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Sony α6400 (ILCE-6400) review: Ultra-fast autofocus coupled with AF tracking makes it a good buy

For easier pairing with a compatible Android phone it has NFC too.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Mar 28, 2019, 02.00 PM IST
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Sony Cam
The AF system is so fast that you can shoot at 11fps while keeping a moving subject in focus.
Price: Rs 1,09,990
Rating: ****

Specifications: 24.2MP APS-C sensor, mirrorless with electronic shutter, ISO 100 – 32,000, 3-inch tilting touchscreen LCD, electronic viewfinder with dioptre adjustment, built in flash, AF illuminator, 4K video recording, multi-interface hot shoe, Memory Stick Pro Duo & SDXC multi card slot, WiFi n, BT 4.2, NFC, micro USB port, micro HDMI, 3.5mm mic input, 403 grams (with battery + card)

Pros: Ultra-fast & reliable autofocus with 425 PDAF points, 11fps continuous shooting with AF, AF tracking, charges from USB, 180-degree tilting LCD for vlogs/selfies, WiFi and smartphone control
Cons: Expensive for an APS-C mirrorless, skips the in-body image stabilization (standard on ..6500), limited & more expensive lens options for Sony’s E-mount, mounting a microphone on hot shoe blocks the LCD when tilted up

If you still think that size equals performance in the camera world, you obviously haven’t been introduced to Sony’s Alpha (......mirrorless range. The ..6500 (Rs 87,490, body only) is the compact king here with all the bells & whistles while the ..6300 (Rs 70,890, with 16-50mm power zoom lens) is the baby. The new ..6400 fits in the middle with a lot of shared features. It has the same sensor and the same advanced autofocus system as the ..6500 but drops the in-body optical stabilization system. If you want this feature (Sony calls it OSS or Optical Steady Shot), you’ll have to rely on the lenses.

Our review is based on the more expensive kit which includes the 18-135mm lens with OSS built in. The basic kit includes a 16-50mm OSS power zoom lens and costs Rs 85,990. In the case that you already have a couple of E-mount lenses (or an E-mount converter to use with third-party lenses), you can buy the ..6400 body only for Rs 75,990. Just to clarify, using third party lenses means that you don’t get any benefits of OSS. Starting with the camera body, it is fairly lightweight at just over 400 grams (excluding lens). But since this is something meant for the advanced user, it also has a magnesium alloy structure and weatherproofing.

It is a small body but Sony has worked hard on the ergonomics and feel — every button falls easily to hand and it handles beautifully. New on this camera is the touchscreen monitor — you can use it to set focus points and change settings too.

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The screen also has a greater angle of movement. It’s not like Canon’s flip and twist, but it can now flip up a full 180 degrees which comes in handy if you want to capture a selfie or to capture a vlog. The couple of things we found odd were the placement of the hot shoe (if you place a microphone on the hot shoe, as most vloggers do, it obstructs your view of the screen) and the lack of dual card slots (expected at this price). One thing that really goes in favour of the..6400 is the excellent OLED viewfinder.

It’s bright and has a much higher resolution than the touchscreen LCD. You can see all information at a glance and once you get accustomed to the controls, you can continue to capture without taking your eyes off your subject. The camera will auto switch to the viewfinder if you put your eye to it and a diopter adjustment and an additional larger eyepiece is included in the box. To allow for easier control and sharing, Sony has a new app called Imaging Edge Mobile (the old app was called Play Memories Mobile).

For easier pairing with a compatible Android phone it has NFC too. You can use this app for remote shooting and to transfer images & video (including 4K video) over to your phone wirelessly. Coming to the performance, the highlight is the autofocus system that uses a massive 425 phase detection AF points — these cover over 84% of the frame, making sure that your subject stays in sharp focus even if off-centre. The system is adaptive too, using Hybrid AF (contrast + phase detection) for speed and activating groups of AF points around moving subjects to keep them in focus.

The AF system is so fast that you can shoot at 11fps while keeping a moving subject in focus. If you use a fast enough card, you can capture 116 JPEGs in a single burst at 11fps without the camera slowing down. The..6400 nets some beautiful results with low noise all the way up to ISO 3200.

We did call this a do-it-all camera and that’s because it excels with video too. It can capture 4K video at 3,840 x 2,160 pixels with full-pixel readout and no pixel binning. Many consumers DSLRs still can’t manage this and that is why small cameras like this are being preferred by video content creators on the move. The only slight downside is that it can’t record in MP4 or MOV, only XAVC S and AVCHD formats are supported. Battery life is a solid 350 shots per charge but the great thing is that you can charge it anywhere using a power bank and micro USB cable. You can also keep it plugged in for use with features like the built in time lapse (intervalometer). If you can’t stretch to this budget, you can drop down to the..6300 and get very similar results (but without the AF and video enhancements). Finally, the ..6000 is still available (with 16-50 lens) for about Rs 40,000
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