Sony A6700 Review | Flagship Performance with a Dedicated AI Chip!
The Sony A6700 is the successor to their most popular camera line, which hasn’t seen a direct update in almost four years. Starting in 2014 with the A6000, and most recently with the A6600, Sony has made significant leaps over the years, but this one is their biggest leap yet! In this Sony A6700 review today, I’m going to tell you why.
Front and center, the star of the show with the Sony A6700 is its sensor and its processors/chips. The sensor, a 26-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, is a noticeable improvement above its predecessor in every way, and it’s definitely not just about the extra 2MP! The BSI sensor readout is faster, which means less rolling shutter effects, and the overall image quality is simply beautiful in all lighting conditions.
Of course, Sony didn’t give us the whole kitchen sink for $1,398. If the sensor had been a stacked BSI CMOS, it would have been much faster. Also, although the ergonomics are very comfortable, the overall design and control layout still harkens back to the “enthusiast/beginner” design, in strong contrast to most of the A7-series full-frame bodies. This means not only is the viewfinder a bit smaller and lower resolution, but also, dual card slots are omitted.
What you get is one of the most well-rounded and versatile cameras possible, with some flagship-level features found almost nowhere else. The balance of portability and features, design, and overall performance is unmatched. With that said, let’s jump into this Sony A6700 review!
Sony A6700 Specifications
- SENSOR: 26 megapixels, APSC, BSI CMOS
- LENS MOUNT: Sony E, APSC (1.5x crop)
- STILL IMAGES: 6142×4128, 14-bit ARW raw, lossless compressed option
- VIDEO: 4K 60p, (from 6K) 4K 120p (from 1.58x crop)
- ISO: 100-32,000 (Extended 50-102,400)
- AUTOFOCUS: 759-point phase-detect AF, Real-Time Tracking, AI subject detection processor
- SHOOTING SPEED (FPS): 11 FPS mechanical shutter, 11 FPS electronic shutter
- SHUTTER SPEEDS: 30 sec to 1/4000-1/18000 mech/elec; programmable bulb up to 900 sec
- STABILIZATION: Yes, sensor-based, 5 EVs
- VIEWFINDER: 2.35M dot OLED display, 0.7x magnification
- LCD: 3-inch 1.03M dot LCD touchscreen
- CONNECTIVITY: USB-C, (USB-PD type) micro HDMI, headphone & microphone 3.5mm stereo jacks, 2.4-5GHz wifi, Sony Intelligent Flash Hotshoe
- STORAGE: SDXC (1) slot, UHS-II
- BATTERY: Sony NP-FZ100, rated 570 images
- BODY CONSTRUCTION: Metal alloy, weather sealing
- SIZE: 4.8 x 2.7 x 2.5″ (122 x 69 x 63.6 mm)
- WEIGHT: 1.1 lb (493 g)
- PRICE: $1,398 (body only)
$1,498 (w/ 16-50mm lens)
$1,798 (w 18-135mm lens)
(B&H | Adorama | Amazon)
Sony A6700 Review | Who Should Buy It?
With Sony’s camera lineup getting rather packed in the last ~5 years, who is the most likely buyer of the A6700? We now have multiple cameras that are optimized entirely for vlogging, in the ZV lineup. We also have the FX lineup, which is even more dedicated to video production. Then, of course, there’s the A7, A9, and A1 series, with their ever-increasing price tags.
Surprisingly, the Sony A6700 still finds a prominent position in the lineup. This is because, simply put, it’s great at almost everything. If that sounds like your type of camera, then read on!
Travel, Vacation, & Adventure Photography & Vlogging
If your preference in subjects is “a little bit of everything” and your preferred format is the same, then you’ll love the A6700. It can switch from being a pro vlogging camera to a serious photography tool with the literal switch of a dial.
Its size and weight mean it is one of the most portable APSC cameras on the market, making it equally useful whether you are just going on a casual outing, or a once-in-a-lifetime vacation/adventure. Of course, the durability of the camera is a huge value as well; Sony basically took a beginner-oriented camera body and built it with professional sturdiness, and added as many dials and buttons as they could fit, too.
What you get is a camera that has a couple of quirks, but is also “perfect” for a lot of different things!
Landscape & Nightscape Photography
A lot of serious landscape and nightscape photographers are also doing a lot of traveling and adventuring, of course, so these two categories go hand in hand. You’ll love the Sony A6700 for its portability and durability; I didn’t hesitate to take it on one of the most brutal, challenging backpacking trips of my life!
