Sony Alpha a6400 review: A thinner, cheaper, lighter mirrorless
If there’s any overriding and consistent problem I’ve had with Sony’s mirrorless cameras, it’s that they’re far from cheap. They’re always good. But they’re rarely affordable - especially if you’re looking at stuff like the Sony A7R Mk III (or - god-forbid - the Sony a9).
Sure, the quality and the results you get out of cameras that cost so much is worth the price of admission - but until that price comes down, it’s an untenable and major obstacle for people like myself.
And when smartphones like the Huawei P30 Pro can do so much, it’s becomes even harder to reconcile the higher cost and extra weight that’s an inescapable part of the full-frame mirrorless experience. You can do more with these kinds of cameras - but the caveats they present aren’t always easy to overlook.
Still, the Sony Alpha a6400 seeks to remedy the situation.
What do the specs of the Sony Alpha a6400 look like?
The spec sheet for the Sony a6400 is as follows:
Body type: Rangefinder-style mirrorless
Max resolution: 6000 x 4000
Effective pixels: 24.20-megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
Sensor type: CMOS
Autofocus system: Hybrid Contrast/Phase Detection
ISO: Auto, 100-32000 (expands to 102800)
Interchangeable lenses: Yes
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3-inch, Tilting, 921,600 dot
Viewfinder: TFT LCD, 2,359,296-dots
Max shutter speed: 1/4000 sec
Ports: 3.5 mm Stereo minijack, Micro USB, SD Card slot
Dimensions: 120 x 67 x 60 mm
Price: Starts at $1499
What did we like about the Sony Alpha a6400?
Right up-front, the Sony Alpha a6400 feels really nice to handle. It strikes a nice balance between feeling expensive, coming across as sufficiently durable and ergonomically fitting into the grooves of your hands. No surprise here - but the a6400 is also noticeably lighter than Sony’s bigger and better mirrorless options.
The Sony A6400 makes a great first impression as a compact camera. Then, once it sinks in, you begin to think about the added utility and extra power you get from the Sony Alpha 6400’s interchangeable lens system. To me, at least, that aspect of the equation is probably the most exciting part of the overall package.
The Alpha 6400 will play nice with anything in Sony’s E-Mount family: which means you can pair it up with everything from the humble E 20mm f/2.8 to the venerable FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS. Out of the box, it comes equipped with the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Lens - which is good, but didn’t offer quite as much zoom as I’d like. Still, it’s a good all-rounder to start your collection with - and it’s not like lens converters don’t exist.
Portability is another area where the A6400 looks to distinguish itself. Depending on your lens of choice, the entire device can be held and operated with a single hand. However, in some situations, this minimalism can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help.
All the same, it’s nice to see a camera that doesn’t overshoot the mark when it comes to complexity. Even if you’re not familiar with the software or button layout that Sony’s Alpha camera opt for, it’s still incredibly easy to pick up the A6400 and start shooting.
As for the quality of the images we got out of the Alpha a6400, we came away pretty happy with them for the most part. The level of noisiness, color vibrancy and sharpness here didn’t blow us away in the way that Panasonic Lumix S1 did - but it was a step up nevertheless. And your experience here is (obviously) going to vary based on what lenses you use, the kinds of subjects you’re looking to capture and what standard of photography you’re used to from your smartphone.
Essentially, the usual caveats apply. If you’re already using a Huawei P30 Pro or Google Pixel, the Sony a6400 is going to be step up - but whether it’s enough of a step up to justify the purchase is another question entirely. If you’re already using a smartphone with a more mundane set of photographic capabilities, then, yeah, the A6400 is going to let you shoot pictures that look better enough for it to be a worthy investment.
What didn’t we like about the Sony Alpha a6400?
Though neither was particularly egregious to rely on, I found myself constantly wishing that both the viewfinder and the tilt-friendly LCD display on the A6400 were a little bit sharper, brighter or more ergonomic. The former isn’t particularly comfortable to use and the latter features some gnarly (and thick) bezels.
Neither really offered the level of resolution I’d expect. As a result, I found myself constantly uncertain about the quality of images I’d taken. Inevitably, I’d have to blow them up on a bigger screen in order to confirm my suspicions. The autofocus was also sometimes a little inconsistent when it came to glossier surface or close ups.
What’s more, and as mentioned in the previous section, it does sometimes feel like the braindead simplicity of the Alpha a6400’s control scheme is as much a constraint as it is a benefit. Just one more dial probably wouldn’t have hurt things here. As it stands, you’ve only really got the one to work with - which can sometimes make finding the right balance of shutter-speed, aperture, ISO and white balance a little more challenging that it should be.
That’s not necessarily going to be an issue if you’re the kind of person who just slams on that auto key and goes for it. But if you’re looking to do something more advanced, which the interchangeable lens design of the A6400 does allow for, it’s a drawback.
Finally, while there are aspects of the Alpha 6400’s software experience that I like, the exact way that their smartphone app integrates with the A6400 remains very finicky. It’s annoying enough to use that I honestly just found it might easier to physically slide my SD card out of the unit and take things from there.
The Bottom Line: Should you buy the Sony Alpha a6400?
Though it stumbles on a few of the finer details, the Sony Alpha a6400 succeeds in packing a surprising amount of mirrorless photography power into a surprisingly compact form-factor. There are compromises to be found but none of them major.
And while the price here is entry level (or at least close to it), the results are not. There’s a high ceiling to what you can do with the A6400 and the form-factor makes it a delight to use throughout.
It’s thin. It’s cheap. It’s light. It’s mirrorless. It’s far from the beefiest camera in Sony’s lineup but it’s a great place to start if you’re looking for one.
Sony Alpha a6400 Image Samples
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