Sony a6400 hands-on review with sample images

Our initial thoughts and first shots from Sony’s newest APS-C camera.

Sony a6400
The Sony a6400 is an APS-C camera with AF capabilities typically only found inside Sony’s full-frame cameras.Jeanette D. Moses

Earlier this week Sony announced a ton of forthcoming firmware upgrades for its line of full-frame cameras and a brand new APS-C camera, the a6400.

The new camera is a mid-range mirrorless uses a similar form factor to the a6300, but has some new features typically only found in Sony’s full-frame cameras.

The a6400 has a 24.2 megapixel APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor, 11 fps continuous shooting with AF/AE up to 116 shots, 32,000 expandable to 102,400 ISO, 4K video capabilities, and WiFI.

The most notable new thing here is the cameras impressive ability to autofocus and its relatively low price. The a6400 will be available next month for $900 USD (body only), $1000 USD with a 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ lens, or $1300 USD with an 18-135mm f.3,5-5.6 lens. We spent a few days shooting with the a6400 using a 18-135mm f.3,5-5.6 and a FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens.

Martial artist with stick
The a6400 uses a familiar 425 phase-detection points and 165-point contrast-detection system that covers 84 percent of the image.Jeanette D. Moses

Design and feel

If you have shot with any of the other cameras in the a6000 line you will feel instantly comfortable with the a6400. The controls on the camera body are extremely similar. The a6400 has a magnesium alloy body with weather sealing to prevent dust and moisture from getting at the electronics inside. The body is slightly bigger than the a6300 to accommodate the 180 degree articulated touch screen—designed with vloggers in mind.

The a6400 has eight customizable buttons and a 3-inch, 921k-dot LCD. The OLED EVF is the same 2.36M-dot version found in the a6300 and the a6500. The touch screen allows shooters flexibility in shooting and can help focus, shoot, or track a subject. The majority of the a6400s advancements are baked into the tech inside the camera.

model sample image
The camera also uses the Real-time Eye AF feature found inside the body of the a9.Jeanette D. Moses

Revamped autofocus

The most exciting element about the a6400 is the new autofocus technology—it’s largely similar to the system in the flagship A9.

The a6400 utilizes a hybrid AF system with 425 phase-detection points and 165-point contrast-detection system that cover 84 percent of the image. The camera also uses the Real-time Eye AF and Real-time tracking features found inside the a9. Sony says that Real-time tracking is using what they are calling ‘Speed x AI’ to identify objects and use machine learning to recognize what might be a human face or a human eye. A firmware upgrade coming in April will enable face and eye recognition to work on animals as well.

The upgrade allows object tracking, eye AF, and face tracking to work together. Once you tell the camera to lock onto a subject it will track the subject regardless of where it is in the frame by finding an eye, a face, or just part of the body to latch onto. Sony breaks down what this actually looks like in the video below.

model in dark clothing
Real-time tracking features found inside the a9 camera are also used inside the a6400.Jeanette D. Moses

Shooting Experience

The new AF system in the a6400 is very fast. When eye AF was turned on the camera did an excellent job of hunting for human shapes, detecting faces, and honing in on the eyes. If you’re used to shooting with a DSLR, the green boxes tracking people in your image may take a little getting used to, but the system is very adept at focusing on faces.

The new AF system seems to work best in sunny conditions, with lots of contrast and a relatively simply frame, but that’s true with most autofocus. The a6400 was great for shooting slow moving models and animals with predictable movement paths, but it won’t freeze the action of a skateboarder or basketball player quite like the a9 will. At $900 we wouldn’t expect it too, but if the sports you are shooting happen to be a little league game or recreational soccer this camera will likely be plenty capable.

hula hooping girl
The new system uses machine learning to recognize what might be a human face or a human eye and lock onto them while you are shooting.Jeanette D. Moses
beautiful woman model
The upgraded tech inside the a6400 allows object tracking, eye AF, and face tracking to work together.Jeanette D. Moses
skateboarder
The new system is excellent at detecting eyes and faces, especially when shooting in sunny conditions.Jeanette D. Moses
skateboarders
But it isn't quite as good at freezing fast moving action as the a9.Jeanette D. Moses
model in pink and purple
When working with a model the a6400 did a great job latching onto her eye and following her as she made subtle movements.Jeanette D. Moses
model in side mirror
The a6400 did a decent job latching onto these same features when shooting into a reflective surface like this car mirror.Jeanette D. Moses
model in red coat
Shot with the a6400 and a FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens at ISO 1000, 1/250, and f/2.8.Jeanette D. Moses
model in silver
Shot with the a6400 and a FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens at ISO 400, 1/250, and f/2.8.Jeanette D. Moses
Model in silver
Shot with the a6400 and a FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens at ISO 1250, 1/250, and f/4.0.Jeanette D. Moses
man playing bongos
The Eye-AF system tends to work best when the frames are simple and feature a single human subject.Jeanette D. Moses
musicians
If you’re used to shooting with a DSLR, the green boxes tracking people in your image may take a little getting used to, but the system is very adept at focusing on faces, even when there are multiple in a frame.Jeanette D. Moses
basketball players
In faster moving sports, like this basketball game, the a6400 performs best when when the main subject is separated from the other human subjects in a frame.Jeanette D. Moses
basketball player
Portrait of a basketball player preparing to shoot.Jeanette D. Moses
seagulls on the beach
Although the firmware for animal Eye-AF isn't coming until this spring, the current system does a good job locking onto animals using object tracking.Jeanette D. Moses
pink flowers
The object tracking works with flowers as well.Jeanette D. Moses
red flowers
Shot with the a6400 and a 18-135mm f.3,5-5.6 lens at ISO 5000, 1/1600, and f/16.Jeanette D. Moses
dog catching Frisbee on the beach
The AF system was great at grabbing this frisbee catching dog on the beach.Jeanette D. Moses
dog catching Frisbee on the beach
Shot with the a6400 and a FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens at ISO 320, 1/1600, and f/8.0.Jeanette D. Moses
beagle on the beach
We are really excited to see how the animal eye-AF will perform when it is released in April.Jeanette D. Moses
retriever on the beach
The system already seems to be doing a solid job identifying the faces of non-human creatures.Jeanette D. Moses
model in denim jacket
The a6400 is an excellent option when shooting portraits because of the speed of the eye-AF mode.Jeanette D. Moses
model in denim jacket
Shot with the a6400 and a FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens at ISO 500, 1/1600, and f/2.8.Jeanette D. Moses
woman stretching on beach
Shot with the a6400 and a FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens at ISO 200, 1/1600, and f/3.5.Jeanette D. Moses
dog running on the beach
Shot with the a6400 and a FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens at ISO 100, 1/1600, and f/3.2.Jeanette D. Moses
beach at sunset
The camera tracks a woman as she walks along the beach at sunset.Jeanette D. Moses
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