We currently shoot Canon systems and we always say that the ONLY product that could sway us over would be a Sony Alpha camera. I was really excited when Mark invited me to test the Sony a6400.
The Sony a6400 is definitely one of the most talked about cameras on the market today, along with a few other Sony models.
It can be tough to decide which camera is for you, or if Sony is for you at all. This camera is definitely a little gem so let’s talk more about what makes it special and whether it is right for you.
I had the camera for two weeks. I shot a wedding, a studio portrait shoot and used it as a travel/family camera.
My wife and business partner, Lindsay, also assisted with parts of the camera testing as well as being the model for portraits. Portland was basically rainy (big surprise) during this time but I managed to test it in a few lighting conditions.
Table of Contents
(See also Sony a6400 vs 6500 camera comparison.)
Sony a6400 Review | Specs
- Lightning-fast autofocus
- Well-built and weather-sealed
- Handy size for travel
- 4k video
- Good value for money
- Unresponsive touchscreen
- Clunky flip screen
- Low light performance could be better
This is a mirrorless APS-C sensor camera. (If you don’t know what an APS-C sensor is…you’re in luck – I made a fun little video right here explaining the difference between full frame and cropped sensor. Helpful for beginners or those who have always shot cropped sensor and are curious about full frame.)
The Sony a6400 has a whopping 24.2 megapixels. Which is perfect for enlarging your images for billboards…
It has a pretty standard frame rate of 11 frames per second but it’ll continually focus while shooting in full RAW.
The buffer time can be a bit slow even if shooting with fast SD cards, but I never found it an issue with the types of images and events I was photographing.
Again, I shot a wedding with it…not the Warriors sweeping the Trailblazers in my home city in the NBA finals…. :(
It weighs in at just a little less than a pound (body only) and is about 4.5 inches wide, 2 inches thick and a little over 2.5 inches tall.
Given these dimensions and the low weight, Lindsay and I agreed completely that this is a perfect carry around camera… but you do need to pair it with the right Sony lenses that is…. more on that below.
The a6400 has a 3 inch tilt screen (more on that later) and 2359k dot Electronic viewfinder.
All this is wrapped in a nicely packaged weather-sealed body.
Upon opening and inspecting the camera, these specs were quite pleasing and I was ready to dive in to the nitty gritty.
Which brings me to….
Look and Feel
I love the look of these cameras. Sony has done a great job keeping their cameras very modern and keeping up with the minimalist mirrorless camera trends.
The Sony a6400 is black and sleek with smooth edges. The dials are kept to a minimum, and discrete buttons are nicely placed for easy use and not distracting from the overall appearance.
That said, the Sony a6400 buttons are closer together to accommodate the small body and I had a problem accidentally hitting buttons I didn’t want to. Especially with my face pressed up against the back of the camera.
More often than not, my cheeks would push up against buttons and I wouldn’t notice what I did until after that fact. It’s almost like when your cat lays on top of your computer keyboard and pushes everything at once and it takes you a long time to get it back to how it was.
Being that the Sony a6400 has a small body, it feels substantial in your hands. The ergonomics of the grip and weight make it feel like you’re holding a professional camera but one you can carry everywhere. That’s pretty much the dream these days.
A quick note on the lens effect though… the kit zoom lens Sony sent with the a6400 was massive and really offset the weight distribution in a way that ruins the fact you’re holding a compact camera. I’m not going to spend much time here but smaller compact lenses are definitely a recommendation when shooting with this camera – check out these recommended Sony a6400 lenses for some examples.
The viewfinder is crisp, bright and clean. Honestly, it is exactly what you would expect and want out of a Sony mirrorless camera. It’s comfortable against your eye. But in case you are more of a live view shooter, let’s talk about the flip screen.
My biggest complaints with Sony cameras (and most mirrorless cameras) are the flip touch screens.
They’ve nailed the resolution on them. The image looks fantastic. But I feel that they surprisingly lack everything else a touch screen should offer.
Sony calls the a6400 a touchscreen camera. Actually most of Sony’s alpha series are “touchscreens.” I wrote about the touchscreen issue in my review of the Sony ar7iii also.
