What’s up guys, Sagi here and welcome to another Tech Gear Talk. Today we’re going to check out the Sony a6400. With the price point and feature set, Sony really shook things up and I’m going to walk you through a review and my decision making process about whether I think I’m going to keep this camera.
The a6400 looks super familiar to anyone who has used the a6300 or a6500 but Sony definitely added some features to make this a super attractive option for both photography and video. Two of the most noteworthy items are a new processor based on the much more expensive A9 which enables ‘Real-Time Tracking autofocus, and finally, a flip screen. I’ve also been using my A7iii for the past few months so we can use that as another reference point in this video. I’m going to cover what I liked and what I didn’t like about A6400 and ultimately come to a conclusion about who this camera will work for. I’m going to very quickly go over some overall key features in case you’re just starting your research.
Alright, now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive in deeper and talk about the good and the bad.
The a6400 is the official replacement of the older a6300 and uses the same 24MP APS-C sensor. And with a price point of $900, Sony put it in direct competition with the Canon M50 and the Fuji X-T30. Back to the a6400, even though at first glance it looks like the a6300 there are a number of significant improvements. Back to the sensor, this is an excellent option you’re shooting portraits, landscape, doing street photography or if you’re looking for a great travel camera. And honestly, it’s even a good sports camera because of the super impressive autofocus features we’ll discuss later on in this video. The image quality, at least as far as jpegs is noticeably better than what I got form the a6300. Overall I think it’s a very pleasing image and I like the color processing and the improved low light performance for stills.
We’re also getting the ability to capture 10.6-stops of dynamic range at ISO 100. So when you’re shooting in situations where there is a significant discrepancy between the brightest and darkest parts of your scene, this is going to be able to handle it a lot better than a sensor with a more limited dynamic range. The Sony “color” is something that some people like, some don’t, to me it seems to have a bit of a greenish tint. And although it’s a little warmer in the a6400, I normally adjust it in Post when needed. And again, there is no question that there is an improvement over what I was getting from the A6300.
Now while the sensor is the same as the a6300, let’s get to the processor because that’s where things start to get really impressive. The a6400 does not use an identical chip to the professional, and much more expensive, a9, but it does use a derivation of that chip. In addition to the impressive improvements we’ll talk about in the autofocus section, the a6400 is more responsive overall than the a6300. So basic operations like startup, going from shooting to preview mode or just in and out of the menu and changing settings feels faster.
A feature that I wasn’t even really thinking about when I get this camera but is going to make a ton of people happy is the fact that there is no longer a 30 minute recording limit for video. This allows for continuous shooting of longer clips and removes the hassle of having to keep track of the length of the current clip so that you don’t real the 30 minute mark and have your camera automatically stop recording. So if you’re using this for YouTube, or to shoot an interview or record and event, you’re going to love this. I mentioned video, and Sony is definitely pushing this camera for creators and it performs really well as far as 4k in terms of image quality and details. I’ll get into this more in a later section, but it’s going to give you beautiful, crisp 4K video with improved color science.
I’m working on two follow-up tutorials that have to do with my video settings and low-light shooting, and just like with my a7iii, once you spend a few minutes setting everything up, you’ll be good to go moving forward. If you have anything else you want me to cover in those tutorials, let me know in the comments section.
Back to the processor, for photography, I can shoot at up to 11fps burst, or continuous, shooting with continuous autofocus. So I can just hold down the shutter and the camera will just keep firing. This is a nice feature if you’re photographing kids running around, if you’re at a basketball, soccer or any other sporting event, or any time when you’re shooting any fast moving subjects. And we’ll talk about this a little more later but the tracking autofocus during burst shooting is crazy good.
From a video standpoint, the a6400 can record internally at up to 4K 30 fps. 4:2:0 8-bit video and 4k 30 fps 4:2:2 externally.
I say this a lot, but one of the most important things for me with any tool that I use, is ergonomics in terms of both handling and functionality. And it’s something that I think is overlooked by a lot of people when they are choosing a camera. The a6400 is definitely on the smaller size when it comes to Sony mirrorless cameras – and that’s of course, by design. It weighs less than a pound and ’s a little bit larger than the Canon M50, but that might not be a bad thing. As technology advances, manufacturers are able to make certain components smaller, but I think it’s important to strike a balance between performance, ergonomics and portability. The grip, for example, is nice and deep and is comfortable to hold – much more so than the Canon M50. For my hand, I can only fit all three fingers on the right side when my index finger is on the shutter, and my pinky finger goes under the camera. That’s not something that bothers me, but I definitely get questions in the comments about this so I wanted to mention it.
