It’s been a while since Sony released a new crop sensor camera designed for serious photographers and videographers. But that day is finally here with the launch of the new Sony a6700.
The Sony a6700 brings users a state-of-the-art sensor, an all-new body, the latest in AI technology, and a host of new and upgraded features with photo and video in mind. And the thing I love most about this new camera is the size and weight they managed to keep while still packing it full of all the features you’d need or want.
The first thing you’ll notice is that this camera has an all-new body design. The biggest of these changes is the introduction of a new dial design for selecting between photo, video, and S&Q. I like the setup, but it feels odd that Sony now has at least four different setups for this function across its cameras. We have these options integrated into the main dial like on the Sony a1, we have a secondary collar-type dial like on the Sony a7R IV, we have a switch like on the Sony FX30 or ZV-E1, and now, we have this dial that is similar to an aperture and shutter dial mixed with the collar-type dial on the a6700. My guess is that this type of dial was used because the flat top of the a6700 doesn't allow for some of the other options, and I do like this setup more than the standard switch-type designs found on other flat-top camera designs.
From here, the grip and button layout of this camera felt great, and the overall body with a battery and memory card only weighs 493 g. Unfortunately, the camera does only have a single card slot, but it does have dedicated audio ports, HDMI mini, USB-C, and the multi-interface shoe.
There are plenty of custom function buttons as well as a control wheel, shutter dial, aperture dial, and exposure compensation dial, all of which are customizable to a host of various options. But one weird bug, that I have also seen on other cameras, is with the exposure compensation dial. This new setup has no markings, which means you can go from plus or minus five stops instead of only three like older models. But for some reason, you only get an exposure preview up to plus or minus three stops. Once you go past three stops, the preview will remain on the three-stop preview. But if you go into manual mode and manually expose at something like minus five stops, the preview works as you would expect. So, it’s almost as if the preview functionality wasn't updated when the dial was added to allow further adjustability.
The last thing worth mentioning about the body design is that this camera features the flip-out screen found on the Sony ZV-E1 and Sony a7 IV. It is a great design and adds more functionality than the older tilting screen, though I would have preferred the screen that is now exclusively found on the Sony a7R V, even though numerous cameras have been released since its debut. But one good thing about this screen is that it does maintain the same touch controls and swipe-out menus found on the ZV-E1.
As previously mentioned, this camera is designed with both stills and video in mind. So, there are features that are beneficial to both functionalities. One of those main features is the addition of a dedicated AI processing unit. This allows the camera to have advanced AI subject tracking that is so good that it can recognize a human even if the subject is turned away from the camera. So, the autofocus can lock onto the person's head, track them, and then instantly lock onto the person's eye when they turn around. The tracking functions are so advanced that it also won't get confused if another person walks between you and your primary subject. The AI focusing can use things like pose recognition to detect between things like different postures of a subject or even the angle your subject's head is tilted in order to know where the primary subject is within the frame. In addition to the advanced human autofocus tracking, this AI unit also gives the camera more accurate auto white balance and exposure, as well as the ability to track cars, planes, trains, animals, and insects.
From here, some other shared features include five stops of in-body image stabilization, a -3.0 EV low-light AF ability, as well as a set of included picture profiles and creative looks.
On the still front, this camera has a state-of-the-art 26-megapixel back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor with the Bionx XR image processor. This sensor can give you images from ISO 100 to ISO 102,400 as well as a number of output file options. You can obviously take photos in either raw or JPEG, but you can also choose what size raw file you get as well as choose between uncompressed, compressed, or lossless compressed. You also have the option of taking photos in the HEIF and HLF image modes.
In terms of speed, you can take photos at up to 11 frames per second with both mechanical and silent shutters. There is also an anti-flicker and high-frequency flicker-free shooting mode for those complicated and annoying lighting situations.
While I have not fully verified this, the Sony a6700 most likely has the same sensor as the FX30. So, as you might expect, you get all those amazing features and so much more. That means you get 6K oversampling and 4K with full-pixel read-out. There is S-Log3 and S-Gamut3 Cine with 14+ stops of dynamic range. You even get 4K 120p and FHD 240p. You also get focus breathing compensation that was only just released to the FX30 via firmware.
Where things start to change is when you look at features only available to cameras with the latest dedicated AI unit, features like AI-based auto-framing. This feature allows you to crop in on a subject and keep them in a certain position in the frame, even as they move around. It’s like having a dedicated cam person track you, but with the camera securely attached to a tripod. This AI-framing also has the ability to go from the full frame and zoom in on a subject based on some user-defined preferences in order to achieve more dynamic clips, but without the need for zooming in post or having a camera operator. And the best part here is that is you use an external HDMI capturing device, you can record the uncropped and cropped video clips at the same time.
Another feature this camera has that is not available on the FX30 is Dynamic Active Mode stabilization. This is essentially a more powerful version of the SteadyShot stabilization, where it uses a more cropped-in frame paired with the in-body stabilization and gyro-based digital stabilization. This combination can give you smooth handheld footage that was normally only achievable when using a gimbal. This is ideal for run-and-gun filming as well as vlogging setups where you want minimal gear or want the best possible footage with as minimal gear as possible.
One thing worth mentioning is that I found a small bug when trying to use active stabilization while in S&Q. If you record 4K 60p in regular movie mode, active stabilization works. But if you have your S&Q set to record 4K 60p, it gives you an error that you can't use active stabilization when recording at 120p. My guess is that this error was set up for all S&Q recordings even though it should really only be set up for when recording 120p. But I am also using a pre-release camera, so hopefully, this gets addressed before actual units begin to ship.
What I Liked
- Small and lightweight design
- Fully packed with photo and video features
- AI-based features are outstanding
What I Didn't Like
- No updated screen from the a7R V
- Single card slot
For me, the active stabilization feature and ai-unit alone are worth getting the Sony a6700 over the FX30, especially since the price of the a6700 will only be $1,399.99. I also love how small and lightweight everything was. I primarily shot the a6700 paired with the Sony 15mm f/1.4 G lens, and with this combo, I would sometimes forget I was wearing the camera. And although there were a couple of small bugs, my hopes are that they are squashed before release. In all, I think this is the new go-to crop sensor offering on the market.