When using a touchscreen, I want to be able to quickly pick menu options, focus my shot, zoom, slide and have touch shutter capability, and the Sony a6400 just failed me in this arena. I gave up completely while testing the camera.
In a nutshell, the touchscreen is terrible. The responsiveness is way too slow. Half the time, I’d be tapping away at it and nothing would happen.
I know some photographers don’t think this is a big deal, but for me, it is. We live in the world of touchscreen. It makes it so much easier for complicated composition and choosing focus. It’s the reason why you will hear a lot of photographers say that their trusted travel camera is…their iPhone.
Business Insider reported that 1.2 trillion (TRILLION!) smartphone photos were captured in 2017. All because of their easy touch screen format.
That number is enough for me. Mirrorless cameras should have flawless touch screen capability.
The tilt/flip screen is equally as bad. It feels pretty clunky opening it up. It does flip up so you can do selfies and film yourself (vlogging style), but even then, you have to do little bit of a weird maneuvering to get it to flip up.
It’s just awkward and there is much needed design improvement to be done. If you are looking for a really nice flip touch screen – look no further than the Canon 6D MarkII – check out our review here.
[Editor: many vloggers have also complained about the fact that the flip up screen is blocked by any mic that is mounted on top of the a6400. Numerous ‘rigs’ have appeared to off-set the location of the mic (and other hot shoe accessories) – this affordable one being our pick of the bunch.]
The Sony Menu System
Just like other Sony alpha cameras – they are not known for their ease of use. Similar to my previous review of the a7RIII, the menu options were completely overwhelming and way too much. You have to utilize their custom menu option, it makes the menu system less daunting.
It’s really a shame because the technology inside the camera has advanced but ease of use and overall the user interface has not. Sony needs to meet these needs in order place themselves at the top of the market for everyday hobbyist photographers.
Check out my other review on the Sony a7RIII where I go more in depth on how to add your most used menu functions to your custom menu. Everything in that review also applies to the Sony a6400 as well
Sony a6400 Eye AF is fast… AF!
The Sony a6400 features 425 phase-detection AF points and 425 contrast-detection AF points that instantaneously lock in on your subject within .02 of a second. Yeah that’s pretty f’ing fast.
I mean, dude, let’s be real. THIS is the reason why you are going to buy a Sony. Sony is light years above any other camera company with their focusing system.
(Yet I still somehow managed to miss focus… ugh. I need to drink less coffee maybe.)
This is a big upgrade for video shooters over the Sony a6100 (see our a6400 vs a6100 comparison) – with the a6400, contrast detection is used in both stills and video mode.
Huge bonus: Sony’s Eye AF is always on. So when you’re focusing it will always try and lock focus on the eye. Pretty sweet. We tested this multiple times and it was rad.
Combine that with….real time focus tracking. Works like a charm and definitely one of our favorite aspects to test out.
Sony a6400 Image Quality
The Sony a6400 shoots on a 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor. It’s the exact same sensor as the a6300.
The quality of the images are good. It’s not mind blowing like Sony’s a7Riii, (which has recently been heavily discounted – see here), but it’s definitely amazing quality for a travel or family camera.
Sony claims it has excellent dynamic range. I didn’t find that to always be the case. I felt some lighting conditions it had trouble retaining information in the shadows and highlights.
It does lack in low light performance. The a6400 has a ISO range of 100 to 32000, that can be expanded further to 102400 anything but above ISO 2000 starts to look a little rough.
There was an entire indoor sequence at the wedding I shot where I was disappointed in the low light capability. That said, I worked out a pretty awesome image of the couple next to some bulb lights so…forget what I just said. LOL. I think I just got lucky.
I don’t think you can’t be moving around during low light or a poorly lit room and expect this camera to deliver for you.
For the light-bulb portrait above, I worked it for a while. I stayed slow and still and knew what I wanted in my mind. Otherwise, the Sony might have blown it for me… which I felt was a bit of a problem – especially if you’re shooting on their kit lens which only drops to f/4.0.
Sony a6400 Lens Recommendations
[Editor: Since the reviewers were only supplied with the basic kit lens and one zoom when writing this Sony a6400 review, I felt I should include a some additional info on how this camera performs with other lenses.]