The body has a magnesium-alloy chassis and the buttons and dials have weather sealing which makes the a6400 dust and moisture resistant. It uses the NP-FW50 battery and the a6400 is rated for 360 shots not the greatest, but not the worse. I was really hoping Sony would give us an upgrade here to improve battery life like they did on the A7iii. As usual, Sony doesn’t include a charger which is more annoying, and you have to either use a micro-usb cable to charge it, or you need to buy a charger. I always complain about this and even more so if the battery isn’t going to last forever like on the a7iii – Sony, throw in a charger. What’s nice is that you can use the camera while it’s charging and Sony does include a plug for the USB-C cable. And when you couple this with the fact that there is no timed recording limit it makes this camera an awesome options for long video session or streaming.
As far as buttons and dials, I’m happy with what you get with the a6400 for the price. We’ve got 2 functional dials, one for aperture and one for shutterspeed, and we also have C1 and C2 buttons which you can customize. I think if you’re buying a camera and are just using it with the factory settings you’re really missing out. Part of what you get for buying a nice camera is the ability to customize it to work better for how you shoot. I have a follow up video that will show you exactly how I set up my a6400. I recommend that you check it out when it’s published and even if you don’t end up using it the way I do, it will give you some great ideas and you can pick and choose what works best for you. On the left side we have a little barn door with a micro USB, an HDMI out and 3.5mm input jack. I like the design of this door a lot better than the little flip things from my a7iii which always seem to get in the way. Moving on to the bottom of the camera, we have the battery compartment and the SD card slot. I like the placement of this compartment and because the ¼ 20 is offset to the left of the camera, you can switch out batteries and remove the SD card without having to take the camera off of a tripod. The viewfinder is very nice for the price. It is a 2.36m-dot OLED EVF which has automatic brightness control so that it works well in both bright sunlight and in low light situations.
So far I’ve given the a6400 really high marks as far as ergonomics so let’s get to the bad part – the menu and settings. I’m more familiar with the system because of my a7iii, but for a beginner, this menu system is less than ideal. It’s not something you can’t overcome, but it’s not a strength for Sony. And it’s not the menu design that I find problematic. It’s actually super easy to use, it’s split into categories that make sense and you can clearly see what page you’re on and you can navigate up to the top level and move from one category to the next without having to scroll right through every page. So that part is actually well done by Sony. The issue is that it seems disorganized which leads to confusion. Features and settings just aren’t where I would expect them to be and aren’t sorted in the order I would expect based on importance. Like I said in my a7iii review, from an actual usability standpoint, it’s easy to navigate and move around if you know exactly where something is, but expect to do a lot of searching in the beginning. I’ll post a few tutorials that will show you how to customize the settings and the good thing is that once I got the camera set up how I wanted, I very rarely interacted with the menu.
Next I want to talk about resolution, framerates and image quality.
For stills, the a6400 has a maximum resolution for 6000 x 4000 which I always think is plenty for what most people would ever need unless you’re planning on printing something huge. It can of course shoot in both JPEG and RAW so you can decide just how much information you want to capture depending on what you plan to do with the images in post production. The Image quality for stills is very good and I found that my images were sharp with pretty good dynamic range. JPEG noise reduction is excellent for a camera under $1000 and the Sony colors are improving with time, specifically for skin tones. It still has the Sony “look” which I happen to like. But if you’re coming from Canon, it’s going to look slightly cool to you and you might find that the blues or greens are a little boosted. I always mention that there is definitely some personal preference there so I’m just sharing my impressions and of course, and all of this can be easily worked out in Post.
For video, if you’re shooting in NTSC, the a6400 can record 4k video at 24 and 30fps and FULL HD, 1080P at 24, 30, 60 and 120fps. In PAL, you can shoot 4K at 25fps and Full HD at 25 and 50fps and 120fps. The a6400 can internally record up to 4k30p at 4:2:0 8-bit as well as up to 4k30p 4:2:2 8 bit via HDMI output, both at 100 Mb/s. Like with my a7iii, depending on how much I graded the footage, I didn’t always find recording externally to be a meaningful enough difference to justify a larger setup.
A little nerd talk here. If you’re shooting 4k24p then the footage is oversampled from 6k which renders beautiful details. 4k footage from this camera is really nice, we’re using the full width of the sensor here and there’s no pixel binning. If you’re shooting at 4k30p then there is a 1.2x crop factor. Depending on how much of a pixel peeper you are, you could notice a difference in the quality between 4k24p and 4k30p, but honestly, it’s good to the point that I don’t even think about it.
