Photography News Issue 70

Big test

SONY.CO.UK Sony a6400


›  Prices £869 body only; £999 with 16-50mmPower Zoom lens; £1299 with 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens ›  Sensor 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS ›  Sensor format 23.5x15.6mm 6000x4000pixels in 3:2 format ›  ISO range 100-32,000 (102,400 extended) ›  In-body image stabiliser No ›  Shutter range 30secs to 1/4000sec, B, flash sync 1/160sec ›  Electronic shutter 30secs to 1/4000sec ›  Drive modes Up to 11fps with AE/AF ›  Metering system 1200-zone evaluative withmulti-segment, centre-weighted, spot, spot standard/large, entire screen avg, highlight ›  Exposure modes PASM, auto, scene, sweep panorama ›  Exposure compensation +/-5EV in 0.3EV steps ›  Monitor 3in tilting LCD touchscreen, 921,600 dots ›  Viewfinder 1.0cm (0.39 type) EVF 2.35mdots ›  Focus points 425 points (phase/contrast detectionAF), wide, zone, centre, flexible spot (S/M/L), expanded flexible spot, tracking, face and eye AF ›  Video 3840x2160 at 30p 1920x1080 at 120p ›  Connectivity Micro USB, HDMI type-D,Wi-Fi, Bluetooth ›  Storage media 1xSD card, SD, SDHC, SDXC (UHS Speed Class 1 compatible) ›  Dimensions (wxhxd) 120x66.9x59.7mm › Weight 403g (inc battery/card) Contact: for selfies and vlogging. If you’re into that, its usefulness is undeniable, though the screen will be awkwardly obscured if you want to have a mic fitted to the hotshoe, as most do. I mainly found it useful for high and low angle shooting. The touchscreen aspects are useful in AF, wherein you can very quickly position a small AF area while shooting, and this works well, though if you’re a pointy nosed, left-eye shooter like me you may occasionally do it with your nose. However, I couldn’t make the touch function extend to the main menus or the icons and settings in the quick menu brought up by the Fn button, which is a bit weird. I found the 2.36M-dot EVF performed fine, but while as mainly a DSLR user the wysiwyg functions of exposure are appreciated, the

PRICE: £1299WITH 18-135MM F/3.5-5.6 OSS LENS

The a6400 was trumpeted as a vlogging camera, but its amazing AFmeans it has enormous appeal for stills shooters

In our testing, the subject’s eye was held in focus as they moved towards and away from the camera, then when they turned away, the mode changed to a regular subject tracking and resumed the eye tracking when they faced the camera again. Hit rate was near 100%, and the mix of modes also means you can shoot the subject turned as the camera isn’t trying and failing to find an eye. Unlike many systems, therefore, you can also switch to focusing on inanimate objects without physically changing the AF mode, and that means you rarely need to leave the mode at all. It would have been interesting to try it with some very fast lenses to test the accuracy, but if performance is the same as the a9, it’s likely to be near-perfect. Like other Sony bodies, the a6400 was recently updated via firmware to include an Eye AF Animal option. This needs to be changed from ‘Human’ to ‘Animal’ within a sub-menu, which is a bit weird as humans are animals, but hey ho. Testing on dogs, I found the Animal mode a little less efficient than the Human version, though it was still very good, just more likely to lose the eye when the subject turned, or get distracted by other objects in the scene, presumably due to the wider variety of eyes it’s looking for. AF options are numerous, and include adjusting for the subject’s closest eye, and while the array of AF Area choices is initially bewildering (with many seeming to cross over with one another) fortunately you can turn most of them off within the AF sub-menu, so you only have to scroll through the ones you want. Another nice feature I noticed was that the display gives you a helpful explanation as to why something might be greyed out due to a clashing mode. For example, the Real-Time Tracking being greyed out if you’re in the wrong drive mode. That’s something I can


SONY'S A6400 IS a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with a 24-megapixel APS-C chip and a streamlined, rangefinder styled body. It replaces the a6300, sitting in between the more recently announced a6100 and a6600 in terms of spec. Outwardly, the body itself doesn’t add much on previous models and the chip is the same as in the a6300, but while that might sound underwhelming, the a6400 is noteworthy alone for its massively upgraded AF system that comes straight out of Sony’s flagship a9, along with its Bionz X processor. Using it with its kit 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens, we found out what it had to offer. With the a6400, there’s really no other place to start than with its 425- point phase detection AF system’s performance. It is simply outstanding. Even with a ‘slow’ variable aperture lens like the 18-135mm the system is fast and accurate throughout its regular modes, but most interesting for taking Sony’s old subject-and eye-tracking modes and combining them into Real- Time Tracking AF. So set up in the right way, via the Face/Eye AF Set sub-menu, you can lock onto a subject with a half- press of the shutter and track their eye as they move about. Of course, this isn’t new, but the tenacity of the systemwas really surprising in a mid-range body like this.

IMAGES The a6400 has a three-inch tilting touchscreen monitor than works well and provides a high quality image. Control layout is logical, and buttons and dials perform smoothly and positively

see catching on. Away from the AF, improvements on the a6300 are more limited, but that’s not to say the a6400 isn’t a very good camera in those areas. The 24-megapixel sensor might not have the resolution to deliver the ultimate detail some crave, but image quality is still very good, and complemented by the excellent dynamic range, exposure latitude and high ISO noise performance. Confidence in the ISO 100-32,000 range means that for most subjects I just left it on Auto, wherein you can cap the range and the minimum shutter speed, too. So for instance, shooting in aperture-priority the system seemed to do a good job of sensing the focal length in use and increasing the shutter speed to cover it, basically giving you the reciprocal

of the focal length as you’d normally hope to achieve. For instance, at the lens’s equivalent 200mm setting, it pushed the shutter to 1/250sec. This is handy considering there’s no in-body stabilisation and that does feel like an omission on a modern body like this. To get image stabilisation, you’ll need to invest more on the new a6600 or outgoing a6500 (though that lacks the excellent AF update), or make sure you’re using Sony’s OSS lenses. The a6400 also gains an intervalometer function for time-lapse shooting, where previously it required Sony’s Play Memories app. There are lots of decent options within that mode, including using the electronic shutter to save on shutter actuations. At launch, Sony made a lot of the a6400’s tilting touchscreen, which can be pushed upwards through 180º


48 Photography News | Issue 70

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