But also, the sensor gives every indication of being truly phenomenal; 26 megapixels is in my opinion the sweet spot for APSC. (It’s actually about the same as a 60-megapixel Sony A7R V when cropped to super-35 mode!)
Last but not least, with truly excellent lenses like the Sony E 15mm f/1.4 G, or the even wider 11mm f/1.8, the A6700 becomes a very formidable option for astro-landscape photographers. Equally, the Sony 10-20mm f/4 PZ G, with its 15-30mm equivalent, is a very attractive option.
Action Sports & Wildlife Photography
Simply put, the dedicated AI processing engine really shines whenever you point it at virtually any subject with eyes. I tested The A6700 with birds, cats, dogs, reptiles, amphibians, and bugs! It works unbelievably well.
Although the Sony A6700 tops out at 11 FPS, I would consider it one of the best cameras on the market for aspiring wildlife or action sports photographers. 11 FPS is more than enough for most action, and the ability to track subjects in challenging conditions will give you far more keeper photos, anyways.
Portrait & Event Photography
With the amazing lineup of Sony E-mount lenses, including both APSC and full-frame options, the portraits you can create with, say, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 GM are absolutely gorgeous. Furthermore, the A6700’s autofocus is almost witchcraft; it follows a subject’s eyes just like the best flagship cameras on the market.
Having said that, with the overall ergonomics, specifically the single SD card slot and the small, corner-pocket style viewfinder, I can’t recommend this as a dedicated pro camera for portraits, let alone weddings. It certainly is more than capable, of course, but I prefer the redundancy and versatility of a dedicated pro camera.
Sony A6700 Review | Pros & Cons
Here is the short version: If you’re looking for the most well-rounded camera on the market, this is likely it. The A6700 has almost everything, plus a few things that almost no other camera has. The portability and value do come at a price, though, with a few “flagship” type features omitted, including the overall ergonomic design.
However, as I mentioned above, this is still one of the best cameras for almost any type of photography or videography. In fact, I’d say that the wider the variety of things you want to do, the more this camera is likely your best choice.
The A6700 shares its 26-megapixel sensor with the Sony FX30, so its raw image quality should be a known, measured performance. However, we were working with the camera prior to its release, and couldn’t get the raw files into Lightroom just yet. With that being said, it seems very evident from the JPG image results that the A6700 sensor is impressive. Dynamic range is very wide at low and moderate ISOs, and noise levels are very low at higher ISOs.
This is the A6700’s claim to fame, indeed. Sony first debuted its dedicated AI processor in high-end full-frame pro cameras like the A7R V and ZV-E1, so I wasn’t holding my breath fur such a compact, affordable camera to get the AI processing engine. Of course, Sony delivered. This AF system tracks subjects in any condition, from fast or erratic action to nasty harsh light…
Many other cameras (indeed, many entire industries) are talking about using AI in their technology, however, and a lot of it is hype. In the past, some “AI-based” claims meant that a camera simply had an algorithm that was trained on a few thousand source images, and built into the existing camera’s software/hardware.
Things are different in the A6700, though. It’s an additional, dedicated AI processor, separate from the Sony “Bionz X” processor(s), and it really is impressive in its capabilities.
Having said that, it’s important to note that for all its “blazing fast” autofocus, which offers precision and a “sticks like glue” subject tracking ability, the Sony 26-megapixel sensor is not necessarily the fastest thing on the market. It tops out at 11 FPS for stills, with both a mechanical shutter (which is impressive) and the electronic shutter, which is a bit behind the 20-40 FPS of quite a few other cameras.
Honestly, unless you’re photographing hummingbirds or high-speed racing action sports, I can’t imagine ever needing more than 11 FPS. Then again, this AI processor is supposed to be made for exactly that, so it would have been nice to see at least ~20 FPS with the electronic shutter.
Videographers will also want to know about the readout speed, for the sake of avoiding rolling shutter effects. Make no mistake, the A6700 sensor is “fast enough”, with 4K/120p video at a 1.58x crop, or up to 4K60p when sampled from the full 6K sensor. This sensor is a staggering improvement beyond Sony’s long-standing 24-megapixel CMOS!
Battery life was one truly great thing that I loved about the Sony A6600 when it came out. Sony used the impressive flagship Z-series battery, which gave the smaller APSC sensor a staggeringly good lifespan.
I never listen to CIPA numbers about battery life, they seem almost meaningless to virtually all my own real-world applications. Simply put; I’d wager that the A6700 has the best real-world battery life of any APSC camera, regardless of what any spec sheet says. (Aside from the fact that, according to Sony’s own spec sheets, the older A6600 gets slightly better battery life, likely due to the slightly less powerfulness?)
