Sony starts to take Vlogging seriously with the A6400
Yesterday Sony announced the latest camera in its A6K line, and for the first time, Sony has embraced the Vlogging market somewhat seriously. The new camera, the Sony A6400 is a mid-range entry in Sony’s APS-C lineup, which borrows some features from higher end Sony cameras as well as adding some new features of its own, all for a relatively affordable price.
Given the size and potential of the vlogging market, there are relatively few cameras that are ideal for vlogging, and relatively few companies seem to take this market seriously. There has long been a quest among bloggers for the perfect vlogging camera and no company has so far managed to achieve this. The A6400 comes close however.
The new camera seems to be an evolution of the A6300, and it has a lot to offer. It adds new autofocus modes in both stills and video, as well as improved colour science from the A9 series. It has a mic socket (although no headphone socket ). It still uses the older batteries, which aren’t great, but it can be powered by an external USB source, making long operation possible running off a usb power bank. Oh, and it finally gives us back a time lapse mode.
The video quality is extremely high out of this camera, especially for the price. People are complaining about the relatively high rolling shutter, which is a legitimate concern, but again, there is relatively little competition in this space at this price point, especially with a super 35mm sized sensor. I don’t know of any other camera offering oversampled 4K footage with phase detect autofocus and a log and hybrid log gamma at this price point.
As always though, punditry and commentary is jumping on the band waggon to bash the new Sony camera, with many of the complaints being completely overblown in my opinion. So let me address the two most common of these:
The Selfie Screen is blocked if you put a microphone in the hot shoe.
There is a really simple solution to this. Don’t put a microphone on the hot shoe. There are plenty of people out there using various rigs for vlogging, and this is a “problem” that can be solved with a $11 flash bracket. It’s not a deal breaker, not even remotely. Why? Because the benefits far outweigh the minor inconvenience of using an extra bracket to mount your microphone.
I think this would be different if the market was flooded with cameras offering good 4K video with good autofocus and a selfie screen. But there isn't. The most popular Vlogging camera at the moment is the Canon Eos M-50 which is really only useable for Vlogging in 1080. The other option is the Panasonic G7 or G8, but these have far inferior autofocus, and use a smaller Micro 4:3 sensor.
Many people already use one of the Sony RX series for vlogging, and that has no microphone input at all. I’ve seen lots of people use this with an external recorder, all rigged onto a flash bracket, so it’s not exactly something new to have to do this.
Would it have been better to have the screen flip out? Sure? Is it a deal breaker? Not if you are serious about vlogging and want a good 4K solution. As far as I can tell, this is probably the only camera offering 4K of this quality which has a front facing screen and a microphone input.
There are actually advantages of the screen position. If you’re already a blogger you may already know this. The screen on top is relatively close to the lens axis, and so when you look at it it won’t look like you’re looking off to the side. You will still get the impression of looking up, but because it’s further back, and close to the body, it should be less of an issue than it is on some other cameras. I don’t think this was accidental on Sony’s part either. I suspect that it was deliberate. I could be wrong, and will need to see it in real life to determine how well it performs in reality, but I suspect it will actually be quite good from this aspect.
This is another one that has loud moaning in the comments section, but this is pretty reasonable in my opinion given the market position of this camera. It’s not replacing the A6500, and is positioned below it in Sony’s lineup. It’s also substantially cheaper. Again, it’s chief competition, the Canon M50 doesn’t have IBIS either, and it sells remarkably well. Fuji’s more expensive X-T3 also doesn't have IBIS and that hasn’t stopped Fuji fans from being very enthusiastic about it.
The other reason for this not being a deal breaker is that despite all the criticism of Sony’s APS-C lens lineup, most of the lenses that you would use for vlogging already have stabilisation in the lens. So again, not a huge dealbreaker in my opinion, considering that few of the extremely limited competition have this feature either.
One Killer Feature
There is one feature that the A6400 has that may be getting overlooked by some. It has no recording limit. There are surprisingly few cameras in this form factor without a recording limit, and this is a pretty big deal. Early testing reveals that there doesn’t seem to be an overheating issue either. If you want to record long interviews or events then this is a really useful feature to have, and there are surprisingly few hybrid cameras out there that can do this, at any price point. (The Panasonic GH5 being one example)
Inn my opinion, this is a great option for vloggers at this price point. I’m not sure there is a lot of competition if you want 4K. There is the Panasonic G7/G80 series cameras, but they have a number of limitations, especially in autofocus. If you only want 1080 with occasional 4K, then Canon’s M50 is a good option, especially considering its lower price, but the Sony A6400 has significantly better video capabilities, at least on paper anyway. I’m really curious to see how well this does, and to see what the reviews are like from real users, once the usual suspects get over their click bait complaining.
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