Is the Sony a6400 right for you?

Different types of shooting can benefit from different features and camera attributes, so in addition to looking at the a6400 as a general-purpose, mid-range mirrorless camera, we're going to see how suitable it is for a number of photographic activities.


Family and moments

Out-of-camera JPEG.
Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM | ISO 1000 | 1/125 sec | F1.4
Photo by Rishi Sanyal

This is really where the Sony a6400 shines, thanks in no small part to its excellent autofocus implementation. The Real-time Tracking AF makes it incredibly easy to take photos of a running toddler or candid group shots: even with multiple faces in a scene. Picking which face to focus on is as easy as placing your AF area over that individual. Sony's JPEGs are excellent in terms of retaining detail while quashing noise, though the colors aren't to everyone's taste, so you may want to process Raw files for best results. Sony's 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 kit zoom is of good quality for everyday shooting, and Sigma makes some excellent and affordable primes to round out a solid kit for family photography.

Pros:

  • Class-leading autofocus in terms of performance and ease-of-use
  • Compact, lightweight with selfie-friendly screen
  • Pretty good 4K video
  • Sony claims weather-sealing
  • USB charging

Cons:

  • Complex interface might confuse novices
  • JPEG colors not our favorite, and auto white balance can stray too cool by default

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Travel

Out-of-camera JPEG.
Sigma 16mm F1.4 | ISO 100 | 1/4000 sec | F2.5

The a6400 makes a strong case for itself as a travel camera. Paired with Sony's 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 and a fast prime or two, the a6400 can handle just about anything you throw at it: including a drop or two of rain, thanks to Sony's claims of weather-sealing. On the other hand, you may find you need to tweak the JPEG settings depending on how you get along with the color, and there isn't in-camera Raw processing if you want to tweak files after capture without having to use another device.

Pros:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Claims of weather-sealing
  • Robust wireless connectivity options
  • Strong lens options, if you include third party manufacturers
  • USB charging

Cons:

  • No in-camera Raw processing
  • JPEG colors may or may not be to your taste

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Video

Sony touted the a6400 as a vlogger's camera at launch, with the newly designed screen that tilts up 180°. Unfortunately, beyond that and the fact that the screen is now touch-sensitive, the feature set is broadly similar to the older Sony a6300 that was pretty jaw-dropping in this segment upon its release. But, in yet another lesson for just how fast technology moves, the a6400 has some shortcomings relative to just how far the rest of the market has come in recent years.

Pros:

  • Oversampled 4K video is very detailed
  • Slow-motion 1080p capture
  • Tap-to-track autofocus
  • Tons of capture aids, including zebra stripes, histogram, focus peaking and more
  • Microphone input
  • No time limit on video clip recording
  • Lessened risk of overheating thanks to new processor

Cons:

  • Pronounced rolling shutter artifacts
  • No headphone option
  • Camera does not keep separate exposure settings between photo and video modes
  • Tilt-up screen can be blocked by hotshoe-mounted microphone
  • No in-body image stabilization to help smooth out footage
  • Users may want to disable tap-to-track when moving back to stills shooting

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Lifestyle and people

Out-of-camera JPEG.
Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM | ISO 100 | 1/320 sec | F1.8
Photo by Barney Britton

With a relatively large APS-C sensor, an array of fast lenses for blurry backgrounds and really solid image quality, the a6400 looks great for lifestyle and people photography. We may start sounding like a broken record, but the autofocus system will help out here as well: it really is super capable, and super reliable for photographing people. Robust wireless connectivity helps you get your Instagrammable lifestyle onto, well, Instagram, quickly and easily.

Pros:

  • Great, reliable AF system for people photography
  • Good dynamic range to allow plenty of post-processing flexibility in Raw
  • Good selection of fast primes
  • Strong wireless connectivity options

Cons:

  • JPEG colors may not be to your liking

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Landscape

Processed in Adobe Camera Raw 11.
Sony 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 | ISO 100 | 1/2000 sec | F3.5

Hardcore landscape shooters may want more resolution, but for the vast majority of photographers, the a6400's 24 megapixels will offer up plenty of detail for digital display and printing of landscape images. The expansive dynamic range will allow you to brighten up shadows without a ton of added noise, which is particularly useful if you're exposing to protect highlights in a contrasty scene like a sunset. Weather-sealing is a nice bonus for when you're out in the elements, and though battery life is pretty good already, you can top the camera up on the go via the a6400's micro USB port if necessary.

Pros:

  • Good resolution and dynamic range
  • Tilting LCD is handy for tripod shooting
  • Strong selection of lenses, particularly wide-angles
  • Claimed weather-sealing

Cons:

  • Lack of in-camera Raw processing may be a problem for those traveling light
  • Raw files use lossy compression that adds artifacts if you try to exploit the camera's DR with significant editing in post

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Sports and action

Processed and cropped in Adobe Camera Raw 11
Sony E 10-18mm F4 | ISO 640 | 1/640 sec | F4

The a6400 can really hold its own for shooting sports and action. Its maximum 11fps burst rate with autofocus will give you plenty of options to choose from as far as capturing just the right moment, and the autofocus tracking is highly effective without needing endless tweaking from the user. Marks against it include the smaller grip, which won't be comfortable with larger lenses, and the card slot is a UHS-I type with write times on the slow side. At least the buffer is deep.

Pros:

  • Reliable autofocus system
  • Excellent subject tracking
  • Fast burst speeds
  • Deep buffer

Cons:

  • Slow card write times
  • Small grip will be uncomfortable with larger lenses

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Candid and street

Processed in Adobe Camera Raw 11
Sony 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 | ISO 100 | 1/160 sec | F5.6

The a6400's tilting touchscreen, reliable face and eye detect autofocus and compact size all make it an excellent option for discreet usage. The silent shutter is a nice option to have, but you may notice some rolling shutter artifacts thanks to the slower scan rate of the sensor.

Pros:

  • Tilting touchscreen display
  • Effective face and eye autofocus
  • Compact size
  • Silent electronic shutter

Cons:

  • Rolling shutter artifacts may be an issue when using the silent shutter, including 'banding' under artificial light

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Formal portraits

Out-of-camera JPEG.
Sony E 24mm F1.8 Zeiss | ISO 100 | 1/80 sec | F2

The a6400's crazy good eye autofocus system will ensure you get accurately focused portraits, even if you're using a prime lens - such as Sigma's excellent 56mm F1.4 - wide open. Though there's no flash sync socket, you can get a hotshoe adapter for that, and Sony's got a good selection of remote flashes as well.

Pros:

  • Good resolution and dynamic range in Raw
  • Eye AF great for shallow depth-of-field work
  • Excellent portrait lenses available
  • Option for tethered shooting with Capture One

Cons:

  • No flash sync port (though third party options are available)

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The only one of our use cases we've not considered the a6400 for is 'Wedding and Events.' This is not necessarily a shortcoming of the camera, but it simply isn't designed for this type of shooting. At a push, the a6400 could act as a second camera in such a situation, but its build quality, single card slot, small grip and cumbersome process of switching from stills to video and back don't lend itself to this use case.