Most types of photographers should get an entire day or an entire week out of a single battery, depending on how many photos they’re taking. A high-speed action/wildlife photographer ought to expect to get thousands of clicks on a single battery, especially if they’re careful about their viewfinder/LCD/stabilization usage.
Furthermore, Sony’s current standard is USB-PD charging, which is fantastic. Before, the lack of a dedicated battery charger was a shocking annoyance; now it is totally normal. I just plug in a USB-C cable to a USB-PD battery pack or plug, and the camera battery charges just as fast or faster than it did on a dedicated charger. Also, you can of course operate the camera directly from USB-C power, which is very nifty for long video recordings or all-night time-lapses.
One annoyance that I should note is that to save space on the A6700, Sony has omitted the “micro USB” style external control port, which used to also be capable of charging the battery in-camera. Now, all you have is the USB-C port. So, not only do you only have one charging cable option, you also cannot easily plug the A6700 into an external control device such as a motion time-lapse system.
Design & Ergonomics
One thing Sony was keen to point out was the fact that despite its similarity to its predecessor the A6600, the A6700 is actually a bit more lightweight, yet also has a slightly bigger grip. This is awesome! The camera just handles beautifully, even for my large hands, and is one of the best cameras I’ve worked with. I still have a soft spot in my heart for the feel of a Nikon grip, though.(B&H | Adorama | Amazon)
Sony may not have changed the at-a-glance appearance of the A6700, with its flat-top design and the viewfinder in the corner, but when you look closer you do notice some things. They’ve added a front command dial, which I sorely missed on the A6600. This makes 3 command dials, so you can finally control all three exposure settings in Manual exposure, and/or two settings plus EV comp in Aperture/Shutter priority mode. Next, Sony added both a dedicated AF-On button and a photo/video mode switch, instead of that weird, confusing button-in-a-switch that the A6600 and many older cameras had.
All in all, I love the improvements Sony made. The ergonomic changes alone make this camera worth upgrading to from the A6600.
I do have just a few complaints about the overall design, though: As I mentioned in my A6600 review, I’m still not a fan of a viewfinder in the top-left corner. As someone who is left-eyed, this makes the rear LCD annoying to use as a touchscreen. What might even be more annoying, though, is the slight change Sony made to the on/off switch! It’s almost the same, but the angle is slightly changed, and it really throws you off; this one will take a lot of getting used to.
Also, the resolution of both the viewfinder and the rear LCD are definitely two areas where Sony saved a little bit of money; they’re big, bright, and functional, but they’re relatively low-res compared to the competition.
Lastly, I should also mention that without a dedicated AF point control joystick, like the Sony FF cameras have, moving the AF point around the frame is a bit cumbersome because you must toggle the existing 4-way controller in and out of AF point selection mode. This takes some getting used to, and is generally sub-optimal, period.
I guess it all comes down to this: If I want an A7-style or even A1/A9-style APSC camera body, with a big fat high-res viewfinder centered above the lens mount, then I’d have to pay a lot more for it, and the camera wouldn’t be the portability winner that it is.
Although it still looks a bit like an entry-level camera, make no mistake: under the hood, it’s built very tough. The body is alloy metal, and the buttons/dials are weather-sealed. Also, keep in mind that thanks to the ergonomic grip, I feel like you’re just flat-out less likely to drop this camera, compared to “the early years” with the downright slippery A6000.
Features & Customizations
True to Sony tradition, the A6700 takes a few small steps forward in terms of customization, and maybe a step or two back as well. As I mentioned regarding the ergonomics, that “C1” button is in a loathsome position. I absolutely love customizing every button on every camera I ever pick up, and yet I really struggled to find any feasible use for it. I suppose it would do well in aiding vloggers who work in front of the camera; maybe it could be customized to turn on/off the product showcase mode or the background blur mode.
Other than that, I have the same praises and the same complaints: I love how customizable overall Sony cameras are, they have the most customizable buttons of any brand, and the dials are the most customizable, and I put those to good use. I am still perplexed by some of the menu item arrangements that make no sense, such as why some “playback” related items aren’t actually in the dedicated playback menu, plus a few other things.
Simply put, the value here is truly incredible. I was very surprised that Sony put their dedicated AI processing engine in such an affordable camera; you simply won’t find autofocus this good, at this price, anywhere else. If subject detection and tracking are your top priority, then the Sony A6700 is hands-down the best value on the market.