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with slower lenses such as the Sony 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 (which was loaned to the reviewers), the maximum aperture of ‘only’ f/3.5 is limiting in low light. Zooming the lens to 135mm and having to contend with f/5.6 can be tricky too.
Of course, in good light, or if you’re using strobes, the maximum aperture isn’t an issue any more, aside from the fact that you don’t have as much ability to produce a shallow depth of field, of course. What I’m trying to say is this:
It’s definitely worth investing in fast glass for the Sony a6400, especially if you want to make the most of its performance. A maximum aperture of anything larger than f/2.8 will make a world of difference.
There’s a whole guide on lenses for the Sony a6400 elsewhere on Shotkit, but my personal lens of choice while reviewing the camera for an article on travel cameras was the Sony FE 28mm f/2.
It’s a small lens by full frame standards, relatively affordable, and pairs well with the a6400’s compact body, delivering great images at a versatile focal length, with pleasing bokeh to boot (see below).
Another fun option is the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 Zeiss lens (see comparison), which is so small and lightweight that it makes the a6400 feel like you’ve forgotten to attach a lens. With the APS-C multiplication factor, you’re looking at a 50mm equivalent, versatile for shooting a wide range of subjects.
Then of course there’s all the more exotic f/2.8 G Master zooms to choose from – this wouldn’t normally be my preference on such a small camera body as the a6400, but if you don’t mind the weight/offset balance, or are using a tripod, I highly recommend all that Sony has to offer in this series.
So to conclude my little interruption of the main review, I just want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time reviewing the Sony a6400 – possibly more so than Daniel & Lindsay, simply because I was testing it out with faster lenses. I advise you to do the same!
The Sony a6400 can shoot 4K – 3840 x 2160 video resolution and has a frame rate up to 120 FPS so you can get some buttery smooth slo-mo. Yeah baby.
However, there is no headphone jack and only a mic port. There is also no in-camera image stabilization. Two major bummers for video, but check out this guide to the best camera stabilizer which may help.
[Editor: the YouTube clip above delves deeper into the pros and cons of the a6400 for video capture. In order to us a hot-shoe (on-camera) mic with the a6400’s front-facing screen, a small rig such as this one is recommended, to be able to mount the mic away from the screen.]
Overall Pros and Cons
Here’s a quick summary of what we liked and disliked about the Sony a6400 during out two weeks of intensive testing, in multiple environments and situations, both professional and personal:
- Perfect travel size, everyday camera
- Weather sealed and sturdy body
- Focus is absolutely incredible – especially with the new implementation of the constant auto Eye AF
- Decent image quality
- Built in flip-up flash
- Flip out screen is a little clunky and the touch screen (like all Sony’s) is nearly useless.
- Noticeable noise in low-light conditions above ISO 2000
- No image stabilization.
- Battery life is not great…big surprise.
For travel, family and everyday adventures – this is a great camera for the price. The combination of great image quality, sharp focus, and a nice lightweight body make it perfect for slinging over your shoulder while on vacation and during weekend activities.
However, I don’t recommend the Sony a6400 for professional photographers, specifically wedding photographers.
I did take photos of my kids and so I could potentially see using it as a family photographer but overall, I generally don’t recommend this camera for professional use.
There are just better systems out there that perform much better in low light as well as offer a quicker interface for the constant on-the-go, all day shooting that professional photographers do.
At time of review, the Sony a6400 retails around 900USD for the body only. I think this is fair for what you get. The price point is doable for Sony photographers who want to gift themselves an upgraded mirrorless camera that will be fun for everyday shooting and playing around.
If you are buying your first mirrorless camera ever for mostly hobby and personal photos…consider testing other models of camera first to see what’s best for your needs.
If you shoot Fuji, Canon, Olympus but are really wanting to switch to Sony…first look and test all the Sony models. The a6400 alone is not worth switching to and Sony has better models out there depending on your budget.
If you are already a proud Sony photographer, and would like to purchase a fun, everyday mirrorless camera without breaking the bank…yes the Sony a6400 will perform well for you and give you solid image quality.
Thanks for reading and leave me any Q’s in the comments as usual. Cheers, Daniel and Lindsay.