One of the major improvements of the Sony a6600 over its a6500 predecessor is the addition of a number of customization options that were previously only available on Sony’s full frame mirrorless cameras. I made full use of the limited customization options available on the a6500, so I was excited to have more options available and have spent some time working on the best setup of the camera for my shooting needs.
Customization options for the Sony a6600 include four custom buttons on the back and top of the camera, the function menu accessed with the Fn button, My Menu, memory recall and custom hold settings, and picture profiles. In this post, I’m sharing my custom settings for each of these options.
The Sony a6600 includes four custom buttons along with the ability to re-assign six other buttons on the back of the camera. I only customize the four dedicated custom buttons because I find the standard settings for the other buttons to be useful. In particular, the AF/MF toggle is used to switch between auto and manual focus. I use this as an alternative to back button focusing that allows me to quickly set focus and then disable autofocus when I don’t need to refocus the camera. The other standard buttons are exposure lock (AEL), drive mode, ISO, exposure compensation, and focus standard.
a6600 Custom Buttons
|Custom Button||Assigned Function|
|C3||Recall Custom Hold 1|
|C4||Bright Monitoring (Stills)
The Fn key allows you to quickly access and modify your 12 most used camera settings. I think of these as a second tier below the custom buttons. Sony’s newer full frame cameras allow the user to set different function menu options for stills and video but with the APS-C cameras we only get a single option that has to cover the settings needed for both stills and video shooting. For the Function Menu I prioritized all of the settings not available through a dedicated button or assigned to a custom button; any needed setting not in my top 12 are added to My Menu instead.
a6600 Fn Menu Settings
|Upper||Picture Profile||Zebras||Live View Display||SteadyShot||Focus Mode||Metering Mode|
|Lower||Flash Exp. Compensation||Zebras Setting||Silent Shutter||SteadyShot Focal Length||Human/Animal Eye AF||ISO Auto Min. SS|
Some of these quick settings are obvious, e.g., Focus Mode and Human/Animal Eye AF, but some are not, so I’ve added some explanation for why I selected some of these items.
Picture Profile: I talk more about Picture Profiles later on in this post, but suffice to say these are used for video and also when shooting JPG stills using film emulations.
Zebras and ISO Auto Min. Shutter Speed: These are new settings for me based on the recommendations by Mark Galer and Fred Miranda. Check out Mark Galer’s excellent video tutorial to learn more about how to use Zebras for optimizing RAW exposures. I have custom Zebras settings for stills (109+) and video (95). Mark Galer also has another great explanation of how to use ISO Auto Minimum Shutter Speed.
Live View Display: Another new addition for me-I was aware of this setting but apparently it can be really helpful for focusing in the dark to turn off the Live View Setting Effect.
SteadyShot Focal Length: When using adapted manual focus lenses, you need to tell the camera the focal length of the lens so that SteadyShot IBIS can do its job.
My Menu is a custom menu page that allows you to add any menu settings you want for quick access. I made up a list of settings that I frequently need to change but that are lower priority than the settings that are assigned to a custom button or the Fn menu. I expect this list to grow over time but for now I’m just short of two pages.
There are also some additional settings available in My Menu that cannot be added to the Fn menu or saved as part of a Memory Recall, including Function of Touch Operation. This is one example that shows a seemingly arbitrary limitation of the Sony memory and customization capabilities. I would like to have the touchscreen function set to Touch Focus when shooting landscapes and Touch Tracking for portraits, and this should automatically switch when using Memory Recall. But for whatever reason, Function of Touch Operation is not saved as part of the Memory Recall.
Memory Recall and Custom Hold
The Memory Recall settings on the mode dial are the most powerful because they can store and recall almost every camera setting; the drawback is that there are only two slots available on the mode dial with four additional stored on the SD card. Personally I would prefer a “virtual” PASM setting with 3+ additional slots available for memory recall. Although the Sony a6600 only has 2 memory recalls on the dial, the regular PASM and Video slots retain their settings after switching back from a memory recall mode so these can be thought of as a kind of 3rd memory recall (all settings are shared between these).
Custom Hold provides the ability to instantly recall a group of settings by holding one of the custom buttons. This overrides whatever other settings you were using while the button is pressed down. This feature is really powerful and was not available on the a6500. Up to three custom hold settings can be programmed; however, the custom button assignment does not change with the Memory Recall setting so using more than one Custom Hold requires the sacrifice of multiple custom buttons (again, it would have been nice if the custom button settings changed with the Memory Recall). Therefore, I’m only using one Custom Hold setting assigned to the C3 button.
Mark Galer teaches the PAL workflow for Memory Recall: Portrait, Action, Landscape. With the limitation of only having 2 primary Memory Recall slots on the Sony a6600, I’m using the LP workflow: Landscape and Portrait, and I have the Action settings assigned to the Custom Hold function.
MR1: Handheld Landscape
I am first and foremost a landscape photographer but that doesn’t mean my camera is always mounted on a tripod. More often than not, I am capturing my landscape images while out on a hike or driving through the countryside so my first memory recall setting is for handheld landscapes. I prefer to use aperture-priority mode rather than manual, and these settings provide optimal image quality while hand-holding the camera. Key settings are:
- Aperture priority (default to f/5.6) with auto ISO
- ISO auto minimum shutter speed set to slow or slower
- AF-S with expand flexible spot set to the center lower third of the frame
- Multi metering
- Zebras 109+ for ETTR
- SteadyShot on
- RAW image format
Other settings include: Touch Focus (not recalled), display quality high, finder frame rate standard, rule of thirds grid on , AF illumination off.
