, which should help keep more photos on buffer than in the entry-level A6100.
Both the Sony A6400 and the A6600 have slots for external microphone input. They also have tiny microphones at the front of the camera, but the audio quality may not be the best.
Differences Between the Sony A6400 and A6600
The A6600’s Longer Battery Life
While the Sony A6400 uses the NW-50 battery, the A6600 uses the NP-FZ100. And the difference in battery timing is enormous.
You see, where the A6400 may only record for 70-75 minutes on a single charge, the A6600 can go twice the distance with about 140-150 minutes per charge.
Now, you can buy a couple of NW-50 batteries easily to go with your A6400. But you might also have to buy an external battery charger as well. This is because the battery is charged in the camera by default, and there is no separate external charger in the box. Also, you will have to replace the batteries during shooting more often.
Build and Ergonomics
Due to the bigger battery and the image stabilization, the A6600 is bigger than the A6400. So, where the A6600 weighs around 500 g, the A6400 weighs about 400g. This makes the A6400 20% lighter than the A6600.
However, even though the A6600 is heavier, the larger build also means a larger grip. And a bigger grip can be more comfortable, especially if you do not have small hands. This makes the A6600 much easier to hold for longer periods. And you will start noticing the weight of the A6600 if you put a heavy lens on there.
Furthermore, the A6600’s buttons pop out more than the buttons on the A6400. So, while the A6400’s buttons are more level with the camera, the A6600’s protrude and feel better.
The A6600’s Image Stabilization
The A6600 has built-in image stabilization, which works by the sensor itself shifting position. It is five-axis stabilization and has a five-stop rating which should be adequate. This feature should allow you to record handheld footage with slower shutter speeds than you might be used to.
When you put a lens with OIS on top of the A6600, the system uses two-axis stabilization from the lens and three-axis stabilization from the built-in system. So, it should improve the results whether you use it with or without an OIS lens.
The A6600’s EAF in Video Mode
While the A6400 only has Eye auto-focus for images, the A6600 brings this feature to record videos. EAF is more accurate than face tracking and ensures you will not have to worry about the camera hunting for focus. So, you can focus on framing and other aspects of the video.
When the camera cannot find the eyes, for example, when you are wearing sunglasses, the auto-focus goes to face tracking for moving objects. And again, Sony’s eye autofocus is one of the best in the industry.
More Custom Buttons on the A6600
The A6600 has more custom buttons than the A6400. So, where the A640 has two programmable buttons, the A6600 has four. This feature allows you to switch between different modes and functions with ease.
3.5 mm Headphone Jack on the A6600
The A6600 also has a rare headphone socket, while the A6400 does not. This allows you to monitor the audio you are recording before you start editing the footage. This feature can be helpful when there is any background noise you can get rid of during recording.
For example, if there is a loud fan in the other room, you can catch that on the headphones and turn it off then and there. This may be more convenient than having to edit it out from every single clip after recording.
The A6400’s Built-in Flash
While the A6400 has a built-in pop-up flash, the A6600 does not. A built-in flash can help brighten up the darker parts of a scene. But for professional photographers, proper lighting can demand much more than a pop-up camera flash, so you may not miss this feature very much on the A6600.
The A6400’s Panorama Mode
At the cost of the Memory 2 slot, the A6600 does not have panorama mode. So, the A6400 does have this feature but does not have the M2 slot. However, you may still create panoramas in graphic editing software after you take the photos.
In Conclusion, Which Camera is Better for You?
If money is not a deciding factor for you, then we think that between the Sony A6400 and the A6600, you should go with the flagship model, i.e., the Sony A6600. It brings many features and improvements to the table like image stabilization, better ergonomics, a bigger grip, better battery timing, and a dedicated audio jack.
That being said, if money is one of the deciding factors, we think the A6400 is one of the best-value APS C cameras out there. So, if you are a professional and are only concerned about the features, not the price tag, go with the A6600, and you should not regret it. Otherwise, the A6400 gives a similar performance at a lower price tag.