Panasonic L1 vs Sony A6400
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 and the Sony Alpha A6400 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2006 and January 2019. The L1 is a DSLR, while the A6400 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (L1) and an APS-C (A6400) sensor. The Panasonic has a resolution of 7.4 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 and the Sony Alpha A6400? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Panasonic L1 and the Sony A6400 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A6400 is considerably smaller (37 percent) than the Panasonic L1. Moreover, the A6400 is markedly lighter (33 percent) than the L1. It is noteworthy in this context that the A6400 is splash and dust-proof, while the L1 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (L1) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (A6400). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A6400, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
The power pack in the A6400 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Panasonic L1||146 mm||87 mm||64 mm||606 g||750||n||Feb 2006||999|
|2.||Sony A6400||120 mm||67 mm||50 mm||403 g||410||Y||Jan 2019||899|
|3.||Canon XT||127 mm||94 mm||64 mm||540 g||400||n||Feb 2005||899|
|4.||Canon Rebel||142 mm||99 mm||72 mm||649 g||400||n||Aug 2003||899|
|5.||Leica Digilux 3||146 mm||87 mm||77 mm||606 g||750||n||Sep 2006||1,499|
|6.||Leica V-LUX 1||141 mm||86 mm||142 mm||734 g||360||n||Sep 2006||849|
|7.||Nikon D5300||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||n||Oct 2013||799|
|8.||Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|9.||Nikon D70s||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||500||n||Apr 2005||899|
|10.||Olympus E-330||140 mm||87 mm||72 mm||637 g||750||n||Jan 2006||999|
|11.||Olympus E-500||130 mm||95 mm||66 mm||479 g||750||n||Sep 2005||599|
|12.||Olympus E-300||147 mm||85 mm||64 mm||624 g||750||n||Sep 2004||799|
|13.||Panasonic L10||135 mm||96 mm||78 mm||556 g||450||n||Aug 2007||599|
|14.||Sony A6100||120 mm||67 mm||59 mm||396 g||420||n||Aug 2019||749|
|15.||Sony A6300||120 mm||67 mm||49 mm||404 g||400||Y||Feb 2016||999|
|16.||Sony A5100||110 mm||63 mm||36 mm||283 g||400||n||Aug 2014||549|
|17.||Sony A6000||120 mm||67 mm||45 mm||344 g||360||n||Feb 2014||599|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The A6400 was somewhat cheaper (by 10 percent) than the L1 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Panasonic L1 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony A6400 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the A6400 is 63 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the L1 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A6400 offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 24MP, the A6400 offers a higher resolution than the L1 (7.4MP), but the A6400 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 5.51μm for the L1). Yet, the A6400 is a much more recent model (by 12 years and 10 months) than the L1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A6400 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A6400 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Panasonic L1 are 15.7 x 11.8 inches or 39.8 x 29.9 cm for good quality, 12.5 x 9.4 inches or 31.9 x 23.9 cm for very good quality, and 10.5 x 7.8 inches or 26.6 x 19.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The A6400 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A6400 are ISO 100 to ISO 32000, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-102400.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Panasonic L1||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..|
|5.||Leica Digilux 3||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..|
|6.||Leica V-LUX 1||1/1.8||10.0||3648||2736||480/30p||..||..||..||..|
|10.||Olympus E-330||Four Thirds||7.4||3136||2352||none||..||..||..||..|
|11.||Olympus E-500||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||none||..||..||..||..|
|12.||Olympus E-300||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||none||..||..||..||..|
|13.||Panasonic L10||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.3||10.8||429||55|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The A6400 indeed provides for movie recording, while the L1 does not. The highest resolution format that the A6400 can use is 4K/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A6400 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k dots), while the L1 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinder in the A6400 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the L1 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the A6400 has a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.47x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Panasonic L1 and Sony A6400 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|5.||Leica Digilux 3||optical||n||2.5||207||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n|
|6.||Leica V-LUX 1||235||n||2.0||207||swivel||n||1/2000s||2.0||Y||Y|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The A6400 has a touchscreen, while the L1 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.The A6400 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the L1 does not have a selfie-screen.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the A6400 is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The L1 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the A6400 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A6400 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the L1 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 and Sony Alpha A6400 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|5.||Leica Digilux 3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Leica V-LUX 1||Y||mono||mono||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the A6400 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the L1 does not provide wifi capability.
The A6400 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. In contrast, the L1 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the L1 was succeeded by the Panasonic L10. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Panasonic and Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Panasonic L1 and the Sony A6400? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 410) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2006).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A6400:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 7.4MP), which boosts linear resolution by 84%.
- Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
- Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p video.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.47x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 207k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 146x87mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 203g or 33 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 12 years and 10 months of technical progress since the L1 launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A6400 is the clear winner of the contest (27 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Panasonic L1 and the Sony A6400 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the L1 and the A6400 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Panasonic L1||..||85/100||+||..||3.5/5||Feb 2006||999|
|2.||Sony A6400||4/5||+||85/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jan 2019||899|
|3.||Canon XT||..||80/100||+ +||o||..||Feb 2005||899|
|4.||Canon Rebel||..||..||+ +||..||..||Aug 2003||899|
|5.||Leica Digilux 3||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2006||1,499|
|6.||Leica V-LUX 1||..||..||..||..||..||Sep 2006||849|
|7.||Nikon D5300||4/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799|
|8.||Nikon D80||..||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|9.||Nikon D70s||..||..||..||..||5/5||Apr 2005||899|
|10.||Olympus E-330||..||..||+||o||..||Jan 2006||999|
|11.||Olympus E-500||..||76/100||+ +||..||..||Sep 2005||599|
|12.||Olympus E-300||..||..||+||o||4.5/5||Sep 2004||799|
|13.||Panasonic L10||..||85/100||+||3.5/5||4/5||Aug 2007||599|
|14.||Sony A6100||..||..||82/100||4/5||5/5||Aug 2019||749|
|15.||Sony A6300||4.5/5||+||85/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||999|
|16.||Sony A5100||4.5/5||+||..||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2014||549|
|17.||Sony A6000||5/5||+||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2014||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Panasonic L1 vs Sony A6400
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Panasonic L1||Sony A6400|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2006||January 2019|
|Launch Price||USD 999||USD 899|
|Sensor Specs||Panasonic L1||Sony A6400|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||7.4 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3136 x 2352 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.51 μm||3.91 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.28 MP/cm2||6.55 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 32,000 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 102,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||Venus||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||83|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||24|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||13.6|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||1431|
|Screen Specs||Panasonic L1||Sony A6400|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2359k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||207k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Panasonic L1||Sony A6400|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||YES|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Panasonic L1||Sony A6400|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Bluetooth Support||no Bluetooth||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Panasonic L1||Sony A6400|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||410 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
146 x 87 x 64 mm
(5.7 x 3.4 x 2.5 in)
120 x 67 x 50 mm
(4.7 x 2.6 x 2.0 in)
|Camera Weight||606 g (21.4 oz)||403 g (14.2 oz)|
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