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: Verdict
The Sony Alpha 6400 is without doubt the most Jekyll-and-Hyde of all the cameras I’ve reviewed recently. On the one hand, it’s impossible to praise its new autofocus technology highly enough – this really is a glimpse of the future. Its ability to lock onto and track subjects is truly extraordinary, as is its seamless switching between object-, face- and eye- detection focusing. The fact that Sony has presented this within a straightforward and intuitive interface reinforces the impression that it’s a major step forward. Essentially, it means that you longer have to think much about focusing, even with erratically-moving subjects, and can instead concentrate purely on composition. Even better news is that this breakthrough technology will soon be available to Alpha 9, Alpha 7R III and Alpha 7 III owners via a free firmware update.
The problem with the A6400, however, is that Sony has placed this technology in an 8-year-old camera design that now feels distinctly out-of-date. This kind of compact rangefinder-style body was ground-breaking when mirrorless cameras were in their infancy, but since then photographers’ preferences have coalesced around models that behave like miniature DSLRs, such as Fujifilm’s X-T series, Olympus’s OM-Ds, or even Sony’s own full-frame cameras. These tend to offer superior control layouts, larger screens and quieter shutters. Indeed it’s particularly disappointing to see how much Sony’s APS-C bodies have stagnated, given the considerable improvements we’ve welcomed with each generation of Alpha 7; indeed the A6400 handles poorly compared to even the relatively-clunky first version of its full-frame cousin.
How positively any given photographer will take to the A6400 depends, therefore, on how they can reconcile these two poles of its split personality. For those who primarily see photography as an artistic pursuit, and demand that the camera be an extension of their hand and eye that operates intuitively to facilitate their vision, it’s unlikely to be the right answer. However for those who simply want to nail the shot with erratic subjects, and therefore need the best possible AF system and sensor, the A6400 could easily be a godsend.