Going to 1080p we have a lot more options, you can shoot 24, 30, 60 and 120fps. 30 and 60 offer 2 different bitrates, always choose the higher one to get the best quality. The quality of the Full HD or 1080p isn’t as good as the 4K quality, of course, and if you’re editing in 1080p and want the absolute best footage, you can shoot at 4K then downscale it to 1080p in post. You will definitely see sharper footage with more detail if you choose to go that route. Of course you have to deal with 4K footage, but it is what it is.
Now let’s get to 120fps which is one of my favorite things about using a Sony camera. If you’ve watched my review, you know I love slow motion. And I love the footage I’m getting at 120fps with 100Mbps. The autofocus works really well and I’m super happy with the quality, and we’ll get to the autofocus next but I want to mention that tracking does not work when shooting 120fps. There is also a video option called S&Q which if you’re not familiar with, allows you to select frame rates ranging from 1 frame per second all the way up to 120 frames per second. The camera will then either slow it down or speed it up to either 24 or 30fps. So if you’re using S&Q 120fps, and you watch the clip in camera or on your computer, it will already be slowed down, vs shooting regular 1080p 120fps which will still need to be slowed down in your video editor. You can also use this feature to shoot a fairly limited timelapse. Meaning, the slowest you should shoot is 1 frame per second.
If you want much more control, Sony released the a6400 with interval shooting built in! This is something I complained about in my a7iii review, but then Sony released it with firmware 3.0. This lets you have full control over your timelapse, you can drag your shutter and get the results you want.If you want me to put together a tutorial for that, let me know in the comments section.
Alright, next, let’s talk about autofocus. One of the reasons I had been hesitant to use Sony cameras in the past, is that I have not had the best experience when it comes to continuous autofocus for video. Previously, for stills, the Sony AF has been good, but for video, the continuous AF would hunt and was just inconsistent. The A7iii was the first Sony camera I tried where I was super impressed with the AF system, and I immediately bought it. The a6400 has arguably the best autofocus system you can get for the price. It uses 425 phase detection AF points and 425 contrast detection AF points that cover around 84% of the sensor. This focusing system is a game changer and could literally change the way you shoot.
For photos, the focus is very fast, using both Sony and adapted lenses from Canon and Sigma together with the Sigma MC-11 adapter. I mostly used AF-C in flexible spot and used the C2 button to bring up the focus point location and then the dial on the back to relocate it. The Eye AF is insane with this camera. It’s so good and we actually get real-time eye AF. That means that you just turn the feature on, set the a6400 to continuous AF and shoot. When shooting portraits, you can leave the camera on Wide focus mode and it will just automatically detect the face and then lock on the eye. I’m telling you, it just nails it and I was most surprised that it worked even when the person was wearing glasses. I love the green marker, you can’t miss it. And if it doesn’t find the eye, there is still the fallback to face detection. So again, it was good and fast with both the sony lenses and the adapted Canon and Sigma lenses.
Like with my a7iii, for video, I noticed a significant improvement over the previous Sony cameras that I’ve used. Sony has pretty confusing focus settings, there are a lot of them and at first glance there seems to be some confusing overlap. But once you dive deeper into each setting and dial down to the one you want for a particular scenario, it works incredibly well. I’m going to do a follow-up video dedicated to autofocus because I think there is so much to cover, but coming from Canon, which I think might still have my favorite AF for video, this is now beginning a trend where Sony cameras video autofocus is very good. I really like the flexibility of being able to control how much of a change the camera needs to detect before shifting focus and on top of that having control of how fast or slow it will rack focus. In addition to human eye detection we also have animal eye autofocus which I love because I take a lot of pictures of my dogs and a traditional “zone” autofocus mode usually focuses on their note which means their eyes are not in focus.
Moving to video, the Sony AF is good! And with subject tracking, I just really enjoyed using it. Face detection for video is pretty good as long as there is decent light, but there are some strange limitations. For example, like on the a7iii, if you use an external monitor and you’re shooting in 4K you might find that your face detection no longer works. For some reason, Sony disabled this feature for both 4K 24 and 4k 30 which is super frustrating. It’s a little better, or less worse, because the a6400 does have a flip screen, but if you want a larger monitor you will also have to disable internal recording and record externally in order to get face detection. So if you need a monitor, and you need face detection, you have to also record externally which doesn’t really make any sense to me.