Having said that, what about the things I mentioned that could be improved; what would they be worth? Quite honestly, in terms of value, a mythical “Sony A9000”, an APSC version of the A1 or A9 series, would surely cost over $2,000. You’d have to use a stacked BSI sensor, and you’d have to add a bigger viewfinder, plus dual card slots; it wouldn’t be the same camera at all.
Such a different camera would absolutely be worth it, but that would be in a completely different category in terms of value.
The Sony A6700 was the smart move for Sony, indeed, because it is just the best all-around camera they could have made. It’s not as big and bulky as “flagship” type cameras with their large viewfinders and oversized bodies, and most will appreciate that despite my own complaints bout being left-eyed and having clumsy, big thumbs.
Sony A6700 Review | Compared To The Competition
Considering the price tag of $1,399, Sony’s closest competition to the A6700 is likely the Fuji X-S20. Both cameras offer IBIS yet lack dual card slots. This is important to note because most cameras that are cheaper will lack IBIS, of course, and most cameras that offer dual card slots will usually cost a lot more.
Speaking of Fujifilm, what about their flagship APSC cameras? If you’re willing to pay more, then you can get a Fujifilm X-T5 (with a 40-megapixel sensor) for ~$1,700. It offers both IBIS and dual card slots and an impressive 20 FPS. Alternatively, Fuji’s X-H2 uses the same sensor to offer 8K video, and the X-H2S uses a stacked BSI 26-megapixel sensor to offer a blazing 40 FPS and 4K120p video. The X-H2S is a big jump up, though, at ~$2,500. (Again, that’s “Sony A9000” territory!)
The main drawback of all the Fujifilm cameras is, quite simply, the fact that Sony’s autofocus just blows away all competitors. A fact that was measurably true even before the A6700 came along with its AI chip for subject identification, and is now even more true. Fujifilm does have a wider, better variety of high-end APSC lenses, especially for portrait and wedding photographers. However, Sony is catching up fast with new “G” series (but no GM?) APSC lenses. Plus, with the Sony E-mount, you have access to innumerable third-party lenses for APSC and full-frame that are very affordable.
Canon’s EOS R7 is another APSC mirrorless camera that sits at $1,399, when the $100 savings is active, and it offers dual card slots to go with its more standard ergonomic form factor. They tried to make its DSLR namesake proud with this mirrorless 7-series, but quite honestly, Canon also experimented quite a bit with some weird new control layouts, including a totally new AF/MF switch location, and a downright bizarre rear dial configuration. I’m just not a fan, and I say that as someone who literally gets paid to become familiar with a new camera’s ergonomics.
What about full-frame? The leap in price to a Sony A7 IV is a big one; a whole thousand dollars to be precise. (Well, $999, and that’s with $100 in instant savings!) You get lots of professional features with the A7 IV, but you don’t get the AI processor with the absolute latest in autofocus technology.
On an A6700 budget, however, you could also afford the Nikon Z5, in fact, it’s currently $1,296 because of a rebate/savings. That would give you dual card slots and IBIS, (the only full-frame option with both in that price range!) …but the Z5 sensor is a relative slug, with significantly slower photo and video speeds. Thus, it’s only a great value for photographers doing mostly slower-paced work.
Last but not least, Canon’s full-frame EOS R8 is also “just” $1,499. However, to get that full-frame sensor at that price you are giving up both IBIS and dual card slots. Canon’s subject detection and autofocus technology are very good, but they definitely don’t touch the A6700.
Therefore, all in all, I have to recommend the A6700 very highly above every conceivable competitor. If you’re entirely dedicated to nothing but videography, maybe you could stretch your budget to afford the Sony FX30 and access the fast(ish) readout 26-megapixel sensor.
Sony A6700 Review | Conclusion
The Sony A6700 is probably the perfect camera for many photographers and videographers alike. For almost any and every subject, from casual photography to epic adventures, there’s a lot to like. For every style of content creation, too, there’s an attractive offer; whether you are strictly a photographer, or you’re a vlogger or influencer, the A6700 beats all other Sony APSC offerings with its versatility. Plus, that dedicated AI chip for subject detection/tracking really is amazing!
It seems forever ago, (indeed, it’s been almost a decade) since the Sony A6000 first arrived with its clunky ergonomics, unusable autofocus, and miserable battery life. Today, the Sony A6700 represents essentially the pinnacle of what is possible in digital photography and videography. For the relatively modest price tag of $1,399, it truly is the best offering to date.