Sony Alpha A6700 Preview

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Sony A6700 Preview
Sony's APS-C fans have been waiting for the successor to the Sony A6600 for what feels like an eternity. Now, after a four-year wait, the Sony A6700 has finally been released, replacing the aging A6600. Expectations are incredibly high, especially after such a long wait, at least for me. Questions arise about whether the camera offers features like focus stacking and bird-eye autofocus, if it has a joystick and dual card slots, and if the menu interface has seen improvements. In recent times, there has been a multitude of rumors circulating about the A6700, although many of them turned out to be untrue after the camera's official release. More details about what the A6700 truly brings to the table and whether upgrading from the A6600 is worthwhile will be discussed shortly. To start, let's go over the technical specifications of the Sony A6700, which can also be found on Sony's website for the A6700


Specifications of the Sony A6700

The Sony Alpha A6700 is a mirrorless APS-C camera with a 26MP BSI-CMOS sensor that produces image files measuring 6192 x 4128 pixels. It features phase-detection and contrast-detection autofocus directly through the sensor. The camera also includes internal image stabilization, capable of compensating for up to 5 exposure stops.
The A6700 utilizes the Bionz XR sensor along with an additional processor responsible for AI-driven processes like subject recognition. This enables the autofocus system to identify people, vehicles, animals (including birdsPicture Gallery and insectsPicture Gallery), and provides 759 autofocus points. Subjects can be selected and tracked via touch control. The AF operates within an ambient light range from EV-3 to EV20.
In continuous shooting mode, the camera can capture up to 11 frames per second. When using JPEG Extra Fine, it can maintain this speed for 143 shots, while JPEG Fine L allows for 1000 shots, RAW for 59 shots, and RAW & JPG for 44 shots. These rates apply to both electronic and mechanical shutter operation. The shortest shutter speed is 1/4000s with the mechanical shutter and 1/8000s with the electronic shutter, while the longest shutter speed is 30s, with the Bulb mode allowing for longer exposures.
The ISO sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 32000, extendable to ISO 50 to ISO 102400. The viewfinder on the Sony A6700 offers 2.36MP resolution with a magnification of 0.7x and supports dioptric adjustments from -4.0 to +3.0. The rear monitor is tiltable, touch-sensitive, and has a resolution of 1.04MP.
Unfortunately, the Sony Alpha A6700 does not have a built-in flash. It features a single UHS-II SD card slot. The camera's dimensions are 122 x 69 x 64 mm, and it weighs 493g, including the battery.


AF Performance of the Sony A6700

My highest expectations for the Sony A6700 were related to its autofocus system, and I was genuinely impressed in this regard. It features an AI-powered autofocus that can automatically recognize a wide range of subjects. It can identify not only humans but also insectsPicture Gallery, animals, birdsPicture Gallery, airplanes, cars, and trains. During the brief period when I had the opportunity to work with the A6700, this feature worked exceptionally well.

Deer DeerPicture Gallery, captured with the Sony A6700 using animal eye detection and the Sigma 150-600 DG DN OS lens. The camera promptly recognized the deerPicture Gallery and focused on its eye.

MammalsPicture Gallery like this deerPicture Gallery, as well as dogsPicture Gallery and horsesPicture Gallery, were quickly recognized and tracked. The same applies to birdsPicture Gallery when the subject recognition is explicitly set to birds; otherwise, the A6700 occasionally had trouble recognizing birdsPicture Gallery immediately. However, when the subject recognition was set exclusively for birdsPicture Gallery, it worked swiftly and almost always seamlessly. Even birdsPicture Gallery in flight were accurately tracked. The autofocus system feels even more precise than that of my Canon EOS R7, which sometimes slightly lags behind or ahead of the subject, especially in Servo mode. More details will be provided in a comprehensive review shortly.
All in all, Sony has made a significant leap forward in autofocus performance. The autofocus is highly accurate and even better than that of the A6600 (which already had an excellent autofocus system).


