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The new Sony a6400 - potentially a very good birding camera

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Old Wednesday 16th January 2019, 19:33   #1
fingkisher
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The new Sony a6400 - potentially a very good birding camera

Whilst I'm still not overly convinced by the wildlife lens range for Sony's Mirrorless cameras, the just announced a6400 has some really great potential to be a very good birding camera.

Some of the highlights:
  • 24MP APS-C Sensor
  • 11 fps (full mechanical shutter)
  • Animal Eye-AF (This is a biggie)
  • It's under 1,000

Think this has more potential than anything the M4/3 guys have to offer.

More on it here:

https://www.dpreview.com/articles/39...the-sony-a6400

Last edited by fingkisher : Wednesday 16th January 2019 at 19:33. Reason: Added link
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Old Wednesday 16th January 2019, 20:02   #2
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Whilst I'm still not overly convinced by the wildlife lens range for Sony's Mirrorless cameras, the just announced a6400 has some really great potential to be a very good birding camera.

Some of the highlights:
  • 24MP APS-C Sensor
  • 11 fps (full mechanical shutter)
  • Animal Eye-AF (This is a biggie)
  • It's under 1,000
Think this has more potential than anything the M4/3 guys have to offer.

More on it here:

https://www.dpreview.com/articles/39...the-sony-a6400

Why compare it to MFT? It has an APS-C sensor, so it will require the same big lenses as Canikon DSLRs or mirrorless systems based on that sensor, so those are going to be its competition. It can't compare with MFT on lens weight. Moreover, it's already much slower than MFT on fps.
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Old Thursday 17th January 2019, 15:28   #3
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As an APS-C mirrorless with a very small body design style, it actually sits pretty firmly between DSLR and M4:3...I've shot with DSLR and A6300 side by side for a few years, and there is a noticeable overall size and weight difference, even despite the same size lenses for long reach. While M4:3 bodies designed for wildlife shooting and AF speed tend to be quite a bit larger, approaching DSLR size themselves - the lenses due to the smaller sensor can indeed be lighter and smaller. And while APS-C DSLR and APS-C mirrorless would both need to share the same size lenses, and honestly most long lenses tend to be designed for full-frame for both of these types of mounts anyway, that doesn't mean that they can't design lighter lenses even for full frame, as evidenced by the Sony and Canon 100-400mm lenses which are quite lightweight compared to the same focal lengths years ago, or the new Sony 400mm F2.8 which is very light compared to other full-frame lenses in that range. M4:3 lenses will always have potential to be smaller and lighter - but as focal lengths get up to 400mm optically, no interchangeable system lens is 'light' - look at the Panny 100-400mm lens at 6.75" and over 2lbs...definitely smaller than Canon or Sony's version, but no one's putting it in a pocket.

As for being 'much slower than MFT on fps' - the top spec Olympus at 18fps with tracking does have a higher fps than the 11fps with tracking Sony bodies, though how important that is to a birder would be up to the individual. There are also caveats: That's the only M4:3 body that has OSPDAF focusing that can match APS-C and full frame PDAF tracking abilities, and to get 18fps you have to use the electronic shutter, which can't be used for fast moving subjects without suffering rolling shutter effect. With mechanical shutter, that camera is capable of 10fps with continuous autofocus, so pretty much a match for the Sony's 11fps. I have been birding for many years with many different camera bodies, both DSLR and mirrorless, and I honestly have never used the top fps drive mode exceeding 8fps...more than that to me just means I have too many photos to sort later. I find 5fps to 8fps to be a sweet spot - enough frames per second to catch crucial wing positions and eyes open, but not so much as to leave an overwhelming number of frames of the same bird to sort through later. If I had a camera capable of 20fps with tracking, I'd still be shooting it at 7-8fps mode.

Other factors to consider with APS-C sensors over M4:3 would be the higher overall resolution, with 24MP and larger pixels, there tends to be more room to crop and still retain good overall resolution for prints or high-def sharing...and the slightly better high ISO abilities, shooting in low light or dusk where you can shoot comfortably at ISO 6,400 and push even higher as needed, with better shadow recovery, and less noise reduction needed in post.

