Sony breathes life into its APS-C line-up with new cameras and lenses

Sony held an event in New York earlier today. The keynote was as boring as the last one. It also didn’t help SonyAlphaRumors got the juicy details before Sony representatives had the chance to show everyone the new products. But the new cameras and lenses are here and they prove Sony believes in APS-C.

I’m going to start with the cameras because they do not bring anything new to the table. There isn’t any breakthrough technology, just some carefully laid out specs, with a few price tags.

The Sony a6100 has the difficult mission of succeeding the highly appreciated a6000. It does bring some serious upgrades. A new focusing system, including Animal Eye-AF, real-time tracking, a 180-degree tilting touchscreen, 4K recording, microphone input, and interval shooting. The Sony a6000 had a launch price of $800. The a6100 is $50 cheaper. For $850 you can have it with the 16-50mm kit lens. For $1100 you can buy the double-kit version (adds the 55-210mm lens).

There is however just a $150 difference between it and the a6400. For that, you get picture profiles and a better EVF. Beginners will love the fact they can buy the a6100 with the kit lens and still have $50 in their pocket. With it being the camera that will most likely end up in the discount department, I do believe Sony has a winner here.

I can’t say the same thing about the Sony a6600. It was arguably the most underwhelming announcement of the day. Lots of people expected a true “mini-A9” flagship. Instead, Sony announced an update to the a6500, choosing the same $1400 price tag. At first glance, there isn’t anything particularly exciting about the new a6600. It does have the latest and greatest Sony has to offer, but with an audience that wants constantly to be amazed, it’s hard to deliver.

I will, however, commend Sony for updating the a6500 with technologies people will find useful. New autofocus features (already mentioned above), a more rugged construction, the selfie display, IBIS, video Eye-AF, and the bigger Z battery. Apart from the last three features, I doubt Sony should have put a $1400 price tag on the a6600. I know it’s the same as the a6500 when it launched three years ago, but the current price scheme is a bit of a mess.

sony a6600

You have the a6100 at $750, the a6400 at $900, and the a6600 sitting at $1400. It seems a $500 difference is a steep one. A $1200 price tag would have been more suiting, considering Sony has yet to deliver a true “mini-A9”. Anything over $1500, with an APS-C sensor, would be madness, given the excellent A7III starts at just $2000. But maybe I don’t see the full picture and Sony can justify a near $2000 APS-C camera in the future. Who knows?

A while ago I expressed my wishes regarding lenses Sony should make. I briefly mentioned a “16-50mm f/2.8” would be profitable for Sony. Lo and behold: Sony actually announced a fast standard zoom for APS-C – the 16-55 f/2.8 G. Priced at $1400, it promises excellent image quality, an ultra-fast focusing system (borrowed from the 400mm f/2.8 lens) and lightness. At just under 500 grams, it’s lighter than my all-time favorite: the 18-105mm f/4 G OSS. It’s undoubtedly a great lens for APS-C, but at $1400 it’s $200 more expensive than the Fuji equivalent. And as many have pointed out, getting the a6600 with this lens costs $2800. For the same amount, you can get an a7III, with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. Roughly the same focal range, with better low light performance (thanks to the full frame sensor) and blurrier backgrounds. I fear more than a few will choose the a7III.

In the same article, I also mentioned a wildlife zoom. I’m more than happy to say that Sony nailed it with the 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS. It even exceeded my expectations, having only wished for a 70-300mm. In full frame terms, this lens delivers the same field of view as a 105mm to 525mm lens. With the same focusing system as the 400mm f/2.8 lens, I can say it will be great for wildlife shots. At 525mm it will also be great for moon photography. All this range for just $1000. I know it sounds like a lot of money, but consider the 70-300mm full frame lens costs about $1150. Longer and cheaper. It’s a nice touch from Sony.

While it’s not the most exciting product announcement, I’m sure many will use them starting October and November this year. The real question is how good the two new lenses will turn up to be. Judging by how good the modest 18-135mm kit lens is, the 16-55mm f/2.8 and the 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 lenses seem to have a bright future.

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