Image quality of the Sony A6700

I was expecting a significant improvement in image quality compared to the A6600. The A6700 has a resolution of 26 MP, which is only 2 MP more than its predecessor. This results in image sizes of 6192 x 4128 pixels for the A6700, while the A6600 had image sizes of 6000x4000 pixels. The difference is marginal, and when closely comparing almost identical shots from both cameras, it appears that the actual increase in resolution over the A6600 is lower or non-existent. I couldn't discern a noticeable increase in image details with the naked eye. Lab measurements are needed for a more precise assessment.
If the resolution hasn't significantly improved, one might have expected better noise performance after 4 years. However, even here, I couldn't observe a difference in favor of the A6700 with the naked eye. To be honest, it seems to me that the A6700 might even exhibit slightly more noise. Lab results will be needed to confirm this, but in practical terms, the difference is negligible. On the other hand, I find the color reproduction significantly more pleasing, especially when comparing the JPEGs from both cameras. Even in RAW development, I prefer the A6700's color reproduction. Regarding sensor readout speed, there have been notable improvements compared to the A6600. Rolling shutter is still present in some situations but not nearly as pronounced as with the A6600. The A6700 even outperforms the Canon EOS R7 in this regard.


Fokus bracketing and focus stacking with the Sony A6700

For a long time, Sony cameras lacked a focus bracketing function. However, with the introduction of the Sony A1 and the Sony R7 Mark IV, this feature has now become a permanent part in Sony's cameras. Finally, Sony has become interesting again for macro photographersMore Info. Many photographersMore Info may have considered switching to a different system or refrained from switching to Sony in the past years due to the absence of this function. Personally, I know several photographersMore Info who had contemplated adopting the Sony system but decided against it because of the lack of focus bracketing functionality.

Dragonfly - stacked image In order to capture this dragonflyPicture Gallery in sharp focus from the front to the back, multiple images with shifted focus planesPicture Gallery were combined into a single image (focus stack) to achieve an extended depth of field.

Fokus bracketing allows the photographerMore Info to automatically capture a series of images of a subject with shifted focus points, which can later be combined into a focus stack with extended depth of field using stacking software. Some cameras can even process these images internally and output a finished stack. However, the A6700 is limited to capturing focus sequences only. Professionals often prefer to process their focus stacks using external software like Helicon-Focus because it offers more control over the process, allowing them to remove unnecessary images and adjust various parameters for the stacking. So, the A6700 provides all the necessary features for the enthusiastic macro photographerMore Info.


Body and handling of the Sony A6700

The fact that Sony cameras are not always the epitome of user-friendliness is something I assume is widely known. In particular, the APS-C models, including the predecessor of the A6700, were known for having a confusing menu, unusual ergonomics, a mediocre viewfinder, and a barely usable touchscreen. On the other hand, Sony cameras' autofocus was noticeably superior to that of most other cameras. For me, this was actually the reason for gifting my son a Sony A6400 back then. The autofocus was almost always spot on. Yet, compared to the APS-C cameras of other manufacturers, it wasn't particularly enjoyable working with it. From now on, the A6700 represents the APS-C flagship in the world of Sony. If you were to compare it with the APS-C flagship models of other manufacturers as of July 2023, this would be the Canon EOS R7 and the Nikon Z50. The EOS R7 has the most refined body of the three, featuring a joystick, built-in image stabilization, an excellent viewfinder, and monitor, plus various functions like focus stacking, precapture, and more. The Z50 also has an ergonomic body but doesn't quite match the R7. It lacks a joystick and focus stacking function. In contrast to the R7, the Z50 has a significantly lower resolution. Both the Z50 and the R7 have well-thought-out menus that are easy to navigate. And now, the Sony A6700 enters the scene, currently being the most expensive camera among the three. So expectations are extremely high here as well. Some things have indeed changed for the better. The menu has been completely overhauled and is now much more user-friendly. It also features an additional front dial. However, the internal image stabilizer of the A6700 only compensates for 5 stops, which is slightly behind the other brands. The monitor is now fully tiltable and swivelable, just like the R7. For vloggers and macro photographersMore Info (also for portraitPicture Gallery mode), the camera has become much more interesting compared to the A6600. There has also been noticeable improvement in ergonomics, with the camera now fitting much better in hand. On the other hand, I personally find the viewfinder a bit weak for this price range, and the absence of a second card slot is also notable. But all in all, the camera is a worthy successor to the A6600. I can't quite fully comprehend the many negative reviews you might currently find online. To me, the camera fits nicely between the Z50 and the R7. Only the price seems somewhat on the high side.


Conclusion

Even though resolution and image quality haven't been significantly improved, the A6700 offers quite a bit more compared to its predecessor. It boasts an impressive autofocus (with AI-assisted subject recognition), a focus bracketing feature, a finally usable menu, and an ergonomic body. Its resolution falls in the mid-range compared to other APS-C cameras. Those who can do without a joystick and find 26MP resolution sufficient should be very pleased with the A6700. However, it comes at a considerably higher price than current APS-C cameras from competitors.





Article from 2023-11-04


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