If I’m not shooting landscapes, then I’m using the camera to take photos of my family, so my second memory recall setting is for portraits. At first glance, these settings seem similar to the handheld landscape settings, but the emphasis is on ensuring sharp focus on the person and preventing subject motion blur. Key settings are:
- Aperture-priority (default to f/1.8) with auto ISO
- ISO auto minimum shutter speed set to Standard or Fast
- AF-C with tracking and real-time Eye AF
- Multi metering with face priority
- SteadyShot on
- RAW image format
Other settings include: Touch Tracking (not recalled), finder frame rate high, rule of thirds grid on , AF illumination on.
Custom Hold: Action
Recall Custom Hold is a powerful feature that I think I’ll be using quite a bit. I don’t know how many time I have missed a shot (or taken a blurry photo) because my camera was all set up for shooting scenery and I suddenly needed to take a picture of a kid, dog, or bear. I’ve only got one Recall Custom Hold set up, and it is for taking an action photo. Unfortunately, Auto ISO Min. SS is not stored with the Custom Hold options (on the a6600), so I have it set to shutter priority at 1/1000 sec with Auto ISO and AF-C with wide focus zone and Eye AF on.
SD Card Memory Settings
The four memory recall settings available on the SD card are overwritten when the card is formatted. There are two methods to prevent losing these settings: one is to store them on a dedicated SD card that is inserted in the camera whenever the settings need to be loaded, the second is to copy them from the SD card to a folder on the computer and copy them back to the card after it is formatted each time. I think I prefer the idea of copying them back to my card each time.
I haven’t fully worked out all my settings for these yet, but here’s how I’m starting out:
M1: Tripod Landscape
These settings are similar to my Handheld Landscape settings with a few exceptions. Most importantly, for tripod use I have the ISO set to 100 since shutter speed is not typically a concern. In addition, SteadyShot is set to off, and the remote function is turned on so that I can use an IR remote to trigger the shutter.
The other major setting change is to enable continuous bracketing (3-shots, +/-2 EV) with silent shutter. Generally, if I’m using a tripod, then I’m trying to capture an epic landscape and want to ensure I get fantastic image quality. While bracketing ensures that at least one of the exposures will be optimally exposed. However, for the APS-C cameras (and full frame camera shooting compressed RAW), the file resolution drops to 12-bit when using any continuous shoot mode or silent shutter, and the 12-bit files will have quite a bit of additional noise in the shadows. Therefore, use of bracketing basically requires that the exposures are blended in post-production to offset the noise penalty of the 12-bit RAW files. Use of silent shutter is something I picked up from Fred Miranda-since the files are already 12-bit, there’s no additional penalty for silent shutter and it will minimize the delay between bracketed exposures as well as eliminate any potential shutter vibration.
Note that for exposure with bracketing, Fred recommends an ETTR technique using +4 stops above the 100+ zebra limit as the base exposure. He’s using a full frame camera, so I’m not sure I would push the APS-C that far. My plan is to try this approach using +1 stop above the 109+ zebra limit as a base bracket exposure.
Action settings are essentially the same as Portrait but with ISO Auto Min. SS set to Faster or Fastest. This is a very easy change from the Portrait settings, so I’m nt sure it’s worth using a dedicated memory slot.
Flash settings are also very similar to Portrait with two major exceptions: I shoot TTL flash in manual mode so that I have control of aperture and shutter speed to control the ambient light, and ISO is generally fixed at something like 800 or 400. I use the flash exposure compensation (on the Fn menu) to control the flash power. Because of the shoot mode change to Manual, saving these settings to a dedicated memory recall slot is very useful.
Astrophotography settings are similar to Tripod Landscape, but like the Flash settings the shoot mode is changed to Manual, so it is useful to have a dedicated Memory Recall slot. Default settings include shutter speed of around 15 seconds, aperture wide open (e.g., f/1.8), ISO 1600, and manual focus. Refer to my post on ISO invariance for an explantion of why I use ISO 1600 rather than higher values for night photography.
Picture Profiles allow for detailed customization of the parameters that determine an image’s characteristics including basic contrast (gamma) and color tone, gradation (darkness-brightness tone), coloring, and sharpness/detail. Although these are primarily intending for use when recording video and generally do not affect RAW files for stills (except for the gamma settings), picture profiles do allow for some creative control when shooting JPG stills similar to the film simulations available on Fuji cameras. Note that Picture Profiles are stored as part of the Memory Recall settings. I don’t have mine assigned to a memory but only with the standard PASM/Video shoot modes.
I am using two of the Picture Profiles for shooting video and the remainder for film simulations. For video, I have one preset for EOSHD Pro Color which I like for most video shooting since it looks great and does not have to be graded, and a second preset based on the Leeming LUT for shooting video in higher dynamic range situations that requires post-production color grading.
I’ve just started experimenting with picture profile film simulations using the film simulation recipes developed by Veres Deni Alex. I’m really liking the black and white film simulations like T-Max 100 and Acros.