Cameras

Sony Alpha a6100 Review

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The Sony A6100 is the natural successor to the wildly popular Sony A6000, a beginner-friendly mirrorless camera that is still available to buy new today, five years after its launch. That’s the sign of a popular, enduring camera.

Both cameras are the entry-level models in Sony’s range of mirrorless APS-C sensor snappers. ‘APS-C’ refers to the camera’s sensor size, which is significantly larger than the ones found in smartphones, but smaller than the full-frame chips within pro-friendly models like the Sony A7 III.

Much of the A6000’s core features remain in the A6100: there’s the familiar body design, a sensor with the same 24MP resolution, a similar EVF and tilting rear LCD screen (though the A6100’s screen is now touched sensitive), and an 11fps burst mode.

However, there are some very welcome improvements in the A6100 too. Overall, this is a much more user-friendly camera. The general handling and performance are enhanced, particularly through its excellent continuous autofocus system.

We now have a camera that more readily competes with today’s entry-level mirrorless shooters from other brands, of which there are many more since the day the A6000 launched. Despite this, the Sony A6100 is a worthy successor to one of the bestselling mirrorless cameras of all time.

Features

  • 24.2MP APS-C sensor 
  • 4K video at 30fps, 100Mbps 
  • Slow and quick motion Full HD videos 
  • Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity

Sony sticks with a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, which is the same as the one found in the more expensive Sony A6400 and Sony A6600 cameras. Its resolution is par for the course and plenty for an entry-level camera.

While the A6100 can shoot 4K at 30fps, it does this with a slight crop – shoot 4K at 25fps, though, and it uses the full width of the sensor (which means full pixel readout with no pixel binning) and fills the 16:9 rear LCD display. There is an S&Q setting (Slow & Quick Motion videos) that captures Full HD slow-motion videos up to 100fps (4x) or quick movement videos down to 1fps (25x).

You do get a lot for your money with the Sony The6100. There are the same 1.44 million-dot EVF, hot-shoe and pop-up flash, all squeezed expertly into what is a very compact body. Plus, that LCD screen is now touch-sensitive and can pull out and up into a selfie position.

Specifications

Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS
Lens mount: Sony E-mount
Screen: 3-inch 922K-dot tilting touchscreen
Burst shooting: 11fps
Autofocus: 425 selectable points
Video: 4K/30p
Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Battery life: up to 420 shots
Weight: 396g

Build and Handling

  • Small and solid polycarbonate build, with reasonably-sized controls 
  • Solid 420-shot battery life 
  • USB charging 
  • Tilt-touch screen with selfie mode 
  • Single SD UHS-I card slot 

Overall, we really enjoyed our time with the Sony A6100. We paired the camera with a couple of slightly higher-end lenses – the FE 24‑70mm f/4 and FE 35mm f/1.8 – which are both a sensible size and weight match.

Depending on the lens, the A6100 is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket. This is thanks to its form factor – it stands at just 67mm high and has a very flat profile without the pentaprism ‘hump’ seen on rivals like the Fujifilm X-T3.

The polycarbonate body feels solid and the external controls are robust, while the textured hand and thumb grips provide a firm hold. Praise be for the slightly larger grip than the one in the A6000.

Considering the compact size of this camera, a mighty number of controls and features are packed in. You get a pop-up flash that can be tipped back by hand for indirect fill light. There’s a hotshoe to attach optional accessories such as an external microphone, which is then connected via the mic port on the side. (Unsurprisingly, there is no room for a headphone jack).

There’s also a built-in EVF, which is a plus for a camera at this price. It’s not the easiest to use and the resolution remains at an average 1.44 million-dots. To get the latest high-quality EVF, you’ll need to fork out extra for the Sony A6400 or Sony A6600.

The tilt LCD touchscreen can be pulled out and up, and then flipped vertically above the camera into selfie mode. By today’s standards, the 3-inch screen has a relatively modest 920,000-dot resolution. It’s a 16:9 screen too, meaning that full resolution 3:2 photos do not fill up the display and therefore appear on the small side – a similar scenario also happens on the 16:9 screen on the Fujifilm X-A7.

