Sony’s latest APS-C mirrorless features some remarkable technology, says Andy Westlake, but is let down by its out-dated body design.
Sony Alpha 6400: Features
In terms of core features, the A6400 offers broadly the same specification as the A6300 before it. Once again you get a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-32,000 that’s expandable to 102,400, and continuous shooting at up to 11 frames per second. However, the latest Bionz X processor and front-end LSI means that it’s now possible to shoot 116 JPEG frames before the camera starts to slow down, or 46 in raw + JPEG. For most situations, this should be ample. Somewhat unusually, the camera slows down in its silent electronic shutter mode, to 8fps.
However, it’s the hybrid autofocus system that Sony’s most keen on talking about. This employs 425 phase-detection points arranged across the whole of the image area, which work in concert with 425 contrast-detection points for maximum accuracy. The firm claims it offers the world’s fastest autofocus, at a mere 0.02sec under optimum conditions. Considering that the average human reaction time is generally considered to be about 0.2sec, this is incredibly quick. But it also means that the A6400’s speed increase over its predecessor is pretty much unnoticeable.
Naturally Sony has included an impressive video specification. The A6400 can record 4K (3840 x 2160) video at 25fps, with no field-of-view crop. Meanwhile Full HD (1920 x 1080) can be recorded at 100fps, while a separate S+Q mode is on hand for recording slow- or quick-motion footage. There’s a 3.5mm stereo socket for connecting an external microphone, and clean HDMI output for using an external recorder. Advanced features include S-log gamma that gives output suitable for colour grading, zebra pattern overexposure warnings, and highly-configurable focus peaking that’s more accurate than on previous A6000-series cameras. Sony also says that the video AF performance is radically improved.
One feature that the A6400 lacks is, sadly, in-body stabilisation. We’ve got used to Sony employing this in its full-frame models, so it comes as a surprise to find it omitted here. If you need this feature, which is extremely useful for both stills and video, you’ll have to buy the more expensive A6500 instead.
One addition that will please many Sony fans is a built-in intervalometer for time-lapse photography. It’s comprehensively featured, including an anti-flicker option for suppressing sudden brightness changes between frames, and the camera can be powered via its Micro USB port during long sequences. The only real disappointment is that time-lapse movies can’t be compiled in-camera. Instead, this has to be done on a computer using Sony’s free Imaging Edge software.
As usual, Wi-Fi is built in for connecting the camera to your smartphone, via the PlayMemories Mobile app for Android and iOS. Sony provides a capable remote control option that’s activated from the camera’s menu, complete with live view display. It’s also easy to send your favourite images to your phone when viewing them in playback, by just a press of the Fn button. But yet again, there’s no in-camera raw conversion for adjusting your images before you share them. Bluetooth is built in, too, but it’s only used for geo-tagging your images with your phone’s location information, which is much less useful than the quick remote-control and Wi-Fi-activation functionality offered by the likes of Canon, Fujifilm and Panasonic. PlayMemories Mobile is due to be replaced by a new app, Imaging Edge Mobile, which hopefully will bring Sony more up-to-date in this respect.