One thing I wanted to tell you about has to do with using adapted lenses, and this was true for my a7iii as well. I used the Sigma MC-11 adapter which worked beautifully for me with both my Canon and canon-mount Sigma lenses for stills. Autofocus was extremely fast and the images were super sharp. If you have Canon or Sigma lenses and you’re a photographer, I definitely recommend using the Sigma MC-11, the focus is just so snappy. For video, only the Sigma lenses were able to use the continuous autofocus mode of the camera. None of my L-series Canon lenses would work for continuous autofocus and I had to use manual focus. I’ve read that you can kinda get it to work with the Metabones Mark V but with pretty inconsistent results. I’ll grab one of those and try it on both cameras and we’ll see. Of course, this doesn’t matter to you if you’re using Sony lenses, but I thought it was important so that you don’t buy this camera and expect it to do something it won’t.
So to recap my opinion about the AF – for both stills and video it’s super fast and accurate. What’s interesting is that if you look on the LCD while shooting still, and you’re in burst mode, you will see it switching from subject tracking, to face detection to eye autofocus and sometimes you’ll think it’s missing focus. But the actual focus on the images is better than what you see in the live view. So it may appear that it’s lagging behind, but the images are actually in focus.
Alright, let’s move to lens options for the a6400 – and I think a lot of people forget to look at this part when they shop for a camera. When I test cameras, I like to use a variety of lenses at different price points to help give people a true feel of what they should expect. I used the Sony 16-50mm 3.5-5.6 which comes with Sony’s Optical Image Stabilization – or steadyshot. This is an inexpensive lens and it’s super small which makes this setup a perfect travel cameras. It’s also a good lens for vlogging and a good first lens in general. I have a video dedicated to this topic and I’ll ink to it up in the description. It couldn’t compete with my L-Series glass, or my Sigma Art lenses, but for the price it did quite well. Like most kit lenses, it’s not a constant aperture, and it’s not a very fast lens, but again, as a function of price, I think it’s a good value.
Sony lenses are a bit of a touchy subject for some people. It’s not a matter of quality, it’s a matter of cost. If you’re looking at the GM lenses, you’re looking at incredible glass, but expect to spend some serious cash for it. For a quick comparison, the Sony GM 70-200 2.8 is $2600 and if I compare it to the Canon L-Series 70-200 2.8 MKIII which costs $2100 I’m looking at an extra $500. The Sony 24-70mm 2.8 is $2,200 and the Canon is usually $1,900 (although if you look it up now it’s $200 OFF at $1,700. So you’re either looking at a $500 or $300 difference. Now, while I think this camera is super impressive, it is directed at more of a beginner so these may not be the lenses you’re looking at and there are some lower cost variable aperture lenses. I’ll put some links in the description to some of my favorite lenses for various types of shooting.
Let’s talk a little about the screen which is a big deal coming from Sony. The a6400 finally has a 3” flip touchscreen-ish LCD. We finally have a screen that can be flipped to face the front so that you can see yourself when you’re in front of the camera. So now you can tilt the screen up is good when you’re shooting from the hip or anytime when you’re above the camera. You can tilt id down so you can’t always get the angle you want if the camera is at a high angle. And if you’re in front of the camera, it does this strange multi joint thing here but does finally face the front. While the functionality is there, this is a super clunky implementation and an overall strange design choice from Sony. Other companies have figured this out, just use a similar design.
Other than the ergonomics, you’re also going to run into an issue where if you’re shooting video and are using an external microphone mounted to the hot shoe, you’ll find that it completely blocks the screen. Luckily there are some cages and l-brackets that I use to offer alternative mounting options. Both of these have worked great for me and I’ll put links in the description because I definitely recommend picking one of these up.
Ultimately, the important thing is that the functionality is now there for the people who want it. It’s still not versatile for gimbal, slider work, or even product photography but it’s a major improvement over other Sony models and I’m really happy about this progress. If you don’t plan on using these tools, or if you’re just willing to deal with it, I totally get that. I would prefer that Sony just implement a fully articulating screen and charge me an extra $100 and we call it a day.
Now let’s get to touchscreen – I said touchscreen-ish because it is technically a touch screen. You can use it to set a focus point or to select a subject for AF tracking but that’s it – you can’t control the menu you can’t change settings, none of that. Again, I’m not sure why Sony would do this. The screen is clearly capable of detecting touch and it seems like menu navigation and feature selection is a natural next step. As far as the quality of the image on the LCD – it’s pretty good and has worked well for me in most situations.
I also want to talk about other features that this camera has that may help you make a buying decision. First I want to talk about image stabilization. The a6400 does not have in-body image stabilization so you’ll have to rely on lens-based OSS. My guess is that Sony decided to keep that for the a6500 replacement which I’m sure is coming soon. This also means that they were able to keep the price down.