Given the A6100 is an entry-level digital camera, it is perhaps a little counter-intuitive that its touchscreen functions are so limited. The screen can be used to select the AF points and track subjects, plus pinch-to-zoom and scan an image in playback. But you can’t navigate menus or make setting selections. Still, AF selection is arguably the most helpful touch function.

Tiny, fiddly buttons are often a pitfall of such small cameras, but not so here. All of the buttons are clearly labelled and reasonably sized. There are two control dials – both are on the rear and naturally controlled using your thumb. Another dial on the top front would have been very welcome to bring your index finger into play instead.

420-shot battery life is very competitive at this level. We used the camera during cold winter months and found that battery life drained a little quicker than expected. However, USB charging is massively helpful. It’s worth noting here that there is no battery charger included with the A6100, just the USB cable.

With the camera continuously connected to a power bank, the battery tops up every time the camera is switched off, which proved very handy during our wintry outings. On-the-go charging for mirrorless cameras is a true solution for their more limited electric battery lives.

The A6100 records images onto a single SD card but isn’t compatible with the latest UHS-II cards that possess superior read and write speeds. It’s no surprise, yet the result is some functional lags when using the camera for continuous shooting.

One handling issue worth mentioning – which is not unique to the A6100 but quickly noticeable on a camera like this – is how ‘Auto ISO’ favours a lower ISO setting over the quicker shutter speed when shooting in Aperture priority mode.

For example, with the lens set to a 24mm equivalent focal length, auto ISO will naturally select a shutter velocity of around 1/30 sec, no matter what scene is being captured. That’s fine for static subjects, which will remain sharp, but any movement from people will be blurry.

We often chose to shoot in full ‘Manual’ setting with auto ISO, to ensure the desired shutter rate and aperture. Nevertheless, stick the digital camera into its Car mode and scene detection comes into play with more sensible shutter speeds chosen.

It takes more time to familiarize yourself with what The a6100 can do than most other entry-degree cameras. That’s no bad thing, but we’d firmly recommend just a little research on ways to set up the camera for quick handle and to ensure you are getting the best out of it. For instance, customizing the constant AF.

Performance

  • 425-point phase-detection autofocus 
  • Excellent continuous tracking autofocus 
  • 11fps mechanical shutter 
  • 1200-zone evaluative metering

Where the A6100 shines brightest is through its rapid and reliable autofocus system for both photography and video. It has the same AF system as the flagship Sony A6600, a camera that’s almost twice the price.

There are several Focus Modes and Focus Areas to choose from. After playing around with these settings, we settled on continuous AF with the ‘Tracking: Expand Flexible Spot’ focus area for virtually all scenarios.

With this AF setup in play, focusing for general action – family shots, a specific subject within the frame – is extremely reliable. Honestly, there were times that we forgot that this is an entry-level camera because the A6100 is so reliable for sharp focusing.

A burst mode of 11fps is, on paper, solid. However, in use, the reality of ‘continuous high’ shooting is a tad disappointing. In our experience, the length of bursts does not quite match the claims of up to 67 frames. Also, the camera takes time to buffer those sequences before full performance is available again.

Despite the Bionz X processor, the limitations of a UHS-I SD card slot are clear. We found the 6fps ‘Continuous Mid’ shooting mode a more sensible choice. The A6100 is still very competitive at this level, but the Olympus E-M5 Mark III is only a little more expensive and offers UHS-II compatibility with unlimited burst shooting.

The A6100 uses a 1200-zone evaluative metering system. In many circumstances – and of course, this is to taste – we discovered exposures a little bright and opted to dial in around -0.7EV exposure compensation.

For us, the Imaging Edge Mobile app provided a hassle-free connection and worked very well for image uploads and remote control shooting. The same cannot be said for all brands, so kudos to Sony here.

Check Out: Best Sony Alpha A6100 lenses

Verdict

If you’re looking for a small, beginner-friendly camera for both stills and video, then the A6100 is one of the best around. Its main strengths are its image quality, battery life and class-leading autofocus. The fact that it inherits many features from Sony’s significantly more expensive APS-C cameras means it’s can also grow with you. The only real downsides are usually some handling quirks and a comparatively lacklustre buffer when shooting continuously, but it’s otherwise a fantastic buy once you’ve spent some time setting it up for your tastes.

Check Sony A6100 Price and Bundles 

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