That Fujifilm and Sony are now direct competitors for flagship APS-C mirrorless cameras is a bit strange.
A few years ago, you picked Sony if you liked high-tech gadgets with fast performance, and Fujifilm if you were a more traditional photographer who preferred a slower, methodical approach to image making but still wanted high-quality results. The companies targeted different customers, and their products were fine living in their respective bubbles.
This is no longer the case. More than ever before, Fujifilm’s new X-T4 takes Sony head-on, putting the powerful A6600 to the test. Both are excellent cameras, but the Fujifilm has a few advantages for experienced enthusiasts, from a greater shutter speed range to higher-quality video. Sony’s autofocus remains unbeatable, however, and the A6600 is now selling for quite a bit less than the X-T4, making it a great buy.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re deciding between these two cameras — but truth be told, you can’t really go wrong.
At a glance:
- 26MP BSI X-Trans APS-C sensor
- 3.69-million-dot electronic viewfinder
- 15 fps continuous shooting
- 4K/60 10-bit video
- 600-shot battery life
- 21.4 ounces
- 24MP APS-C sensor
- 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder
- 11 fps continuous shooting
- 4K/30 8-bit video
- 810-shot battery life
- 17.7 ounces
Sensor and image quality
Both of these cameras use APS-C sensors with a 1.5X crop factor compared to full-frame, and while the X-T4 has a slight edge in resolution, nobody is going to notice those extra 2 megapixels.
That’s not say that these sensors are equal, however. The X-T4’s is of a newer, backside-illuminated (BSI) design which increases light sensitivity. It also features a faster readout speed which leads to improvements when using the electronic shutter (more on that in the video section).
Additionally, the X-T4 uses Fujifilm’s more complex X-Trans filter array, which can increase sharpness by foregoing an anti-aliasing filter without the usual increased risk of moiré (the rainbow-like false colors that can appear when photographing very fine patterns, like those in some fabrics). The A6600 uses a traditional Bayer array.
However, don’t think the X-T4 is miles ahead of the A6600. Despite the apparent technical advantages of its sensor, real world advantages are pretty slim. It does a better job of suppressing moiré than the Sony, but unless you’re shooting test charts, you may never notice it.
High-ISO performance is also remarkably similar, with the two cameras neck-and-neck through ISO 6,400. Past that, the Sony actually has a slight edge — although you’ll be straining your eyes to see the difference in any real-world setting. The A6600 can also reach a 1-stop higher expanded ISO of 102,400 compared to the X-T4’s maximum of 51,200. (Naturally, both fall behind full-frame sensors; if you shoot a lot in low light, you should consider looking at the best full-frame cameras).
What this all boils down to is that if you plan to shoot RAW, don’t expect a big difference between these two sensors. For JPEG, however, the story is a little more interesting. We’re fans of Fujifilm’s film simulations (color profiles by any other name), and the X-T4 introduces a new one: Eterna Bleach Bypass. This creates a high-contrast, low-saturation look that gives photos a moody vibe. It’s a cool new effect, even if you probably won’t use it very often.
Sony may not be known for its in-camera JPEG color quite like Fujifilm is, but the A6600 does feature updated color science and the results are quite good. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference, so this is a hard one to judge objectively.
This is where the X-T4 starts to differentiate itself as a higher-end camera. Its shutter speed range extends from a high of 1/8000 second to a low of 15 minutes. The A6600 can’t keep up at either end, ranging from 1/4000 to 30 seconds. (Bulb mode on both cameras can hold the shutter open longer than these timed maximums). This gives the X-T4 an edge for both fast-moving subjects (athletes, animals) and very slow-moving ones (like stars in the night sky).
The X-T4 also boasts a higher burst rate of 15 frames per second compared to the A6600’s 11 when using the mechanical shutter. However, both cameras are limited to “post view” at these speeds (which only displays an image after it’s been taken) and both have to be reduced to 8 fps for true live view (which displays a real-time preview between exposures).
The X-T4 can also shoot even faster using the electronic shutter, at 20 fps for full-resolution files or 30 with a slight crop. There is no viewfinder blackout whatsoever in this mode.
Each camera features 425 phase-detection AF points, but while the hardware is similar, how information is analyzed and processed is different. We have continuously found that Sony’s Real-Time Tracking and Real-Time Eye AF technologies outperform the competition, offering reliable, accurate performance for both static and moving subjects.
But the X-T4 is no slouch. We found AF performance was generally snappy, although Fujifilm’s eye tracking feels a bit more finicky and inconsistent. In high-speed continuous shooting situations, we’d still take the Sony, but Fujifilm has done a commendable job here.
The X-T4’s autofocus is also rated for lower-light conditions, down to an impressive -6 EV compared to just -2 EV for the A6600. As always, though, the gap in real-world performance may not be that dramatic.
This is the one key feature that previously set Sony apart in this segment, but the X-T4 now matches — and perhaps exceeds — Sony’s in-body image stabilization (IBIS). (To be fair, Fujifilm also had IBIS in the X-H1, but that higher-end camera didn’t directly compete with the A6000 series.)
Both the A6600 and X-T4 use 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization that compensates for pitch, yaw, roll, and horizontal and vertical shift. On paper, the X-T4 offers up to 6.5 stops of shake reduction — meaning you can shoot a shutter speed 6.5 stops slower than without stabilization — while the A6600 is rated for 5 stops. In the real world, your results may vary, and performance depends on the lens used.