Next I want to talk about timelapse or interval shooting. The A7iii was not released with in-body timelapse or a built-in intervalometer. It was something that was added with a firmware update. Well, with the a6400, I was so excited to find that Sony released the a6400 with interval shooting built it. This means that you can have full control over your time lapse in terms of exposure, interval and number of photos – and you simply need to process those images in post production to get a timelapse video.
The next thing I want to talk about is the Imaging Edge app. First of all, it’s super easy to connect to it. You start the app, go to NETWORK->PAGE 1->CTRL W SMARTPHONE->(make sure Ctrl w Smartphone is turned to ON. Then click on CONNECTION which will bring up a QR code, just click the option in the app to scan a QR code, scan it and it will ask you if you want to join the connection – DONE! It’s fairly basic, you can control shooting mode, shutter speed, aperture, ISO and White Balance for both photography and video. For stills, you also control the self timer, continuous shooting settings, and there are some flash options. For video you can adjust your framerate, movie format and you can start and stop recording. There is a bit of a lag, and it seems to buffer here and there, but if you’re just using it for framing It will work for you as a remote control and monitor so there’s that. What is disappointing is that you can’t set or even see the focus mode or zone. So you have no idea what autofocus mode the camera is set to and you can’t change or select it. For what I would want it do, this makes the app pretty useless. The only thing I can see really using it for is again, framing myself for video and maybe doing macro photography, so that I can trigger the camera without touching the shutter and in that case I’m setting focus manually. If I disconnected camera control and used the “send to phone” features, I could preview and transfer images and video right to my phone which is really useful. I’ve said it before: I think Sony needs to do better. We don’t need a ton of features, but autofocus control is critical, so develop the capability once and just make it available for all models and you’re good to go.
Next I want to talk about another feature that people who shoot video are going to live, and that is the mic input. This lets you use an external microphone to get much better audio than you’re going to get from the on-camera microphone.
Here is a quick sample of me recording to the on-camera microphone.
And here I am using an external microphone.
And here I am using the Deity V-Mic D3 Pro
I’ll put some links in the description to a few options that I think would pair up well with the a6400 as well as a microphone comparison video I did to help you choose. Another thing that is sometimes missing on other cameras is the audio levels display is always available when you’re in movie mode and just makes my life easier. So on some cameras, you have to go into the menu to set and see your levels, but then when you go back to recording, the levels aren’t displayed, which isn’t great. And not only can you see the levels, you can actually change them while you’re recording. So what I did is part of my custom setup included making this change more accessible without having to go into the menu, and like I said, I’ll link to another video where I outline my entire setup as soon as it’s published.
Ok, so I think the a6400 is an excellent option if I’m looking for a small and portable camera that can do a great job for both photography and video. To recap, it’s Sony’s replacement for the a6300, I’m super impressed by how powerful it is and really happy with the image quality. For photography, the 24MP APS-C sensor gave me very good the image quality is very good, the autofocus is insanely fast and accurate. We have real-time eye AF for people and animals and we also have very advanced tracking autofocus. For video, autofocus has definitely improved and I’m starting to like the extra level of control I’m getting with this latest line of Sony cameras. For a lower-tier camera, I love the two dial and the various custom buttons and I really did some work to get it to function exactly how I want it to, so that I don’t have to go into the menu very much. I get incredibly sharp and detailed 4K at up to 30fps, and Full HD or 1080P in up to 120 FPS which lets me do 4x slow motion at when I edit videos in 30fps or 5x when I edit in 24fps. Even with the slightly awkward design, I like that we finally have a flip screen and the option for an external microphone to is another bonus for videographers. We’ve got a very nice electronic viewfinder and the build quality seems pretty solid so far, and of course the more I use it the more I’ll be able to give you feedback about long-term wear. Remote functionality using the app is not great but we have a built-in intervalometer which I absolutely love. The body alone sells is right under $900 and I think it’s a very good value if you’re looking to get into the Sony ecosystem with a powerful and very capable entry-level model.
This is the first article in this series and I have several more coming to show you my favorite cinematic settings, and a low light settings tutorial, so if you’re interested in learning more, go ahead and hit that Subscribe button on my YouTube so you’re notified when they are published. I really hope I was able to give you a good overview of the Sony a6400. If this article was helpful, please let me know by tweeting it or sharing it, and for more camera reviews and tutorials, join the community by subscribing to my YouTube https://www.youtube.com/techgeartalk
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You know what I always say, buy it nice or buy it twice!
Good luck and see you soon.