Sony a6400: Perhaps the Best Camera Under $1,000

I've gotten to play with the Sony a6400 for the last couple of days and although it's not exactly what I'm looking for, it still may be the best camera for sale currently under $1,000. 

The a6400 is an update of the a6300. It has the same sensor, same image quality, and the same small battery, with only slightly better performance, but thanks to a few significant changes, it still feels like a completely new camera. For me, I was excited about two main features: unlimited record time and world-class continuous autofocus tracking. These two features did not disappoint. Finally, I can record 4K footage without the camera shutting off at 30 minutes or earlier from overheating and the autofocus is so good it's almost magical. ISO performance was about 2.5 stops better than our GH5s which is also a huge upgrade. The new screen is capable of moving into "selfie mode" so that you can see yourself while you film. 

Sadly there were a few issues with the camera that made me decide to wait for Sony's next big camera. First, the camera doesn't have a stabilized sensor. If you've got a stabilized lens or your shooting on a tripod this won't matter but we are so accustomed to shooting handheld with the GH5, it was a bit of a bummer. Rolling shutter was also pretty prevalent with the a6400 making quick movements or stabilization in post impossible. I found the location of the SD card slot under the camera really annoying. It forces you to take the camera off of a tripod every time you need to grab your SD card. And of course, the poor battery life can also be a major inconvenience. None of these issues were deal breakers for me though until I learned that the a6400 doesn't have a headphone jack. Monitoring audio may be one of the most important things we need to do when shooting video. I assumed that monitoring audio with this camera was impossible but a few readers have pointed out that you can monitor audio with a USB type C dongle. This is annoying but certainly better than nothing. 

Even though this camera isn't exactly what I'm looking for as a videographer, I must admit that this camera might be perfect for the average shooter. For just $900 the a6400 is packed with incredible features that the most expensive cameras on the planet didn't have just a couple of years ago. If you're looking for a small camera that can take fantastic looking pictures and videos with world-class autofocus features, or you're looking for a "B" camera for video, the a6400 might just be the best bargain in cameras today.

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Spy Black's picture

"Finally, I can record 4K footage without the camera shutting off at 30 minutes..."

Unless you're doing some kind of wildlife or doc shooting, why would anyone need to run a camera longer than, say, 10 minutes? What on earth are you running for 30+ minutes?

"First, the camera doesn't have a stabilized sensor."
Since when has this become so detrimental?

"None of these issues were deal breakers for me though until I learned that the a6400 doesn't have a headphone jack. Monitoring audio may be one of the most important things we need to do when shooting video, and you can't do it with this camera."

I've said this multiple times now, but relying on your camera for audio is so 1980s dude. Let's get over this already. Camera audio is plenty good enough for post software to sync up with your real audio source which is right up and next to the sound source via a lav or handheld mic plugged into an external recorder or cellphone. It 2019, live in the day. ;-)

Granted, I don't give a crap about this camera, but for it's price it's a burger-budget filmaker's tool, as well as a viable B-roll camera. I'm sure some enterprising person can pull off an entire film with something like this.

Lee Morris's picture

We film tutorials for literally hours at a time without stopping and we run audio directly into the cameras for simplicity.

Spy Black's picture

So you run footage for HOURS but you plug in for simplicity? :-D Fascinating approach. I suppose it floats your boat.

Lee Morris's picture

Some of our cameras are plugged into ac power so they can literally run forever.

Patrick Hall's picture

I have a lot of friends who make good money filming boring ass lectures that are 60 mins to 3 hours. They def want cameras that can film non stop for more than 10 mins!. Imagine having to then sync "good" audio to these projects when you could have just given them 1 or 2 files with good audio burned in and be done. Sometimes you gotta work smarter not harder to turn our projects fast.

Spy Black's picture

Well OK, but if you're doing that kind of work, that's a job for video cameras proper. I shot a 2.5 hour event once with 3 cameras and a recorder and, yes, it was a pain cycling the cameras every 30 minutes. However it took just a few minutes to sync everything up in post. Working smarter in that context is not using mirrorless or DSLRs for such events.

