Great autofocus features • Selfie mode • Video and still shooting options
Some button and design layout issues • No built-in stabilization
If you’re in the market for a new standalone camera, the Sony a6400 has a range of features that’ll make almost any photographer happy.
Back in the day, there were distinct tiers of photography. Your cellphone camera was good for a few photos. Point-and-shoots were a great stopgap, and DSLRs were mostly for professionals.
Mirrorless cameras have all the joy of a DSLR and none of the bulk. They’re versatile and light, which make them ideal for everyday shooting. And they can take selfies like your smartphone.
Sony’s new a6400 mirrorless camera costs less than $1,000, and has enough bells and whistles that you’ll want to sling it over your shoulder wherever you go. Will it replace your smartphone as your camera of choice? That depends on what you want to do.
Always in focus
What you’ll notice right away when taking a photo is the incredibly responsive focus. The Sony a6400 snaps quickly into place regardless of subject. Switching from near to far, and vice versa, is handled seamlessly. You’ll never miss a beat even when you’re trying to capture everything. The continuous focus feature helps consolidate the focal points on a moving subject to make even uncooperative subjects, such as dogs or babies, easier to capture.
The range of focus features and real-time tracking help the a6400 shine. Just hold the shutter halfway down and it’ll lock onto a subject. It’s ideal for action shots or keeping an object in focus as you move around to frame your shot. Of course, it’s powered by artificial intelligence, according to Sony. It uses machine learning to focus on eyes, faces, patterns, and colors. Jargon aside, it means the hybrid focus is fast and intuitive so you can capture the moment you want.
With 425 tracking points covering 84 percent of the overall image area, you’re not going to miss your shot. The AI-powered eye recognition tracks faces as they move. If they turn away, the a6400 switches to real-time tracking and back again when it recognizes a face.
The Sony a6400 is also a great selfie camera with an adjustable 2.95-inch LCD monitor, which is ideal for the aspiring YouTuber or when the lighting is just too good. Flip out the display to get low shots without crouching down, turn it up so you can get shots from above, and one last flip to have it face you. You’ll be able to frame your shots quickly and can even take a few selfies in the process.
In selfie mode, you can turn on a timer to set yourself up before taking a picture. It’s also handy for self-shot video.
Not too big
The magnesium alloy body is sleek. At 2 ¾ inches by 4 ¾ inches, it’s a powerful little device that fits easily in your hand and feels incredibly solid. It’s also slim at 2 ⅜ inches. That’s a huge bonus compared to bulkier DSLR bodies. The Sony a6400 also has a textured hand grip so you never feel like it will slip out of your grasp.
Chances are you’ll primarily be using the LCD monitor instead of the digital eyepiece, although the latter is a nice feature to have.
Normally, you would switch to the eyepiece to focus on a subject or avoid lag when hitting the shutter button. But I didn’t notice a delay when using the LCD monitor. If you’re comfortable shooting with a phone, you’ll be right at home with the Sony a6400.
The buttons are where you would expect them to be. The shutter button is on the right along with a dial to select your mode of choice. There’s Auto, Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Movie, and Program Auto, to name a few.
You’ll probably want to skip ahead to Manual mode to customize your settings because Auto usually keeps everything too bright and a lot of detail can be lost. Auto can also lead to a noisy photo if you’re shooting in low light.
Sony claims to have increased noise suppression and you can adjust additional noise reduction to better suit your needs. The a6400 can be set all the way to ISO 32000, which seems like a bit much unless you’re trying to capture something in absolute darkness. If that’s the case, you can expect a bit of grain regardless of your noise reduction levels. I noticed some noise when shooting at ISO 6400, but would have switched to a lens with a lower f-stop in a normal scenario.
The 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor and an advanced image processor helps the a6400 punch up. It’s still a cropped lens, which means you won’t get as wide of a shot as you would if you were shooting with a full-frame camera, but that’s to be expected in this range of mirrorless and DSLR cameras.
For movies, you can shoot oversampled 4K videos with the a6400 and video also gets a boost from Sony’s autofocus features. You can create time-lapse movies, shoot in slow motion or quick motion, and other options including HDR for more detail and sharper colors.
Worth checking out
I did have two complaints with the a6500’s design. First, some of the preset button layouts require a bit of finger gymnastics. For example, to adjust the shutter speed, I need to hold the little button found in the center of the AF/MF and AE-L switch near the eyepiece while also moving the shutter dial.
It’s pretty awkward to start, but you can move that button over to the custom button (C1) by the shutter. It’s better, but slightly cumbersome if you’re trying to adjust on the fly. The menu system can also be a maze at times.
That aside, the Sony A6400 is a quality mid-range camera that’s worth considering for the focus features alone. It has similar specs to its predecessor, the a6300, but it lacks the built-in stabilization found in the a6500. You can save $150 or so and get the a6300, but you’ll be missing out on the significantly upgraded autofocus features. You could splurge and get the a6500, but the a6400 remains a great choice if you want a fun and fast camera that lets you take selfies or capture special moments with ease.
Full disclosure: The review features a more advanced lens than the standard lens or lens upgrade offered by Sony in the a6400’s standard configurations.
We’ll update with new impressions with the standard lens option because that’s what most people might choose before deciding to invest hundreds of dollars for a lens.