More than the specifics of performance, simply having IBIS is what sets these cameras apart from much of the competition. Stabilization isn’t just for low-light shooting when you need slow shutter speeds. It also helps you frame your shot, especially when using telephoto lenses, by keeping your preview image rock-steady, and can even assist autofocus performance by making sure the focus point stays over your subject, rather than bouncing around because of your shaky hands. It also offers huge benefits for shooting handheld video.
Sony has long been a leader in video, yet it’s the Fujifilm that comes out ahead here.
Just looking at the basics, the Sony A6600 tops out at 4K and 30 frames per second and a bitrate of 100 megabits per second, whereas the Fujifilm X-T4 can shoot 4K at 60 fps and 200Mbps. Slow the X-T4 down to 30 fps (or 24), and the bitrate can double to 400Mbps.
Beyond the higher bitrate, the X-T4 can also record 10-bit 4:2:0 color internally or 10-bit 4:2:2 into an external HDMI recorder. The Sony is stuck at 8-bit color either way (see our 10-bit vs 8-bit explainer for why this matters).
Sure, casual video shooters may not care about the difference, but better color depth and a higher bitrate give the X-T4 much more flexibility in post. For anyone with an interest in video editing and coloring, it’s a significant advantage.
Video is also where the X-T4’s newer sensor comes into play. Because it reads pixels faster, it causes less rolling shutter distortion. Electronic shutters lead to a phenomenon often called “jello cam,” where vertical lines start to look slanted or wavy if the camera pans too quickly (or, conversely, if the subject moves too quickly). The X-T4’s shorter readout time lessens this effect, although doesn’t erase it entirely.
There are a lot of subjective differences between how these cameras handle. Photographers tend to either love or hate Fujifilm’s retro control layout, with its dedicated physical dials for ISO and shutter speed. Similarly, Sony’s menu system has been the target of rage for many (Fujifilm’s isn’t exactly perfect, either).
Where the Sony clearly wins is on size and weight. It’s noticeably smaller and a few ounces lighter, and with the electronic viewfinder nested into the left corner instead of sitting on top like the Fujifilm’s, it can slip into a smaller bag.
However, the X-T4 looks, feels, and behaves very much like a traditional camera (and it’s certainly the prettier one). Its center-mounted EVF feels more natural and is larger and higher-resolution than the A6600’s. It also has a bit more in the way of direct-access control, and we appreciate the solid tactile feedback of the dials. Being able to see where your exposure settings are set even when the camera is off is also a nice touch.
Both cameras feature articulating monitors that can flip 180-degrees into selfie or vlog mode. The Sony’s flips up, whereas the Fujifilm’s flips out to the side.
Battery life was a major upgrade point in both the A6600 and the X-T4, as each camera uses a higher-capacity battery than its predecessor. While the X-T4 nearly doubled the X-T3’s battery life to 600 exposures, it still isn’t enough to catch the class-leading 810 shots of the A6600. Real world performance could see numbers much better than this for both cameras, and both are sufficient for a full day of shooting for most people.
The cameras also handle media differently. The X-T4 features dual UHS-II memory card slots, where the A6600 uses a sole UHS-I slot. While the necessity of a second card slot is debatable, it is strange for a modern camera to not support high-speed UHS-II memory. This is likely one reason why the A6600 can’t shoot higher bitrates in video, and it also means that it’s going to take a long time to write images to the card when shooting long bursts. Although more casual photographers are unlikely to notice the difference, this is definitely something the X-T4 does better.
As an APS-C-only system, Fujifilm has a large collection of lenses built specifically for the X-T4’s sensor size. This includes many compact, fast primes that help the X series stand out from other APS-C systems.
Sony makes tons of lenses, but its E-mount cameras span both APS-C and full-frame sensors. The disadvantage of this is that many of the best lenses are built for full frame, and putting a full-frame lens on the A6600 means paying for extra glass you’re not using and ending up with a bulkier-than-needed system.
However, this also creates a full-frame upgrade path, something that simply doesn’t exist on the Fujifilm side. Sony A6600 owners can invest in good full-frame glass today, and take it with them to a full-frame camera down the road.
The popularity of Sony’s E-mount has also attracted third-party manufacturers. Sigma, for example, makes some great lenses for Sony cameras that aren’t available in Fujifilm X mount. (To be fair, other manufacturers, like Zeiss, offer lenses for both mounts.)
Which is right for you?
With little difference in image quality and performance being so close in the majority of situations, choosing one of these cameras comes down mostly to your personal preferences and budget. The Fujifilm X-T4 does seem to target a slightly higher-end customer than the A6600, with professional specifications like a 1/8000-second shutter speed, 15 fps burst shooting, 10-bit video, and dual high-speed card slots. It is a lot of camera, and arguably the most feature-complete model below $2,000.
But while those may be make-or-break features for a few select customers, most people are going to work within the range of performance that both cameras cover equally. It is here that the Sony’s effortless autofocus, smaller physical size, and significantly cheaper price (a $500 difference at the time of writing) make it look more appealing.
Subjectively, we think the Fujifilm makes for a more satisfying user experience, but this is one of those things that everyone has to judge for themselves.
Buy the Fujifilm X-T4 if you shoot a lot of video, want a camera with more room to grow into, or simply prefer its classic styling and functionality. Buy the Sony A6600 for the best possible autofocus, or to save some money to put toward a good lens.
And, again, you can’t go wrong with either one.
- Fujifilm X-T4 vs. Fujifilm X-Pro3: A difference in form and function
- The best mirrorless cameras for 2020
- The best full-frame cameras for 2020
- The best digital cameras for 2020
- The best video cameras for 2020