Ryan Mense's picture

Not having in-body stabilization sucks for handholding video. It's also part ignorance is bliss; once you've used a camera with IBIS it's hard to ever pick a camera that doesn't have it. And I kind of disagree when Lee says using the lenses that have OSS will negate this, in my testing the footage was still generally pretty bad while handholding using a stabilized lens (albeit the kit lens... and having coffee hands).

Edit: And as people have pointed out on YouTube (I didn't know this and neither did Lee apparently) the USB-C port can actually run audio out for monitoring with headphones. So it's technically in this camera.

Patrick Hall's picture

"And Hey, for just $6.49, you too can have all the flexibility your macbook pro has with this simple and easy to use dongle"

Patrick Hall's picture

Furthermore, surely that VGA dongle would break that mini HDMI port in no time right?

Ryan Mense's picture

Nevermind there is no USB-C. What are those people talking about then?

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

A basic interview with a small business owner to capture their story is going to be more then ten minutes every single time, unless you deliberately set out to create a video less than ten minutes. I record several interviews per month.

When an interview goes really well, it's not hard to end up in the 25 minute plus territory. I edit those long ones down for brevity, but you still have to record it. As much as I'd like to tell people "let's wrap this up," you can't do that...just gotta let the cameras roll.

Spy Black's picture

Well yes, but that's still not 30+ minutes. My ten minute number is just an average. As I've said elsewhere, if you need to shoot long, that's a job for a video camera proper.

Patrick Hall's picture

Again, I respectfully disagree. On average, most of my video clips are probably 45 seconds but to say you need a whole other piece of kit just to do "proper video" is silly to me. We filmed the entire first Peter Hurley The Art Behind the Headshot on DSLRs that could only shoot 5 mins! In this day in age, I don't see a reason why other cameras can't shoot unlimited lengths just like the GH5. That's a real deal breaker for us.

If you don't personally see the need, that's fine but a lot of videographers I know complain about the 29 min limit on their other cameras all the time.

Lenzy Ruffin's picture

Same here. I recorded what I thought was going to be a ten to fifteen minute interview on Saturday and they talked into 28 minutes and some change. I didn't prep them in advance about the need for a reset at 30 minutes because I didn't expect to get anywhere near the limit.

I was in serious high anxiety when it went past 25 minutes. If they didn't naturally end where they did, I would have had to jump in, which would have disrupted the flow they had established and I really didn't want to do that.

I don't need the 29:59 anxiety in my life and I certainly don't need another whole camera just to be able to lock off on a tripod and record people talking. That proper video camera would be capable of so many things that I will never have a use for as a photographer who is a one-trick pony when it comes to video. I just need to not have a 30 minute limit.

The overwhelming majority of what I do is 90 seconds or less, but when I need to record for 40 minutes or for 30 minutes and 18 seconds, I don't want another whole camera...or an Atomos, for that matter. I do three-camera interviews, so that's would be three Atomos ($$$$$).

I'm really hoping the Fuji X-H2 provides unlimited recording and dual card recording like the GH5 does. Right now, I use X-T3s and minus the recording limit, they're the everything I need in a camera. I could live without dual card recording, but it would be really nice to have. The 30 minute limit, though, is an ongoing nuisance to have to plan for and work around.

Spy Black's picture

Well the only reason I say this is because most DSLRs and mirrorless used for video still have an imposed 30 minute limit. I suspect it's to protect the videocam market. Otherwise of course you wouldn't need it, but as long as whatever gear one uses has this limit and you regularly shoot beyond 30 minutes, a videocam is a better investment. We may finally be seeing an end to this limit in gear, so this may all be moot soon.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Conferences. Panel discussions. You never know where to break them.

Euron G's picture

It costs 1180$ in Europe, just sayin'.

Jerry Suppan's picture

Perhaps not (best under $1,000)
The just announced FujiFilm X-T30 is a better camera for the under $1,000 price tag you indicate. It has almost all the advantages and architecture of the higher end X-T3 but several hundred dollars cheaper. The A6400 is somewhat of a stop gap measure, buying time for Sony to release an A6500 sequel in the APS-C category.

revo nevo's picture

X-T30 is better :P