Rather than defend one line by insulting the other, better to just enjoy the options and accept that they're all pretty darn good systems. Choice is good - you've got big DSLRs with big sensors, big DSLRs with medium sensors, medium DSLRs with medium sensors, smaller DSLRs with medium sensors, medium mirrorless with medium sensors, small mirrorless with medium sensors, medium mirrorless with smaller sensors, and small mirrorless with smaller sensors - each level down, even with long lenses, saves a few inches here, a few ounces there. Every camera has some advantages, and some disadvantages. Each person finds the Goldilocks system for their needs.
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Old Thursday 17th January 2019, 18:16   #4
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Old Friday 18th January 2019, 21:04   #5
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Zackiedawg...

Great run through of the pros and cons.

I wasn't actually digging M43 out, but think that for the price this is as good an option as something like the E-M1 Mark II.

Its horses for courses, personally I'd rather a larger sensor over a smaller footprint, but others may not.
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Old Saturday 19th January 2019, 00:05   #6
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Rather than defend one line by insulting the other, better to just enjoy the options and accept that they're all pretty darn good systems. Choice is good... Every camera has some advantages, and some disadvantages. Each person finds the Goldilocks system for their needs.
Couldn't agree more, and that's essentially the philosophy behind my initial post.

But I still maintain that the Sony to m4/3 comparison is inapt. Better to compare it to other light weight APS-C cameras; be they light weight dslr's or mirrorless. Camera body weight is always a small fraction of the overall weight equation for bird photography, and the differing crop factors mean equivalent lenses will typically be significantly lighter for smaller sensor cameras. (And yes I'm aware of exceptions to the general rule such as Nikon's PF lens lineup; but until they come out with a zoom I think that sub-system is going to be a niche player.)
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Old Tuesday 22nd January 2019, 12:02   #7
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If I had a camera capable of 20fps with tracking, I'd still be shooting it at 7-8fps mode.
I tried to take some shots from hummers in mid-air at a feeder recently, and the 20fps would definitely be appreciated as those hummers have a 2-300 Hz wingbeat. So going from 10 to 20 fps doubles the chances you have the hummer with eyes open + iridescent colors + wings at the desired position.
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Old Tuesday 22nd January 2019, 17:01   #8
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Hummingbirds would definitely be an exception - for those, I'd consider upping the drive speed. But I've found most BIFs are pretty good with 8fps as far as catching all the right moments and positions without going through too many excess frames.
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 02:57   #9
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Originally Posted by Zackiedawg View Post
........
Rather than defend one line by insulting the other, better to just enjoy the options and accept that they're all pretty darn good systems. Choice is good - you've got big DSLRs with big sensors, big DSLRs with medium sensors, medium DSLRs with medium sensors, smaller DSLRs with medium sensors, medium mirrorless with medium sensors, small mirrorless with medium sensors, medium mirrorless with smaller sensors, and small mirrorless with smaller sensors - each level down, even with long lenses, saves a few inches here, a few ounces there. Every camera has some advantages, and some disadvantages. Each person finds the Goldilocks system for their needs.
Well said. All the cameras available for the last five years (dare I say 9 years) produce great images. Best not to get caught up in all the hype that accompanies a new release.
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Old Friday 25th January 2019, 14:26   #10
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It really is a great time for photographers...there simply aren't 'bad' cameras anymore. All are very good - and it comes down to which one fits you personally, which has the lens or lenses you need, which fits your budget, and so on. As far as capabilities - some cameras clearly are designed with a certain type of shooting in mind, but pretty much all interchangeable lens cameras are capable of pretty much any kind of photography, well enough at least for most people shy of demanding professionals in that field.
BTW - on the topic of the A6400, I found ONE thing I was disappointed with on this camera compared to the A6300 and A6500 before it...they added another video mode on the dial (Slow & Quick), and in order to fit it, they removed one of the MR memory bank modes. For birders, this may be a bit of a hit, especially if you set up memory banks for both still birds and BIFs (birds in flight). Similar to the A6000, on the A6400 you can only put the mode dial in MR, then need to enter the menu or Fn to switch between MR1 and MR2 banks. It's not horrible, but those few extra seconds dipping into the menu can mean missing a sudden BIF flyby just after shooting a small bird on a branch. On the A6300 and A6500, they had expanded the mode dial to include an MR1 and MR2 position, so to switch between the two, no menu dive was needed - simply turn the dial one click and fire. I like many of the upgrades and evolutionary changes on the A6400, but this one disappoints me, as I heavily rely on that fast MR mode switching, and it was a very big upgrade when I switched from the A6000 to the A6300. The A6400 takes a step backwards there.
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